By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

There was an air of officialdom at the Crescent City Harbor yesterday as decorated U.S. Coast Guard officers handed the baton and the keys to Del Norte County's volunteer citizen group, the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

In a ceremony at 10 a.m., Master Chief Royce Heckendorn of Group Humboldt Bay Coast Guard Station presented the group with a Coast Guard rigid-hulled rescue boat and the certificates of training they earned to run it.

andquot;They worked very, very hard in the darkness of night as well as the light of day,andquot; Heckendorn said.

And he should know. Heckendorn traveled to Crescent City nearly every Saturday for several months to conduct the training in hail, rain and even snow.

The auxiliary members, who will perform search-and-rescue duties with the new boat and equipment, endured the same training as full-time Coast Guard men and women, according to Heckendorn.

The new orange, rigid-hulled boat is designed to both pull victims out of the water and tie to other boats that need to be guided back into harbor.

Three local volunteers have been fully certified as coxswain, a person responsible for piloting the boat and leading the rescue crew. And several crew members have been trained as rescue personnel.

After the keys of the boat were handed over to the auxiliary's Flotilla Commander Bev Noll, the previously trained coxswain and crew took turns performing rescue drills while several Coast Guard officials watched and applauded.

andquot;Remember, these are all volunteers and spending all these hours to train just as a paid professional and that says a lot,andquot; Heckendorn said.