Black Ghost of the Gulf Coast takes her final ride
The 180-foot Balsam-class buoy tender USCGC Salvia (WAGL/WLB-400) gave 47 years to the Coast Guard, 28 to the Navy, and will continue to serve in a different purpose moving forward.
Laid down at Duluth, Minnesota’s Zenith Dredge on 24 June 1943 as a member of the Iris subclass, she commissioned 19 February 1944 at a cost of $923,995. She would spend the rest of WWII assigned to the 5th Coast Guard District, stationed at Portsmouth, Virginia, and used for general ATON duty under Navy orders.
From 1 November 1945 until her decommissioning in 1991, USCGC Salvia was homeported in Mobile, where the ship did a lot of buoy relocation for constantly-working Corps of Engineer dredges working from Pensacola to Gulfport. The vessel was known as “The Black Ghost of the Gulf Coast” or, unofficially and for logical reasons, “The Spit.”
Besides over four decades of thankless ATON work, the buoy tender conducted law enforcement duties as needed and was called to assist in SAR on several notable occasions in waters that are heavily traveled by fishing and commercial vessels.
As detailed by the Coast Guard Historian’s office:
From 20-23 April 1951, Salvia assisted following the collision between the tankers Esso Suez and Esso Greensboro.
From 59 April 1953, Salvia searched for the wreck of National Flight 47 off Mobile Point.
From 30 October-2 November 1958, Salvia assisted USS Instill (AM-252).
From 17-18 November 1959, the cutter searched for National Flight 967, famously lost between Tampa and New Orleans.
In late August 1965, Salvia provided men and equipment to fight a fire on the Liberian MV Arctic Reefer off Choctaw Point, Mobile.
From 7-8 December 1968, Salvia searched for survivors from the lost USCGC White Alder, saving three men.
Retired in 1991, Salvia was given to the Navy to be used as an unnamed salvage hulk in Little Creek.
Finally, the gutted and worn vessel was put up for auction by the GSA last year with a final realized price of $18,100. Ownership eventually passed to N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program
Now, renamed “Brian Davis” she was sunk last week off the coast of North Carolina as a part of an artificial reef (Memorial project AR-368) in about 70 feet of water approximately 20 miles due east of Wilmington. The three-year project was funded by donations from the diving community as well as Coastal Recreational Fishing License funds.