Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell: Honoring a legacy rooted in service

Story by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

For every story there is a beginning…

Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell’s story began during World War II.

News Clipping CGC Bluebell Comissioning

U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Coast Guard Historians Office.

In 1944 the war was raging around the globe, stretching across Europe, Africa and the vast waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

However, the story was just beginning for a humble 100-foot ship, whose service would end up lasting long after the sounds of the battles have faded.

It was a late winter day, in March 1944, when a keel was laid and the construction of a ship began at the Birchfield Boiler, Inc., boatyard in Tacoma, Washington. Almost exactly six months later, the ship was launched on Sept. 28. Over the next few months, the final preparations and testing took place prior to its commissioning.

On April 4, 1945, just over a year after the building process began, Bluebell was named and welcomed into the Coast Guard fleet.

Bluebell’s crew made their way down the Washington Coast to Vancouver, along the Columbia River, where the ship was stationed from 1945 to 1973. In 1973, the cutter was moved to its current homeport along the Willamette River at the Coast Guard base located at Swan Island Basin in Portland, Oregon.

The sun rises over Coast Guard Station Portland, Ore., and the Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell, which are co-located on the Willamette River several miles northwest of downtown Portland, Jan. 18, 2013. Station Portland responds around the clock to search-and-rescue emergencies, recreational boating safety, and homeland security missions while Bluebell's primary mission is servicing aids to navigation in an area of responsibility spanning 500 river miles. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brodie MacDonald.

The sun rises over Swan Island Basin and the Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell,  located on the Willamette River near downtown Portland, Ore., Jan. 18, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brodie MacDonald.

The Bluebell is classified as an inland buoy tender and is one of two 100-foot inland buoy tenders in service. The other, commissioned Aug. 13, 1963, is the Coast Guard Cutter Buckthorn homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The Bluebell is the second oldest cutter in the Coast Guard fleet, and the oldest west of the Mississippi River. The ship is home to a crew of 15 lead by a chief warrant officer, with a chief petty officer as the second in command.

Bluebell 70th Logo

Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell

As a buoy tender, the crew’s primary mission is to ensure the safety of mariners by establishing and maintaining essential navigation aids along established waterways. The crew is responsible for maintaining more than 420 aids to navigation along 500 miles across the Columbia, Willamette and Snake Rivers. Altogether, Bluebell’s crew is responsible for 23 percent of the ATON in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to the essential ATON mission, they also perform law enforcement, search and rescue, marine environmental response and recreational boating safety enforcement missions.

This year Bluebell’s crew celebrates the ship’s septennial anniversary. Its crews have maintained a constant watch over the safety of three vital waterways in the Pacific Northwest. The vessel’s current crew, like all those who have served aboard throughout its history, maintain a proud tradition of excellence aboard a cutter whose life has spanned seven decades.

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2 Responses

  1. William Bill Westlake says:

    I was on the Bluebell 73 to 74

  2. Sue Bastiani says:

    My husband Robert A. Hallgren (now Bastiani) was the yeoman on board when it moved to Swan Island. In 73.