U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Spar WLB - 403 out of Bristol RI.
Posted on 4 - 23 - 2013
Thank you for visiting my Page.
Click onto you tube below to see these photos on a photo essay.
Alan Meeker's Time
in the US Coast Guard
Enjoy Alan's Photography and his
All the pictures you see, were taken by Alan himself & the credit is
completely his. He also provided the captions for each photograph. Pictures
such as these can never be taken again. We lived in a different era back then.
Rolls of film, 12 or 24, sometimes 36 in a roll. Today its all digital cameras,
with a removable card that can hold 10,000 pictures with ease. My, what all of
us retired Coasties would give, to be in the Coast Guard today. Alan's
pictures, for the younger Coasties, are a little bit of the history, of the US
Coast Guard that they now serve.They have an opportunity to see and enjoy these
one of a kind photos that Alan has provided us with. I personally would like to
thank Alan for letting me show the viewerswho visit my web site, see what Alan
saw through his lens capturing these moments in time. forever.
Boot Camp, Cape May NJ. Foxtrot # 42 in 1960.
Posted on 2_17_2013
Remember when you asked me where I was stationed,
Here is the list.
Also not that it matters at this point, when you were
stationed on the Spar,
I was on the Cactus. The closest you & I ever
got to being stationed together was when we passed each other on the gangways,
changing crews,me with my favorite soup pot and knives, reporting aboard
the Spar for the first time, and you on the Cactus for the first time sailing away to Bristol and to Seattle where she ran aground, decommissioned
and become a garbage scow.Sad end to a good ship.
Click here for # 1 song in the
Click here for # 1 song in the USA 1980
Service, 2 / 2 / 1960 - 8 / 1 / 1980
Stations And Ships
CGC CACTUS (W270)
Chatham LBS, Chatham, Mass.
by Race Point LBS, Provincetown, Mass. 1960 -1962
CGC CASCO W370, Boston,
Mass. 1962 -1964
CGC CACTUS W270followed by CGC SPAR W403 Boston, Mass. 1964
CGC EDISTO W284 Boston, Mass. 1968 - 1969
CG TRACEN, Governors
Island, NYC, NY 1969 - 1970
CG Industrial Base NOLA, New Orleans, LA 1970 -
Castle Hill LBS, Newport, R.I. followed by Bristol ANT, Bristol, R.I.
1971 - 1976
CGC HAMILTON, Boston, Mass. 1976 -1976
CG BASE Boston 1976 -
with TAD's at Scituate LBS and Nantucket L/V 612
Doing "public service" work while
an active duty Coast Guardsman or any branch of the
military, is expected and appreciated by the communities where we live and
serve. In my position with Civil Defense, when it was over, I was the one who
wrote the letters of appreciation. I tracked down the Chairman of the Board of
Selectmen, (Mayor in other communities) for his signature on as many of those
letters as possible, making them more personal thanks. I hand delivered these
letters to the appropriate supervisor for all the military involved, to place in
all their service jackets. As you may know, when there comes an opening for
advancement and two or more are competing for this opening, all things being
equal, sometimes a Letter of Appreciation for public service, can push a
military man or woman over the top, to get that rank or job description,
especially for those Marines who were there.
When I wrote "The Blizzard Of
'78, I completed my job by informing the residents of the town, what we did in
the time of need. As I said in the writing, it was hard for the townspeople to
see and know what was going on, when they could not drive to the store. I had to
provide them with so much information.
first time I visited Chatham LBS,I was only 15. Little did
I know I would find myself stationed there five years later.
Posted on 6 / 24 / 2013
This is a picture of Alan looking at Chatham Light the way it is today.
This is a picture of me
looking at Chatham Light, pondering walking all the way around the block, to
ask permission to climb to the light, one more time. Darn near killed me, but I
did it. There is a monument on the bluff out in front, for the four Coast
Guard CG36500 crew members who, in 1952, earned the Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving
Medals. They rescued 32 crew members off the Pendleton, an oil tanker. She was
one of two ships that broke up in a Nor'easter, off Chatham Bar.The other was
the Fort Mercer. I served with two of the Coast Guard crew from 1960 - '62. They
are both gone now. We walked down to the beach. The then "worst bar on the
Atlantic Coast," is not as bad as it once was. Because of the storms over the
years, creating three cuts in the ten mile stretch of sand (known as Nausett
Beach) that runs from Orleans to outside Chatham. Nausett Beach is a natural
barrier protecting the bluff in front of Chatham Light and the station, from
further erosion. Brought back a lot of memories.
One of Alan's stories
After graduation from Coast Guard “boot camp” at Cape May, New Jersey, I was given a choice of districts where I wanted to be assigned. I chose the “9th’, which was the Great Lakes area. I was sent to the First Coast Guard District, New England, the biggest district at the time. When I arrived at Boston Coast Guard Base,
Read More: Click onto glasses
Click onto Wikipedia
information on the SPAR & the CACTUS
Wikipedia belowfor information on the C.G.C. VALIANT (W621),
C.G.C. HAMILTON (W715), & the C.G.C. CASCO
the C.G.C. VALIANT (W621), C.G.C. HAMILTON (W715),
& the C.G.C. CASCO
Operation Deep Freeze
‘69 was over. It was time to head North to Boston, our home-port. We were all to
prepare the ship for sea. That meant anything that moved, had to be secured or
stored below; all doors and hatches closed, watertight integrity. Nothing could
be loose inside or out, for safety sake. Over the speaker someone would say,
“set the sea watch.” We were underway.
This time, we headed West, to the
Pacific side of South America. As always, the seas from Antarctica to South
America were rough. All of us had a job to do. As a cook, I headed for the
galley.Our first stop was Talcuanno, the seaport for Concepcion, Chile. We
tied up at the Chilean Naval Base there.
Click onto Wikipedia for more information
Pollock and the Stonehorse.
The Pollock and the Stonehorse Lightships Above- While stationed
at Chatham, I was on both of them, on logistics runs, delivering supplies
and the crew members returning from accrued leave and bringing those going on
Operation Deep Freeze 1969. On the flight deck of
the USCGC Edisto.
One of the last times the Coast Guard used Navy choppers
We had two on board and their Navy crews.
onto Helo on the EDISTO's deck on left to read on the
Click onto all pictures to
- South Polar Ice Shelf, Palmer Station on the right.
2 - Another iceberg,
port side of EDISTO.
3 - Antarctica with man rope.
4 - The distant ship, is the C.G.C. ABSECON.
The USS Edisto (AGB-2) was a Wind-class icebreaker in the service of the United States Navy which was later transferred to the United States Coast Guard as USCGC Edisto (WAGB-284). She is named for an island lying at the mouth of a river of the same name about 20 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina. The island and the river, in turn, had gained their names from the Edisto Indians who inhabited the island and the surrounding area. There is currently (2011) a "110 foot" Island Class Patrol Boat USCGC Edisto (WPB-1313) stationed in San Diego, California.
5 - Adélie Penguins, on most of the ice pack
- Antarctica, nearing Jamesway hut
7 - Anvers Island, Antarctica
Deception Island, Click onto picture for its' history.
9 - Antarctica seen from port bow
10- Edge of South Polar Ice Shelf ship
11 - One Jamesway hut and Ice Shelf
12 - Distant penguins on the ice
Alan's story on
"Operation Deep Freeze '69" Antarctic
Having never been there, I had no idea what to expect. Flying down
in a freight plane, my vintage Kodak Instamatic camera was packed away in my
seabag. As I said in my “Less Than First Class Seats,” there was not much to
see, on the way down, but I should have taken pictures anyway. I should have
taken at least one picture of the plane, even though they may all look the same.
A picture of the San Juan Airport terminal and palm trees, the Air Force Base at
Panama. We were there for five days, the airport terminal at Lima, Peru- its
cracked marble walls from recent earthquakes, the Andes Mountains, even though
they would be hard to make out in a picture taken through a “port hole.” The
shipmates sitting around having a local brew outside the hotel in Santiago,
Chili. A picture of the EEL loaf sandwich. Had I known what it was, I might not
have eaten it. After-thoughts.
Too late now.
When we arrived at Punta
Arenas, everyone was busy off loading the plane and loading the ship, to think
of anything else. We sailed through the rough seas of Terre Del Fuego, Straits
of Magellan and Drake‘s Passage, open sea where the South Atlantic meets the
South Pacific as we rounded “the dread Horn,” then to the calm of Arthur Harbor,
Palmer Station, Antarctica. Everything there was a boring white. The icebergs,
the South Polar Ice Shelf, snow capped mountains in the distance. Stark contrast
to the Penguins in their tuxedos, the Seals laying around sun bathing.
first day was met with a tragedy. The Seabees, (CBs) (Construction Battalion)
were preparing their three Jamesway Huts for habitation. One of them, not doing
the proper safety checks beforehand, fired up the stove in one of the huts. The
hut caught fire, causing the other two to burn as well. Our ship fire department
did what they could, but lost them all. The Seabees kept on plugging. They had a
job to do, and got to it.
Offloading supplies in LCMs took place around the
clock. For this reason, the galley was feeding four meals, instead of three a
day. Oh, we had mid rats, but we had them anyway, for our ships crew working mid
After a day or two, the ships crew, a few at a time,
trickled into small boats for a trip to the station. Palmer Station , at that
time, consisted of at least one big oil tank and three buildings. The scientists
and small crew gave us a tour. They showed us plant life, we did not think
existed in such a harsh climate. During “their” summer, the snow and ice receded
enough so some plants were able to grow. In an aquarium we saw fish with no red
blood cells, almost transparent.
A few of us expressed an interest to walk up
the Polar Ice Cap, just for something to do. We were cautioned. In the bright
Sun light, it would be near impossible to see any crevices, should they open up.
For this reason, a chopper was sent out ahead of us, just to make sure. A few of
us walked to a point, marked with some 55 gallon drums. At this point, I took a
picture looking down the slope towards the ship. a fellow crew member was
walking back to the station. We were about a half mile from the ship. We were
told, that if we fell into a crevice near there, we would fall a quarter mile,
straight down to the water. A sobering thought.
Some of the crew took a boat
to a neighboring island we called Penguin Island. There were few spaces on it,
where it was not brown (not dirt) or there were Penguins.
One day, I was
asked if I wanted to “go up,” in one of the two choppers. It happened so quick,
I forgot my camera. Of course I went. We flew out back towards the mountains. It
was a beautiful ride. Well worth going.
But, like I said, I
did not have a camera with me.
13 - Captain Steele on one of his rare visit to the crew's mess deck.
Palmer Station, Antarctica
15 - Talchuano Naval Base Chile.
16 - A small
plane, with wheel mounted skids, landing on the snowy ice cap Palmer
Palmer Station, Antarctica.
When I was there, they only had two buildings and one fuel tank.
For Palmer Station In "1965" The BAS Hut and
Real Time Web Cams
Click onto dot below Left for a live webcam to see Palmer Station.Click onto dot on Right For McMurdo Station Webcams.
Click onto pictures to enlarge.
19 - Coming into Palmer Station
20- One lone Adelhie Penguin
21 - My
Favorite picture, "Picture from Polar Ice Cap"
22 - South Polar Ice Shelf
23 - This Iceberg, was over four stories high.
24 - Residents of Antarctica. penguin Antarctica
25 - Hard to tell
what this is exactly. I called a church lighthouse.
26 - Looking out of
porthole at a Prison Ship.
Every sailor on board the EDISTO was presented with this
card to carry in their wallet showing they had crossed over into
realm of Antarctic.
" 25 March, 1969 ".
Click onto card to read.
onto to the letters in orange to view text
In 1967, while in company with
the USCGC Eastwind (WAGB-279) the Edisto made an unsuccessful attempt to
circumnavigate the Arctic, a feat that would have rivaled the 16th Century
voyages around the world of Magellan and Drake and has yet to be accomplished by
surface vessels of any nation. In 1968 and 1969, the Edisto participated in
Antarctic polar deployments in support of operations DEEP FREEZE 69 and DEEP
EDISTO was decommissioned at Baltimore, Maryland on 15 November 1974 and then
transferred to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). GSA sold Edisto
on 29 September 1977 to Boston Metals Company of Baltimore, Maryland who then
sold her to the Union Minerals Company of Carey, New Jersey. Edisto broken up
for scrap in the Baltimore Shipyard.
27 - Crew on deck getting some sun.
28 - Colorful jungles on both sides of the
29 - Being pulled through the Panama Canal.
30 - Better shot
of the train sled on the Panama Canal.
Gun Powder Cavern in Bermuda
Click onto picture below for its' History.
31 - I believe this is the "Glacier" icebreaker, 4 on her bow, Palmer,
32 - Lots of snow, ice and distant snow covered mountains.
33 - Navy Chopper on deck, Palmer Deception Island.
34 - People
wanting to see our ship in Talcuhano, Chile.
35 - The USCGC EDISTO.
36 - After the buoy tenders, my next duty was on the
Icebreaker USCGC EDISTO.
37 - Storybook Castle, Muuden Netherlands.
Click onto it for its' history.
38 - Part of the garden in front
of what I called Storybook Castle.
Picture No. 39 below:
sailed on the '71 Coast Guard "Cadet Cruise," our first port of call, was
Southampton, England. It was a short distance from the train station, where we
caught a train for London. We took the tour of London. This took in a tour of
the "Tower Of London," the Crown jewels, Picadilly Circus, Hyde Park,
"Stonehenge" and the surrounding countryside. The fist day, I took the full
tour. The second day, I broke away from the tour, so that I could spend more
time at some of the places.
39 - Southampton train station, in Southampton, England.
40 - Crew members on the bow of Edisto, going throgh the canal.
41 - Colorful jungles on either side of the canal.
42 - Looking aft on the
deck of the CGC EDISTO in the canal.
Before the Panama Canal, the world’s ship traffic had to round “the dread Horn”
(Cape Horn) at the southern end of South America. This is where the Straits of
Magellan, Drakes Passage and Terre Del Fuego, the South Pacific and South
Atlantic converge for some of the world’s most treacherous seas. I know, I have
sailed through there several times.
Originally, donkeys were used to guide
ships through the Canal locks, at each end.. They were replaced by small diesel
train engines, (now called donkeys) on a set of tracks. The ship engines are
disengaged. Each donkey is operated by an engineer with radio communications
with the other donkey engineers. It takes four donkeys, one on each corner, to
move a ship
The Canal was cut through thick jungle. As you pass through it,
there are several monuments for the people who died digging the Canal. Malaria,
and numerous other jungle diseases contributed to the many deaths.In the
flooding of the Canal, a lake and many islands were created. If anyone wants to
own one of these islands, they are free, with one stipulation. You must make it
your domicile. You must live there. The only problem with living on an island in
the middle of the Panama Canal, with jungle on both sides, there are no grocery
stores, no Pizza Hut, no tv, no radio, no phone, no food anywhere, no utilities,
(electricity, plumbing, fresh water sources, and no neighbors, no
transportation. Some like the isolation.
The lake is a ship waiting area for
those waiting for their turn to transit the Canal. The lake is a mix of fresh
water and salt sea water. While waiting our turn, we could go swimming. Some of
the guys swung out on the “man ropes”. Above each small boat was a bar. Fastened
the bar were ropes with knots evenly spaced the length of each rope. When ever a
small boat was raised or lowered,
crew members hung on to these ropes. (Man
Alan D. Meeker
43 - The Chief you see in the picture, I email with all
44 - Panama Canal on CGC EDISTO
45 - The locks are
46 - Jungles on both sides of the canal.
Originally 4 donkeys pulled ships through canals.
48 - Crew members on
49 - Passing through more locks, crew looking
50 - This monument was on the hillside to
Click onto all pictures to enlarge.
CG36500 January 1961
It was a cold January night at Chatham LBS (Life Boat Station) . Sometime after 2100
We (the radio / teletype / switchboard / radar / lookout watch stander in the tower) received a call from the Stonehorse L/V (Light Vessel). On their radar, they saw a vessel, possibly a fishing boat. It appeared to be drifting in to Morris Island. At the time, I was a Seaman. As I prepared to leave, I told the Yoeman, I thought we would be back by 2300. That didn’t happen.
There were three of us: the Bosn, he ran the boat; the Engineman, he, as the name suggests, took care of the engine; then there was the Seaman, me. I took care of everything else = lookout, tending lines, fenders and anything the Bosn needed. We jumped in the Dodge Power Wagon with all our gear and headed North to the Chatham Fish Pier, where our boat, the CG36500 was tied up. On the Bosn’s order, we threw off the lines and got underway. Our boat was a self-Righting double ended 36 footer. Out of the water, it looked like a covered bathtub. Its round bottom, made it rock a lot. Both the bow and stern had a covered turtleback. The bow turtleback was bigger than the one in the stern. There , we stowed our life jackets plus several more just in case they were needed. In the bow , was a round tube, where a person could stand. Once in it, the top lip of it was about waist high.
The Bosn was at the helm. The engineman, manning the engine compartment. I was forward, standing in the “whale hole with my battle lantern (bright yellow cased two big batteries, hand held, light with a handle. We were underway by 2130.
My job was to spot the buoys for the Bosn. We used the buoys to guide us in and out of the harbor. My job was to point out the buoys as we passed out of the harbor and over the worst bar on the Atlantic Coast, “Chatham Bar.“ During the day, they were red or black. At night, and it was pitch black, we / I looked for a reflective tape on all the buoys, to keep us in the deepest part of the channel. We could hear the surf pounding on both sides of us, as we passed over the “the bar.” After clearing “the bar,” we headed South toward the Stonehorse L/V. After a while, I saw, what appeared to me to be the Stonehorse L/V behind us. I told the Bosn. He said, “No way!” Being a new Seaman, I knew enough not to question the Bosn. I did not bring it up again. Enough time had passed. I knew we were in the area of the disabled F/V (fishing vessel) by now. But, we kept steaming.
The temperature was dropping and it started snowing. The waves were no help either. They were splashing over the bow.
The Bosn thought there was something wrong with the compass. So he changed direction, to steer to the West. Our small boat did not have radar. I suggested calling Chatham LBS on the radio, to get a position report from their radar. He asked me, “Do you want to shimmy up and deice the radio antenna?” Obviously NOT!
Here we were, in a little 36 footer in the dark of night, the compass was broken, or so the Bosn said, the radio was useless because the antenna was iced up and we were lost at sea, somewhere off the coast of Cape Cod.
I was told to go forward and get life jackets for the three of us. Mind you, it was pitch dark, it was snowing, boat is pitching, rolling and yawing, it is a cold night in January and we are lost. I hung on tightly, as I made my way to the forward turtleback, where the life jackets were stored. When I returned with the life jackets, we looked at each other, all thinking the same thing. Each of us had the same training. If we were washed over board, we would not last 30 minutes on that cold and snowy winter night. Instead of putting them on, we threw them down. spreading them out give us better footing.
It got rough enough for us to get seasick. We took turns going down into the engine compartment, draping ourselves over the engine to get warm. In an effort to share the load, the engineman was asked to take the helm for a while. He refused to leave his nice warm post, the engine compartment. That left the Bosn, who was sea sick and me to man the helm.
At around 0530, while the Bosn was on the helm, we made a U - turn at Crossrip L/V, which was South of Woods Hole. Back East we went, hugging the Southern coast of Cape Cod. Along about 0700, I was on the helm. It was a beautiful bright sunny morning. I spotted a known land mark, a Bass River church. I knew where I was at that point and woke the Bosn. He then took over the helm. We were on our way home. About 20 minutes later, we saw the CGC Hornbeam, a 180’ buoy tender out of Woods Hole. We were being hailed by the captain, a Commander MacDonald. He called twice. Both times the Bosn ignored him. The Bosn just kept steaming for home, back to Chatham station.
We tied up at the Fish Pier. We offloaded our gear to the truck. Arriving back at the station about 0930, we did not say a word to anyone, just went to bed.
After several hours sleep, we were interviewed separately. Without getting together on our “story” beforehand, we all said the same thing. We said, that the Bosn got seasick, then thought the compass was wrong, not the other way around.
We found out later, that an 83’ boat, possibly the CG83487, out of Cuttyhunk, was sent to rescue the fishing
boat and the CGC Hornbeam,
a 180’ buoy tender, out of Woods Hole, was sent out to search for us.
51 - Passing through the
52 - Riding a bicycle is one thing, but with wooden shoes?
53 - CGC
54 - Sunday along one of the canals in Holland
Clock Tower, Concepcion, Chile.
56 - Germany to the Netherlands, to
Amsterdam and back.
57 - Clock Tower at Concepcion University, Concepcion,
58 - Statue of Magellan and me, when we had those funny Donald Duck
59 - In the realm of the Midnight sun.
60 - Viking
Museum, Oslo, Norway
61 - This is the harbor master, the boat that lead
our three ships into Oslo Harbor.
62 - Took the tour, on my way to New
63 - Both Navy choppers from our ship, the EDISTO
64 - Christ The Redeemer. 90 feet tall, 60 feet arms spread, standing on Corcovado
65- Chilian Navy sentry outside of their Navy Base.
66 - King's Yacht, Oslo, Norway
67 - Dental Tech on board, He stopped in for a
midnight snack before hitting the sack.
68 - The smaller Coast Guard
helicopters could land on our flight deck, not the bigger ones, they had to
69- Another shot of Palmer ice station, antarctic.
70 - This
is in Talchuano, Chile. In 1976, many countries provided their own tall ship for
the "Tall Ships" parade of ships in Boston.Chile sent this ship.
71 - This is the ship travels map, mounted on the
mess deck bulkhead for the crew.
72 - South Polar Ice Cap, Palmer Station.
73 - Sailing toward Oslo. One of our three ships in the distance.
74 - Near Concepción University, Concepcion, Chile.
75 - Another shot of the crew on the bow of
the Edisto going through the canal.
76- Ship passing through the canal,
77 - Delta Queen in New Orleans.
78 - My then new,
1970 Pontiac Firebird in front of the Jazz Fountain Memorial, New Orleans.
Our nations flag, and the Panamanian flag, flying side by side, at
This is a picture you will not see again.
Our Nation Mourns The
Of A Great President And Soldier
Dwight D, Eisenhower,
79 - Notice I got it all, Smoke, Steam,
Water water tank the engineer.
80 - Jungles on both sides of the canal,
81 - Fishing off the seawall, Galveston.
82 - Flags at
half mast going through the canal. ( See Above Caption ).
Posted on 3 / 11 / 2012
"Gone are the days"
Gone are the days looking for the shore, looking to the skyline for a friendly
Now we look seaward,for ships bound for places we may have been, and
wish we had visited long ago. Now we are beach bound,with a lot of stories to
tell.We used to listen to days of yore from the "sea dogs," Now we are
the story tellers, we are the tellers of memories, of our days and nights, of
calm seas, and stormy seas. Seeing the QE II tied up in Southampton,
England, Sleeping on deck,as we passed over the Equator, looking for a lost
Navy sailor in the Gulf Of Mexico,
Seeing what was once an Olympic Ski
Jump in Oslo, Stonehenge outside London, standing in front of "Christ The
Redeemer," far above the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil climbing
the South Polar Ice Cap, so much to tell. But alas my family has heard it
all, once or twice, maybe more
Photo courtesy of Melanie Meeker Dewey.
Click onto picture for a 30
second clip of the peaceful waters edge.
83 - This one, my daughter took at Sandwich, Cape Cod,
84 - London, Parliament and Big Ben on the River Thames
85 - The Penguins are the descendents of what we saw at Palmer
onto the USS FOGG below to enlarge.
Thank you Alan for sharing
your photographs and stories for all to see.
Posted on 4 / 6 /
To All My Fellow "COASTIES",
Just a matter of
reflection--- We go through life, we think slowly. Then, we look back, life
becomes a blur. The things that should have been recorded, were passed by.
It was important to get to the next port. When we leave port, we look
forward to liberty in our next port of call. When we are done, whether it be
"weather station duty", working buoys in Argentia or breaking ice in the Arctic
or Antarctic, we start looking
forward to sailing home. "Channel Fever" sets
in. No matter what our regular working hours and our need for sleep, we start
staying up most of the night, playing cards, Cribbage, board games, watching
movies over and
over, chatting with shipmates about what your plans are when
we tie up. We look different now. Some of us are clean shaven, the rest sporting
beards, mustaches and goatees. We are all tired, but wired, if that makes
any sense. We tie up, bring out and hook up the shore tie. The engines and
generators go off. It is silence. Family members are on the pier and coming
aboard. When liberty is granted, we in some cases, jump up and down
land." No more need for "sea legs." We are home. Family, home cooked meals and
our own bed.
It was a long trip,but it is over now. But, yes,
the Coast Guard.
U.S. Coast Guard
Page No. 27
Alan Meeker's Page
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Alan's little pet, he still has him
Alan & Valerie Meeker
Someday I will meet you both
Posted on 2_25_2013
The Coast Guard Cutters “Cactus” and “Spar”
The CACTUS, was a 180ft Class “A” buoy tender. The SPAR, was a 180ft Class “C” buoy tender. Between them, I spent almost 5 years on buoy tenders. I left the CGC CASCO in early 1964 and reported aboard the CACTUS. At the time , the CACTUS was home ported a CG BASE BOSTON It was an easy transfer. All I had to do was walk across the pier. A couple of years later, we were told that the CACTUS was to be painted white and go Oceanographic. The SPAR, then home ported in Bristol, R. I., was to come around to Boston, where we would swap crews.
When the day came, the SPAR came up from Bristol, tying up “inboard” of the CACTUS. Both “gangways” went out between us. (old name was “gang plank,” when they were made out of wood.) Both crews checked out our new ships. I, being one of the cooks, checked out the SPAR galley. Going back to the Cactus, I got my soup pot and my favorite knives. When the order was given, we, the crew of the Cactus, crossed the gang plank to the SPAR. The SPAR crew, crossed over to the Cactus.
I don’t remember if it was that evening, or early the next morning but, the new crew of the CACTUS, took in her gangway, threw off her lines, and sailed away, never to be seen again, by us anyway. We did not want to see her go. We loved that ship. She was full of memories, all good. We found out later, The CACTUS ran aground near Seattle, Washington, and was decommissioned. It was thought she was to be turned into a museum. Instead, she became a “garbage scow.” Sad end to a great ship.
I remained aboard the CGC SPAR for anon other couple of years. Not long after being on the new (old) ship, we found and viewed a movie made, of her circumnavigating the North American continent. She, along with two other ships, sailed the “Northwest Passage", above North America, just south of the Arctic, then back via the Panama Canal.
This ship had a renowned history.
Between these two buoy tenders, I and a handful of other former crew members, have a lot of good memories.
Not too long ago, one of us, Roger Hughes, learned that the SPAR was in a shipyard in Virginia. He wrote to all of us. Roger wrote to Franz, the person in charge of the shipyard, expressing an interest to “walk her decks” one more time. Franz wrote back to all of us. Franz invited us to do just that but, we had better hurry. She was being stripped of everything and will soon be “reefed.” He suggested that we might like a porthole as a souvenir. I thought about it. Yes, I would like a porthole. Roger, being the closest, living in Maryland, said he might go. I suggested, that if he did go, to pick up a porthole for each of us.
Later, towards the end of my service career, I was stationed at CG BASE BOSTON.. One of the cooks was an artist and was commissioned to paint a mural, in the bar, adjacent to the cafeteria. It was to be representative of all the old ships that had been stationed there. The CACTUS had to be there, we thought. When he had cut in the CACTUS, my jaw dropped. I told him not to put the bow numbers of the CACTUS, on that buoy tender.
The next day, I brought in my picture of the CACTUS, to prove my point. He had painted a class ”C” buoy tender, not a class “A”which the CACTUS was. I recommended he put on the numbers 403, the SPAR bow numbers. Now you know the rest of the story.
One of Alan's stories and very interesting.
In the sixties and before, there were Ocean Stations, Coast Guard Ships would work a 210 mile grid in each of the Ocean Stations there were 5 ocean Stations: named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta were spaced out somewhat equal in distance down the mid Atlantic. Alpha was discontinued before I joined the Coast Guard. Bravo, Charlie and Delta were spaced out between Greenland and Bermuda. Echo Station was south of Bermuda.There was a "Bermuda Standby", so it was called. A Coast Guard ship would be in Saint George, Bermuda, in case there was a need. Every one of these ships had enough provisions on board for 60 days, if we ended up pulling a double patrol. Our purpose was to respond to a ship in distress, downed plane, what ever the emergency. While in Bermuda, those off duty, would go to the Air Force Base, to Hamilton or to some of the bars. There was not very much to do, while waiting for a call. Some of us walked outside of the small towns, up on to the hills. We found the extra long cannon. I'd guess it was placed there to defend the port back in the 1600's. There were also forts around the islands. These forts were connected by a series of tunnels to the cave where all the powder and cannon balls were stored. Most of the forts are gone. The storage cave was cleaned up and turned into a bar, called "Gun Powder Cavern." You will see it in the picture here. It is gone now. So are the Ocean Station vessels. With the increased activity at sea and advances in communications, there is no need for them anymore.
Posted on 4 / 15 / 2013
A Story from Alan Meeker
Cactus / Spar story
Life on a “white one’, (CASCO) was Quite different from that of a “black one”, a “work boat” / sea going working buoy tender. With then LTCDR McKenna, we went out every day, not long after 0800, and returned around 1630. It was like having a regular job, with regular hours. When we tied up, we had lives outside of the Coast Guard. Knowing we would come in at a regular time, we could plan family activities. Sure we worked buoys as far away from Boston as our Naval Base in Argentia, Newfoundland, but not very often.
Every trip, we loaded the buoy deck with 9-38s (9 ft across and 38 ft long) and assorted other sea buoys. The buoy gang made a special effort to chain them down, tight. On our way north, sometimes we would encounter heavy seas. Not much fun, when your ship has a round bottom like a bathtub. Contrary to what you might think, chains, no matter how tight, stretch. This stretching causes them to loosen.
One night, with our buoy deck loaded, we went through a storm. One of the 9-38s broke loose. SNQM Lux, took it upon himself to leave his post and attempt to resecure it. Lux was not a Bosn or Seaman, part of the “buoy crew.” He had no business out there, on a loaded buoy deck, alone, with a loose buoy, in a storm. Yet, there he was. The bottom of the buoy, the tube with a heavy weight at the end, threw him against the rail. He could have been thrown overboard, never to be seen again. But instead, SNQM Lux, was pinned against the rail. What saved him, was the heavy weight hitting the rail. There was enough space between the narrower tube, and the much wider weight at the end, for him to survive. All he got out of it were I think three broken ribs and some internal injuries. Not much Doc Berry (our Corpsman) could do other than let them heal on their own. Sick bay was too small. I believe Doc used the Chief’s Mess for Triage. We all knew Lux was in pain, especially if he moved. The Corpsman told me not to, but being the joker, trying to make light of a bad situation, I got Lux to smile and almost laugh, until the pain stopped him.
LTCDR McKenna was later replaced by a LTCDR Flanders. Gone were the regular hours. This guy would work the buoy crew into the night. It didn’t seem to bother him.
One night I was the duty cook. It was getting late, and the crew had not eaten yet. I called the bridge three times, to ask when the crew could break for supper. Each time, the response was, “After the next buoy.” I should not have done this. I knew better, but, I could not take it anymore. The buoy crew was tired. CO Flanders could not or would not see the increasing danger, pushing the crew.
Picture this: It is dark of night, around 2100 (9PM); the buoy deck was covered with buoy slime and muscles. The buoy crew was tired and covered with buoy slime. There is a buoy hanging off the deck. I, the duty cook all dressed in white, apron and hat, strolled out on to the buoy deck. I looked up at the CO on the bridge and said, “Are you going to let these guys eat? I can only reheat liver so many times.” The buoy crew stopped work and looked up at the CO. The Captain left the bridge.
Needless to say, the crew was allowed to eat supper. No, I was not criticized for doing it. The crew was all smiles, though tired. I got a lot of thanks. Someone had to stick up for the crew.
Main article: Wind class icebreaker
Edisto was one of the icebreakers designed by Lieutenant commander Edward Thiele and Gibbs & Cox of New York, who modeled them after plans for European icebreakers he obtained before the start of World War II. She was the last of seven completed ships of the Wind-class of icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard. Her keel was laid on 15 May 1945 at Western Pipe and Steel Company shipyards in San Pedro, California, she was launched on 28 December 1946, and commissioned on 20 March 1947.
The EDISTO'S outer hull plating was constructed with 1-5/8 inch thick high tensile steel. Edisto had a double bottom above the waterline with the two "skins" being approximately 15 inches apart, insulated with cork. Framing was closely spaced and the entire hull girder was designed for great strength. Edisto's bow had the characteristic sloping forefoot that enabled her to ride up on heavy ice and break it with the weight of the vessel. Edisto's stern was similarly shaped to facilitate breaking ice while backing down. The sides of the icebreaker were rounded, with marked tumble home, that enabled the ship to break free from ice by heeling from side to side. Such heeling was accomplished by shifting water rapidly from wing tanks on one side of the ship to the other. A total of 220 tons of water could be shifted from one side to the other in as little as 90 seconds, which induced a list of 10 degrees. Ballast could also be shifted rapidly between fore and aft tanks to change the trim of the ship. Diesel electric machinery was chosen for its controlability and resistance to damage.
Edisto was built during peacetime, so she had a much lighter armament than her war-built sisters, one 5 in (130 mm) 38 cal. deck gun when in Navy service, and unarmed for the Coast Guard.
For more photos and information about USS / USCGC Edisto, see; USS Edisto AGB 2.
In the story about the CASCO,
I included the location on radar, visual a highlining of a transceiver to the USS FOGG. She had a 13 man skeleton crew. In the summer of '63, during Hurricane Ginny, this ship was being towed to Mayport, Florida RIGHT THROUGH THE EYE OF THE HURRICANE
The towing ship, lost the tow, and lost the location of the USS FOGG. We got the call, because we were out there, heading home from GITMO. e radioed the towing vessel asking what part they would play in locating her, and if they planned to attempt picking up the tow again. None of the above was the response. They were headed out of the hurricane, and to a safe port or harbor. We were the first to find her on radar. We were the first to have visual. And only because we high-lined a transceiver to them, the first to have radio contact. There were 13 men on board. The only power, the only light, the only heat that these men had , was ONE FLASHLIGHT. They would not have had any radio communications, if we had not high-lined them one. We stayed with them until a Coast Guard could come out and tow them to a safe harbor. That,s the Navy caring about its men.Had we not been there----
One of Alan's stories
Here is a story you can relate to. Enjoy, Alan
When I was stationed at Chatham LBS, Chatham, Massachusetts, I was always broke. Like all the guys fresh out of Boot Camp, I made $82.00 a month. Even in the sixties, that wasn’t much. In order to get around, I walked a lot. When I got two days off in a row, I started hitchhiking. Though hitchhiking for military was banned in ‘58, so I heard, I still did it. It was the only way for a poor sailor to get anywhere. We qualified for welfare and could not afford a car. It was well after WWII and Korea, but people remembered and tried to help the soldiers and sailors when they could.
Those who were caught by the MPs, were brought back to the Fargo Building in Boston, then delivered back to their respective unit. Was only caught by the MPs once. After bringing me to the Fargo Building, they took their sweet time, before delivering me back to my ship. My OD (Officer of the Deck) asked me where I was headed. After the MPs were gone, he sent me on my way, telling me to watch out for MPs.
I would go down into Connecticut, in to western Massachusetts. Then I started hitchhiking home, to Central New York State. Sometimes rides were few and far between. I would get rides with people from all walks of life, in all kinds of vehicles. Jaguar luxury sedans, pick ups, tractor trailers. I got a ride once with a tractor trailer driver, who began by telling me that he had not had any sleep in over 36 hours and was 10,000 pounds overweight. Here I was, in a cab-over, crawling up hills at 25 miles an hour. Once over the top, we were flying at 80+ miles per hour down hill. This guy started nodding off. Afraid for my life, as well as his, I learned how to talk, A LOT.
As many of you know, the CGC CACTUS made several buoy trips to Argentia, New Foundland . There, we would purchase tax free cases of bottled Heineken Beer, at a great savings.
Once back in Boston, we would off load our precious cargo and head home.
One time, four of us, all our baggage and ten cases of beer, piled into my 64 ½ metal fleck green Mustang. We did not have much room. So, we would stop and drink as much as we could, every ten minutes or so. And, of course this meant “pit stops”. We were able to put away enough over time, to give us a little more room for the remainder of the trip. After all that, we drove on. Very sloshed and very tired, we fell asleep. (Getting a picture?) Prophet was riding shotgun. I woke up. We were going at a pretty good clip, headed right into the back of a tractor trailer!!!!! I hit the brakes, Needless to say, we all lived to tell the tale. But, it scared the ---- out of us.
Several years later, oh, 1980 or ’81, I had just finished my armed guard shift at the Waltham Federal Center. It has been thirty years. I don’t know what they call it now. It was after midnight. I was driving a ’77 Ford F150 with a big revolving light on top. I used to stop and help those broken down, on my way home. That big yellow light really lit up my presence.
I don’t know how much you remember about RTE. 128, as it looped in horseshoe shape around Boston. There were areas where you could NOT see around curves, until you were well into the curve. I had the CB radio on the “trucker channel, channel #19. There was not a lot of traffic on the radio. All of a sudden, a frantic male voice of a trucker, yelling and crying. You knew this was for real. This guy was really upset as he called for help, called for police, anyone. No one was responding to his calls. He was on the North bound side. I was headed South. This was an emergency!!! After finding out exactly where he was, I got off at the exit below him, and headed back North. All the while,
the truck driver was calling out for Police, anyone for help, on the CB.
As I rounded the curve, I slowed and kicked on the big yellow light. Here, in one of those blind, dark curves, was the rear end of a VW bus, sticking out of the rear of a Sanborn tractor trailer. I could not see the front of the bus. It was under the box. The two occupants in the front seat, were obviously decapitated. I never found out the condition of the two people in the rear. One can only guess. The accident took its toll on the tractor trailer driver. He was standing near the rear of the box, shaking and crying.
I called out on another emergency channel for police. I positioned my truck well back of the accident scene. Then I turned on the pickup box light and climbed into the bed of the truck. The big yellow light, lit up the curve. I stood there, in full armed security guard uniform, gun and all, waving frantically for people get in the other lane.
It seemed like forever, but the police finally arrived on scene. After a quick survey of the situation, calling for several ambulances, fire truck and tow trucks, they came back to me.
Although their red and blue lights were flashing, I was still there, in the back of my truck, steering the traffic away from the accident. They thanked me, adding the fact, that had I not been there,
it could have been much worse, in that dark curve, Much worse.
Scituate LBS, Scituate Massachusetts
Click Here Nantucket Lightship Above
Posted on 5 / 3 / 2013
Towards the end of my service career, I was stationed at CG Base Boston. Because this was a base, there was a compliment of cooks. We each had our on duty time and our off duty time. The smaller stations had only one cook. On his days off, the crew fended for themselves. But when a cook wanted to go on leave (Accrued vacation time), a cook from Base Boston would be asked to replace him for that time period. I was asked to replace the cook at Scituate Coast Guard Station for a month. It was good duty. And I was home every night, to South Weymouth Naval Air Station, where we lived at the time. I did my month and returned to CG Base Boston.
A little about Lightships---
Lighthouses dot the shoreline, along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from Canada to Mexico, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. Their purpose is to warn mariners of shoals, reefs, rocks and other dangers. There were dangers farther out to sea. For these, lightships were created. I don’t remember the length, about 130 feet. They had a red hull with a white superstructure. On the side of the red hull, in big bold white lettering, was the name of the ship, usually the name of the area they were guarding. Names like: “CROSSRIP”, to mark Cross Rip, off Woods Hole; “STONEHORSE, ” to mark Stonehorse Shoal, off of Chatham; and “POLLOCK”, marked Pollock Rip 6.1 miles straight out from Chatham Coast Guard Station, to name a few that I have seen or been on at one time or another. Each was fitted with a big bright light and a very loud fog horn.
Some were in or near shipping channels. Trans-Atlantic ships would see them on their charts, and home in on their Radio Beacon. A floating lighthouse in the dense fog. The Ambrose was one that stood guard, near the shipping lane, outside New York Harbor. She was rammed and sunk, with all aboard. The Nantucket, predecessor to this one, was rammed and sunk by the Olympic, the sister ship to the Titanic.
The cook on the Nantucket L/V 612, because he was going to take leave for a month, needed a replacement for that time period. I went.
I know not why, but I packed three Bibles. It could have been the inner fears of what could happen, out there
Ships set their course on the Nantucket, and in some cases, left the bridge for coffee, returning just before the course change, then turned toward New York City.
Sunny, clear days were fine. It was the fog, that scared us. We knew, when ever the fog rolled in, we became more vulnerable to disaster. Oncoming ships could not see us, except on radar, and could not hear our fog horn, until they got dangerously close.
When we saw a ship, on radar, at two miles out, we were to don our life jackets. At one mile out, we were to abandon ship. Each of us handled it in different ways. I started a Bible study / prayer group. I knew then, why I brought three Bibles. We never had to abandon ship, though we put on our life jackets a few times, as a precaution.
Suggest you check out the museum.
You might find a porthole, pictures or other items of interest. The SPAR portholes were going for $300.00 , a bit much for me. I think if I were to go there, I would take pictures and talk to Franz, if he is still there. Nothing for free. The money raised from the sales, support the museum. Alan Meeker. I have been trying to organize my writings. After the SPAR was decommissioned, Roger Hughes and I communicated several times with the guy in charge of the Shipyard, overseeing the dismantling / preparing the USCGC SPAR for "Reefing." There was even an offer for us to "walk the decks" one more time, maybe buy a porthole, a piece of history. We never did take him up on that, regrettably. In our letters, email back and forth, I sent him my 13 page writing on the USCGC CASCO, from its earliest beginnings as I understood it, while I was on board, to its eventual demise, to provide a home for smaller fish in the Atlantic Canyon. After reading my letter, Franz sent the attached letter back. I thought you might enjoy reading it. Reading what he wrote, you wonder how he could stay in the business of putting once great ships to death. It was emotional for him. I am certainly glad I was not there to see the CGC CASCO go down.She was my home for a time. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Story behind this picture on the left.
In 1952, a Nor'easter hit New England.Two ships broke up outside of Chatham Bar. the Fort Mercer and a tanker called the Pendleton. Then First Class Bos'n Bernard C. Webber and his crew went out over the "BAR" to rescue the crew on the remaining half of the Pendleton. They did so in high winds and 70 ft waves. They rescued 34 crew members on this 36ft doubleender. Each of the crew earned the Coast Guard GOLD LIFESAVING Medal.
This picture shows the now retired Chief Warrant Officer Bernard C. Webber at the helm of the fully restored CG36500.
I was stationed with Bernard C. Webber and Livecy, his SEAMAN during the famed rescue. I heard the story, many times. After Webber and I were retired, we emailed back and forth. I suggested that he write a book about the rescue. He said that he had, telling me where to get it. I have both the paper back and the hard cover editions.
Bernard C. Webber passed away a few years ago. When the first of the
new Coast Guard "Fast Response Boats (FRBs) was built, the Coast Guard named one after him,
"Bernard C. Webber".