SNAFU IN CHICAGO

By Ron Reynolds

 

 

It was July 1954 and the CGC ARUNDEL, a sea-going, 110 foot tug home ported at Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois got a new Captain. He was a W-1 “pinstriper” who had been a “sandpounder” for many years. Desperately in need of experience, he ordered a practice cruise out on Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful sunny summer day and we cruised around and about the lake uneventfully for an hour or so before returning to port.

As we neared port the Skipper saw a group of Coast Guard Officers standing on the dock through his binoculars. They were the Northern Inspectors from Cleveland, Ohio! He panicked and nothing went right from that moment on. First, he bounced the ship off the dock. On the third try we managed to tie her up.

Embarrassed, our new Captain went ashore to greet the unexpected visitors. Next, they put us through the paces. They requested a message be sent by semaphore. The guys didn’t know the alphabet well enough to send it properly. Next came seamanship which we managed to struggle through at best.

The final test was a lifeboat drill. We could not budge the davits with the assigned crew. It took the most of our entire ten men crew to break them free from the rusted sockets and swing them out and over the water. Next we prepared to lower the boat. Our BM2 hit the pelican hooks and we began lowering. When the lifeboat hit the water it promptly sank due to dry rot. I think I heard someone on shore say something about “McHale’s Navy” but I am not sure.

Our final activity was to stand inspection. While the Inspectors “consulted” with the Captain we all rushed to get into our dress whites. This part of the Northern Inspection went quite well but our overall scores were quite bleak.

Although the ARUNDEL went on sailing the Great Lakes for several decades thereafter, it was a rocky start, that experience with the Northern Inspectors in July 1954.

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CGC ARUNDEL AND CGC FREDRICK LEE IN NEW BEDFORD

Note – The ARUNDEL had been homeported in New Bedford, Massachusetts until several months prior to this occurance. A homeport swap was made between the CGC FREDRICK LEE (WSC-139) and the ARUNDEL. The FREDRICK LEE was a 125 footer (buck and a quarter) the same type of ship used in the First District for SAR work, more suited to it then a 110 foot tug. The ARUNDEL could break ice making her a year around ship on the Great Lakes. The exchange proved quite advantageous.

 

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