Wreck Desc Spar
SPAR's second namesake is the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR. Most of SPAR's story is made up of meeting the day-to-day challenges of the Coast Guard's operational missions. But in more than fifty years of seagoing life, SPAR did have a number of moments that have enriched our service's history. They have also provided a heritage for those who will serve aboard her namesake, the cutter that we will launch today.
The original CGC SPAR was named after the women's reserve and launched at the Marine Iron and Ship building Company in Duluth, Minnesota on November 21, 1943. She was commissioned on June 12, 1944, and stationed in Boston, Massachusetts. SPAR was quickly directed to assist in the war effort. She participated in convoy duty in support of anti-submarine warfare off the coast of Brazil.
At the close of the war, SPAR returned to New England. In December of 1946, she changed her homeport to Wood's Hole, Massachusetts. SPAR served 11 years there before changing homeports to Bristol, Rhode Island in June 1953.
That year, SPAR conducted hydrographic operations throughout the Northwest Passage in company with the cutters STORIS and BRAMBLE. When she returned to her homeport in Bristol, RI, she was the first vessel to circumnavigate the North American continent. President Eisenhower sent his personal congratulations for this accomplishment.
With most of the Western Hemisphere transits already made, SPAR crossed the Atlantic in 1966. Her destination was Spitsbergen, Norway where she was called upon to measure the ocean topography in the Jan Mayen Fracture Zone area. During this voyage, she logged more than 17,000 miles while visiting ports in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Ireland.
In April of 1967, SPAR changed homeports once again and return ed to Boston, Massachusetts. Once there, the captains and crews of SPAR and CACTUS traded cutters. SPAR remained in Boston until March 1973, when she was reassigned to her last homeport in Portland, Maine.
During the 1970's, the Coast Guard's mission profile changed, and SPAR kept pace with the new operations. She played a key role in the massive oil spill cleanup operations after the tanker ARGO MERCHANT ran aground off Cape Cod in 1976, acting as the test platform for various attempts to clean up the spill. SPAR received a Letter of Commendation from the Commandant of the Coast Guard.
In 1981, SPAR set the record for a buoy tender by receiving the highest mark ever attained at Refresher Training at Little Creek, VA. She returned to Little Creek in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1992, and 1995, and continued to receive outstanding marks, proudly displaying the Gold "E" with three service stripes for nine consecutive overall excellent scores in operations and seamanship training.
These historical events notwithstanding, SPAR was a working ship, a Class "C" Seagoing Buoy Tender. Her overall length was 180 feet, with a beam of 37 feet. She had an ice reinforced steel hull with a displacement of 1025 tons. She was powered by a diesel-electric propulsion plant driving a single propeller with a total of 1200 horsepower. She could reach a maximum speed of twelve knots. Her working operations area was servicing aids to navigation from Ports mouth, New Hampshire to the northeastern tip of Maine, a distance of more than 227 miles. Most of her time was dedicated to servicing about 200 floating aids, as well as providing logistical support to seven lighthouses. In the winter she carried out icebreaking operations in Cape Cod Canal, Buzzard's Bay, and performed an annual lighthouse maintenance project for her operational area. She attended Refresher Training in Little Creek, VA every eighteen to twenty-four months, and spent time at the CG Yard biannually. Her normal complement of personnel was seven officers and fifty-five enlisted.
From her homeport in South Portland, Maine, SPAR serviced an operational area that includes some of the most scenic coastline in the country. She worked among hundreds of islands, mostly uninhabited, that are scattered along the coast of Maine. The treacherous shoals, ledges, and currents, as well as the ever-changing weather, made for challenging navigation and piloting to ensure that the all-important buoys were always on station and working properly.
SPAR was decommissioned on February 28, 1997.