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The Maritime log #16 - Women play key role in Coast Guard; news on 'Book in a Bottle' program.

July 27, 2018

The Maritime Log by Dyke Hendrickson

Women play key role in Coast Guard; news on ‘Book in a Bottle’ program.

by Dyke Hendrickson
Custom House Maritime Museum Outreach Historian


There are about 42,000 officers and enlisted personnel in the active Coast Guard today, and 5,800 are women.

That is a small percentage of the corps, but I plan to provide as many profiles of women as men in my upcoming book. “New England Coast Guard Stories: Remarkable Patriots.”

I spoke at the Maritime Museum Friday, Aug. 3, about the Coast Guard and one audience member asked why I was making an extra effort to include women.

One reason is that I have never seen a book on a military topic that referenced women other than to say she was the “first woman” to pilot a chopper or qualify as a rescue swimmer.

This will be an effort to depict women as an everyday element of the corps.

Another reason is that they have compelling stories.

One officer I recently interviewed was Capt. Claudia Gelzer, pictured here, who just retired as one of the top officers at 1st District headquarters in Boston.Claudia Gelzer

She had studied journalism at the University of Maryland, and got interested in maritime environmental issues when she wrote stories for class and the newspaper.

(An aside: She made a wise career choice in opting for the Coast Guard over newspaper work.).

She graduated from Officer Candidate School and rose steadily in the Coast Guard before retiring last month after 27 years.

“There were many times when I was the only women in the room of male officers,” she said. “This is an environment of Type-A personalities, and I had to be assertive and persistent to make my views count.”

Her skills made her the lead Coast Guard officer in the port of Boston, meaning she supervised both commercial and recreational traffic in Boston Harbor.

“I never saved a life myself – that’s not what officers generally do - but I was responsible for thousands of lives on the water every day,” she said.

“And when things went wrong and there was an accidental death (involved in Coast Guard waters), I was the one who made the call on survivors to convey our concern.”

Reaching the rank of captain is a major achievement. Now 53, Gelzer said she will take some time off before perhaps entering the field of marine-environment safety.

In a separate development, Commander Valerie Boyd came to my attention last week.

As part of the Maritime Museum’s “Book in a Bottle” program, I give out copies of “Nautical Newburyport,” my recent book, to those I interview on Coast Guard bases.

The caveat is that they pass the book along to another reader when they are finished.

I gave a copy to Commander Boyd when I visited her station in New Haven.

A week or so later, she learned that senior chief petty officer Shawn Crahen was being transferred to Newburyport to serve as officer in charge of Station Merrimack River.

So she gave the book to Crahen so he could learn about the history of the local waterfront.

When I met Crahen last week at the Coast Guard open house on Water Street, he said, “I know your name. I have the book, ‘Nautical Newburyport.’ Commander Boyd gave it to me as a going-away gift.”

Note: I was highly pleased that the “Book in a Bottle” had registered one small victory.


If your organization would like me to speak at an event, please get in touch.  I can be reached at

Thanks. Dyke Hendrickson

Dyke Hendrickson, Outreach Historian, The Maritime Log

The Maritime Log by Dyke Hendrickson

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