On January 8, of 2018 in Illwaco, WA 9 USCG members started one of the most elite training schools in the USCG. They aren’t training in SWAT tactics or anti-terrorism, but in handling small boats in rough surf. They are attending the 1st Surf Course of 2018 to get their surfman badge at the USCG National Motor Lifeboat School at the Cape Disappointment USCG Station.
At the end of their course they will be qualified to handle the 47’ motor lifeboats and 52’ motor lifeboats, operated at the multiple USCG surf-qualified stations across the country, in rough seas and heavy surf. While surf-qualified stations exist on both the East and West Coast of the United States, half of all of the surf-qualified stations exist in the Pacific Northwest where they aid mariners crossing the numerous bars along the Northwest Coast. For a USCG station to be qualified as a surf station they must have sea conditions where the surf exceeds 8 feet more than 36 days out of the year.
When the surf gets rough and mariners get in trouble, the USCG responds with their 47-foot motor lifeboats (or one of their four 52’ motor lifeboats, more on that below). These boats are designed to operate in some of the heaviest weather. They can operate in hurricane force winds and seas, are designed to operate in 6-meter seas, and to withstand 60-knot winds. They are also designed to self right and continue to be operational. The 47’ motor lifeboat is exactly the sort of boat you’d want to operate in if you had to be out on the water in heavy surf conditions.
In addition to the 47’ motor lifeboats which can be found throughout US waters, the surf-qualified stations of the Pacific Northwest employ 4 52’ motor lifeboats, which many consider to be a superior lifeboat due to its increased towing abilities as well as longer range that gives it the ability to reach the edges of the United States 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Interestingly of all the motor lifeboats used by the USCG the 52’ lifeboats are the only lifeboats to be named. Hear from the crews themselves why they prefer these 52’ motor lifeboats to the 47’s: