One night last week, in rain hard-driven by an icy wind, a shipfitter, an insurance salesman, a machinist supervisor and a Boston Traveler pressman boarded a 50-ft. cruiser and purred out to patrol Boston Harbor. Their "duty" was the water off the busy Navy Yard. Aboard their cruiser they stood eight-hour watches and took turns at catching a little sleep. In the cold dawn they shucked their blue work clothes, sheepskin coats, stocking caps and went back to their civilian jobs.

They and thousands like them on both coasts are members of the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve, which has relieved many...

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