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Alder Seal

U. S. Coast Guard Cutter ALDER (WLB-216)

Duluth, Minnesota

    Welcome to the United States Coast Guard Cutter ALDER's website. ALDER is a 225'  multi-mission buoy tender located in Duluth, Minnesota. ALDER's primary missions are aids to navigation (AtoN), ice breaking, law enforcement (LE), and search and rescue (SAR). ALDER operates in CG District 9, which covers all of the Great Lakes.

  Picture of Alder breaking ice

- Breaking Ice in the Duluth Harbor -

ALDER Beginnings and characteristics

    The last 225-foot, Juniper Class Seagoing Buoy Tender (WLB) built by Marinette Marine Corp. in 2004, the Coast Guard Cutter ALDER replaced the 180-foot SUNDEW, a Balsam Class Seagoing Buoy Tender built in 1944.  She was launched in Marinette, Wisconsin on February 7, 2004. After a lengthy pre-commissioning process, the Coast Guard accepted ALDER from the shipyard on September 2nd and she sailed on her maiden voyage September 12th.  ALDER officially attained  "Great Lakes Cutter" status on October 12th after having sailed through all five Great Lakes.  Finally, on October 16th, she sailed for the first time into her homeport of Duluth, Minnesota.

    ALDER is one of the most advanced vessels afloat, integrating the latest technological developments in computers, navigation, environmental protection, and remote monitoring systems.  The Integrated Ship Control System coordinates radar, satellite navigation, and computer generated charts with the ship's controllable pitch propeller, rudder, and thrusters. With these advancements working in concert, ALDER can maintain station within a 5-meter circle without human intervention in even the most challenging weather.  ALDER is also equipped with an advanced oil-skimming system known as the Spilled Oil Recovery System (SORS). Capable of performing Aids to Navigation, Icebreaking, Search and Rescue, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and Marine Environmental Protection, Alder is a true multi-mission platform.  ALDER and her sister ships will help ensure that the  U. S. Coast Guard remains the world's premier maritime organization well into the next millennium.

ALDER Design Features:
Complement                50 (8 Officers, 42 Enlisted)
Displacement               2,000 tons at design draft (full load)
Length                         225 feet
Beam                          46 feet
Draft                            13 feet
Speed                         15 knots at full load displacement (80% rated power)
Range                         6,000 miles at 12 knots

ALDER Performance Characteristics:
Ice Operations              14" fresh water ice at 3 knots continuous speed
                                   36" packed fresh water ice by ramming
Main Propulsion            Two 3100hp Caterpillar diesel engines
                                   Bow thruster (fixed pitch, 450hp)
                                   Stern thruster (fixed pitch, 550hp)
Electrical Power           Two 450kw ship's service diesel generators
                                  One 285kw emergency diesel generator
Deck Equipment           22' rigid-hull-inflatable boat
                                   24' aluminum workboat
Buoy Crane                  40'-60' extendable length boom
                                   40,000lbs capacity on the main hoist
                                   10,000lbs capacity on the auxiliary hoist

History of Aids to Navigation

    Aids to navigation have a long history; almost as long as maritime travel itself.  Early aids to navigation were mostly land-based structures.  Towers were constructed along the Mediterranean coast as early as 660 B.C. to help mariners traverse the coastline.  To mark the harbor of Alexandria from the north, Sostratus of Cnidus built a 500-foot structure on the island of Pharos between the years of 283 and 277 B.C. 

    The first recorded buoy was mentioned in La Compasso de Navigare and located in Gaudalquivir River aiding mariners to the port of Sevilla, Spain.  The first aids to navigation in the United States started during colonial times.  Most of the early aids were lighthouses.  The first lighthouse, Boston Light, was established in 1716 on Little Brewster Island.  After Independence, the government became involved in the aids to navigation process.  On August 7, 1789, the First Congress passed an act for the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers.

    These early aids were not uniform throughout the states and local contracts were in charge of their maintenance and placement.  The predominant buoys in early American waters were cask and spar buoys, consisting of long cedar or juniper poles.  The United States did not have a standardized buoyage system until 1848 when it adopted the Lateral System for nationwide implementation.  Under this system, spar and cask buoys gave way to can and nun shaped buoys.  Originally, red nuns were set to starboard and black can buoys were set to port for ships returning from sea.

    Early buoy tenders were called sailing tenders. These tenders, powered by sail could not work large aids and were useless for reliable placement of a buoy because they could not hold position.  To remedy this situation, The Lighthouse Board switched to steam-powered tenders.   The first steam-powered tender, the USLHS SHUBRICK, was completed in 1857.  These tenders revolutionized buoy-tending abilities.  It was only after World War I, when the Lighthouse Service, Navy and Congress agreed to give the Lighthouse service diesel-powered, screw-propelled tenders that buoy tending took its next leap.

    In 1939, Congress moved the Lighthouse Service out of the Department of Commerce and incorporated it into the Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard continued the job of servicing aids to navigation and currently has seven classes of modern buoy tenders.  The sea-going buoy tenders, such as ALDER, are 225 feet long and capable of lifting up to 20 tons.  The second group of tenders are coastal tenders, they are 175 feet long. They are characterized by their 10 ton lifting capacity.    Inland tenders are divided into two classes, large (100-131 ft) and small (65-91 ft).  Large inland tenders are used in sheltered waters of bays and coves, whereas small inland tenders are used in the rivers.  River and construction tenders are flat-bottomed, shallow draft vessels used for tending aids to navigation in rivers where the depths are often shallow .



Last Modified 9/19/2013