Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Spratt, a deck force boatswain’s mate and hammer hook creator stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, homeported in Kodiak, Alaska, has served aboard many buoy tenders, so he has seen and worked buoys for most of his Coast Guard career, he said.
“I wanted a functional tool, and I want to be able to do my job,” said Spratt. “I did it because there was a flaw in the system, so I fixed the flaw.”
He mentioned that necessity could be the mother of invention.
“Working in [Aids to Navigation], you have multiple tools that you have to use,” said Spratt. “You have to use a sledgehammer and chain hook. The sledgehammer is used to seat and set the chain in the pelican hook and chain-stopper. Then you also need the chain hook to pick the chain up and put it in the pelican hook before setting it. Both tools are crucial and you have to use them. So, I decided to put them together. It seemed simple.”
Spratt went to Petty Officer 1st Class Taylor Konlin, a damage controlman also stationed aboard the SPAR, and told him of his idea of welding a chain hook on the back of a sledge hammer.
Spratt said Konlin and Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Lake, another damage controlman aboard the SPAR, had cut and formed the metal, and welded the sledgehammer and chain hook together within about an hour, creating the world’s first hammer hook. Konlin and Lake created two hammer hooks and the crew began using them to work buoys the next day.
“We started using it, and we haven’t stopped since,” said Spratt. “It just makes sense, and it works.”
Although it may seem simple, the hammer hook not only reduces the amount of clutter on the deck for ATON workers, but it also increases workplace safety and efficiency. It can save as much as 10 to 15 minutes per evolution. Spratt said this equates to being able to squeeze in that ninth buoy for the day when you have jobs that take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours to complete. Since its creation, this innovative tool has seen little use in the rest of the Coast Guard, but that’s all about to change. Under the category of operations and readiness, Spratt received the 2016 Capt. Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Award for the hammer hook.
Spratt was floored. He said he had no idea it would get this big.
According to Spratt, during his trip to Washington, D.C., in 2017, then Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray and a boatswain’s mate master chief said they didn’t know how the Coast Guard has been working ATON for almost 200 years without anyone ever thinking to make this tool before.