On Thursday, as people thronged the beach, some may have noticed a number of specks on the sea, close yet far out of reach.

A chopper circled overhead, a hovercraft periodically went up and down the sea, and a couple of sail boats and Coast Guard boats bobbed on the waves, keeping watch on the bay. There were also a few divers on the shore waiting to grab that errant person who managed to venture into the sea through the makeshift barricades.

The Coast Guard began its vigil of the coast a little after forenoon and continued until midnight, along the Marina and Elliot’s beaches in Chennai.

Smaller boats patrolled the sea in Puducherry, Karaikkal, Tuticorin and Mandapam, said S.P. Sharma, commander, Coast Guard (east). The Coast Guard’s patrol boats sliced through the waves, while two sail boats with Coast Guard and RMYC (Royal Madras Yacht Club) printed on the sail propagated the Coast Guard motto: ‘To maintain a pollution-free, green ocean.’

Mr. Sharma said, “The seeds were sown on February 1, 1977, when the Coast Guard began policing the sea.” Their association with RMYC would help build the character of the youth when they sailed the seas and understand its behaviour, he said.

The State, with its well-prepared Coast Guard patrol team, had not lost any fisherman to the spate of cyclones that rocked it last year, said Mr. Sharma.

Recently, the Coast Guard added two more Dornier aircraft to the existing three. The State government had also allocated 50 acres to create an air station for the Coast Guard with the aim of making it easy to patrol the northern parts of Indian Ocean.

The Coast Guard is in the process of acquiring the land. “When that happens, we will be able to reach the Gulf of Mannar (region) faster. It now takes a long time to reach from Chennai,” he said.

The water jet propelling patrol ship, Aadesh, which was recently commissioned at Cochin shipyard is expected to arrive soon and will be stationed in Tuticorin to patrol the Gulf of Mannar, said Mr. Sharma.

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