At 5:59 a.m. with the sun yet to peek over the horizon most bunks of the U.S. Coast Guards newest Fast Response Cutter were filled with sleeping crew. One minute later, the peace of darkness on gentle rolling seas was replaced with P. Diddy and Skylar Greys version of Coming Home blaring over the public address system.
Up, up, all hands, barked out Chief Boatswains Mate Steve Kelly in military ship jargon. Heave out and trice up: 0600 reveille.
Were coming home, Robert Yered.
It had been four long months since Sept. 10, when most of the 25-person crew flew to Louisiana where Bollinger Shipyards built the 154-foot patrol boat to learn how to operate the Robert Yereds high-tech communications, computer-based electronics and engines, stern-launched chase boat and weapons systems that includes a remote controlled machine gun.
Weve been training, training, training, training and more training, Kelly said during the last leg of the maiden voyage from Key West.
After the 6 a.m. P. Diddy wake-up, it would be another four long hours before the shiny ship would motor up Government Cut to its home base of Miami Beach. Although the crew could see the Miami skyline, the cutter stayed a few miles offshore to rendezvous with another Coast Guard boat to pick up two VIPs: Rear Admiral William Baumgartner and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
With redistricting, this homeport is now in her district, said Baumgartner, Commander of the Coast Guards Seventh District. This was a good introduction to the new constituents she picked up.
As the $68 million cutter arrived at the base on the MacArthur Causeway, the right bow thruster stopped working, requiring the crew to deftly maneuver ropes to get the big ship docked. Its another kink to work out before the Robert Yereds commissioning ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday.
Its not like going to a Ford dealer and saying, I want a Ford Expedition, please, Baumgartner said. When you are building a new class of ships, they are so complex you cant anticipate everything. ... It takes a while to work the bugs out.
But Baumgartner is ecstatic that the Robert Yered is about to be added to his fleet. This gives us a new capability to stop the bad guys and rescue the good guys, he said.
Its the Coast Guards fourth Sentinel-class patrol boat. The first was the Bernard C. Webber, commissioned last April. The Richard Ethridge and William Flores followed. The Seventh District, which covers South Carolina to Florida to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will receive the first 18 of 58 planned Sentinel-class cutters.
This is where some of our most persistent threats are, Baumgartner said. If we dont patrol, the drugs come in here. If we dont patrol, well have a mass migration.
Its also a busy district for search-and-rescue and enforcing the laws of federal fisheries.
You hear a lot of people talk about this cutter as a game-changer, said Lt. Paul Stepler, the Robert Yereds commander.
The cutters can travel up to 32 knots and provide safer chase-boat launches and recovery in heavy seas, the ability to detect threats at longer range, more comfort for the crew and the ability to stay at sea for longer periods.