USCGC Valiant Tour
Updated: Oct 21
This return to Jacksonville, Florida for nine days is another opportunity to experience a different time of year in this location. After packing her carry-on for the trip to California, Karen and I retired on Wednesday evening and got a good nights sleep. Thursday morning, October 19 I drove Karen to JAX (Jacksonville International Airport) for her flight. On the return trip to Mayport, I stopped by the USCG Sector Jacksonville office to get some local information on Auxiliary contacts and activities in the area. I also stopped by Coast Guard Station Mayport Annex to see if I could volunteer. I was surprised that there was no real activity for the Auxiliary even with the Blue Angels being in town. Our Petaluma, CA flotilla is usually quite busy during "fleet week" and I expected I might get in some hours, but alas no flotilla activity was requested by the "gold side".
I have been riding my bike around the base and hanging around the RV park resting, reading and watching old movies. On Saturday morning, after riding my bike I stopped by the USCGC Valiant and requested permission to board her for a tour. The Quarterdeck watch stander requested the Officer of the Deck (OOD), a young ensign named John. He appeared on scene and was happy to show me around the cutter.
USCGC Valiant (WMEC-621) is a United States Coast Guard multi-mission medium endurance cutter in service since 1967. John told me she is one of the oldest cutters (56 years of age) in the Coast Guard still in active service. They had just returned from a 50 day operational patrol in the Caribbean. John is a newly minted Coastie ensign, a graduated of the USCG Academy in New London, Connecticut, on his first deployment. He is the division officer for the armory and the cutter firepower.
Valiant normally carries 12 officers and 63 crew members. An important aspect of Valiant's design is the attention given to habitability. The ship has its own galley, sickbay; laundry, sewage treatment system, televisions, radios, and digital satellite television. John even showed me his berthing space in "officer's country" which he shares with another ensign. Not the nicest quarters but functional...rank does have its privileges.
Valiant is home ported in Jacksonville, Florida and operates in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico for the Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area. Missions include search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, marine environmental protection, and national defense operations.
He showed me the engine room aft where the old girl is powered by two V16 2,550 hp (1,902 kW) ALCO diesel engines, Valiant is capable of a maximum sustained speed of 18 knots (33 km/h). Valiant is equipped with two controllable-pitch propellers, which makes her highly maneuverable.
Valiant has a 25 mm machine cannon mounted on the bow and is capable of firing high-explosive projectiles at a rate of 180 rounds per minute. In addition, the vessel mounts two .50 caliber heavy machine guns. The 24-foot "Cutter Boat Large" (CBL) and the 23 foot "Over The Horizon" (OTH) are used to visit and board other vessels at sea. The special towing bitt on the fantail allows Valiant to tow vessels up to 10 times her size. Another feature of Valiant is her ability to carry a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. The helicopter extends the ship's surveillance range for law enforcement and reduces response time for search and rescue missions.
Valiant's mission capabilities are greatly enhanced by sophisticated electronic equipment such as: a Global Positioning System, surface search radar with a computerized collision avoidance system, radio direction finders, fathometers, and different types of radios.
I got to meet a number of her officer and enlisted crew and we shared a few sea stories. My tour was quite comprehensive covering the cutter from stem to stern, up and down three deck levels including the bridge. She is showing her age but still can do the job, so the Coast Guard hopes to get a few more years of service. I appreciated the time that Ensign John spent showing me around his cutter. Happy cruising and Semper Paratus!