Yesterday (March 14, 2014) Lexen and I attended a very bitter-sweet event. The Coast Guard Cutter that I served two tours on was decommissioned. Yes, I said two tours. Back in 1991 I came here to be a part of BLOCK ISLAND’s commissioning crew. A brand spanking new 110 foot patrol boat was coming to this area to conduct maritime law enforcement and search and rescue. I had the honor of being a part of all that. Under the direction of LTJG Gary Bruce (now a Captain in Washington, DC) When we brought the ship back from the manufacturers in Lockport, LA, we immediately started conducting law enforcement like this boating community had never seen before. Myself and shipmate Mark Cutter (now a retired MCPO in Boston, MA) would board some of the local commercial fishing boats. Mark would give his blurb and those down east fisherman would hear his heavy Boston brogue and say, “Boy, where you from?” He didn’t miss a beat, but would always come back with”Harkers Island”. We boarded a lot of vessels, interdicted some migrants, made some arrests. saved some lives, risked our lives and had a blast doing it.
When my time to rotate was up, I transferred to then Group Fort Macon, which serviced the BLOCK ISLAND and 13 other units. When my time was up there (3 years later), the BLOCK ISLAND was up for grabs again, so I accepted orders there. This tour was different. We now did deployments to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I know, rough stuff…. I spent 8 out of 16 months in the Caribbean, doing heavy-duty law enforcement, drug interdiction and migrant interdiction. Again, the crew was top-notch. Under the direction of LCDR Barry West (now retired and here local), we maximized our operational abilities and our fun factor at the same time. We also did something that had never been done before. We did a hybrid crew concept where we took our sister ship USCGC STATEN ISLAND (WPB 1345) and our ship and intermingled the crews. The STATEN ISLAND went to the Caribbean while the BLOCK ISLAND stayed local. Half of each ship’s crew stayed here and half went south. Half way through the deployment, we swapped and flew the crew members to the opposite location, until the deployment was over. All without crew members committing mutiny! This is the tour where I decided to go into the Reserves and finish up my Coast Guard career.
As you can see, from just a few sea stories, there grows a camaraderie that cannot be explained. Many very fond memories that will always bring a smile to my face in 4 years of serving aboard this vessel. We trusted our lives to it in 40 foot seas and hurricane force winds. Saying goodbye is really hard to do.
I had been to decommissioning ceremonies before, but never for a boat that I served on. I can’t explain the gut wrenching feeling that I felt when they struck eight bells and played taps. The commanding officer (LT Trey Flusche) too was sucking back tears and emotion. Honestly, I really never thought that I would see this day. Something so solid and seaworthy and a part of your life, you just don’t think will ever go away. Tomorrow, the current crew will cast off the lines from the port side one last time at that familiar berthing in Fort Macon and take the ship’s last cruise to Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, MD. A part of me will go with her. It is like saying goodbye to an old reliable, faithful friend that you trusted time after time after time. However, all good things must come to an end.
Fair winds and following seas BLOCK ISLAND.
This is not my typical type of posting to this website, but we do train a lot of our military, who may enjoy this story. Below are some photos of some of my shipmates.