Tamaroa, 1943 (WAT/WMEC 168)

Sept. 3, 2020

Tamaroa, 1943

ex-Zuni; ATF-95; WAT / WATF / WMEC 166

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

The Tamaroa Indians were a Native American tribe that were members of the Illini Confederacy.

Call Sign: NNGR

Builder:  Commercial Iron Works, Portland Oregon

Commissioned: 9 October 1943 (USN); 29 June 1946 (USCG)

Decommissioned: 1 February 1994 (USCG)

Length: 205' 6"

Beam: 39' 3-1/4"

Draft: 18' (navigational draft, 1994)

Displacement: 1,641 tons (full load, 1966); 1,731 tons (full load, 1994)

Propulsion: Diesel-electric: 4 General Motors model 12-278 diesels driving 4 Allis Chalmers generators driving 4 electric motors; 3,010 SHP; single 4-bladed propeller

     Max: 16.1 knots; 4,055 mile range
     Economic: 10.1 knots; 13,097 mile range (1966)

Fuel Oil: 66,363 (1994)

Complement: 64 (1961); 84 (1994)

Armament:  1 x 3"/50 (1966)

     Radar: SPN-25 (1966)

Cutter History:  

Tamaroa was originally the U.S. Navy's Zuni (ATF-95), a 205-foot fleet ocean/salvage tug.  She was one of 70 in her class.   She served as a Navy tug and saw action in the Pacific Theatre until she transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in 1946.  She earned four battle stars for her service during World War II.  Zuni was then decommissioned and transferred to the Coast Guard on 29 June 1946.   The Coast Guard, following the tradition of naming cutters after Native American tribes, renamed her Tamaroa, painted her hull black, and designated her as a WAT and gave her the hull number 166.  Her designation was changed to WATF in 1956 and to WHEC in 1966.

Tamaroa was stationed at New York, New York from 1946 through 1985 and conducted law enforcement operations, weather patrols, oceanography and International Ice Patrols, as well as search and rescue operations.  On 20 May 1950 she was on scene at the South Amboy, New Jersey, pier chemicals explosion and fire.  On 13 November 1955 Tamaroa assisted the stricken Navy vessel USS Searcher after the latter suffered an explosion and fire in her engine room that burned for over six-and-a-half hours.  Searcher (YAGR-4), a former Liberty ship converted for use as a radar picket vessel, killed one crewman and seriously injured two others.

On 20 June 1956 a Venezuelan Airlines Super Constellation aircraft crashed and sank with the loss of 74 lives 32 miles off Asbury Park, New Jersey.  Tamaroa arrived on scene and assisted in retrieving bodies and debris from the Atlantic Ocean.  On 26 July 1956 the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria collided with the Stockholm and sank 50 miles off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.  Tamaroa arrived on scene and rendezvoused with the CGC Owasco.  Both cutters then escorted the damaged Stockholm safely to New York harbor.  

On 4 May 1958 she assisted the fishing vessel Mayflower and towed it towards Cape May, being relieved of the tow by CG-83464.  On 25 May 1958 she participated in a SAR operation for the fishing vessel Mary Ann.  On 29 July 1958 she conducted a SAR patrol after Navy aircraft "41497" went missing off the south coast of Long Island.  On 11 August 1958 she towed the fishing vessel Chicken to Barnegat Inlet.  On 19 October 1958 she participated in a SAR operation off Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, after a New Jersey Air National Guard F-84 exploded in the air.  

Throughout the 1960's she continued with her many duties, including search and rescue.  On 28 April 1960 she towed the yacht Nereid to Cape May.  On 27 January 1963 she assisted the sinking fishing vessel Sandra and Jean, stopped the flooding, and towed the fishing vessel to safety.  She became known as the Coast Guard submarine after an incident that occurred while she was undergoing repairs while in drydock 14 March 1963, when a disgruntled crewman opened the drydock's seacocks, sinking both the drydock and the Tamaroa.  A history written by a former crewman of Tamaroa noted:

"In [March], 1963, in the dark of a winter night, Tamaroa slipped below the waters of New York Harbor when a drunk and disorderly crew member opened the port side valves of Tam's dry dock.  Tam was listing 10 degrees to port when the OD sounded the alarm.  James Perkins, a crew member at the time, wrote later, 'Pause for a second, if you will, and take note of the fact that the Tam is in port, out of the water, and some idiot sounds the alarm to abandon ship at midnight.'  It's December 22, colder than a well digger's belt buckle outside, the keel is above water and (someone) wants me to go outside?  The seriousness of the situation was spreading, the crew sensed something was wrong and, finally, abandoned ship.  Some had blankets, some were in their skivvies, some were barefoot.  The temperature was 20 degrees and the wind was howling.  The Tam listed further to port, things started to creak and groan in the dark.  Nobody knew the cause.  In the midst of all that confusion, everyone had forgotten that the captain was on board that night.  The Tam is about to fall over and he's still asleep in his cabin!  One of the crew, who was showering when the alarm sounded, ran back up the ladder clad in a towel and roused the captain from a solid sleep.  They flew down the ladder, getting away from what was an apparent disaster about to happen.  Upon reaching land, the whole flippin' mess went over.  The Tam had every sea cock cut out of her, the stern tube packing was out [and] she went down like a lead sinker.  It took nine months and $3.2 million to rebuild Tamaroa."

On 2 January 1967, during extremely rough weather, she towed the disabled yacht Petrel to Montauk Point.  On 30 April 1967, again during rough weather, she towed the disabled fishing vessel Deepwater from 180 miles east of New York City to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  On 2 July 1967 she towed the disabled fishing vessel Foam from 100 miles southeast of Cape Cod to New Bedford.

Beginning in the 1970s, she continued to conduct her search and rescue duties but more and more of her time were spent on law enforcement patrols, particularly to enforce new drug smuggling and fisheries laws.  On 22 July, 1976, she seized the Italian FV Amoruso Quarto 80 miles ESE of Tom's River for fisheries violations.  Six days later she seized the Japanese FV Ookumi Maru 77 miles SE of Cape May, New Jersey.  On 11 November 1978 she seized the Italian fishing vessel Corrado Secondo approximately 65 miles off the northern coast of Maryland for violations of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

On 2 February 1979 she relieved CGC Sassafras which had been attempting to assist the disabled tug Osprey 70 miles south east of New York.  After the crew of the tug had been airlifted, and despite heavy seas and icing, a damage control party from Tamaroa went aboard and secured the flooding.  The Tamaroa then towed the tug to New York safely.  On 19 May 1979 she located the disabled and drifting fishing vessel Elisa & Gina near Georges Shoal of Georges Bank in a heavy fog.  She towed the vessel to safety until relieved of the tow by a 95-foot cutter.  She gained some notoriety in the Big Apple when, on 4 June 1979 at the request of the State of New Jersey, she towed the sludge-barge Maria, which was loaded with sludge from New Jersey treatment plants, out to an offshore dump site during a tugboat strike.  She continued to tow sludge barges to the dump site for the duration of the strike.  For this she and her crew were awarded a Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation. 

In the 1980s she continued with her search and rescue duties as well as law enforcement patrols but increasingly she spent her time intercepting migrants attempting to reach the U.S. in unsafe and usually grossly overloaded craft.  While on patrol 400 miles east of New York City, on 25 September 1980, she seized the Panamanian M/V Roondiep carrying 20 tons of marijuana after first firing warning shots across the Panamanian's bow.  On 13 January 1982 she seized Cayman Islander Jim Hawkins carrying 7 tons of marijuana.  On 26 February 1984, just 45 miles east of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Tamaroa intercepted, boarded and seized the Apollo III, a stateless vessel found carrying 16.5 tons of marijuana.  In March she rescued the crew of the Soviet freighter SS Konsomolets Kirgizil.

On 23 July 1985 she changed homeports to New Castle, New Hampshire.  She participated in the International Ice Patrol during the summer months and served as a training vessel for the local Coast Guard Reserve unit as well as continuing with her traditional duties.  In August, 1985, she rescued a survivor off a sailboat 65 miles off Cape May, New Jersey.  In June, 1987, she collected hydrographic and drift-buoy data off the Grand Banks using a mobile laboratory as part of the International Ice Patrol.  On 15 August 1987, while on a Law Enforcement patrol in the Seventh District, Tamaroa personnel boarded a 28-foot sailboat and discovered 400 pounds of marijuana in tubes attached to the sailboat's hull beneath the waterline.  Toward the end of the patrol, the boarding team discovered marijuana in tubes beneath the waterline of a fishing vessel.  Both were seized and towed to Key West where the vessels were turned over to Vice President George Bush's Task Force for Narcotics Interdiction.  On 31 August 1987 she boarded the cruise ship Scandinavian Star and helped search for a bomb following a threat.  She embarked a Navy Explosive Ordnance Detachment and additional law enforcement personnel from Key West to assist but the threat turned out to be a hoax.  The Tamaroa also saved a Cuban who had paddled 40 miles out to sea on inner tubes.  The Coast Guard Reserve unit that trained aboard her, Reserve Unit New Castle, was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation for their training efforts from October 1986 to November 1987.  On 8 November 1987, while on a fisheries patrol, Tamaroa responded to a distress call from the 44-foot sailing vessel Anne Marie, which was disabled 200 miles off the coast of Virginia, and the cutter towed her to safety.

From August, 1986 to the July, 1988, Tamaroa sailed 31,492 nautical miles and was at sea for over 223 days.  She conducted five Northwest Atlantic Fisheries patrols, one combined International Ice Patrol and Northwest Atlantic Fisheries patrol, one District Seven Law Enforcement patrol, and one Mobile Support Facility patrol in the Seventh District.  During those patrols, Tamaroa worked with the National Marine Fisheries Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Canadian Coast Guard and Navy, the Royal Bahamian Defense Force, the U.S. Navy, local law enforcement agencies, and other U.S. Coast Guard units.  She conducted 147 boardings and rescued and repatriated 365 Haitian migrants.  She seized two vessels for smuggling violations and issued 31 citations for fisheries violations.  She responded to a total of 20 search and rescue cases and received an "O" for a clean sweep during her Navy refresher training at Little Creek, Virginia.  As noted previously, she also served as a reserve training ship, training reservists.

On 23 December 1988 she responded to a mayday call from the 50-foot fishing vessel Jimmy Squarefoot, which sank soon after the mayday call.  Within 55 minutes of the mayday, however, the Tamaroa rescued her two-man crew.  On 28 December 1988, she again responded to a mayday call as a 254-foot Cyprian container ship, the SS Lloyd Bermuda, went down in five minutes in heavy weather when its cargo shifted in heavy seas about 160 miles south of Nantucket and 200 miles east of New Jersey.  Participating in the search when Tamaroa arrived where three merchant vessels and 12 aircraft from the Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force.  Two survivors were picked up by one of the merchant vessels and another two were picked up by a Coast Guard helicopter and flown to shore.  The merchant vessel transferred the two survivors to Tamaroa for transport back to land.  No other of the 11 crewmen survived.  Tamaroa's commanding officer during this time, CDR J. Kent Kirkpatrick, reported that during the year, Tamaroa had sailed 31,492 nautical miles and had been out to sea for 223 days and conducted 147 boardings, issued 31 citations and warnings, seized two vessels and made two arrests for narcotics smuggling.  Two times in that period Tamaroa interdicted and repatriated 365 migrants from Haiti.

On 15 October 1989 Tamaroa returned from a 40-day Drug Law Enforcement Patrol in the Caribbean.  She conducted 10 boardings of illegal narcotics smuggling suspects, while maintaining an overt law enforcement presence.  She rescued 238 Haitian migrants from two grossly overloaded vessels, one a 30-foot open sailboat with 103 persons on board and another being a 40-foot sailboat with 135 migrants on board.  The rescued migrants were transferred to the CGC Reliance for repatriation back to Haiti.  Tamaroa also rescued five Cuban migrants in the Straits of Florida who were paddling to the U.S. on four inner-tubes tied together with rope and canvas.  The Cubans were taken to Miami for immigrant processing by the U.S. Immigration Service.

On 18 September 1990 she steamed towards the disabled New Bedford fishing trawler Aristocrat that reportedly was taking on water.  As the Tamaroa approached the flooding Aristocrat in the early evening the bridge watch noticed that the trawler was listing to port and was sitting very low in the water.  Tamaroa launched one of her small boats and the crewmen pulled close aboard the trawler but before the boat's crew could lend assistance the trawler capsized and sank.  Nine of the trawler's crew made it in to the water as the vessel went down.  Tamaroa launched another small boat and the Coast Guardsmen in both rescued the nine survivors in the 10-foot seas.  Two of the trawler's crew went down with their ship. 

One of the most publicized events in the Tamaroa's history occurred in 1991 during the so called "No Name Storm of Halloween, 1991," immortalized in the book The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.  The Tamaroa rescued three persons from the sailboat Satori 75-miles off Nantucket Island.   Seas built to 40 feet in 80-knot winds.  The ordeal over, taps sounded--with reveille only 10 minutes later.  The Tamaroa was again fighting heavy seas to rescue the crew of a downed New York Air National Guard HH-60 helicopter from the 106th Air Rescue Group that had run out of fuel on a similar rescue mission.  Tamaroa rescued four of the five Air National Guard crewmen, a rescue that earned the cutter and crew the Coast Guard Unit Commendation and the prestigious Coast Guard Foundation Award. 

On a Northwest Atlantic patrol in 1992 she cited the fishing vessel Fish Finder which had been observed .75 nautical miles on the Canadian side of the Hague Line on 18 July 1992.  On 20 July 1992 Tamaroa observed the fishing vessel Barnacle Bill with gear in the water 1.8 nautical miles on the Canadian side of the Hague Line.  She seized the fishing vessel and its cargo of 6,000 pounds of scallops and escorted it towards New Bedford.  This was the first seizure under the Magnuson Act that occurred without Canadian assistance.  Tamaroa was relieved of the escort by CGC Monomoy and Tamaroa returned to her patrol area.  On 22 July she seized the fishing vessel First Light and its cargo of 3,000 pounds of swordfish for a Hague Line violation.  Monomoy again relieved the Tamaroa of her escort and the latter returned to her patrol area.  She then cited the fishing vessel United States on 2 August 1992 for fishing on the Canadian side of the Hague Line but did not seize the vessel due to her small catch.

According to the history written by a former crewman, on 3 December 1993, "Coast Guard Headquarters decided that Tamaroa's spectacular record of rescues at sea was coming to an end.  Facing a $1 million yard overhaul, the Mighty Z, The Tam, the invincible vessel, faced the end of a distinguished career.  Heavy cuts in other Coast Guard mission funding forced the end."  The Coast Guard decommissioned the Tamaroa on 1 February 1994 and transferred her to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, New York.  Ultimately she was donated to the Tamaroa Maritime Foundation, based in Richmond, Virginia.  The Foundation's website noted that:

"The Foundation is a newly formed non-profit organization located in Richmond, Virginia, whose mission is to preserve the ship [Tamaroa] in an operational condition and to educate the public about the vital role working vessels such as cutters and tugs play in our maritime heritage. She will be used in a number of roles, the primary one being as a maritime educational platform." [ 2005 ]


A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "USCGC 'TAMAROA'".
Date: 12 November 1946
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: The Hughes, Company, Baltimore 1, Maryland; U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

Photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "Bow view of the USCGC TAMAROA while on her trial run."

Date: 20 March 1947
USCG Photo #: CG032047-2
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard


A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "USCGC TAMAROA (WATF 166)".

Date: 10 February 1959
USCG Photo #: 3CGD 02105933
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard


A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: None

Date: 14 March 1963
USCG Photo #: 3CGD 03146315
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "With bow rising over the crest of a wave, the 205-ft. Coast Guard Cutter USCGC TAMAROA (WMEC-166) battles heavy seas while on North Atlantic fisheries patrol of the U.S. 200-mile limit zone.  This extension of protection of resources by the U.S. became effective under the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of March 1, 1977."

Date: April, 1977
USCG Photo #: G-APA-05-01-77 (02)
Photographer: Dale Puckett, PAC, USCG


A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "TAMAROA, BOSTON, MA"

Date: 5 August 1987
USCG Photo #: 16
Photographer: Tony Cammarata, c/o Boston Photographers, Cambridge, MA.  Official U.S. Coast Guard Photograph.

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "CGC TAMAROA during 1987 iceberg research cruise."

Date: 1987
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "The Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa (WMEC-166) played a major role in the rescue of an Air National Guard helicopter crew, deployed from Suffolk County, Long Island to assist Coast Guard search and rescue assets.  The helicopter was forced to ditch in heavy seas.  Tamaroa rescued four, and searched vainly for a fifth crewman."

Date: 1 May 1990
USCG Photo #: 900501-I-0000A-001
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

"The Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa's rigid hull inflatable rescue boat is sent to help the sailing vessel Satori.  Satori, with three people on board, needed help about 75 miles south of Nantucket Island after being caught in a northeaster-like storm that raked New England on Halloween week."

Date: 30 October 1991
USCG Photo #: 911030-I-0000A-002
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

"The Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa's rigid hull inflatable rescue boat is sent to help the sailing vessel Satori.  Satori, with three people on board, needed help about 75 miles south of Nantucket Island after being caught in a northeaster-like storm that raked New England on Halloween week."

Date: 30 October 1991
USCG Photo #: 911030-I-0000A-002
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "The Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa's rigid hull inflatable rescue baot [sic] (TAM 1) is sent to help the sailing vessel Satori.  Satori, with three people on board, needed help about 75 miles south of Nantucket Island after being caught in a northeaster-like storm that raked New England on Halloween week."

Date: 30 October 1991
USCG Photo #: 911030-I-0000A-010
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard

A photo of USCGC Tamaroa

Original Caption: "USCGC Tamaroa."

Date: ?
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard


Coast Guard Unit Commendation with Three Stars
Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation with Four Stars
Navy "E" Ribbon with Three Stars
Bicentennial Unit Commendation
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with Four Battle Stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Medal with Three Stars
Coast Guard Humanitarian Service Medal with Three Stars
Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon


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

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.  Washington, DC: USGPO.

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