Coast Guard cutter nets drugs, helps Panamanian charity

SAN DIEGO — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter CHASE returned to their homeport San Diego Monday, Feb. 4, after an 80-day law enforcement patrol in the Eastern Pacific off the coasts of Central and South America.

While on a routine patrol in November, CHASE intercepted two suspected drug traffickers traveling at high speeds in their “go-fast” vessels. Go-fast vessels are built to travel at high speed and avoid detection. The crew of the CHASE and its embarked MH68 armed helicopter crew located and stopped two go-fasts heading northeast at speeds in excess of 25 knots. The interdiction resulted in the seizure of several bales of cocaine and five suspected smugglers. Patrolling off the coast of Costa Rica in December, CHASE launched its attached MH-68 helicopter which spotted a 48-foot go-fast. During the chase, the suspects beached the go-fast vessel on the Costa Rican shoreline and fled on foot into the jungle.

A deployable rescue boat from the CHASE provided waterborne security until the arrival of Costa Rican authorities who took custody of the go-fast. Costa Rican officials later stated that the vessel had nearly 10,000 pounds of marijuana valued over $31 million dollars.

During their mid-patrol break in Panama City, Panama, members of the crew volunteered their time to donate items and make repairs to a home for orphaned and abused girls in Panama. The project distributed medical supplies and toys to the shelter. The supplies were provided by Project Handclasp, a charity program that collects donations from various sources and uses Navy and Coast Guard vessels to distribute the goods through the world. Along with donations the crew helped install a new stove, fixed two bathroom sinks, repaired three broken washers, and spent numerous hours playing games with the children.

The CHASE, one of the Coast Guard’s 378-foot high endurance cutters, was commissioned in March 1968. Their missions vary from counter-drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and search and rescue readiness, and are mainly conducted off the coast of the Americas. The commanding officer, Capt. Brian Perkins, and his crew are excited about being back home and will enjoy some well-deserved time off with their families before departing on their next patrol.

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