This story tells of an unfortunate incident that we hope will never again be repeated. The bad has to be told with the good.


"We met her off Eagle Harbor at 0130 on Nov. 29, 1964"

Captain R. Metz

A lot of people out there will probably not want to hear this story about the Coast Guard or the Coast Guard Cutter Woodrush. 

In 1964 I was an AB Watchman on the "Thomas Wilson." Late one night while up bound on Lake Superior I walked up to the wheelhouse to relieve the wheel for coffee break. The mate on watch had a target on radar. It showed the target was down bound on the up bound course and closing. The mate radioed the vessel and the Woodrush answered saying they had our vessel on radar and not to worry and hold our course and speed, which the mate did. When the wheelsman finished his coffee break he took over the wheel and again the mate called the Woodrush saying they were on a collision course. The Woodrush replied by saying they see us and again not to worry. I figured well they must know what they are doing being the Coast Guard and I walked back to the galley for my coffee. While in the galley the ship took a sharp roll to starboard. I got up to look out of a port hole and all I saw was a black shape just missing our ship by a matter of feet. Back up in the wheelhouse the Captain was up and saying the Woodrush never altered her course and if we had not altered ours, a collision would have occurred.

That next winter I stopped in a cafe for coffee at Bruce Crossing, Michigan. I noticed a sailor sitting there so I started talking to him. He said he had missed the bus for Duluth. I offered to drive him to Duluth and while underway I told him I sailed on the lakes and he said he was assigned to the Woodrush. I told him the story about the near collision and I was shocked to learn that he was aboard the cutter that night and was the helmsmen when this all took place, I asked him what had happened, why did they not alter course. The young man said they were all drinking that night and were all messed up. 

I will never forget the "Woodrush"!

This story first appeared on the The Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping website is republished by permission of the author.

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