U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary National Web Site

 

Whittier Flotilla History

 

WHITTIER FLOTILLA HISTORY

The Whittier Flotilla was first established on October 1, 1958. There were 20 Charter Members. It was the third flotilla to be established in what was then the Territory of Alaska. The record is sketchy regarding the specific activities of the Flotilla during those early years but at some point in the late sixties or early seventies it became too small to continue as a viable flotilla and was disestablished. On February 1, 1978,however, it was re-chartered and has remained active since.

Most members of the Flotilla live and work in Anchorage but boat out of Whittier. This accounts for its name. Members share an interest in safe boating in, and the environmental protection of,Prince William Sound. The number of members has fluctuated over the years. Since 1993 membership has tripled – from 32 in 1993 to just under 100 at the end of 2004. This growth parallels the growth of Anchorage, the opening of the Whittier Tunnel, an increasing interest in Prince William Sound as a recreational boating area and dedicated efforts to attract new members and retain experienced ones.

The Flotilla has consistently been strong in the areas of Safety Patrols, Public Education, Member Training and Vessel Exams.

Members who have qualified as Coxswains or Crew use their own boats to perform Safety Patrols in the Sound. Over the past 10 years they have devoted more than 5,700 hours during the course of some 750 Patrols. These patrols, conducted under Coast Guard orders, are a resource for the boating community and provide a presence for the Coast Guard in the Sound. Over 75 boaters, in varying degrees of distress, have been assisted since 1994.

The Flotilla conducts 3 to 4 boating safely classes for the general public each year. They include basic information and instruction as well as more advanced navigation classes. Over 675 people have attended these classes since 1996. Many more have benefited as a result of those people who did take a class being better informed and safer boaters.

Members qualified as Vessel Examiners conduct courtesy inspections for the general boating public, commercial operators, commercial fishermen and Auxiliary members. Since 1994 the Whittier Vessel Examiners have conducted approximately 650 of these courtesy exams. In addition to providing a boater with the information needed to ensure compliance with rules and regulations these visits usually include the sharing of “local knowledge”. This is particularly valuable for a first time boater or one new to the area.   

The Flotillas Marine Dealer and Public Affairs programs have been a steady part of its activities over the years. Records reflect that multiple visits to Marine Dealers in Anchorage have been done annually since at least 1994. We also provide staff for “Coastie”, for the Auxiliary booth at boat shows, sportsman shows and other public events.

Member Training has been and is a major Flotilla activity. It is the reason many people join the Auxiliary. Since 1994 members have participated in over 460 classes, workshops and training sessions. This training leads to a safer boater and one better able to assist others. The Flotilla currently has 13 members qualified as Coxswain, 15 as Crew, 12 as Vessel Examiners, 1 as Marine Dealer Visitor and 5 as Auxiliary Air Observers. There are also 12 members qualified as AuxOp – a designation for those who have successfully completed all 6 Auxiliary Specialty Courses.

THE CABOOSE

Caboose before painting

Before and after a paint job

 

Caboose                                       

With the nearest Coast Guard presence being in Seward, Cordova, Valdez and Homer, the need for a Coast Guard presence in Western Prince William Sound had long been recognized. A Coast Guard task force in 1999 recommended a Whittier facility, anticipating that the opening of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel would make the sound more accessible to Anchorage residents and tourists. After much brainstorming; a new program was scheduled to commence in conjunction with the opening of the tunnel to vehicle traffic. The Whittier SAFE boat became a reality. To support the SAFE boat an operational shore side station was a must. It would provide communications, a command post, storage for gear and spare parts, and most importantly a visible Team Coast Guard presence for the public.

The Alaska Railroad just happened to be retiring a fleet of cabooses and the city of Whittier  acquired one of them in 1990. This fortunate set of circumstances allowed the Auxiliary the opportunity to use the caboose as the new Station Whittier! With the hurdle of a physical location out of the way the real work began! The caboose interior was stripped  with the help of a Boy Scout troop and a complete remodel was done over the winter complete with chart tables, book shelves, built in desks and sleeping bunks in the cupola. The exterior was scrubbed from top to bottom of years worth of dirt and grime in preparation of its new colors. First an undercoat ofbattleship gray was applied to help cover its railroad heritage and protect it against the salt air environment. Next was several coats of white to make it stand out amongst the other buildings of the harbor. Then the stripes were added to transform it into a Team Coast Guard entity. It worked as people still stop and look and children point whenever they go by.

On June 16, 2001 Station Whittier, known affectionately as "The Caboose"  was commissioned along with the new SAFE boat during a large ceremony that included many distinguished guests. Present were Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer; Vice Adm. Ernest R. Riutta, Commander, Pacific Area; and Rear Adm. Tom Barrett, Commander, 17th Coast Guard District.  The national Auxiliary commodore, Commodore Viggo Bertelsen; and LCDR Chris Honse, Director of Auxiliary, 17th District and representatives of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary were present also along with representatives of the City of Whittier and many members of the Auxiliary from district 17. After many handshakes and offers of congratulations Station Whittier, dedicated to Auxiliarist Jack Jesse, had become a reality. 

In its short life span as an Auxiliary Station the Caboose has become a Whittier icon. For us Auxiliarists it is a focal point of our activities in Whittier. For the public, every person that comes through town will see its unique colors and keep in the back of their mind the presence of the Coast Guard. 

The Whittier Caboose is retired Alaska Railroad #1076. It was built in March 1949 by Pacific Car and Foundry in Renton Washington, and placed in service in April 1949. After many years of service it was completely rebuilt in the mid 1970’s.This removed the roof running boards, several windows, replaced existing windows with new Federal Railroad Administration approved glazing and other improvements. In the 1990’s electronic devices made the caboose outdated. Although still used by the Alaska Railroad, many were retired and replaced by EOTD’s (end of train device) and FRED (flashing rear end device). Retired #1076 was acquired and saved from scrapping by the city of Whittier and is now leased for $1.00 a year to the Whittier flotilla of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. After a year of planning, dismantling, rebuilding and refinishing, It now enters service to the boaters of Prince William Sound as the only caboose to ever wear the Coast Guard colors.

SAFE BOAT 256611

611

 

Safeboat 275612

612

 

 

                                         

The Whittier SAFEboat is one of the proudest accomplishments the Coast Guard Auxiliary has reached in its operations program nationwide. It is the pilot boat in a new program for the US Coast Guard to supply and maintain a regular Coast Guard operating platform staffed and operated by the Auxiliary. 

Western Prince William Sound in Alaska had long relied on the Auxiliary for a Team Coast Guard presence as no active duty USCG facility was present to cover that part of the sound. When the Anton memorial tunnel was proposed to open up Whittier, Alaska to public vehicle traffic, a task force was formed to respond to the need for greater boating safety that would be needed with the anticipated surge of public access. The task force concluded that a Coast Guard station and operating facility was needed for public safety. 

A Team Coast Guard station and operational facility was proposed and the challenge was on. With enormous support from the community, the Coast Guard and the Auxiliary, Whittier station small became a reality. For an operation platform the CG looked to a proven vessel used in other parts of Alaska. A new SAFE boat was procured and fully outfitted. Coxswains as well as crew were trained by going to Station Juneau for intensive training to meet UTM requirements. On June 16, 2001, Auxiliary vessel 256611 was commissioned in a large and well attended ceremony and entered operational status.

In July of 2008, while in route to a boat the was requesting assistance, the 256611 suffered severe engine damage and was later judged to be too costly to repair. The 611 was drydocked and de-commissioned in Sept.2008. Sector Anchorage decided that the Whittier area of Prince William Sound was far too active to be without a SAFEboat so had one temporarily transfer from Station Valdez. This SAFEboat numbered 276612 was a 27 footer and all of the coxswain and crewpersons had to be re certified on the newer platform. Whittier used the 612 for the remainder 2008 and all of 2009, when the Coast Guard decided to no longer support the 27's. This SAFEboat is too be replaced by a 25'RBS-HS, shown arriving in Anchorage at Elmendorf AFB after being used in Artic Outreach.

006 arrives in C130

 

The Safeboat Program was discontinued by the Coast Guard in the spring of 2013. The last year of operations was 2012. A summary of those 12 years follows:  

1) Safeboat Summary

2) Safeboat Crews

3) Safeboat Stats