BMCM Tom McAdams, USCG (Ret.) Interview

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After that they lost the MLB Triumph; the 52-footer out of Columbia River, which was the wooden one.  It had a single screw.  It had a big boiler up forward for heat and it was single screw and all wood, 33 tons, but when they lost it up there at Columbia River then they built another 52-footer and that was stationed at Columbia River after that, and then they built one more and gave it to Grace Harbor and then they built wonders.  There are four now; four 52-footers that were built.  Grace Harbor, Columbia River, Yaquina Bay, Newport, Oregon and Coos Bay, Charleston, and each one has a 52-footer.  That’s the only ones they ever built and the one here at Newport was from 1956 and is still in beautiful shape today, and you talk to the boatswain’s mates down there and they say the 47-footers; the new ones that replaced the 44s; are a wonderful boat but when tough times come and she’s really storming you take the 52-footer.

And just before I left here and made chief [petty officer] - I just made chief in September - it was September, October and November; it was just before Thanksgiving, about three or four days before Thanksgiving, in those days when you have a 70, 80, 100-mile an hour storm you know, you got a little local newspaper but it wasn’t a big thing.  The news stations didn’t pick up the big things.  Anyway we had one heck of a storm going on and winds were blowing, recorded above 85 miles an hour when we got a call that a vessel out of Coos Bay, a sailing vessel; on a 50-foot sailboat - some said it was 47, some said it was 50-foot depending on how you measured it - had left out of Coos Bay, headed on her maiden voyage - was built there - to San Francisco and got caught in this storm off of Blanco and was being pushed up the coast.  Her main mast was broken.  Her mizzen mast, the sails were busted loose and dragging in the water.  The radio antenna had been carried away and they made up a make shift antenna, which would only broadcast 15 to 18 miles, and Coos Bay picked her at first and then as Coos Bay lost her, Umpqua picked her up, so that told me that that boat was about 15 miles because they were having trouble off the coast and being blown in 80 mile an hour winds plus and we had the only 52 at the time. Coos Bay got out there in the 36-footer but got driven back in and they sent the Yocona (WAT-168) which was 207/214 foot - depending on who you talked too - tug out of Astoria and she took a huge break on Hungry River bar and took water down her stack and shorted out her board so she had to go back in, and we were the only boat that made it out. 

I took my crew; three-man crew and myself, we had four, and we started out here.  When I hit the jetty and she was blowing 80 some miles an hour I thought I could work it across the bar and every time I would slack up to take a breaker or time one the wind would carry me and all of a sudden I looked up; I’m looking over my left shoulder at the North Jetty when I should be looking over my right - and I was heading towards the reef.  I was being blown back into the reef.  So there’s nothing I could do but take both controls, put them full ahead and said, “Hang on.” Well we slowly made it across, just breaker after breaker.  We’d put the bow in and with that 52-footer we cleared it and I finally cleared the whistle buoy but I’m still in breakers.  They weren’t the reef type breakers but they were still huge, huge seas.  And finally my crew said, “We’re going down below”, and they went down below.  I was on the flying bridge.  They have the inside steering and the outside and I was on the outside steering.  It was really hard to see.  You know I don’t wear glasses and I didn’t have goggles are anything, and the wind and the rain; it was raining terrible, and we couldn’t tell if it was raining because the seas were blowing in your face anyway and the spray and everything blowing, and it takes 50-mile an hour winds to pick up the sea and make spray and they’re going 50 you really get and it’s blowing 80 and the wind kept picking up until it got over a hundred miles an hour, and that 52-footer was still making time getting into it and every once in a while I would turn and I’d look down to the dead light and the watertight hatch.  I looked through the dead light - dead light is the same as a porthole except the porthole would be closed and the dead light secure.  I looked to see if my inside windows were still there. Pretty soon I heard a pounding on the hatch and between seas I . . . one handle opened up the six dogs, and I opened it open it up and said, “What is it”, and the seaman looked up at me, and the third class boatswain’s mate was with me, and he said, “Can’t you get it off the reef Chief?  Can’t you get clear of the reef?”  I said, “Hell, the reef’s seven miles behind us.”  He said, “I’ve never seen seas like this before.” I said, “Well neither have I”, and I closed the hatch back down.  Well about two to three hours of that and I’m still heading out in a southwest direction - tremendous seas; it must been over 50-foot better. 

I’ve never seen anything like it before - and all of a sudden the wind just stopped and everything got still; the howling of the wind, and all you hear was these crashing of waves and they were still coming off the top of the breaking, you know, and I’m ten miles out.  An awesome, awesome feeling and sound, and I hadn’t realized at the time I’m going through the eye of this thing.  And all of a sudden - it took about, I don’t know, 10, 12, 15 minutes - from right over my right shoulder a gust of wind hit me and picked up to about 50/60 miles an hour and then within the next hour slowly diminished down to about 30 to 35 and gusting back and forth, and now the wind was coming out of the north/northwest and the top of the breakers would come off and those breakers would come down and that 50 mile an hour wind would hit that six or eight foot wall of white foam on top of these 40/50 seas and would actually blow it backwards.  It was awesome.  It’s hard to explain to see it but just something that, you know, you’ve never seen it before and it kind of kept your mind off of what could happen to you.  But we just kept plowing our way through and pretty soon I’m working my way down the coast and I’m out to my fathom line where I’m 12 miles out because I figured, “Now I’ve got 12 miles this way and I’ve got 12 miles the other way to pick up this guy and I know he’s going to be in that area”, and I’m heading down and I saw these lights ahead of me and it was a ship – about a, oh, 400-foot ship - and he’s laying just holding into it, and I called him on the radio and told him who I was; “Coast Guard to motor life boat”, and we didn’t have names for the boats in those days.  It was just the numbers, 5-2-3-1-2.  I told him who we were and I was searching for a sailboat that should be in this fathom depth of line and asked him what his intentions were.  

He said he had been held up all day long in the storm; just held into it one way and then held into it the other way, he says, and now he says, “I’m getting ready to head south.”  He’s heading down towards Frisco [San Francisco, California].  And I said, “Well are you going to maintain this depth and run a 100 fathoms?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “Well for the next 20 miles to 30 miles you have radar.”  I didn’t have radar.  I said, “Would you be on the lookout for . . .”, and I gave him the description of the vessel and everything, “. . . and also you can maybe hear him on the radio because you’re way up and bigger antennas and that”, and he said, “Yeah, I’d be glad to.”  I said, “Well thank you.”  I said, “I’m going to run outside you about two miles and I’m going to parallel you and we’ll go down.”  Well it’s now probably eight o’clock at night; 2000, somewhere around there.  I’ve been standing at the wheel since early morning, I’m soaking wet. I’m very, very cold.  I said, “I need a break.”  So I came inside.  My crew had been pretty seasick and was lying around and I said, “Okay guys”, and we had put on that anteroom boat; the paper one, and when you hit a 100 fathoms you clicked it and went from 100 to 200 fathoms and when you hit 200 it went from 200 to 300.  It would go up to 300 fathoms.  I said, “I purposely went outside the 100 fathoms so you’d have a line”, and I’m on the 200 fathom . . . from 100 to 200 fathoms . . . I said, “. . . and I’m 115/20 fathoms so now you’ll have a line and you can watch it.  Here’s the course to follow”, and I had a third class boatswain’s mate and a seaman, and the yeoman was with me.  “Okay, you guy’s got it.  You work together.  Call me”, and I went and I took off all my clothes and I wrung them on out and I put them in the engine room.  I wrung my skivvies on out and we had two bunks in what we called the “little mess deck” there and it had a watertight hatch to it, and we had two bunks in there and you could slap the bunks at a 45-degree angle and we had big elastic straps that you could hook across so you wouldn’t fall out of them, and I put the bunk at a 45-degree angle and put three straps across and grabbed two wool blankets and I went to sleep. 

Pretty soon I felt this hand on me and they said, “Chief, Chief”, and I said, “What’s up”, and he said, “We’re lost.”  I said, “What do you mean you’re lost?”  He said, “We don’t where we’re at.”  I said, “Oh my God”, and I jumped up, and still my skivvies dried practically on me, and I run up to the pilot house and he said, “The fathometer isn’t working.”  I said, “What course have you been on”, and he said, “Well we’ve been on this course.”  I said, “Oh my God, you’re going to sea.”  “Well the boat rode better this way.”  I said, “Oh my God.”  So what they had done is they had went over the 200 fathom and we’re just barely . . . apparently we had went a hundred fathoms out of it.  They didn’t know what they were doing and they just were steering the boat and not steering it.  I said, “Oh my God”, and I ran to inside steering and I looked at the fathometer and I said, “Oh my God, you’ve been on this course”, and we were probably five and a half/six miles outside of where I wanted to be.  So I swung the boat back.  I put her on the course to intercept and I had just got my clothes back on and the freighter called me and he said, “Coast Guard lifeboat, I think I have your target”, and he gave me his position and I said . . . I would have been right with him and now I’m five miles behind him and I’m going with the seas and swells so I said, “Okay, I’m ten knots.  If I pick it up maybe a little bit more.”  I called him and said, “Roger”, I said, “I have a little problem.” I said, “I’m just outside you.  I’ll be in there in about 30 minutes.”  So he said, “Well I have the pip on the radar but”, he says, “I’ve got him on the radio”, and I called and I could hear him because I was probably only six miles or so from him, seven miles at the most, and I got him on my DF; we had the DF in the boat then and I homed right in on him.  So I told to the freighter in about another 10 or 15 minutes.  He says, “I’m standing off.”

You know he’s quite a ways off from me but he said, “I have him in sight, one little light, and I have him on sight and I’m standing off”, and I said, “I have him dead on my DF and I have you in sight.”  I said, “You can proceed now on down the coast.”  He said, “Roger”, and I really thanked him a lot and we came up on this sailboat.  There were five POBs [Persons On Board] onboard and I had known when I left - somebody had told me from the station, they said, “Hey, there’s a retired Navy admiral onboard that sailboat”, and I said, “Okay.”  So we came up there and we passed them the bridle and our bridle was cable with a big shackle on it.  We passed them over the cable and they made it fast and put the shackle down, and we had the wire and everything on there but the college boys; there were three college boys and a retired Navy admiral, a retired Navy, either commander or captain on there with him and three college students that would help him take the boat back down.  Anyway when they put the shackle on they just tighten it down and left it.  They didn’t pin it and they didn’t really tighten it down.  They pinned it but they didn’t put the wire on there; mouse it down.  So we got them in tow and I told them, I said, “Well I’m towing you back to Coos Bay.  I’m not going to take you into Newport because I’m down off Umpqua someplace”, and I only had about . . . between Umpqua and Florence and I said, “I’ve only got 35 miles . . .” I had no way of knowing my exact position other than just time run and speed and couldn’t see anything.  It was still blowing 35/40 miles an hour and raining and huge, huge swells, and I said, “I’m going to tow you to Coos Bay because we’ll go with the seas and it will make it much easier and we’ll make it in good time and we’ll be there right after light in the morning.  So they said, “Fine.”  So I got him in tow and got everything settled down, and now I’m riding a lot better because I have him behind me and he’s acting as a drogue; a sea anchor, and so I’m riding really nice.  So I said, “Okay guys, one more time.  I’m going to lie down . You’ve got the wheel; one man watching the hawser and the light back there, on the wheel; you can be outside or inside.  Look through the dead light, I don’t care.”  So I went down. 

I put my clothes in the engine room again - they’re getting pretty dry now - and got in that rack, and boy, I’d been asleep about an hour, (a knock on the hatch). “What is it? What is it”, and they said, “We think we lost the tow.”  I said, “What do you mean you think you lost the tow”, and it was just getting daylight, and of course you know this is . . . well it was a little after seven in the morning, wintertime, and I said, “What do you mean you think you lost the tow”, and man, I’m up on the flying bridge in my skivvies again, and there was no tow.  I said, “Throw her down to neutral.” I said, “Pull in that hawser”, and I jumped down and grabbed my clothes on and they were pulling in the hawser and it had about 800 feet of four-inch on out and they’re pulling and pulling and pulling and pulling, and pretty soon up comes the eye and the bridle’s still on the sailboat with no shackle.  I turned around and I said, “Were you on course?’ “Yeah, boy we were right on course.”  I said, “You’re sure of that?”  So I took the reciprocal of that course and I pushed her full ahead and I’m coming back into it and I said, “How long has it been like this?”  He said, “Well we don’t know.  It just got light and he’s gone.”  It was about ten minutes and the sailboat called me and he said, “Coast Guard, we lost the tow.  Where are you at?  Where are you at”, and I said, “We’re just down from you.”  I said, “The towing hawser came loose.”  I said, “We hung up on the bottom and we had to break it loose and we’ll back to you in just a few minutes.”  He said, “Oh yeah, roger”, and about that time we rose on a swell and there he was, about a mile, a mile-and-a-half from us.  I said, “I’ve got you sighted.”  He said, “Okay, fine.”  He said, “We were all asleep.  It was really pretty good”, he said, “Then all of a sudden we started this broadside roll”, so they just barely lost him when they got me.  So anyway, we came back to him and I saw the Yocona; the Coast Guard tug, and it’s out to sea and they heard this and they called, “Is everything all right?”  I said, “Ah, everything’s fine.  We lost the bridle and that and he was coming down”, and they got out early in the morning; got their moor bits and got out early in the morning in the flood tide and the run down, and I said, “No, we’ve got him.  We’re getting him back in tow”, and we made it back and we didn’t have another shackle there and I had the eye of the bridle and I said, “Put a nightingale in it”, and of course they didn’t know what I meant.  

I said, “Well you put one eye through the eye and put the other eye of the cable through that eye and pull it, and now you’ve got it locked in, then put it around you.”  So they did it and I was yelling at them and they got her all hooked up.  He’s still dragging and I said, “Okay”, and I passed him a drogue.  I said, “I’m going to give you a drogue so when we cross Coos Bay bar you’ll have it even though you got sails in the waters and that.”  So we gave him the drogue and I kept the tripping line off.  I didn’t want them messing with no tripping line.  They did know what to do.  So I cut the tripping line off and gave them the drogue and said, “Just set it.”  When we got to the Coos Bay bar I said, “I’ll tell you when.  Don’t put it over now. I I’ll tell you when to put it over.”  So we got to Coos Bay bar and I’d asked for a standby but they weren’t there and I wasn’t about - after I’d been up already 24 hours - I wasn’t about to wait around, and the bar wasn’t breaking but there was a big swell on it.  So I said, “Deploy the drogue”, and they deployed the drogue, and when he fastened the drogue off and other than fasten to the boat they took the main line and they fastened it to all these sails that were dragging in the water off his mizzen, the first big swell he called me and he said, “Oh my sails, your drogue’s gone.  Are you going to go get them? [Chuckle]  No way am I turning around with you in tow and I said, “That’s bye, bye”, and we crossed the bar and their lifeboat was just underway.  We got inside and came around and docked and the three young men came running over and hugging my guys and shaking hands and everything else, and the commander, he came over and shook my hand and said, “I want to thank you a lot Chief.”  I said, “Very well”.  The admiral went down below.  He was out on deck.  So I grabbed my boarding book and pen and went over and went over to the main hatch going down below deck and knocked on the hatch.  “Permission to come below deck Sir.”  He said, “Very well.”  I walked down below and the retired admiral is sitting at the desk and I said, “I’ve got a few questions to ask you.”  Do you have your papers?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “Okay. I’ve got a couple of questions to ask you here on the boarding”, and I said, “. . . and then I’ll let you go.  I know you want to get some sleep and that.”  He said, “You know”, he said, “I’m a Navy man.”  I said, “Yes Sir, I understand that.”  He said, “I never had much use for the Coast Guard”, he said, “But dammit”, he said, “I’ve got to admit you get your job done.”  I said, “That’s good enough for me Sir, sign here”, and he signed the boarding slip and I left.

So that was . . . I mean I had just made chief.  That was November and I had orders because I made chief and leaving the station, and I left in December after that four years at Newport as a boot chief and my next assignment was to go to Tacoma, Washington and take over that 83-foot patrol boat out of there with myself and seven men, so I had eight of us onboard the 83-footer.  I was at Tacoma onboard the 83-footer for just over a year and they decommissioned it and I went back to Curtis Bay, Maryland where they were building the new 82-footers and I got back there just as they were building the “C” class and I took over the “C” class and we went all through the sea trials and everything, and there were three other boats and they were all down in Miami waiting for us to make the final record while secure being through the Panama, and we were delayed in getting fitted and redoing the boat so we were back there a couple extra months and then we got down to Miami and that’s when [President John F.] Kennedy dropped the Cuban Crisis and we got stuck there for about a month chasing Cubans out of Miami and running patrols out of there, and finally they released us and we went up around the Rat Islands and down past Haiti and when we got to Cuba; going past Cuba, three jet fighters came over the top and there were four boats at the times.  Three boats, excuse me, three boats.  One was going to stay in Frisco and two were going to Seattle.  I was going to Tacoma.  Anyway, the three of us went down there and first a spotter plane came over us and then all of a sudden three jets came right down over the top of us and then a destroyer came up over the horizon checking us on out, and when the destroyer pulled up alongside and we were the leading boat, I was talking to them there and they said, “Where are you heading”, and I said, “Seattle, Washington”, and they yelled up to the crew - and they were along side – and they said, “Where are you heading?”  We said, “Seattle, Washington”, and they were all like they wanted to get over the rail and get onboard [chuckle].  They didn’t care too much for Guantanamo Bay I guess. 

But we passed on there and went on down to Jamaica and spent three or four days in Kingston, Jamaica.  From there we crossed over and went to South America and Columbia and then from there up to the [Panama] Canal.  We went up to the Canal . . . and you’ve got to remember we had no LORAN.  Everything we did on our navigating and plotting - I was the lead vessel - we did all our own navigation and everything going down through. We had thousands of charts. They gave us charts when we left there from Nova Scotia to the Canary Islands, all the way up through Alaska to where we might be deployed; somewhere along there, and we spent with my crew, we spent hours before we left Curtis Bay, Maryland sorting out the charts that we would need and I had them all categorized down and some of the other boats hadn’t done that so we were pretty well the lead vessel almost all the way around.  When we got to the Panama Canal we went through there and I actually told one of the boats who owned the locks, he was having problems, and the pilot informed us, he said, “This is one of two places that I have total command of your vessel.  You have no say so in the operation of this vessel.  You cannot stop, divert anything.  I have total command of your vessel”, and the other vessel; an 82-footer, was having a little trouble and he said, “If he has that much trouble . . .”, he says, “. . . I cannot take you these kind of locks.”  I said, “What if I tow him through?”  He said, “That would be great.”  I said, “Hey, I’ll tow you through”, and he was a very happy.  So we towed him through the first three sets of locks and then we ran across and then we towed him through the last three sets of locks, and he asked me, he said, “How fast will this boat go?”  I said, “Well we can maintain 25 knots but for a short period of time.”  He says, “Can you maintain it for about three-and-half, four hours”, and I looked at the chief engineer and he said, “Sure.”  I informed the other boats.  He took us through short cuts, down through the gut and to the other end.  He said, "There’s a Japanese’s ship on the other side and I’ll hold it up for an hour or so and we’ll make it.”  We set a new record for going through the Panama Canal; just over four hours.  That’s all six sets of locks and across the lake and down through the Gut.

Then from there we made it on up the coast and around and back to Tacoma. When we got to Tacoma I took my extra set of screws and I took the extra set of shafts for the boat, and I had brackets welded on the deck and they strapped them on and I just got into Base Seattle there at the lochs and the District called down and said, “We’re going to take your shafts”, and I said, “Why?”  They said, “Well the boat out of Fort Towson hit a big log up there and has bent their shafts and they’re in the yard just up from you and they’re sending a truck down to get your shafts”, and I said, “Well it won’t do them any good.  We are a new Class “C” boat and that’s a Class “A” boat.  Anyway, the other boat was a Class “A” boat and the shafts were something like 18 inches difference and they said, “Oh my God, they didn’t realize that.  They didn’t bring their shafts”, so they were going to have to wait an extra month.

So anyway we got deployed back down to Tacoma and I spent almost the next year down at Tacoma, and I was having what we called in those days, [Coast Guard] Western Area inspectors.  They came out of San Francisco and the group was ordered to be a couple of three chiefs, usually a captain, a commander, a lieutenant, and they would hit you on everything that you had onboard and I really thought I had everything going good.  They’d look into your safe and all your crypto and this and that you have.  He found, right off the bat he said, “Oh, you hadn’t folded the corner back on this page or something”, and I said, “Okay, I got you”, and then he was through.  He said, “I have to get you on something”, and I thought, “Well great.”  And they held all the drills and they left for lunch.  They said, “We’ll be back after lunch and we’ll go out sea and we’ll hold the rest of the drills”, and I said, “Okay.”  So they left for lunch.  They said, “We’ll be back at 1330 hours”, and all of a sudden - I was an E-7; chief - and all of a sudden a senior chief; E-8, comes walking onboard.  Well I asked the District in Tacoma, you know only 30 miles from Seattle, I said, “I need some wash your hand folders to go in the head that you’re suppose to have and ours have gotten messed up and probably taken down, and I need a couple of those and I need a couple of other posters that you need around”, and they said, “We’ll send them right down to you.”  

So here comes this E-8 chief onboard and he’s got his little briefcase and everything, and I said, “Hi, Chief, how are you’re doing”, and he’s talking and I said - I thought he was with the Western Areas and just one of the guys that was going to hit me on drills later – and I said, “Well we’re having chow. Are you ready to have lunch with us”, and he said, “Sure.” So we went on down in the 82-footer and I was introducing him to the crew there and had the full crew on, and I said, “Oh by the way”, I said, “Did you bring me the posters and that”, and he said, “No, no, I don’t know nothing about that.” I said, “Well why are you here?” “Oh”, he said, “I’m your relief”, and he handed me his orders, and I said, “Well gee, that’s nice of the District to let me know right during the middle of a Western Area inspection that I’ve got a relief onboard.”  So anyway this here was a Friday afternoon and so I said, “There got to be some explanation.”  The Western Areas came back and we went out to sea and we held the drills, and they left and said they’d be sending me the report and etc.  So I said, “Okay, well here’s the boat and here’s this, and, you know, you have mine when I get my orders”, and I didn’t call the District.  You know I said, “Geez”.  So I waited until Monday and Monday morning the mail comes in and there’s no orders; nothing, so I called the District up and I said, “Hey”, I said, “Personnel”, I said, “Jim McAdams here”, and he says, “Yeah Chief.”  I said, “I was having Western Area inspectors Friday afternoon and Chief so and so; E-8, senior chief, came down and said he’s my relief. I don’t know anything about it. What’s going on?” He says, “Oh my God”, he says, “Oh, we forgot to tell you.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “You’re supposed to report in three days to take over Cape Disappointment Station.”  I said, “Oh God, I’ve got to change the command and go through everything?”  He says, “Yeah.”  I said, “Okay.”  So we ran through the change of command.  I signed off everything, went over all the inventory, all the records.  Well the Western Area inspectors had just been there so everything was laid out . So I got through it in two days and in three days I was out of there and I went on down and took over Cape Disappointment Station.

So I reported into Cape Disappointment.  I drive on down, leave the family at Tacoma and they said, “There’s quarters down there” but this the other chief, and I relieved Master Chief Porter.  He was an E-9 and I was E-7 taking over the station.  They just had the bad accident just a few months before with the motorboat; the Triumph: that’s the 52-foot wooden one that went down on the bar.  I still had most of the crew.  The Triumph came out of Point Adams across the river and we were at Cape Disappointment on the Washington side, Point Adams was on the Oregon side.  The 52-footer came out of there.  And what had happened there - just briefly because I wasn’t there - a fishing boat broke down; the Mermaid, lost her rudder on the bar just before the tide changed.  They sent the 40-footer - everybody loved the 40-footer, fast, get out and go - and they sent the 40-footer out of the Cape.  He got the Mermaid in tow but the Mermaid on the bow has a bull nose and the bull nose has an opening like this so you can put the line through it and it stays locked in, but the bull nose had been hit at the dock, it had a sharp point on it or a sharp edge, and it kept breaking the hawser, so they sent the 36-footer.  When the 36-footer got out there, there was a young third class boatswain’s mate named Larry Edwards; a great, great coxswain and a good head.  He saved a lot of lives that night.  He got out there and he took one look at the situation, got the boat and called and said, “Send the 52-footer. Send the Triumph.  The tide’s changing.  We’re real close to Peacock Spit.  The breakers are building and get the 52-footer underway.” 

Well, there was a fellow stationed at Point Adams at the time; Paul Miller was his name, a first class.  He became my XO afterwards; a very good coxswain, outstanding, but he was on ComRats and in the evenings he went home to eat.  The second class boatswain’s mate; Colt was his name, had the duty and he said, “Don’t call Paul until I get underway. I want this call”, and he runs down and jumps on the Triumph and they shove off.  The OOD called Paul and Paul raced to the boat yard and got there just as the boat was leaving.  So he’s gone.  So the 52 goes down.  It gets down close to Buoy 12 where you’re just starting to work the bar and they stop there for awhile and the presumption was that they had been working on the boiler up forward and it was probably loose and they were securing it because it started rolling around – they were going to take it out of the boat - and then they went on out, and when they got out on-scene it was just getting dark, the CO of Cape Station’s wife was having a baby and he was at the hospital in Awapal [phonetic], three miles away.  Well by this time they called him and said, “We’ve got three boats on-scene and the conditions are worsening and it’s now getting dark”, so he came back to the station and he went up in the tower, and he was up in the tower and the 36 and the 40 are starting in. 

He says, “Forty footer, stay with the 36-footer.  Don’t leave it.”  Well in the dark of the night the 40-footer can do 16 / 18-knots, the lifeboat 36-footer 8 ¼ / 9-knots.  Vroom, he’s gone.  Edwards has the 36-footer and he’s coming in.  He gets up close to Eight and that’s right at the end of the South Jetty and you can see Eight between the swells and its getting worse.  Edwards says, “Enough, I am going to the lightship. I ’m going to be cold.  I’m going to hungry.  I’m going to be miserable but I’m going to be and my crew is going to be alive”, and he made the turn and somebody said, “What’s that, what’s that in the water”, and he broke out the searchlight and there’s the 40-footer upside down and three people just popping to the surface.  They swing off to the 40-footer and they get all three men onboard.  No fault of his own in those seas.  You can imagine the swells rolling around 15 to 18 feet and capping off and that, and they hit the 40-footer and hold the 36-footer.  They got the three people onboard and they’ve got one guy down in the engine room and in the engine room you had a hand crank and you just, that was your bilge pump, and he’s . . . one at a time as fast as they can go they’re pumping water but the water’s gaining on them, and he called the lightship and told them he’s heading for the lightship.  The lightship can’t do nothing but standby to take lines when they get there.  They called the pilot boat and they said, “We’re heading in.”  He said, “Can you cut us off”, and the pilot boat said, “Yeah, I’m two-and-a-half, three miles southwest.  I’ll head in that direction”, while the 36-footer made it to the lightship.  They pulled alongside.  They got a bow painter and a stern painter onboard.  Down comes the Jacobs Ladder and of course he had to get his three wet guys off and then him and his crew off, and the bow painter broke and the 36-footer went this way and then “boom”, then the stern painter broke just as the last man got on and down went the 36-footer.  It was never seen it again.  But he saved those three guys and he saved his three people, and they’re all on the lightship now so they’re fine.

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My thanks and appreciation go to the U.S. Coast Guard for allowing me to use this incrediable interview of a great man.

 

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