Tag Archives: Coast Guard

Uruguayan 87s

Originally intended as a 50-vessel class of patrol boats (WPBs) meant to replace the Vietnam-era 82-foot Point class vessels in Coast Guard service, the 87-foot Marine Protector class started to hit the water in 1998 at a cost of about $5 million a pop. Derived from the Dutch Damen Stan 2600 design and cranked out by Bollinger, the Coast Guard kept hitting the “buy more” button on these until a whopping 74 were completed, including four paid for by the Navy and used to escort Boomers in and out of domestic homeports (notably, the latter all have hybrid submarine names– Sea Devil, Sea Fox, Sea Dragon, and Sea Dog— saluting WWII fleet boats).

Economical, they cost about $3,200 an hour to operate and can stay deployed for up to a week at a time, stretching their legs up to 200 miles offshore if needed.

A close-up of USCGC Moray (WPB-87331) and USCGC Tiger Shark (WPB-87359), taken by me at Gulfport harbor.

I featured one of these great boats as a character in my zombie novel, having shipped out on one on a day patrol out of Gulfport for research.

The Coast Guard even has an innovative maintenance schedule for the 87s on the East/Gulf coasts to keep the in top shape. The Recurring Depot Availability Program (RDAP) project is a four-year recurring maintenance cycle for the Coast Guard’s entire Atlantic Area 47-boat coastal patrol boat fleet in which each cutter is at the Yard for a 66-day planned maintenance period. Crews arrive with a “used” 87-foot patrol boat and pick up a freshly overhauled patrol boat from the Yard, which they immediately sail back to their homeport.

Well, as the class ages and the USCG finds itself flush with new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-type Fast Response Cutters, the service is trimming high-mileage 87s. Thus far, eight have been withdrawn from service and they will no doubt see much further use in Third World service.

Case in point, the Coast Guard Yard recently completed a $1.3 million overhaul of three such long-serving Protectors that were transferred to Uruguay as part of the USCG Foreign Military Sales Program. The 11-month program included partial rebuilds and training Uruguayan Navy crews, which took final possession last month to sail the trio to new climes in Montevideo.

The program saw the ex-USCGC Albacore (WPB-87309), ex-USCGC Cochito (WPB-87329), and ex-USCGC Gannet (WPB-87334) slowly become the ROU-14 Río Arapey, ROU-15 Río de La Plata, and ROU-16 Río Yaguarón.

They sortied out as a group in late September from Baltimore, escorted by an active USCG member of their class.

And their last U.S. stop was at USCG Station Key West just before Hurricane Ian came ashore.

Coast Guard Keeps tabs on China in Aleutians, Maldives, and West Pac

The Coast Guard, flush with capable new vessels, has been steadily stretching its legs as of late, taking up the Navy’s slack a bit, and waving the flag increasingly in overseas locations. This new trend makes sense as, besides the formal People’s Liberation Army Navy, the growing (200 white hulled cutters) China Coast Guard and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (4,600 blue hulled trawlers) are everywhere.

Case in point, this week the USCG’s 17th District, which covers Alaska, announced the USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756), while on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea, encountered the 13,000-ton Chinese Type 055 “destroyer” (NATO/OSD Renhai-class cruiser) Renhai (CG 101), sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island. A state-of-the-art vessel comparable to a Ticonderoga-class cruiser but larger, Renhai has a 112-cell VLS system as well as two helicopters and a 130mm naval gun. Compare this to Kimball’s single 57mm MK110 and CIWS, and you see the disparity.

A Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, September 19, 2022. (USCG Photo)

Kimball also noted other ships as well.

Via 17th District:

The Kimball crew later identified two more Chinese naval vessels and four Russian naval vessels, including a Russian Federation Navy destroyer, all in a single formation with the Renhai as a combined surface action group operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

As a result, the Kimball crew is now operating under Operation Frontier Sentinel, a Seventeenth Coast Guard District operation designed to meet presence with presence when strategic competitors operate in and around U.S. waters. The U.S Coast Guard’s presence strengthens the international rules-based order and promotes the conduct of operations in a manner that follows international norms. While the surface action group was temporary in nature, and Kimball observed it disperse, the Kimball will continue to monitor activities in the U.S. EEZ to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew provided support to the Kimball’s Operation Frontier Sentinel activities.

This is not the first time Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese naval vessels inside the U.S. EEZ/MARDEZ. Last August, Kimball and her sister Berthoff kept tabs on a surface action group– a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel– transiting within 46 miles of the Aleutians.

Meanwhile, in the Maldives

Kimball’s sister, the Hawaii-based USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757) and crew, on a Westpac patrol under the tactical control of 7th Fleet, arrived in the Maldives last week, the first Coast Guard ship to visit the 1,200-island Indian Ocean country since USCGC Boutwell in 2009.

The class of large (418-foot/4,500-ton) frigate-sized cutters have done numerous Westpac cruises in the past few years. Since 2019, the cutters Bertholf (WMSL 750), Stratton (WMSL 752), Waesche (WMSL 751), and Munro (WMSL 755) have deployed to the Western Pacific.

Micronesia and the Solomans

Capping off a six-week extended patrol across Oceania, the 154-foot Webber/Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) arrived back at homeport in Guam on 19 September.

The 20-member crew, augmented by two Guam-based shoreside Coasties (a YN2 and an MK2) two Navy rates (an HS2 and HM3), and a Marine Korean linguist, conducted training, fisheries observations, community and key leader engagements, and a multilateral sail.

How about that blended blue and green crew? “The crew of the Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) takes a moment for a photo in Cairns, Australia, Sept. 5, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

They covered more than 8,000 nautical miles from Guam to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and returned with several stops in Papua New Guinea and one in the Federated States of Micronesia. They also operated with HMS Spey, the first Royal Navy warship to be forward deployed to the Pacific since Hong Kong went back to China.

The two ships were also– and this is key– refused a port visit in the Solomans which is now under a treaty with China that allows PLAN ships to refuel in Honiara. The local government there later clarified that not all foreign military ships were off limits to their ports, as Australia and New Zealand will be exempt (both countries have significant economic ties with the island nation) but it is still a bad look. Of irony, Spey and Oliver Henry were conducting an Operation Island Chief mission in the region, policing illegal fishing of the kind China is noted for.

The Coast Guard currently has three new FRCs in Guam including Henry, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139), and Frederick Hatch (1143), giving them options in the Westpac.

Vigilance, Since 1790

Happy 232nd birthday, USCG!

Official caption: “Somewhere on the Pacific, an alert Coast Guardsman scans the horizon as he clutches his machine gun, looking for trouble.” Released 29 September 1942.

USCG Photo via the National Archives 26-G-09-29-42(6)

Incidentally, the Coasties were, as far as I can tell, the longest user of the Thompson submachine gun. The service picked up some M1921 Colts during Prohibition to fight bootleggers and rumrunners and continued to have WWII-era M1 Thompsons in the small arms lockers of cutters well into the 1970s, with some tapping in on Market Time during Vietnam.

SPSS Art

Dubbed either self-propelled semi-submersibles (SPSS) or low-profile vessels (LPVs), “narco subs” have gone from being a unicorn type of thing discussed only in Clive Cussler books to the real deal, especially when it comes to the Eastern Pacific, where they seem to be the vessel of choice running coke from South America to transshipment points in Central America.

Since they first started popping up in 2006, these craft have become an almost weekly thing in the past few years. The USCG and SOUTHCOM assets stopped almost 40 such boats in 2019, this number continued into 2020 where, across four days in mid-May Southcom stopped three narco submarines in the same week (remember the “Alto su barco” incident?), and showed no sign of stopping if you look at the typical patrols done by cutters throughout 2021-22.

Almost every recent EastPac patrol by the Coast Guard (or Fourth Fleet with a USCG LEDET aboard) shows off images of an LPV stopped with a gleaming white cutter in the background.

USCGC Northland (WMEC 904) interdicts a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in August 2021. The Northland crew returned to Portsmouth Monday, following an 80-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of the Coast Guard Eleventh District and Joint Interagency Task Force South. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This translates into a whole series of art produced as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Art Collection in the past few years on the subject:

Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

U.S. National Archives Local Identifier 26-G-01-19-50

Here we see the U.S. Revenue Cutter U.S. Grant, in her original scheme, seen sometime late in the 1890s, likely off the coast of New York. With the Union general and 18th President’s birthday today– coincidentally falling on National Morse Code Day– you knew this was coming, and interestingly, the above cutter, which had served during the SpanAm War, was the first post-Civil War U.S. vessel named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant.

Built at Wilmington, Delaware at the yards of Pusey & Jones Corp in 1871, Grant was a one-off Barque-rigged iron-hulled steam cutter ordered for the Revenue Cutter Service at a cost of $92,500. With the Revenue Marine/Cutter Service one that typically ran quick little sloops and schooner-rigged vessels between 1790 and 1916 when it became part of the newly-formed U.S. Coast Guard, Grant was one of the few built for the seagoing service with three masts.

Some 163-feet in length (overall) the 350-ton ship was the largest of four new steam cutters– the other three were paddle-wheelers– authorized by Congress in 1870 as part of a plan by N. Broughton Devereux, head of the Revenue Marine Bureau, in an effort to revitalize the force that had languished in the days immediately after the Civil War despite having been the sole federal agency tasked with patrolling the broad and wild seas off Alaska.

Cutter Grant via the New York Historical Society

Despite the massive amounts of left-over Civil War ordnance being sold as surplus, Grant was given a battery of four bronze M1841 24-pounder muzzleloading howitzers– field guns that had been considered obsolete at Gettysburg– and a small arms locker made up of rare .46 caliber (rimfire) single-shot Ballard carbines. She was known to still have this armament into the early 1890s. Her crew consisted of about 35 officers, engineers, and men.

Her shakedown complete just after Christmas 1871, Grant was assigned to the New York station on 19 January 1872 a cruising ground that covered from Montauk Point to the Delaware.

For the next 20 years, she maintained a very workaday existence in the peacetime Revenue Service. This included going out on short patrols of coastal waters, assisting with the collection of the tariff, catching the occasional smuggler, responding to distress calls (helping to save the crew of the reefed Revenue Cutter Bronx in 1873, saving the schooner Ida L. Howard in 1882, the British steam-ship Pomona bound from this port for Jamaica in 1884, and the demasted three-masted schooner William H. Keeney in 1887), policing posh ocean yacht races (even hosting her namesake President aboard in July 1875 for the Cape May Regatta), taking President Rutherford B. Hayes’ Treasury Secretary John Sherman (Gen. William T. Sherman’s brother) for a tour of all Revenue Cutter stations along the east coast in 1877, searching for lost cargo (notably spending a week in December 1887 along with the sloop-of-war USS Enterprise on the hunt for a raft of logs towed from Nova Scotia hat had departed its line off New England), suppressing mutinies (the steamer Northern Light in November 1883), and getting in the occasional gunnery practice.

In 1877, Grant had the bad fortune of colliding with the schooner Dom Pedro off Boon Island on a hot July night. Standing by, the cutter rescued all nine souls aboard the sinking vessel and brought them safely into Boston. An inquiry board found the Dom Pedro, who had no lights set while in shipping lanes at night, at fault.

In July 1883, Grant inspected– and later seized under orders of the U.S. Attorney’s office and at the insistence of the Haitian government– the tugboat Mary N. Hogan, which had reportedly been fitting out in the East River as a privateer under finance from certain British subjects to carry arms to rebels in Haiti.

Grant would serve as a quarantine vessel hosting Siamese royalty, as well as Hawaiian Queen Kapiʻolani and Princess Liliʻuokalani, the latter royals stopping in New York on their way to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London.

From November 1888 through April 1889, Grant had her steam plant replaced at the DeLamater Iron Works docks– the same plant that had constructed the steam boilers and machinery for the ironclad USS Monitor.

Shortly afterward, Grant landed her ancient Army surplus howitzers for a pair of brand-new rapid-fire Mark 1 Hotchkiss Light 1-pounders, from a lot of 25 ordered by the Revenue Cutter Service from a Navy contract issued to Pratt & Whitney of Hartford.

Unidentified officers around an early 1-pdr on the gunboat USS Nahant. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-D4-20046.

Her skipper at the time, a man who would remain with Grant for the rest of her career, was Captain Dorr Francis Tozier. Something of a legend in the service already, the Georgia-born Tozier received his commission from Abraham Lincoln one month before the president’s assassination and was awarded a Gold Medal by the President of the French Republic “for gallant, courageous, and efficient services” in saving the French bark Peabody in 1877, while the latter was grounded on Horn Island in the Mississippi Sound.

Tozier, 1895

In July 1891, it was announced that the 11 large sea-going cutters of the RCS would switch to a white paint scheme– something that the modern Coast Guard has maintained ever since.

In October 1893, as part of beefing up the Bearing Sea Patrol which enforced a prohibitory season on pelagic sealing as well as protecting the Pac Northwest salmon fisheries, the East Coast-based cutters Perry (165 ft, 282 tons, four guns)– which had been based at Erie Pennsylvania to police the waters of Lake Ontario– along with our very own Grant, were ordered to make the 16,000-mile pre-Panama Canal cruise from New York to Puget Sound, where they would be based. The two vessels would join the cutters Rush, Corwin, Bear, and Wolcott, giving the RSC six vessels to cover Alaskan waters, even if they did so on deployments from Seattle.

The re-deployment from Atlantic to Pacific was rare at the time for the RSC, as vessels typically were built and served their entire careers in the same region. Sailing separately, the two cutters would call in St. Thomas, Pernambuco, Rio, Montevideo, Stanley, Valparaiso (which was under a revolutionary atmosphere), Callao, and San Diego along the way.

Leaving New York on 6 December, Grant arrived at Port Townsend on 23 April 1894, ending a voyage of 73 days and 20 hours, logging an average of 8.45 knots while underway, burning 358 pounds of coal per hour.

Late in her career, with an all-white scheme. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections. Oliver S. Van Olinda Photographs and Ephemera Collection. PH Coll 376, no UW22223

1898!

Rather than chopping as a whole to the Navy as the Coast Guard would do in WWI and WWII, President McKinley’s Secretary of the Treasury, John D. Long, implemented a plan to transfer control of 20 cutters “ready for war” to the Army and Navy’s control during the conflict with Spain.

Supporting the Army, from Boston to New Orleans, were seven small cutters with a total of 10 guns, crewed by 33 officers and 163 men, engaged in patrolling, and guarding assorted Army-manned coastal forts and mine fields.

A force of 13 larger revenue cutters, carrying 61 guns, staffed by 98 officers and 562 enlisted, served with the Navy. Eight of these cutters, including the famed little Hudson, served under the command of ADM Simpson off Havanna while the cutter McCulloch served with Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron for the conquest of the Philippines. Meanwhile, four other cutters (ours included) served with the Navy on the Pacific coast, keeping an eye out for potential Spanish commerce raiders, and filling in for the lack of Navy vessels along the West Coast at the time.

The four cutters patrolling the Pacific:

Arriving at San Francisco from Seattle on 7 April 1898, U. S. Grant and her crew were placed under Navy control four days later, on 11 April, operating as such through June.

Dispatched northward once again to search for a rumored Spanish privateer thought seeking to prey on the U.S. whaling and sealing fleet in Alaskan waters ala CSS Shenandoah-style, Grant found no such sea wolf and returned to the Treasury Department on 16 August, arrived back in Seattle on 18 September.

Back to peace

Returning to her peacetime duties and stomping grounds, Grant ran hard aground on an uncharted rock off Saanich Inlet just northwest of Victoria on 22 May 1901. Abandoned, she languished until her fellow cutters Perry and Rush arrived to help pull her off, patch her up, and tow her to Seattle for repairs.

Portside view of Revenue Cutter Grant at anchor without her foremast, likey after her wreck in 1901. Port Angeles Public Library. SHIPPOWR206

Fresh off repairs, in December she was part of the search for the lost Royal Navy sloop HMS Condor, which had gone missing while steaming from Esquimalt to Hawaii. Never found, it is believed Condor’s crew perished to a man in a gale off Vancouver. Grant recovered one of her empty whaleboats, along with a sailor’s cap and a broom, from the locals on Flores Island, with Tozier, the cutter’s longtime skipper, trading his dress sword for the relics. The recovered boat was passed on to the British sloop HMS Egeria, and Tozier’s sword was later replaced by the Admiralty, a matter that required an act of Congress for Tozier to keep.

Switching back to her role as a law enforcer, Grant was busily interdicting the maritime smuggling of opium and Chinese migrants from British Columbia to the Washington Territory in the early 1900s.

She also was detailed to help look for one of the last of the Old West outlaws, Harry Tracy, “the last survivor of the Wild Bunch.” After a shootout that left six dead in 1902, Tracy was at large in the region, taking hostages and generally terrifying the citizenry.

The Seattle Star, Volume 4, Number 113, 6 July 1902

By early 1903, with Tracy dead, it was announced the aging cutter would be sold.

The San Juan islander February 19, 1903

To tame the airwaves!

Grant, mislabeled as “USS” at Discovery Bay off Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca, October 1903. NOAA photo

Nonetheless, as part of a maintenance period, Grant was fitted by the Pacific Wireless Company while berthed in Tacoma with experimental Slaby Arco equipment to receive wireless messages. Regular use of wireless telegraphy by the Revenue Cutter Service was inaugurated by Grant on 1 November 1903. This was an important achievement for the service, as the Navy had only three ships with wireless equipment installed at the time.

As detailed by the Coast Guard Historian’s office: 

Tozier’s initial wireless tests proved successful, allowing the Grant to keep in contact with the Port Townsend Customs House throughout its patrol area—a 100-mile radius from the cutter’s homeport. After testing and adjustment of the new equipment, the Grant was ready for its first practical use of wireless for revenue cutter duties. On April 1, 1904, the Grant switched on its wireless set and began a new era of marine radio communication between ship and shore stations.

The new wireless radio technology proved very effective in directing revenue cutters and patrol boats in maritime interdiction operations. However, it took another three years to convince Congress of the importance of “radio” (which superseded the term “wireless telegraph” in 1906) to both its law enforcement and search-and-rescue missions. In March 1907, Congress finally appropriated the $35,000 needed to fund wireless installations on board 12 cruising cutters.

However, Grant would not get a chance to use her new radio equipment much, and by 1906 she was reported condemned, although still in service.

The San Juan Islander, Volume 15, Number 49, 6 January 1906

Grant’s last official government duty, in February 1906, was to solemnly transport bodies from the Valencia accident from Neah Bay to Seattle for burial. The affair, the worst maritime disaster in the “Graveyard of the Pacific” off Vancouver Island, left an estimated 181 dead.

Epilogue

Grant was sold from government service in 1906 to a Mr. A.A. Cragen for $16,300, and then further to the San Juan Fishing and Packing Co. who rebuilt her as a halibut fishing steamer. The old cutter was wrecked for the last time in 1911 on the rocks of Banks Island.

Her logs are in the National Archives but, sadly, have not been digitized. 

As for her longtime skipper Tozier, while stationed in Seattle he became a renowned collector of local artifacts. As related by the Summer 1992 issue of Columbia Magazine:

The assignment gave Tozier the opportunity to put Grant into remote rivers and harbors where natives were as eager to trade the things they made and used as their forefathers had been to trade fur pelts. He became imbued with collecting fever, realizing that his was a rare opportunity to bring out from the wilderness, to be seen, preserved, and appreciate, the elements of a civilization that was rapidly being superseded by that of the white settlers.

Captain Dorr F. Tozier, USRC Grant, top row right. He brought the cutter around the Horn from New York in the 1890s and remained in command for 14 years. Here he is visiting Numukamis Village on Barclay Sound, Vancouver Island, BC. Photograph by Samuel G. Morse. 21 Jan. 1902. Courtesy of the WA. State Historical Society. # 1917.115.217

In all, once retired from the RSC in 1907, Tozier sold his collection of some 10,000 artifacts including 2,500 baskets, 100 stone chisels and axes, carved jade pipes, harpoons, war clubs, knives of copper, ivory, shell and iron, a war canoe, and “12 mammoth totems, each weighing between 600 to 20,000 pounds.” In all, the collection weighed 60 tons and required 11 large horse-drawn vans to move to the Washington State Art Association’s Ferry Museum in 1908.

A fraction of Capt. Tozier’s artifacts, c. 1905. Model canoe, house posts, sculptures, part of a house front, masks, and a replica of a copper. The collection was first exhibited at the Ferry Museum (Tacoma,) then removed to Seattle in 1909, and finally to the National Museum of the American Indian under the Smithsonian, WA. DC. This photo c. 1905 courtesy of the WSHS #19543.19

When the Ferry Museum was dissolved in the 1930s, the collection was scattered and spread out across the world, with some pieces making their way to the Smithsonian.

Speaking of museums, the last pistol owned by the Outlaw Tracy is on display at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn, Washington. Bruce Dern portrayed him in the 1982 film Harry Tracy, Desperado.

As for Grant’s name, neither the RCS nor its follow-on USCG descendant reissued it.

The Navy only felt the need to bestow the moniker post-1865 to a successive pair of unarmed Great War-era transports before finally issuing it during the centennial of the Civil War to a James Madison-class FBM submarine, USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631), which served from 1964 to 1992.

The Coast Guard, however, did mention our old revenue cutter in its last HF CW transmission, sent by station NMN from Chesapeake, Virginia, at 0001Z on April 1, 1995. As an ode to the first wireless message transmitted in 1844, “What hath God wrought,” the message concluded with, “we bid you 73 [best regards]. What hath God wrought.”

Specs:

Displacement: 350 tons
Length: 163’
Beam: 25’
Draft: 11’ 4”
Machinery: Barque rigged steamer, vertical steam engine, two boilers, one screw, 11 knots max
Complement: 35-45
Armament:
4 x M1841 24-pounder guns, small arms (1871)
2 x Hotchkiss MK 1 37mm 1-pdrs, small arms (1891)


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Three low-mileage USCG 87-foot Patrol Boats Headed South, like Forever

The Coast Guard ordered a whopping 74 87-foot Marine Protector-class patrol boats from Bollinger between 1998 and 2009– the largest buy of patrol craft since the Navy’s PCFs during Vietnam. Based on Damen’s Stan 2600 that is in use in several Latin American countries, the vessels were meant to finally phase out the USCG’s Vietnam-era 82-foot Point class patrol boats as well as a batch of 110-foot Island-class patrol boats which were ruined in a botched lengthening modification.

The USCGC Bonito (WPB-87341), a Marine Protector-class patrol boat, seen coming into Gulfport back in 2015, Photo by me.

The 87s have proved great vessels, capable of undertaking a weeklong patrol if needed (the smallest American maritime vessels with an embarked Culinary Specialist as well as onboard desalination capabilities) and have been stationed in such rough regions as Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. They were designed to operate in conditions up to Sea State 5, ranging out to 200nm offshore.

U.S. Coast Guard 87 foot Cutter Terrapin patrols frigid water while on a 37-day deployment in Southeast Alaska, July 10, 2016

Equipped with an AN/SPS-73 surface search radar, two M2 .50 cals, a small arms locker that enables a 4-6 man boarding detail drawn from their 11-man crew, and a stern launch and recovery system for the cutter’s waterjet-propelled small boat, they are some of the most advanced patrol craft for their size fielded anywhere in the world.

Heck, a fictional one even plays a prominent role in my (shameless plug) zombie book, for which I got to get underway on an 87 (Pompano) while doing research.

However, with a ton of the Coast Guard’s new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters coming on line, and the oldest 87s set to start aging out after 2028, 10 have been retired early. These gently used boats have been stacking up at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, in Parking Lot 23, where they are awaiting upgrade and outfitting before transfer to Uruguay (3) and Lebanon (7).

Speaking of which, three recently decommed 87s, USCGCs Albacore (WPB-87309), Cochito (WPB-87329), and Gannet (WPB-87334) were recently set up for transfer to Montevideo, where they will replace two elderly (60 year old) 95-foot USCG Cape-class patrol boats transferred to Uruguay in 1990.

U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm Paul F. Thomas, deputy commandant for mission support, and Andrés Durán Hareau, Uruguay ambassador to the U.S., sign for the transfer of three Coast Guard cutters to the Uruguay Navy at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington D.C., Feb. 10, 2022. The boats being transferred are 87-foot Marine Protector class cutters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA2 Ronald Hodges.)

From USCG PAO:

The Coast Guard, as a maritime partner of choice, is committed to assisting Uruguay authorities by supporting bilateral activities in the shared interest of the security and operational environment of the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

Thomas called the transfer a win-win situation, helping Uruguay to swiftly enhance their maritime security while forging an international partnership “that fosters greater global maritime security for us all.” He said he has no doubt that the Protector-class patrol boats – 64 of which are still in operation in the Coast Guard – will be an effective addition to the Uruguayan Navy.

The former cutters will undergo maintenance, upgrades, and outfitting at Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. Members of the Uruguay Navy will also be trained in the operation and maintenance of the vessels. Once work on the vessels and training are complete, the Uruguay Navy crewmembers will sail the patrol boats to Uruguay, with arrival anticipated in July 2022.

The transfer ceremony itself:

Christmas at Sea: 1942 Convoy Edition

Official caption: “Somewhere on the storm-tossed Atlantic aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter crossing the shipping lanes guarding a convoy of supplies to America’s fighting men on the far-flung battlefronts. Christmas is the same as any other day to the vigilant men of the Coast Guard who seek out the enemy submarines attempting to molest the continual bridge of ships supplying our men across the seas.” Photo released 11/25/1942.

Note the loaded K-gun, stern depth charge racks, liferafts at the ready to snag floating survivors, and the O1 Division guys trying to stay out of the wash. USCG photo. NARA 26-G-11-25-42(5)

Seagoing East Coast-based cutters were assigned to augment the Navy’s Neutrality Patrol in September 1939 and, by November 1941, the entire branch was transferred to the Navy in toto. While squadrons of brand-new U.S. Navy patrol frigates and destroyer escorts were crewed by Coasties later in the war, in 1942 the USCG had six of seven 327-foot Treasury-class cutters, four 240-foot Tampa-class cutters, the 216-foot USCGC Northland, and 12 165-foot Thetis/Argo class cutters operating in the EASTSEAFRON and North Atlantic.

One, USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34) was sunk on 29 January1942 by U-132 while patrolling the Icelandic coast. However, the service quickly avenged her death as USCGC Icarus (WPC-110) bagged U-352 off North Carolina’s “Torpedo Junction” in May while sistership USCGC Thetis (WPC-115) depth charged U-157 to the bottom of the Florida Straits in June.

High Flyer

Original caption: “An alert Coast Guardsman leaps into action as he covers his patrol. On the anti-saboteur patrolmen of the Coast Guard also protect vital cargoes on the piers awaiting shipment to the far-flung battle lines.”

Note the shore duty leggings, M1903 Springfield, and its attached 20-inch M1905 bayonet. USCG photo 26-G-89-049, via the National Archives.

Formed from scratch in 1942, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol employed about 24,000 men, aged 17 to 73, protecting 3,700 miles of coastline from potential enemy invasion during World War II. More on the subject in this excellent 124-page period chronicle.

New Eagle for the Eagle

As we have touched on in past Warship Wednesdays, “America’s tall ship,” the United States Coast Guard Barque Eagle (WIX-327) is a 295-foot, three-masted training vessel assigned to the USCGA to serve as a schoolship for future Coast Guard and NOAA officers (as well as a smattering of cadets from overseas allies).

Built by Blohm and Voss in Hamburg, she entered service in the Gorch Fock-class segelschulschiff Horst Wessel in 1936, training the officers for the rapidly expanding Kriegsmarine.

Horst Wessel

Somehow surviving WWII, she was taken over by a USCG crew at Bremerhaven in 1946 and sailed to this side of the Atlantic where she has been active ever since. Today she is both the oldest Coast Guard vessel and the only one on active duty that participated in WWII, albeit under another flag.

She still had holdovers from her wartime service until recently, swapping out her original German-made diesel about 30 years ago for a Caterpillar D399 that was itself upgraded for a more efficient MTU 8V4000 in 2018.

Speaking of upgrades, she has just been fitted with a new figurehead.

Which is at least her fifth…

Her original German eagle figurehead

The massive figurehead was modified to carry the USCG crest in its talons, a more appropriate symbol.

Ditching the original eagle figurehead (which is now in the USCGA Museum), in 1952, the barque received the smaller eagle from the old revenue cutter-turned training vessel Salmon Chase.

Her original German figurehead is on display at the USCGA Museum

Chase’s 1890s era eagle fitted to Eagle. She carried it from 1952-70.

In 1971, it was decided to upgrade the figurehead and preserve the historic one from the Chase. With that, a copy of Chase’s was made of fiberglass and painted gold.

The fiberglass addler

It proved less than resilient and was severely damaged in heavy seas. I mean, it’s fiberglass.

In time for the Bicentennial in 1976, the damaged figurehead was replaced with a new 12-foot long one, carved of Honduras mahogany and weighing almost a ton. Gilded in gold, it served for 45 years and was just removed at the Coast Guard Yard last month.

The figurehead of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is seen on a foggy Sunday morning at the Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2013. The Eagle, a 295-foot barque home-ported in New London, Conn., is a training ship used primarily for Coast Guard cadets and officer candidates. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando)

The new figurehead is being fitted at the USCG Yard and should be ready for sea shortly.

Via USCGY

As the Winds Blow

Original caption: “The Coast Guard icebreaker Westwind (WAGB-281, ex-Severni Pulius, ex-AGB-6), left, receives personnel and cargo from her disabled sister ship the Eastwind (WAGB-279), right, as they lay moored in Kane Basin north of Thule, Greenland. Enroute to Weather Station Alert with supplies, the Eastwind suffered damage to her starboard propeller blade and a hole in her forepeak while maneuvering to break through heavy Polar floes driving the ship toward shore. The Westwind went to the assistance of the Eastwind and undertook the attempt to reach Alert. The two Coast Guard icebreakers accompanied a Navy Task Force Group on the 1954 joint U.S. Canadian resupply mission to far northern weather stations in the Arctic.”

Note the WWII-era Higgins type LCVP between the two icebreakers and a second one on Westwind’s davits. USCG Photo via the National Archives (205581260)

If you look carefully, you will also see the uniqueness that is a trio of H-13 Sioux (Bell Model 47) type helicopters on the breakers’ decks, with one on Westwind and two on Eastwind. The USCG purchased three up-engined Navy HTL-4 variants (dubbed HTL-5s) in 1952 and used them through 1960, with all three likely seen in the above image. They, as with other helicopters since the 1940s, proved useful in scouting paths through the ice fields.

With their full “soap bubble” canopies, the Korean War-era whirlybirds are instantly recognizable to fans of “MASH.” Between the HTL-5s and similar variants, the service used eight Bell 47s, redesignated HH-13s, as late as 1968.

Both of the above Winds were laid down during WWII– with Westwind serving with the Soviets as Lend-Lease for six years– and would continue in their role of crushing it in the polar regions for decades after the above image was snapped.

“Ice Breaker Penetrating the Ice Pack” Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Standish Backus; 1956; “Pack ice is composed of massed fragments of sea ice drifting with wind and current. Modern Icebreakers such as Glacier, Edisto and Eastwind normally transit such ice fields without difficulty or loss of speed. However, thinned-skinned vessels must be protected from ice pressures against their hulls. This may be accomplished by leading the escorted vessel through the dangerous areas with its bow lashed firmly into the notched stern of the icebreaker. Here Eastwind is represented towing YOG-34 through the Ross Sea pack, while overhead one of the helicopters scouts the ice conditions.” –Commander Standish Backus. Unframed Dimensions 22H X 30W Accession #: 88-186-BH.

Eastwind, which had captured the German trawler Externsteine during the “Weather War” in Greenland, an event that went down in history as one of the last enemy vessels seized by an American prize crew, decommissioned early Dec 1968 and was slowly scrapped in New Jersey– a fate worse than death.

Westwind was the next to last of her class decommissioned, serving until 1988, at which point she had 43 years under her belt (under two different flags). Plans to keep America’s last WWII-era icebreaker as a museum ship never firmed up and she was, like her sisters, recycled.

Speaking of helicopters and icebreakers…

Shortly after completing her historic crossing of the Northwest Passage (during which the ice wasn’t even thick enough for an Ice Call) by the medium icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), an MH-60R of the “Vipers” of HSM-48 cross decked this week from USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) while off the East Coast, the first time an MH-60R had landed on an icebreaker. 

Shades of the new Polar Security Cutter, perhaps… 

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