Cutter Oak sent to Gulf

The Coast Guard Cutter Oak is a 225-foot navigational buoy tender, but also is outfitted with equipment designed to syphon oil from the water's surface.

Rebecca Glander of Summerville was hoping that her husband would be home by now, but the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Oak that he commands has been dispatched to help with cleanup of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, she and other families of the 50-member crew don't know when the ship will return to Charleston. "They got orders to go to Florida. They're not quite sure how long they'll need them," Glander said.

Cmdr. Michael Glander's ship was diverted to Pensacola, Fla., from Puerto Rico on its return trip here. The 225-foot navigational buoy tender left Charleston on April 5 and was due to return Friday.

Rebecca Glander said she saw the ship Tuesday morning on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America." "The families are real disappointed, but we're glad that they can help," she said.

Although the ship is commissioned as a buoy tender, it also is outfitted with equipment designed to syphon oil from the surface.

"Our present instructions have us out fairly close to the site of the spill," Glander said at a news conference Monday at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. When asked how long his crew would work on the spill, Glander said the mission is considered "indefinite."

Glander said at the news conference that the skimming equipment on his ship has never been used in an oil-removal operation, but his crew undergoes annual training on its use.

The oil and water mixture is pumped into bladders that can hold 75,000 gallons, then the bladders are off-loaded onto other vessels. That mixture is then processed with the oil removed for reuse, he said.

In February the Oak returned from a 35-day deployment to Haiti. The ship left the day after a 7.0 earthquake shook the country and arrived in Port-au-Prince four days later to deliver supplies, provide medical help, and secure and help rebuild the port.

Some crew members said the emotional mission to Haiti took its toll at times, but they were happy they could help.

The Oak has a crew of 42 and eight officers. Previously the cutter has repaired navigation aids and cleared waterways affected by Hurricanes Isabel, Katrina, Charley, Jeanne and Frances, among other duties.