I just made a mental note of where this 14 foot skiff was and to look out for him on our way back.......
The Usual "Unusual"
By Bob Lamb
The fall of 1966 found me as a relief coxswain on the 40 boats out of Captain of the Port, New York (COTPNY.) I was the senior coxswain, the only BM2 running a 40 which normally was a 3rd class billet. I was getting out in a few months so they did not know what to do with me. I had spent the previous 5 months on Lake Champlain, docking at Burlington Light Assistant Station, living in a garage, and cruising the Lake, while pretending to act military, doing boardings and rescues. COTPNY sent a 40 boat with a crew up every summer to patrol this 110 mile long lake which extended into Canada and two states. Burlington had a 4 man crew of its own and an old wooden 52 foot buoy boat.
I think we spent more time trying to impress the local bathing beauties and screwing around than anything else.
When we got back to New York, my seaman transferred back to Burlington, (he had a girlfriend up there) and the rest of the crew went to other boats that were short handed so I was left doing relief duty. This was not too bad, though, because I got a lot more liberty than anybody else, but every other day I was running a different boat with a different crew.
I had a great crew on my boat but now never knew what to expect. I also got most of the new kids to train, and had to train a lot of new BM3's as coxswains.
One Sunday afternoon in October, I was taking a coxswain trainee out below the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on a familiarization and qualifying run. It was one of those early fall days that was just beautiful to be out on the water.
Everybody else who had a boat thought so, too. The lower bay was covered with small boats.
Keeping an eye out for the usual "unusual" we spotted a 14' skiff headed out to sea towards the Ambrose Channel. This was a pretty small boat to be headed into major shipping lanes but ship traffic was light as were the seas and winds so I just made a mental note of where he was and to look out for him on our way back.
Heading back to COTPNY, about an hour later, my SN sang out that he had him in the glasses......now rowing out to sea. We swung the boat up along side him and after exchanging a few pleasantries, asked him why he was rowing and where he was headed for? "Why, Bermuda," was his answer, "but I ran out of gas."
Trying not to laugh too hard, I asked him if he knew exactly how far Bermuda was from our present location. "Oh, it's just over the horizon. Here, I'll show you on my map," at which time he took out a map of the world, and holding his thumb and forefinger apart, measured the distance.
"See," he said, "it's only this far. I know I'm out of gas but I can probably get there in an hour or two if I row steady."....... "See ya!"
Now, I would like to have been headed for Bermuda myself and could appreciate his desire to go but I had no intention spending the night looking for him (or his remains after some tanker ran over him in the dark.) I told the seaman to put a line on him and started to tow him back to the marina at Coney Island where he rented the boat.
After a few hundred yards and many remarks about whether my parents had the benefit of clergy and his having a cousin in the Navy who was an officer and would have my stripes, he cut the tow line and started to row away furiously. This was going to be a fun tow!
The only way this clown was going to go back to Coney Island was against his will so we came up along side of him at about 10 knots, drove our grappling hook and chain into the bow and got up to a fast towing speed before he could react. Towing a small boat at about 15 knots put him flat on his back every time he tried to stand up. We had him back to the marina in about 30 minutes.
Being a good Boatswain's Mate I knew every foul word he threw at me but he managed to put them together in some unique ways that I had not even thought of.
We tied him up at the dock and I warned the dock master that if he ever rented a boat to a person with a suitcase again, he and I would have a real serious discussion about his future in the marina business.
Bob Lamb was a BM2 in the Coast Guard between 1963-1967.
Return to Coast Guard Stories