BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A formal change in command at the Coast Guard station is scheduled for Friday, when senior chief boatswain’s mate Jason Holm steps down as chief after almost four years here.
He will be replaced by Mark DiLenge, who holds the same (E-8) rank. DiLenge has been transferred from Honolulu.
Formal transition will take place at 10 a.m. at the Water Street facility.
“A lot has happened during my time in Newburyport,” said Holm, 38, a native of Mobile, Ala. “We’ve appreciated the support we get from the community, and I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met.”
Holm will be retiring from the service after 20 years and will be taking the post of assistant harbormaster in Chatham.
The Coast Guard, which was founded here in 1791, has received increased visibility since Newburyport was named by the service as a Coast Guard City last summer.
Only about 15 communities in the country hold that honorary designation, and federal, state and local officials celebrated the moment with parties, formal observations and waterfront festivities. The title is meant to infer the local Coast Guard station and the community have a tight relationship.
Mayor Donna Holaday, who was a driving force in acquiring the designation, commented on Holm’s departure by saying: “I am proud that Newburyport became a Coast Guard City under his watch and that the Harbor Commission was able to recognize the chief with a special award.
“It has been a pleasure to work with him and all the men and women under his command assigned to Station Merrimack River. He will be missed, but we know where to visit him in his new position in Chatham.”
The Coast Guard operates under the banner of the Department of Homeland Security in times of peace. During war, the service is directed by the president and is managed through the Navy.
The Newburyport outpost hosts a deployment of about 30 Coast Guardsmen and is responsible for responding to distressed craft from the New Hampshire line to about Rockport, and for about 25 miles out to sea.
The local station maintains two 47-foot motor lifeboats and a 24-foot vessel for work in shallow water.
Holm recalled that on his very first day of his assignment here, his team responded to a call of a pleasure craft foundering near a sandbar at the entrance of the Newburyport harbor.
“The seas were high, and the craft was in trouble, but we were able to lead it out of danger,” said Holm. “It was a busy day for my first on the job.”
He added, “Most local boaters learn how to deal with the tides and current near ‘The Bar’ at the harbor entrance, but some visitors really have trouble if they aren’t aware of the challenges. We’ve made many runs to help boaters.”
“The Bar” is a notoriously shallow sandbar that forms just beyond the jetties at the mouth of the river. Currents there can be ferocious, and waves can grow to large size as they rush over the sandbar. The entrance to the Merrimack River is considered to be one of the most dangerous on the East Coast.
Bases where Holm had previously been stationed include Kodiak, Alaska; Destin, Fla.; and Chatham.
“Jason did a very good job here and our departments worked well together,” said Paul Hogg, Newburyport harbormaster. “The station was in good hands when he was here, and he’ll be missed.”
DiLenge was not available for comment yesterday.