Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell returns to San Diego

SAN DIEGO - The Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell returned to San Diego Thursday following a two-month Eastern Pacific deployment during which it captured narcotics traffickers and rescued eight fishermen adrift in disabled vessels.

The 378-foot ship docked at its harbor homeport in the early afternoon.

While patrolling international waters off the coast of Central America on Dec. 30, the Boutwell came across three drug smugglers heading north toward land in a speedboat, according to USCG public affairs.

Upon sighting the approaching cutter, the trio began jettisoning bales of contraband while making a failed attempt to escape. After a brief chase, crews captured the vessel and the suspects, and recovered 1,375 pounds of cocaine.

In 2005, the Boutwell seized a record $900 million in drugs in the same area.

The Boutwell's personnel performed the maritime rescues during separate search-and-recovery operations.

The first occurred about 100 nautical miles off the coast of Panama. Four fishermen who had been adrift for two weeks were found in their disabled vessel, surviving on their catch, bait and rainwater. They were transferred to a Panamanian patrol boat the following day.

The second rescue occurred about 140 nautical miles southwest of El Salvador. The stranded fishing crew, which had been floating helplessly for seven days, was transferred to officials in that Central American country.

"It was my first deployment and it was more difficult that I realized it was going to be," said Kaye-Loni Barclift.  

It was also the last deployment for the ship's captain Jim Munro.  

"After 37 years in the Coast Guard, nearly 20 at sea, it will be an adjustment," said Munro, who will be reassigned to shore duty.  

The 45-year-old Boutwell and its crew of about 170 primarily conduct counter-narcotics missions in the Eastern Pacific, and fisheries enforcement and search-and-rescue in the Bering Sea, according to the Coast Guard.

The cutter was named for former U.S. Treasury Secretary George Boutwell, who also served as the 20th governor of Massachusetts, and as a senator and a representative from that state.

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