The Coast Guard became the official owner of its newest cutter Friday morning as one of the highest ranking civilians in that service signed the paperwork from the bridge of the Fast Response Cutter Kathleen Moore.
"She's all mine," a grinning Ashley J. Lewis said from the cutter's bridge.
Lewis turned to the ship's commanding officer, Lt. Gregory Higgins.
"How long can I keep her?" she asked smiling.
"As long as you like, ma'am," Higgins said.
The Kathleen Moore will be commissioned May 10 at Sector Key West when she will officially enter service. Friday's event was the official delivery of the cutter from its builder, Bollinger Shipyards.
Lewis is the senior procurement executive and head of contracting activity for the Coast Guard. That means she is in charge of buying everything the Coast Guard needs, from airplanes and cannons to fountain pens and copy paper.
The Kathleen Moore is now the third of six brand new FRCs to arrive in Key West that will also be homeported here. The new 154-foot Sentinel class ships are replacing the older 110-foot cutters that are being phased out of service.
In Key West, that includes the Pea Island, Kodiak Island, Knight Island and Key Biscayne. It was decided to replace them after a failed retrofit in 2004 that was plagued with structural problems.
The new ships can cruise at 28 knots, and sport a remotely operated 25mm chain gun and four .50-caliber machine guns. The cutters' go-fast boats can be deployed via their sterns as opposed to the cranes used now.
The 270-foot Thetis and the Mohawk will remain based in Key West, as will the 87-foot Sawfish, but the 110-footers will either be decommissioned or sent to another port.
All the new FRCs are named after noted Coast Guard crew members who served heroically. Key West is already home to the Charles David and the Charles Sexton, both of which also arrived this year.
Kathleen Moore was a lighthouse keeper in Long Island Sound for more than 50 years. She began working at 12 years old with her father before retiring in 1878. She is credited with saving 21 lives and saving numerous vessels. Part of her job included nursing injured shipwreck victims back to health.
History will remain a part of the Kathleen Moore by way of her first commanding officer. Higgins is related to Andrew Higgins, the man who engineered the Higgin's Boat, or the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) boat that delivered troops from ship to beach during World War II.
The Kathleen Moore marks Higgins' fist time in command.
"I have a great crew, a great XO (officer who is second in command) and great new cutter, so that makes it a whole lot less nerve-racking," Higgins said.
Later up on the bridge, Higgins thanked Lewis "for such a wonderful ship," and added that his crew is ready to get out and patrol.
"Don't worry, we'll put you to work," said a smiling Keys Coast Guard commanding officer Capt. Al Young.