Even though his passengers weren’t unfamiliar with boats, Lt. j.g. Bradley Brown still went over emergency response procedures.
Brown, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dorado, ferried veterans of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cape Carter to St. George Reef Lighthouse on Thursday. But before Brown allowed his passengers to board ship, he told them what to do and where to muster should the general emergency alarm sound and where the flotation devices were if they needed to abandon ship.
“I’m sure you guys want to help,” Brown said, “but we got it under control.”
Twelve former U.S. Coast Guardsmen who were stationed aboard the Cape Carter when she was moored in Crescent City visited their ship’s former port this week. The Cape Carter was a 95-footer stationed in a slip at the end of Citizens Dock from 1961 to 1982, according to Dave Bergman, who organized the reunion.
Bergman, who hails from Santa Rosa, said he was stationed aboard the Cape Carter from September 1966 to August 1969. Most of the Coast Guardsmen served a year to three years aboard the Cape Carter, some marrying local girls, he said. Bergman said his wife is from Crescent City.
“It’s very nostalgic,” he said. “My wife and I come into town every few years, so it’s not like we haven’t been back for 50 years, but some of these folks haven’t been back for 50 years and they said they hardly recognize this town.”
When Bergman was first stationed aboard the Cape Carter, Crescent City was still getting back on its feet following the 1964 tsunami. Now, he said, the town has been built back up.
Back then, in addition to servicing St. George Reef Lighthouse, the crew of the Cape Carter engaged in search and rescue operations, Bergman said. They also watched over Russian fishing vessels that were going after salmon just off the coast, he said.
“They had big huge stern trawlers that dropped nets out and they would just suck everything up,” Bergman said. “We made sure they stayed outside the 12-mile limit.”
Noreen Peterson said she met her husband Bob in 1967 when he was stationed aboard the Cape Carter and she was in high school. They married in 1969 and returned to Del Norte County because her husband was still stationed aboard the Cape Carter, but eventually moved away.
Peterson said two other local women she knew married Cape Carter crew members.
When the Cape Carter was stationed in Crescent City, instead of using the gangplank, many of its crew members would use a rope to get aboard the ship, Peterson said. At the time, if they were ordered back to the ship, the Coast Guardsmen were given 20 minutes to report.
“If you were at the movies across the screen would be ‘Cape Carter crew needs to report,’” Peterson said. “They had to carry a thing wherever they went. We’d have picnics out at Hiouchi — 20 minutes.”
Upon their return from the lighthouse, the Cape Carter Crew discussed whether their journey had been rough before assembling for a group photo. Bergman described the cruise as “flat-ass calm.”
For former Cape Carter crewman Bud Atkins, the journey brought back memories.
“Today was a nice day for it, a lot of times it wasn’t,” Atkins said. “But it was good to see the lighthouse again.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .