The Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell, a 100-ft. Inland Buoy Tender homeported in Portland, Ore., has won the Golden Swivel Award at this year's West Coast Aids to Navigation Conference May 15 though Friday.
Also known as the Buoy Tender Roundup, the conference hosts all Coast Guard aids to navigation cutters and aids to navigation teams from the West Coast and alternates between California and the Pacific Northwest. This year's conference was located in Everett, Wash., and involved four Coast Guard cutters, eight aids to navigation teams, personnel from various Coast Guard offices, and several other military and civilian participants.
In addition to competing, the conference enables significant interaction among crews, and provides a unique opportunity to share ideas and methods, promote innovation, and train extensively. During the week long event, Buoy Deck Olympics take place in which all units are tested in multiple areas of the dynamic and demanding aids to navigation mission. The cutter taking away the most overall points at the conclusion of the competition is awarded the Golden Swivel Award, the ultimate sign of crew cohesion, preparation, and aids to navigation expertise. The Bluebell's victory was even more impressive due to the fact that it was accomplished with a crew of only 15, less than a third the size of the seagoing buoy tenders, and roughly half the size of coastal buoy tenders.
The Bluebell, built in 1944 and commissioned on April 4, 1945, is Portland's only commissioned naval vessel. It was originally homeported in Vancouver, Wash., and moved to its present mooring at Coast Guard Sector Portland
, on Swan Island, in 1973. The Bluebell services more than 420 aids to navigation covering 500-miles on the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake Rivers, ensuring safe passage for the rivers' high commercial and recreational vessel traffic. The Bluebell's area of responsibility extends from the mouth of the Columbia River, inland to Kennewick, Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho. This also includes 35 miles of maintained aids to navigation on the Willamette River. The Bluebell is also prepared to engage in search and rescue missions while underway, if necessary.
The Bluebell will participate in the 2006 Rose Festival in Portland, having been part of the festival for over 60 years. The Bluebell will be moored with rest of the Coast Guard fleet at the seawall in downtown Portland, and will be available to the public for tours.