USCGC Red Cedar and its philatelic history

The Coast Guard Cutter Red Cedar entered my life in 1988. I stepped out of boot camp in Cape May, N.J., and reported ten days later.

Red Cedar
US Coast Guard Cutter Red Cedar (WLM 688).

The Red Cedar was a buoy tender, a hard-working, black hull cutter based in Portsmouth, VA.

I served on her from 1988 until 1990, when I transferred to Quartermaster “A” School, and eventually to the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba, out of Boston.

The Red Cedar

ARA Ciudad de Zarate, formerly the USCGC Red Cedar.

She was a 157-foot ship launched in 1970. If my memory serves, she had a crew of about 30. Our mission was the maintenance of aids to navigation in the southern Chesapeake Bay area, including the James, Rappahonnock, and Potomac Rivers, the Tangier area, and down to Oregon Inlet.

There was nothing easy about the work. The worst was replacing regular buoys to ice buoys, primarily along the Potomac River. It was cold, hard, long days.

In 1999, the Red Cedar was decommissioned and transferred to the Argentine Navy, where she exists as the ARA Ciudad de Zarate.

Postal History

As a stamp collector, one of my specialty areas is the postal history of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Red Cedar

In 2012, I was in McClean, VA for work and went to a stamp show down the road in Arlington. There, to my surprise, I ran across four covers commemorating the Red Cedar and its decommissioning and transfer to Argentina.

Three of the envelopes have the “H” Rate stamp, Scott #3269. One contains the Snowy Owl stamp, Scott #3290.

Red Cedar

One envelope is signed by Rear Admiral J. Timothy Riker, USCG Reserve. Mr. Riker is a decorated Coast Guard veteran of 30 years who started his career as an enlisted recruit, retiring in 2000, and being called back into service after 9-11.

Three of the covers are also signed (on back) by what I believe to be the then Commanding Officer of the Red Cedar. Unfortunately, I can’t quite make out the signatures

Red Cedar

And then…

One Fall, we were tased with the restoration of Thimble Shoals Lighthouse. Sandblasting that joker was the worst thing in the world. It was terribly hot, and you had to wear a protective hood. Even still, sand got everywhere and into everything, both inside and outside the ship.

I hated every second of it.

Thimble Shoals Lighthouse.

But I ran across a cover (of course)!!! And though not specifically about the Coast Guard, or the Red Cedar, it has a home in my Coast Guard Postal History Collection.

Final thought

Through philately, collecting stamps, I was able to combine two loves – my time in the Coast Guard and stamps.

These covers have no real financial value, maybe a couple bucks a piece. But they are wonderful reminders of a time I look back on fondly. And they are worth more to me than many of my more expensive stamps and covers.

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