On New Year’s Eve the midnight log entry at a Coast Guard unit takes on a life of its own and is traditionally written as a poem. The Queen of the Fleet is the ship with the earliest date of commission into active Coast Guard service. The Cuyahoga was a 125 foot patrol boat that was being used for Officer Candidate School training and based out of Yorktown, VA. 11 died aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Cuyahoga after a collision between the cutter and the freighter Santa Cruz II at the entrance to the Potomac River on the night of Oct. 20, 1978.The Lilac was a buoy tender for the Lighthouse Service from 1933 to 1939 which was a civil service agency that was merged into the Coast Guard in 1939. The Lilac was used in the Delaware River region from 1933 until 1972. It was transferred to the private sector a few months after decommissioning .It was used as an office for a work-boat dealer, boat parts, and real estate firm from 1985 until 2003 where Falling Creek flows into the James River. It was very visible to those on boats and ships and drivers passing by on I 95. It is now a museum , National Historic Landmark, and events space in New York City. This is what a log entry by the private sector owner of the former buoy tender Lilac might have been had he entered one.
Log of the office boat Lilac January 1, 1996
Lilac closed out steam for the black hull fleet of the Coast Guard in 72.
Begins 1996 as year 12 of moored with 3 lines in the mouth of Falling Creek.
Phone, Water, Sewer electricity and modem supplied from ashore.
No smells of cooking from the galley that was the only place a man of color trusted to work when this ship went into service. A few weeks ago an African American, chaired as an O 6, a source selection committee that will award some clients cutter maintenance contracts to their shipyards where admiral’s launches now carry paint sprayers and air compressors in their former passenger compartments.
The throb of Virginia’s first diesel locomotives only five and six years newer can be heard some nights from the port a mile away upriver.
But not tonight.
Fifty years ago the port would have had cargoes of nicotine, metals, paper, and engineer supplies in and out at all hours and days.
The flares of the paper mill, Kevlar plant, sewage plant, river range lights, the square lines of holiday lights wrapped around the James Center and Phillip Morris complexes give an artificial horizon.
The Garmin that runs beside the long stilled LORAN and Omega reads the same led glow every second but the two props will never generate amplitude again to sometimes battle the conditions weather and technological that put lives of others in danger.
The fall of the bear make many a work-boat, whaleboat and officer launch authorized by the pen of PT 109’s commanding officer to come home to USA for a permanent stay for parts salvage or conversion unbound by the Federal Acquisition Regulations.
The Motor Cargo Boats stay in their cradles. The only buyer for them would be Peck Iron and Metal to be descended on by workers with hissing torches to rip them apart like Turkey Vultures do to deer that fall onto the slope from striking Mack trucks on I 95.
Chriscraft and Trumpy and work-boats from Elvis’s lifetime come too with the prosperous economy to seek new owners.
From the office below the wheelhouse where taxpayer dollars were once accounted for I close another year of closing costs and titles for real estate and sales tax and registration fees for watercraft.
Tide brings in particles of rust from the Cuyahoga serving as a reef beneath the sea from a few minutes of disregarded established norms of basic contact management and of the rotting stars and bars of a fleet at Drewry's Bluff where on the ironclads when Richmond ceased to be the Capital of the CSA, Lines of powder were lit with slow burning matches as fuses set by the crews. Produced a flash on each to turn them to ruins never to be used again.
Lilac, the queen of my fleet I ring the bell happy New Year.
On the hoist that evicted creatures from Aids to Navigation that keep commerce and travelers on the current driven highway safe in all weather, a Black Crown Night Heron scans the terrain to pick its next spot to catch prey.