SEATTLE - As a U.S. Coast Guard Navigational Assist Boat headed out Friday morning, the crew was keeping a close eye on the weather.
"We have 10 to 15 knot winds out of the Southwest and seas are two feet," announced a crew member as the the boat bounced through the seas on its way to Eagle Harbor.
These conditions are of no concern for a 55-foot Coast Guard vessel, but they are less than ideal for the mission ahead. The crew must connect the boat to a navigational platform at the entrance of the harbor, then climb up a 20-foot ladder to change a light bulb.
This is not just any bulb, it's a navigational marker that boats, ships and ferries use to find their way safely through Puget Sound. Currently a bulky lamp, battery and separate solar panel occupy the platform. The crew is swapping that system out for a self contained, one piece lantern that has tested out to be just as bright, last twice and long and cost half as much as the older style.
It's part of the Coast Guard's dual goal of fiscal and environmental protection when it comes to these lights. They've already changed out 88 units and have another 97 to go. When they are done, they will save money on costs at the front end and over time. The new lights last longer and require fewer check-ups.
That has to be welcome news to the crew members who have to step off a bouncing boat onto a primitive ladder and climb 20 feet up against powerful winds to make the switch.