Red Cedar, 1970 (WLM 688)

Nov. 2, 2020

Red Cedar, 1970

WLM 688

A tall tree found within the North American Pacific coast having foliage like cypress and cinnamon-red bark.

Builder: Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Maryland

Length: 157'

Beam: 31'

Draft: 7'

Displacement: 525 tons

Cost: $3,402,176

Commissioned: 18 December 1970

Decommissioned: 16 March 1999

Disposition: Transferred to Argentina

Machinery: 2 Caterpillar diesels; 1,800 BHP; twin propellers

Performance & Endurance:

        Max: 13 knots (1964)
        Cruising: 11 knots; 3,000 mile range

Deck Gear: 10-ton boom capacity

Complement: 34 (1964); 37 (1996)

Armament: Small arms only


Tender History:

Red Cedar was one of five 157-foot coastal buoy tenders built by the Coast Guard Yard that entered service between 1964 and 1971.  They were the first new class of seagoing buoy tenders of the post-World War II era that were designed and constructed by the Coast Guard.  This class of tender was designed to service aids to navigation up to 10-tons and, with a draft of only seven feet, to operate in shallow waters often encountered on the sides of dredged harbor channels.  They were designed with low bows that allowed maximum visibility around approaching buoys and had a bow thruster unit recessed into their hulls and twin controllable-pitch propellers to increase maneuverability.  Their hulls were reinforced for light icebreaking.  The conventional ship's wheel was absent, being replaced by a simple tiller.  The hydraulic steering system provided a change from full left to full right rudder in six seconds.  One press release stated that the crew ". . .would enjoy a new concept in comfort provided by their modernistic living quarters.  All living spaces are air conditioned, paneled in maintenance-free plastic laminates and finished in bright colors."  Each tender was assigned to tend aids to navigation in coastal waters while being "always ready" to carry out other traditional Coast Guard duties such as fighting fires and conducting law enforcement, environmental protection and search and rescue operations when required.

Red Cedar's keel was laid on 1 July 1969 and was launched on 1 August 1970.  She was christened by Mrs. Thomas N. Downing, the wife of Virginia Congressman Thomas N. Downing.  The Red Cedar was commissioned at the Coast Guard Yard on 18 December 1970 under the command of LT Donald P. Billings, USCG.  She was stationed at Portsmouth, Virginia, under the operational control of the Fifth Coast Guard District.  Her area of responsibility included most of the Chesapeake Bay where she was tasked with maintaining over 400 lighted and unlighted aids to navigation.  Each year she would undertake a 1,600 mile cycle for servicing the aids to navigation in the area, including the Potomac River to Washington, D.C., Rappahannock River, York River, James River, Hampton Rhoads, all of Tangier Sound, Maryland and offshore south to Oregon Inlet and north to Ocean City, Maryland.

She was also involved in a number of "special projects."  When the James River suffered torrential flooding in June 1972, she "braved dangerous currents" to free a barge trapped near Dutch Gap, Virginia.  She salvaged the USCGC Cuyahoga  from 20 October 1978 to 31 October 1978 after the Cuyahoga was rammed near the mouth of the Potomac River.  Red Cedar was awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation for this salvage operation.  During the 1990s, Red Cedar served as a test platform for the new Differential Global Positioning System [DGPS], which revolutionized buoy tending.  She removed obstructions from the bottom of the Elizabeth River and Chesapeake Bay and led the 1993 Chesapeake Bay fishnet stake buoy removal project.  For the latter she was awarded another Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation.  She also assisted in the construction of artificial reefs.  After the March 1993 "Storm of the Century" and Hurricane Emily, she quickly ensured that all her buoys were "watching properly."  Red Cedar's crew rehabilitated the lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay, including the Thomas Point Shoal Light, Thimble Shoal Light, Fort Washington Light, and Craighill Light.  She served as an underway training platform for cadets, officer candidates and QM "A" school students.  She represented the Coast Guard during such festivals as the 1993 Crisfield National Hard Crab Derby, 1993 Urbanna Oyster Festival and the Harborfest 1994 in Norfolk, Virginia and hosted VIP visits from White House and Congressional personnel.

Red Cedar spent many of her winters breaking ice and convoying precious fuel oil barges to electric plants.  She was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation for her winter operations from 16 January 1977 to 12 February 1977 when she ". . .logged 267 hours underway time while safely delivering 36 barges carrying 16 million gallons of fuel."  During the winter of 1994, she performed domestic icebreaking and convoy duty on the Delaware River, escorting petroleum home heating oil barges to electric power generating stations.  The ice also caused a "massive" number of AtoN discrepancies, leaving vital waterways virtually unmarked.  Red Cedar's buoy tending services were required throughout the Fifth Coast Guard District from north to south: Trenton, New Jersey to Richmond, Virginia and east to west: Washington, D.C. to Tangier Sound, Maryland.  She was awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation for her work that winter.

She was decommissioned on 16 March 1999 and transferred to Argentina. 

Commanding Officers:

D.P. Billings      1970-1972

W.C. Hoyt         1972-1974

A.K. Johnson       1974-1976

G.A. Bird         1976-1978

M.J. Mierzwa       1978-1980

R.R. Beardsworth   1980-1982

J.V. O'Shea        1982-1984

F.J. Lynch        1984-1986

J.R. Thaker        1986-1988

E.H. Daniels, Jr   1988-1990

J.M. Felker        1990-1992

D.R. Triner, Jr    1992-1994

S.M. Hadley        1994-1996

T.W. Rinoski       1996-1998

E.A. Westfall      1998-1999


J. Lee Cox, Jr.  "Historical Context and Statement of Significance: USCGC Red Beech (WLM-686)."  Report submitted to USCG, Dolan Research, Philadelphia, PA, 1997.

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.