We know what happened to the author. What happened to the Chief?


By Tom Fleming

I will leave the telling of heroic and daring stories of rescue on the high seas in the pitch of dark and foul weather to my more seasoned comrades. Sometimes it's the little vignettes in life at sea that bring back a flood of memories. Here is my sea story:

It was 1966, I was an eager 18 year old seaman apprentice fresh out of Coast Guard boot camp and excited to have been assigned to the USCGC YOCONA(WAT-168). To make a long story short........... We had just been towed back to our dock at Astoria, Oregon with a broken crankshaft we had suffered on a fisheries patrol. The Chief Boatswains Mate chose to take advantage of the projected long stay in port, and a break in the weather, to have the hull painted. At the time it was customary to add just a few drops of blue paint pigment to the official "Coast Guard White" the hull was painted. The touch of color made the white appear to gleam in the sun. The Chief's big mistake was assigning this seaman apprentice the chore of mixing the paint. I can't remember how many hours I spent mixing gallon after gallon down in the dark paint locker and passing 'em up to my fellow deck hands who were busy painting with rollers on long poles from rickety floats. In one day all 215 feet of the Yocona's port side got a beautiful new coat from stem to stern.

Was it two drops of blue pigment to five gallons or was it five drops to two gallons?

I can still hear the roar of the Chief's voice as it bellowed down the hatch to the paint locker at the end of the day. The Chief had been playing back gammon leaving the supervision to the First Class who was giving splicing lessons to the other petty officers who left the painting to seamen who couldn't easily see the hue of the paint from their close vantage point. Needless to say the USCGC Yocona was the prettiest baby blue tug in the fleet for a few days in the Summer of 1966 before she was repainted and I was transferred for the next three years to the USCGC Basswood (WLB-388), a black hull buoy tender in Guam.


USCGC YOCONA circa 1986


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