BMCS Henlyís neurologist has diagnosed him as having peripheral neuropathy, which can come from being exposed to cold.


Winter Woes

By Rex Henley


As I recall, it was the last run and shut down of the three offshore lights, Poe Reef Light, off of Cheboygan, Spectacle Reef Light, off 40 Mile Point, and Martins Reef Light, off Cedarville. I had gotten all personnel off all the lights except for Martins Reef. We lost one engine during the removal of personnel off the last Light, the one close to Cedarville entrance, so I called in to the station and advised them that we were experiencing icing and running on one engine; that was the last contact I had with anyone as all communications were lost at that time.

It was getting dark and freezing, and we were not making much time with one engine. I believe my engineerís name was English, EN2. As the darkness grew, I remembered that all the buoys in the Cedarville Islands, called the Snows, had been removed for the winter and it was all rocks if you didn't stay in the channel. But as luck was with me, I had been the one who pulled the buoys and reset them for two years prior to being transferred to Mackinac Island, running the 45-ft. buoy boat, under the Group Sault Ste Marie, where I had been stationed for approximately three years, so I decided our best bet was to try for Cedarville and hope for the best. We made it inside and were out of the weather.

Now! For the rocks, taking our time and feeling our way through the little islands, I saw lights at a dock after about three miles so headed for the pier. Luck was on our side, the owner was a retired Coast Guard Captain whose name I cannot remember. Seemed like it was around 10 PM as they were getting ready to retire to bed and were shutting down the lights when they saw us tying up to their dock. Surprised, they invited us in to thaw out. His wife cooked eggs and bacon and fed us all. I called the station as soon as possible and informed them of our situation. I was told that they had helicopters from CG Air Station Traverse City searching for us as we were very much overdue.

The Captain called the sheriff who sent a deputy to take us to a motel for the night.

English and the engineers off the lights spent most of the night working to get the second engine back on line with success. Still with no communications, we headed out towards home, Mackinac Island; thatís when we ran into heavy seas, fog, and icing conditions. We had set it up that BM1 Rambus was to come out to intercept me keeping the Island in sight, The last steamer of the season picked me in the 40-footer and Rambus in the 36-footer up on radar, and directed him to intercept me, which saved us both because Rambus was icing by that time and I was way the heck off course.

Without the help of the steamerís radar, and communications with Rambus, I figure I would been between a rock and frozen hard place.

Seems like I had about twelve personnel on board and no Boatswains Mate to relieve me. When we made it to the dock, I remember docking with my elbows as my hands were so cold they would not move right and when we got inside the Station they had to cut the hood off my head so I could talk to Lt. Luedke, Group Commander Charlevoix. I was young at that time, thought I was tough, and didn't need any medical attention.

Well! I should have so it would have been documented. This was one (probably the worst) of many incidents of this nature during my eight years in the Ninth CG District, and four years at Mackinac Island and St. Ignace as Officer in Charge at both Stations.

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