Bertholf Reaches Milestone With Mast Stepping Ceremony

Thursday, July 19, 2007
Mast Stepping: Prospective commanding officer for Bertholf (WMSL 750), Capt. Patrick Stadt (USCGC), sealed a box with coins into the mast of the first-of-class National Security Cutter. The coins represent accomplishments of Coast Guard founder Commodore Ellsworth Price Bertholf, the U.S. Coast Guard and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems employees. Sealing the box in its place is welder Ronald "Eggman" Jones.

A bit of maritime tradition came alive as Northrop Grumman Corporation observed a custom known as “mast stepping” during the construction of the U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750), now progressing on schedule at the company’s Ship Systems sector.

"Stepping the Mast" is an ancient custom of placing coins under the step or bottom of a ship’s mast during construction that dates back to Greek mythology. It was thought that if the ship wrecked at sea, the coins would help the sailors pay the wages for their return home.

Northrop Grumman and Coast Guard officials permanently affixed $7.50 in coins – to represent the hull number of Bertholf – under the mast. Each coin commemorated a significant date in the life of this ship and its namesake, Commodore Ellsworth Bertholf. U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Patrick Stadt, prospective commanding officer of Bertholf, also took part in the ceremony. "The placing of the coins into the mast signifies that we are one step closer to bringing this great ship to life and placing it in service," he said.

In addition to the mast stepping ceremony, Northrop Grumman employees recently removed and re-installed a gas turbine engine that powers Bertholf to demonstrate that those activities could be accomplished within 48 hours. In another milestone, the National Security Cutter team recently completed installation of the weapon system aboard Bertholf. The Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), Block 1B, is a fast-reaction, rapid-fire 20mm gun system developed as a defense against small surface targets, slow-moving air targets, and helicopters at short range. CIWS has been a mainstay self-defense system aboard nearly every class of ship since the late 1970s. The system uses a 20 mm Gatling-type rotary cannon linked to a self-contained radar system with search, detection, threat evaluation, destruction, kill assessment and cease fire functions. The gun fires at a variable 4,500 – 7,000 rounds per minute.

Bertholf is currently 86 percent complete. The next major production milestone is scheduled for later this summer. Known as Main Engine Light-Off, it will involve an initial operational test of the ship’s engines.

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