Coast Guard always ready to lend a hand
RECREATIONAL boating in Hawaii -- whether you're sailing, fishing, or cruising -- holds one constant hazard: You're afloat offshore of the most isolated archipelago in the world.
Magnifying that hazard somewhat is the fact that, unlike most other states, our local governmental services have little to offer boaters if or when something goes wrong.
Fortunately, there is one federal agency local boaters can always depend on in emergencies -- the U.S. Coast Guard. And, apparently, Hawaii is not alone.
It was noted in a news release announcing the Coast Guard's 217th birthday last week that it has saved some 1,109,310 lives since its establishment, and those lives surely weren't all in Hawaii.
Nevertheless, it would seem appropriate for boaters here to wish our "Coasties" of the 14th District a very happy birthday as well as to thank them for their continued presence.
As one of America's five armed forces, the Coast Guard traces its founding to Aug. 4, 1790 when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling and protect the collection of the federal revenue.
It was named the Revenue Cutter Service and eventually its responsibilities grew to include humanitarian duties such as aiding mariners in distress. It became known as the Coast Guard when it joined with the U.S. Life-Saving Service in 1915 to form a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws.
The duties of the U.S. Lighthouse Service were merged into the Coast Guard's in 1939, and since Feb. 25, 2003 the Guard has been a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Guard now has a broad and important role in homeland security, as well as in law enforcement, search and rescue, marine environmental pollution response, and the maintenance of river, intracoastal and offshore aids to navigation.
Although it's our country's smallest armed service, the Guard's stated mission is huge: to protect the public, the environment, and the U.S.'s economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports and inland waterways.
For the Coast Guard's 14th District, with its headquarters in Honolulu, accomplishing that mission means overseeing the largest geographical area of any C.G. district with the smallest number of personnel and boats, cutters and aircraft.
Its area of responsibility covers nearly 12.2 million square miles of land and sea. Its north-south boundaries stretch from about 700 nautical miles north of Midway Island to more than 300 nautical miles south of the Equator.
Its east-west boundaries run from a point half way between Hawaii and the mainland all the way to the Philippine Sea.
Considering that hardly a week goes by here without a media story of a boater in distress being rescued by Coast Guard personnel, it is quite appropriate the Coast Guard's motto is Semper Paratus, or "Always Ready."