The Coast Guard officer who was relieved of the command of a Jonesport-based cutter is being investigated for his role in the grounding of the 87-foot patrol boat last month and several other incidents that called his ability to command into question, the Coast Guard said.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Bouchard was relieved of his command of the Moray on Friday and temporarily reassigned to the Coast Guard sector field office in Southwest Harbor.

“This is highly unusual. We don’t relieve our commanding officers very often,” Lt. Karen Kutkiewicz, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said Monday. “We hold our officers in charge to the highest standards.”

The Moray sustained hull damage when the vessel ran aground Feb. 20 on Petit Manan Point, a national wildlife refuge off Jones-port, Kutkiewicz said. No members of the 12-person crew were injured, and the Moray made it back to port safely under its own power.

Lt. Nolan Cuevas, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter Grand Isle, has assumed temporary command of the Moray.

Bouchard was temporarily relieved of his duties “for loss of confidence in the ability to command,” Rear Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the First Coast Guard District, and Capt. Brian Gilda, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, said in a joint statement.

The final determination on whether Bouchard, who took command of the Moray last summer, will lose or resume command of the cutter will be made by the commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., the statement said.

Though it isn’t clear whether Bouchard was using the joystick to steer the vessel, or was even on the bridge, when it ran aground, Kutkiewicz said his whereabouts are irrelevant.

“The officer in charge is responsible for the safe movement of the ship,” she said.

The Moray’s grounding was not the first incident involving Bouchard, Kutkiewicz said.

“The grounding sparked an investigation, but it wasn’t just the grounding,” she said. “He failed to follow Coast Guard rules and regulations on more than one occasion.”

Kutkiewicz declined to specify which rules and regulations, but said there are no allegations of criminal wrongdoing, or sexual or financial misconduct. The investigation could take up to three months.

On Monday, the Coast Guard cutter Reliance began towing the Moray from Washington County to the Coast Guard Yard, a repair facility in Baltimore, Kutkiewicz said. Cuevas and his crew will accompany the vessel on the voyage, which is expected to take five days.

There is no way of knowing yet how much damage the ship’s hull sustained, Kutkiewicz said, “but any hull damage to a ship is bad.”

The Moray is used primarily to enforce fishing regulations. It is also used in drug enforcement and search-and-rescue missions. It will remain out of service until the repairs can be completed.

“The good thing right now is, we don’t have a lot of recreational or fishing boat traffic on the water,” Kutkiewicz said.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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