White Heath, 1947

July 15, 2020

White Heath, 1947

WAGL / WLM 545; YF-445

The Heath tree is a shrub or small evergreen tree with a height of 1 to 4 (sometimes 7) meters.  The many small flowers are white.  It is found mostly in the Macchie, the dry evergreen shrub areas.  

Builder:  Erie Concrete & Steel Supply Company, Erie, Pennsylvania

Commissioned: 1944 (USN); 9 August 1947

Decommissioned: 31 March 1998

Length:  132' 10"

Beam:  30'

Draft:  8' 9" max

Propulsion:  Diesel electric; 2 x 600 bhp Union diesels with twin screws

Complement:  1 warrant, 20 crewmen (1948)

Armament:  None


White Heath was the former Navy lighter, YF-445.  The Coast Guard acquired a total of eight of these former Navy YF-257-class lighters between 1947-1948 for conversion to coastal buoy tenders.  They were needed to complement the larger seagoing buoy tenders in servicing short-range-aids-to-navigation, typically those placed in coastal waters and harbors.  

They were built entirely of steel and were originally designed to carry ammunition and cargo from shore to deep-draft vessels anchored off-shore.  These lighters were well suited for a variety of coastal tasks because their hull design incorporated a shallow draft with a solid engineering plant.  All of these 133-foot lighters had sufficient cargo space for storing equipment and an open deck and boom for handling large objects.  They proved to be capable and useful buoy tenders.  Each was named for a plant, shrub or tree, prefixed by "White."


YF-445 was built by the Erie Concrete & Steel Suply Company in Erie, Pennsylvania.  The Erie shipyard built 12 of the YF-257 class lighters for the Navy during World War II.  Her keel was laid on 4 June 1943, and she was launched on 21 July 1943.  However, YF-445 was not commissioned into the Navy until 9 August 1944.  At the end of World War II, she was decommissioned and transferred to the Coast Guard.  On 9 August 1947 she was formally commissioned as a Coast Guard cutter and was christened White Heath and given the hull designation WAGL-545. She was then sent to the Coast Guard Yard for conversion to a buoy tender.  Her deck arrangement was converted to include a large derrick to handle buoys and her upper deck was extended.

She was stationed throughout her Coast Guard career at Boston.  Her primary assignment was to tend aids to navigation although she was called upon to conduct other traditional Coast Guard duties, such as search and rescue, law enforcement or light icebreaking duties, as required.  

From 4 to 5 October 1960 she assisted after an Eastern Airlines crash near Boston.

She was decommissioned on 31 March 1998 and was transferred to Tunisia on 10 June 1998.


Cutter History File.  USCG Historian's Office, USCG HQ, Washington, D.C.

Robert Scheina.  U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990.

U. S. Department of the Interior.  National Park Service. U.S. Coast Guard 133-Foot Buoy Tenders.  HAER booklet.  Washington, DC: National Park Service, February, 2004.  [HAER no. DC-57; Todd Croteau, HAER Industrial Archeologist (project leader); Jet Low, HAER Photographer; Mark Porter, NCSHPO Consultant (historian), and Candace Clifford, booklet design.]