A crowd of dignitaries and onlookers gathered Thursday, January 31st, at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Marina del Rey Station on Fiji Way in the Marina and watched the Los Angeles County Lifeguard boats ceremoniously shoot a high arc of clear water as they slowly escorted two arriving marine patrol units into their awaiting slips.

Tradition and Edgington were the star attractions at the sheriff’s dock, where Supervisor Don Knabe and Sheriff Lee Baca stood watching and waiting to officially christen the specialized vessels.

The colors were presented and speeches were given to commemorate these additions to the fleet that will, according to the sheriff’s department, pay large dividends in the business of public safety and emergency preparedness.

Each boat will provide a specific duty for the county separate from the other. The Edgington, named after Los Angeles County Harbor Patrolman Harold L. Edgington who was stabbed to death in the line of duty in 1979, will be a daily patrol boat and first responder, much the same as the J. Ortiz that is currently seen patrolling the Marina. Like the Ortiz, she is a brand-new vessel equipped with the latest in electronics and equipment including a fire hose that can be deployed from the bow.

The Edgington will replace an older patrol vessel and its addition to the fleet significantly upgrades the department’s ability to respond effectively. In addition to enforcing boating law, the sheriff’s vessels must be prepared for the many emergencies that can arise in the marine environment, especially in a post-9/11 coastal territory.

“One of the things statutorily we’re responsible for are rescues at sea,” said Harbormaster Rod Kusch. “And ‘rescues at sea’ covers anything from assisting a boater who has a blown motor on his boat to a car that’s driven off the roadway into the water. It supports all kinds of missions and can do so expeditiously because the boat is fast and has the right kind of equipment on board.”

While the Edgington and Ortiz share a role in first-response-type missions, the Tradition, a bigger, 47-foot long-range vessel, will be fulfilling a new position in the marine unit. Never before has there been a boat as big and capable of extended missions as this boat.

The Tradition was accepted by the sheriff’s department from the California Department of Fish and Game and outfitted using finances from grants and special funds.

Kusch said many officers came in on their own time to bring the boat up to its current refurbished state. The bigger vessel enables the department to handle certain jobs far more effectively than they could previously and also tackle situations on a larger scope.

“When you have something at sea that requires that we’re out there for an extended period, like, for example, a downed aircraft — you hate to talk about downed aircraft in the LAX area — but this vessel enables us to keep divers [for example] out for longer periods of time [because] we have the capability of refilling our dive tanks on the boat,” Kusch said. “We don’t have to get air from another source. We could sustain a pretty long dive operation without having to come back to port.”

The Tradition also enables the agency to pay more attention to commercial vessels. The harbormaster says they can better board and check them to see what they’re bringing in.

He seemed confident that the marine unit is now well equipped and prepared for whatever might arise. The Edgington provides another powerful new boat to complement and assist the Ortiz for the daily grind and the Tradition provides a more substantial service vessel for extended missions that require a boat with sleeping and eating accommodations, amongst other attributes.