The latest addition to the Coast Guard’s recapitalized fleet, the Sentinel-class fast response cutter Lawrence Lawson, was commissioned Saturday at the Training Center Cape May in New Jersey.
The 154’x26.6’x8.5’ Lawson is the 20th FRC delivered by Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La., and the second in the class for the Coast Guard Fifth District on the mid-Atlantic coast. It is also the “fourth consecutive fast response cutter delivered with zero construction defects, almost unheard of in the shipyard industry,” Coast Guard vice commandant Adm. Charles D. Michel told the commissioning audience.
The class is “a highly successful game changer,” and the Fifth District cutters play an important role for search and rescue and port security in the region, said district commander Rear Adm. Meredith L. Austin. The crowd included members of the cutter’s namesake Great Lakes surfman Lawrence O. Lawson, keeper of the Evanston, Ill., Lifeboat Station. With a crew made up of Northwestern University students, Lawson led the rescue of 18 crew from the grounded and foundering steamship Calumet on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 28, 1889.
After hauling their surfboat to the scene and down a steep bluff, the crew attempted to fire a line to the ship, and had to set out in icy conditions. It took three trips to bring everyone ashore, and the rescuers were in as bad shape as the rescued, Michel noted. Lawson was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal. The cutter's sponsor, Lawson’s great-granddaughter Lynda Lawson Karr, recounted the words of one Northwestern student:
“As a member of one of the student crews who served under him, I can attest to his courage, ability and fitness of character — a rare soul such as does not often come into one’s life.”
The FRCs are the first cutter class to be named for heroes from the Coast Guard enlisted ranks, and they are already earning their own place in history.
The FRC Joseph Napier, based at Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, made a record cocaine confiscation at sea worth $125 million Feb. 16, the biggest Atlantic bust in nearly 20 years.