The Case Of The Missing Motor

By Jack Morrison  

 

The Cutter Chase left the lights of the “Down East” coast of Maine off the stern and headed on a northerly course towards the Grand Banks and “Bravo” station. Five days north, 21 on station and then five days south, maybe a trip into St Johns if we were lucky on the backside of the patrol, but for now it was a slow steady 15 knots as we headed for southwest corner of Bravo to offer relief.

The need for the ocean station vessels was not as great as it had been in the past and rumors flew that the day was nearing when they would be no more. But for now a ship had to occupy the 10,000 square mile section of the Atlantic know as Bravo Station. 

Ships assigned this duty could only offer relief if they were operationally capable to perform the task at hand; we had been when we left Boston.

The evening before relief was scheduled the air search antenna on the main mast had ground to a halt; it rotated no more. The motor would not turn. As was generally the case in situations such as this, the spare parts list did not include the defective part nor could the snipes come to the rescue with a miracle repair. No air search radar, no relief.

I woke the EMO(*) with the news, he went to wake up the OPS Boss, who decided that the Exec should also be wakened. The four of us went up to the cabin somewhere around 0200 to let the Captain know. The Captain took the news a lot better than I thought he would. He had us send off a CASREP(**) on the radar and a message to the Area that we were still enroute Bravo. Within an hour of sending the CASREP we had an offer from the ship we were to relieve that they would pull their motor at first light and have it ready transfer to us when we met.

The seas had been running 6-8 feet, first light showed them to be 10-14 and by the time we rendezvoused they were every bit of 18-20. Needless to say the motor stayed where it was, we exchanged mailbags and movies and then we headed towards St Johns where a motor was supposed to meet us.

On arrival at St Johns we discovered no motor at the dock. Supply obtained the services of a taxi and left for the airport to locate the motor. This being Sunday evening not too many people were to be found at the St Johns International Airport; neither was the motor.  The next day was spent fruitlessly searching the airport and not finding anything for the CGC Chase much less a motor. On Tuesday a phone patch was made to the Brooklyn Supply Center to locate the motor. "What motor? We never received the CASREP," was their reply.The CASREP was sent classified required; classified traffic for the Supply Center received on weekends was held for delivery on Monday. The CASREP had fallen into a crack. 

Have no fear we opinined, we will get a message off to the Coast Guard Yard for them to ship a motor tonight. The motor left the Yard Tuesday evening, making its the way to Boston where it got held up due to fog in Montreal. By Thursday the motor made it to Montreal but had arrived to late for the flight to St Johns. On Friday the motor arrived in St Johns.

When the crate was openned instead of a new shiny motor we got just the opposite, a motor that had seen better days. Quickly it was checked out, all to quickly it was determined that this motor was as bad as the original. Compounding the problem was the defective part in this motor was the same as the one in ours. Needless to say more messages flew, more phone patches were made, this time the replacement would arrive on the Ice Patrol C-130 Aircraft from Elizabeth City. Great idea but nobody informed E City. The C-130 arrived Sunday sans motor.

All of this waiting time was having an impact on the crew, the first night in port was treated as though it were the last, as was the 2nd, 3rd, 4th. By the fifth day the unplanned liberty was having a toll on the crew. By the weekend everybody was hoping that the motor would drop out of the sky, so we could get on with life, stand our station and return to Boston.

Monday morning arrived; we had been in St Johns for seven long unplanned days. Even the hardiest of the steamers looked forward to Bravo. That evening lady luck finally smiled down  on us. The airline called saying the motor would be in on the first flight the next morning. The next morning we awoke to bright sunshine, no fog and a message on the quarterdeck that the motor was out at the airport. By noon we had the motor installed, the system tested out and at afternoon quarters the word was passed “set the special sea detail”

We cleared the rocks that mark the entrance to St Johns  and set a course towards Bravo.

It was not my first visit to St Johns or my last, but it was certainly the longest and most frustrating.

EPILOG -- The ship we were to relieve had to depart station without relief due to a suspected appendicitis victim.

(*) Electronics Maintenance Officer

(**) Casualty Report

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