Coast Guard Cutter Blackfin Tour at Harbor Festival

Coast Guard Cutter Blackfin (Photo by Robert Bernstein)

The Santa Barbara Harbor and Seafood Festival packed the Harbor area with seafood vendors and people enjoying the seafood. There was also non-stop live music and plenty of other vendors selling clothing and crafts.

What was less visible: The Coast Guard Cutter Blackfin was holding an open house tour! The Blackfin is based here in Santa Barbara, but I don’t ever remember them letting people aboard for a tour. Here are my photos.

I arrived at about 12:45PM thinking it would be a short wait. This nice young crew member Mr Cummings generously answered endless questions from children and adults alike as we waited.

He thought it would be about a 20 minute wait, but it turned out to be over an hour! We all were curious what range they covered and how fast the cutter could go. They sometimes go up to San Francisco and down to San Diego. Its top speed is about 25 knots, which is about 29 miles per hour. They rescue boaters in trouble as well as go after bad guys like drug smugglers. He had not yet been on a drug raid, but looked forward to the experience.

If you look above his shoulder in the photo you will see cannabis leaves that symbolize cannabis smugglers being captured. They had other symbols for other drugs.

They don’t have fixed heavy guns as you would see on a warship. But they do have enough firepower to deal with the situations they encounter.

Finally, the previous tour ended and we were allowed to board. I needed to get to a meeting, but fortunately our tour went much faster. First on the tour was pointing out this area where a boat in trouble or a captured drug boat could be hauled aboard.

Here was our tour guide Mr Hawkins. He asked us if we knew what a Blackfin was. We did not. It is a kind of tuna.

Our first stop was to climb up into the bridge. The young people on the tour took up the prime seats.

This cutter was built in the 1970s and has been retrofitted with a range of modern equipment, mixed with more traditional equipment. In this photo you can see an “Unclassified” computer for Internet browsing at the far left. Notice the cable harnesses tied to the ceiling. This is how the wiring was added on over the years.

We went to the lower deck and you can see lots more of these cables.

Mr Hawkins showed us where the officers sleep. Pretty tight! But at least there are enough bunks for all dozen of the crew. Unlike on some military vessels, everyone has a bed and they don’t have to sleep in shifts.

Nearby was the ship galley. You may recognize the paella from the Festival! There is just one small refrigerator, about the size of your home refrigerator. Limited refrigeration and limited water limits how long they can be out of port. The limit is five days, but they try to keep it within three days. At five days they are really rationing everything!

My favorite bit was to descend to the lowest deck to the engine room. There we saw the two MTU 8V396TE94 turbocharged V-8 diesel engines. Each can deliver over 1,000 horsepower. It is impressive how clean it all is!

This separate engine drives the generator for the electricity.

And this panel monitors the power and switches between the generator and the dock power when they are docked.

This was my parting view as I exited the engine room. Quite a treat to get this tour!

As I headed back to the Mesa from the Harbor I spotted this interesting scene along the beach. Someone was setting up a formal dinner!

Robert Bernstein


Written by sbrobert

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