Time to replace the 52 footers? New Larger MLBs for D13, Maybe the Arctic?

File:USCG 52 foot motor lifeboat Intrepid, 2009 11 18.pngUS Coast Guard photo

The Coast Guard has four 52 foot motor life boats, all built in the 1960s, all in the Thirteenth District:

Victory -Station Yaquina Bay, Newport, Ore.
Invincible II -Station Grays Harbor, Westport, Wash.
Triumph II -Station Cape Disappointment, Ilwaco, Wash.
Intrepid –Station Coos Bay, Charleston, Ore.

The Coast Guard’s information sheet regarding this class is available here (pdf). There is also a short Wikipedia entry here.

These boats were brought to my attention by a reader who felt they needed replacement and further suggested that a replacement might also be useful for seasonal work in the Arctic.

I have to assume they have some unique capabilities, for these fifty year old boats to have been retained when first 44s and then 47 foot MLBs might have replaced them. At 32 tons they are considerably bigger than the 20 ton 47 footers, and they have considerably more range. It also appears they have more comfortable accommodations for extended missions.

The reader alluded to, recommended a C. Raymond Hunt designed, 61 foot 43 ton pilot/rescue boat, built by Gladding Hearn Shipbuilding. Somerset, Mass, for service in Bermuda.

Earlier we discussed the Netherlands’ new 32.5 ton design that might also be an appropriate replacement. There is also more here.

At any rate it would be a small class, probably less than ten, but we would not necessarily have to start from scratch in seeking a replacement for these now very old, but apparently uniquely useful rescue vessels.

20 thoughts on “Time to replace the 52 footers? New Larger MLBs for D13, Maybe the Arctic?

  1. That Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM) beach launch rig could be the perfect answer for the Arctic, and the lack of port Infrastructure there. They could be hanger kept during the winter and quickly launched when needed in the summer. A cool looking setup!

    If they do replace the old venerable 52’s, I wonder if a larger style surf capable boat could find a useful home on both coasts.

  2. Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:
    Friends, [br][br]

    This blogger brings up a great point. These Coast Guard 52 footers are getting old. [br][br]

    What do we replace them with, and when do we replace them? [br][br]

    Wayne [br][br]

  3. There is considerable risk in operating these intermediate craft in the Arctic. Because of the lack of port infrastructure they would benefit from beach launch systems that would also allow them to be stored and maintained under cover in winter/inclement summer weather. They would need to have high equipment redundancy and robustness to survive alone in areas with no back up craft. Finally, high speeds and ice do not mix well for small craft. The suggested craft from Damen and the pilot boat are all high speed boats. Floating ice could quickly render either of these boats inoperable or even sunk if operated at speeds. The self righting features would also be highly impacted if topside icing is encountered.

    The 52-footers are really long in the tooth and have been far from cutting edge for decades. If this very large heavy weather boat is truly still needed then its replacement should be sourced from existing global designs and not attempted in house. Of course, the CG would need to modify the design to account for equipment packages in common use in the States.

    As far as an Arctic service rescue boat, there would probably be little commonality in a 52-footer replacement and a vessel suitable for North Slope operations. IMHO

  4. Just to toss out something from left field perhaps a hovercraft might be better for some Arctic missions. No beach launching gear needed, can run on and through the ice if the pressure ridges aren’t too high (i.e. can be run during freeze-up and breakup too), high speeds possible when conditions permit, might be able to utilize existing airport hanger infrastructure in some localities…

    There are a few running up around Barrow servicing offshore oil islands, I think Crowley might be running them. They haven’t had a very positive experience with the one running to the new airport in Akutan and it is being replaced with helicopter service now. The Canadian Coast Guard has fairly long experience running hovercraft out of a facility near the Vancouver, B.C. airport which is located on the shallow Fraiser River delta.

  5. I’ve always been curious what capability these boats have vs. the 44′ & 47′ MLBs.

    I remember the CG testing (on lease maybe?) some air cushion vehicles back in the 70s. Saw one operating over the ice on the Illinois River when it toured District 2. They were looking at it’s usefulness for light icebreaking and SAR in winter/ice conditions. We noted it was faster than anything else on an icey river. For some reason, even with a lot of experimenting including several different vehicles, they weren’t adopted. Perhaps the technology has matured some in 40 years and it is time to re-visit this idea. My concern, both for in the arctic and Pacific NW, is what strong winds do to craft stability?

  6. Does anyone have a picture of a 52′ Motor Life boat to add the challenge looking for a picture of the boat with # 52312. My father is a retired Coastie & he is approaching a significant Bday that I would love to fulfill his dream to get a picture of one for him. That was the boat he was stationed on. “Victory”

  7. If the MLB gets larger will it still be a MLB? At 65-foot it would be classified a cutter and probably a WPB. Could a new six-bitter be in the making?

      • It is probably bad enough riding a 110 out here on a multi-day patrol. I’d hate to do that aboard something smaller on a regular basis.

  8. As a former Coxswain, that is budget minded, overhaul and upgrades are better than replacement if the hull detail inspections show good integrity. If not, replace with exactly the same design, just new and upgraded with electronics. There is no need to change these vessels, there was a lot of thought put into them. Slow, heavy, powerful,…because they needed to be. They were designed for a specific task,…saving lives, and they do it very well, not only the civilians that benefited from them but also Coasties from time to time. In heavy seas, the 52 could tow fishing vessels far easier than the 44. The Invincible did just that one stormy night for me and my shipmates in 30 ft seas…

    • Agreed…..the design has proved itself over and over. It has out lived the 44 and maybe even the 47. Upgrade the systems to currently used equipment available off the shelf. TRIUMPH was my charge for a few years and brought my crew and I home in some nasty crap. Why reinvent the wheel? It took almost 8 years to develop the 47 from concept to prototype…..

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