The USCGC Cowslip and adventures in buoy tending

From 1988 to 1990, the USCGC Cowslip moored right behind us, and that was the cause for quite a bit of fun.

I served aboard the Red Cedar, a 157-foot coastal buoy tender based in Portsmouth, Va., and the Cowslip was a cactus class cutter. She was 180-feet long and was a seagoing buoy tender.

Cowslip’s long service

In the grand tradition of the Coast Guard the service used the Cowslip mercilessly.

She was originally constructed in 1941-1942, being commissioned in October, 1942. She served until her decommissioning and sale to a private company in 1973.

However, in1980 The USCGC Blackthorn tragically collided with the SS Capricorn, capsized and sank. A total of 23 Coast Guardsmen died in that collision. With the loss of the Blackthorn, the service reacquired the Cowslip and put her back to work. She served another 22 years, until her 2002 sale to Nigeria.

A couple stories

I jumped on Thimble Shoals light house from a small boat one day to repair the light. It extinguished at some point and needed some repair work. During the successful repair, a pretty bad storm blew in so our small boat had to hightail it back. I had to stay and finish the repair.

The Cowslip had a much larger small boat and it came out to retrieve me in the rising seas. The coxswain driving the boat was a lady, one of several on the Cowslip’s crew.

After we returned to base and I cleaned up and put my tools away, I walked over to thank her for retrieving me. She leveled a look and invited me to her place to thank her properly later.

In the words of the immortal Monte Python, “run away” seemed the appropriate response.

One night, someone floated over to the Cutter Tampa and painted a strategic “X” on the name of the ship. So we thought some strategic painting on Cowslip, to slightly alter the name, might be in good fun. Sadly, we couldn’t reach the name.

The cover

Down to business.

I’m not sure where I acquired this piece of postal history.

First, her decommissioning occurred in Astoria, Oregon. A transfer moved her to the West Coast from Virginia in 1995.

Notice that the original decommissioning date, in September 2001, moved due to the attack on 9/11.

The back contains a signature I cannot quite make out. I assume it is the signature of the commanding officer of the Cowslip at the time of decommissioning.

Still it is a fun piece that reminds me of a fun time during my life.


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