Coast guard aids to navigation team Puerto Rico have received the prestigious Sumner I. Kimball readiness award.
Motorists may take traffic signs for granted and some yachtsmen may do the same with navigation aids. Yet, take these away and disaster can result. That’s why it’s awesome for boaters cruising through the waters of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to know that the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation Team Puerto Rico ranked among the very best and received the Sumner I. Kimball Readiness Award in a ceremony held August 15th at the Coast Guard base in San Juan. Only an estimated 15 Coast Guard units receive the Kimball Award each year.
“This award recognizes the level of commitment, preparedness and skills of the men and women of Aids to Navigation Team Puerto Rico and places them among the best of the best in the Coast Guard,” says Capt. Drew W. Pearson, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan Commander. “Their work ensures that our navigable waterways and ports in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are safe for all mariners and vessels to transit.”
Achieving this award is no small feat. The Team underwent an intense three-day inspection by a Coast Guard standards team from Yorktown, Virginia; the same group that inspects all other Coast Guard Aids to Navigation teams. Inspectors check for every nuance of operational readiness and professionalism, from personnel training, technical knowledge and the overall condition of the unit’s two vessels (a 55-footer and 26ft trailerable vessel), to underway real-life simulated emergencies such as fire, flood and towing drills, and then award a point score. Team Puerto Rico received a near perfect score of 23/25 meaning that they far exceeded readiness requirements.
Maintaining such a high level of readiness is huge considering that the 17-member Team Puerto Rico’s area of responsibility includes 8000 square miles, from Mona Island, off the west coast of Puerto Rico, to St. Croix, and the 126 aids to navigation and 14 lighthouses in this area. Consider, too, that all of Puerto Rico’s lighthouses are on the National Historic Register and date back to the Spanish Colonial Era.
“Logistics are big here because many structures are on remote islands,” explains Petty Officer 1st Class Raymond Coleman, Aids to Navigation Team Puerto Rico Executive Petty Officer. “For example, personnel at Air Station Borinquen have to fly us out to islands like Culebrita and Savanna and lower us down to the lighthouses for service or repair because there is nowhere to land. In addition, when there is a tropical storm or hurricane that causes port closures, we fly team members on station with portable laptops to ascertain the proper positioning of all navigation aids so that the ports can be reopened as quickly as possible after the weather incident.”
What the Aids to Navigation Team Puerto Rico’s award means is that recreational sailors and power boaters as well as cargo boats, commercial vessels and cruise ships sailing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can rely on one of the best marked and maintained navigational waterways.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.