Today, Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) celebrates its 50th anniversary at its current homeport of Little Creek, Virginia.
Commissioned in November 1968, Dependable is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter named for an inspirational trait meaning capable of being depended on and worthy of trust. The cutter was built at the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio, and sports a very appropriate motto: “Count on Us–Credibility Built on Excellence.” While many of its sisterships had their namesakes handed down through generations of earlier cutters, Dependable is the first cutter to bear this name.
Dependable has been stationed at nearly half-a-dozen homeports. For the first 23 years of service, the ships was based in Panama City, Florida. In its first 12 years there, the crews who served aboard the cutter served in Gulf response efforts. These included saving disabled fishing vessels, assisting with deadly oil rig fires, rescuing recreational boaters and aiding with commercial shipping mishaps. For example, in January 1974, Dependable remained on scene for four days while its crew battled fires at the Mississippi River site of a collision between the 551-foot tanker Key Trader and the 650-foot bulk carrier Baune. In addition, Dependable played a vital role in the 1980 Cuban Exodus (a.k.a. Mariel Boatlift) response effort earning the Humanitarian Service Medal.
In 1976, Dependable began one of the most successful drug interdiction careers of any Coast Guard cutter. In 1978, Dependable alone interdicted 15 percent of the marijuana seized by the Coast Guard, its largest seizure that year being 120 tons taken off the Motor Vessel Heidi. Dependable received national recognition in August 1981, after seizing nine tons of marijuana aboard Fishing Vessel Sea King. This seizure earned Dependable the coveted Golden Marijuana Leaf, which recognizes a cutter that seizes over one million pounds of marijuana. During the 1980s, Dependable’s successful counter narcotics operations garnered it the nickname among smugglers of “Scourge of the Caribbean.”
In January 1992, the service transferred Dependable to Galveston, Texas. Throughout its time there, the cutter conducted missions from the Caribbean Basin to the North Atlantic. All the while, its primary missions remained living marine resources (LMR) enforcement, marine safety and security, and maritime interdiction. Three years after transferring to Galveston, Dependable went into the shipyard to undergo Major Maintenance Availability taking two years to upgrade its systems and modernize equipment. In 1997, after its refit, the cutter relocated to Portsmouth, Virginia, and three years later, moved to Cape May, New Jersey.
In 2000, Dependable began a 16-year tenure at Cape May. However, in 2005, the cutter’s operational career was interrupted a second time for an overhaul—this time for the Mission Effectiveness Project or MEP. This major overhaul modernized selected systems in the cutter, adding numerous years to Dependable’s service life. In 2007, the cutter completed MEP, becoming the first in its class to do so.