Courageous, 1968 (WMEC-622)

Dec. 9, 2020

Courageous, WMEC-622

B-Type Reliance Class  210-Foot Cutter


Builder: American Ship Building Company, Lorain, OH

Keel Laid: 14 March 1966

Launched: 18 March 1967

Commissioned:  19 April 1968

Decommissioned: 19 September 2001

Disposition: September 2003, transferred to Columbia.

Cost:  $3,089,429.00

Construction Man-hours: 348,080

Normal Peacetime Displacement: 1006.4 tons full load (1968)

Length: 210' 6"

Beam: 34'

Draft: 10' 6"

Powerplant:   2 x 2,500 h.p. 251B 16-cylinder Alco diesels

Maximum Sustained Speed: 18 knots; 2,700 mile range (1968)

Cruising Speed: 14 knots; 6,100 mile range (1968)

Complement: 12 officers, 63 enlisted (1999)


                    Radar: AN/SPS-23 (1968); 2 x SPS-64 (1991)

                    Sonar: None

Armament: 1 x Mk 22 3-inch/50; 2 x 81mm mortars; 2 x M2HB .50 caliber Browning machine guns (1968);

                    1 x Mk 38 25mm machine gun; 2 x M-2HB .50 caliber machine gun (1991)

Class History: 

The 210-foot cutters were added to the Coast Guard as part of an effort to upgrade the aging fleet of World War II-era cutters.  The Naval Engineering Division designed these cutters for search and rescue and law enforcement patrols of a "medium endurance"--i.e. they could conduct patrols of up to three weeks without requiring replenishment.   The outward appearance of these new cutters reflected the evolving nature of Coast Guard operations during the latter part of the 20th Century.  They had sleek lines with the most prominent feature being their flight decks.  

They were originally fitted with transom exhaust ports that provided more room for a larger flight deck and kept the flight deck clear of exhaust smoke.  In practice, however, the exhaust system proved problematic.  Their high pilot house gave the bridge crew unrestricted all-around visibility, making ship-handling easier.  A number of other concerns figured into the design phase including maximum serviceability, improved habitability, long service life, and safety. 

Two shafts capped by controllable pitch propellers drove these cutters to a top speed of 18 knots.  Those shafts were powered by a number of different power plants.  The Coast Guard actually designed two types of propulsion.  Cutters 615-619 received a CODAG propulsion plant consisting of two Cooper-Bessemer Corporation FVBM-12 turbocharged diesel engines coupled with two Solar Aircraft Company gas turbines, the first U.S. vessels to receive this unique propulsion system.  The other cutters received only the diesels.  The powerplant could be remotely controlled from the pilothouse, either bridge wing, or the engine room control booth.

Crew comfort and convenience were also a priority.  The Coast Guard actually hired the interior design firm Raymond Loewy Associates of New York to design the cutters' interior arrangement, colors, materials, furniture and appointments.  The interior spaces were paneled and all piping and cables were hidden behind removable panels.  The entire interior of the cutter was air conditioned for crew comfort.  Additionally, "color schemes have been designed to give varied and pleasing effect."  The recreation rooms included television sets, tape recording and playback equipment, AN/URR-44 radio receivers, and commercial AM/FM high fidelity radio receivers. 

These cutters were also designed to incorporate additional armament in case of national emergency.  This equipment originally would have consisted of: an additional 3-inch gun; a total of six .50 caliber machine guns with mounts; an SQS-17 sonar (later suggestions included using a SQS-36); one anti-submarine projector (Hedgehog); two torpedo launchers and two depth charge tracks.  Space was included in the original design to incorporate the additional equipment although stability issues were a continual concern.  No cutter, according to the historical documents, was actually ever fitted with this wartime armament.  

Each cutter underwent a "Major Maintenance Availability process," or MMA, between 1986 and 1996 at a cost of between 19 and 21 million dollars per cutter.  The Coast Guard Yard conducted the work on all but two cutters and Colonna's Shipyard, in Norfolk, Virginia, converted the remainder.  The first five cutters traded in their unique powerplants and every cutter received the following modifications and upgrades: improved habitability, improved stability by rearranging tank locations, replacement of all asbestos paneling, increased the berthing space, upgraded the flight deck and helicopter equipment, increased the amount of helicopter fuel carried, improved the evaporator, increased and upgraded the communications and electronics capacities, installed vertical exhaust stacks and associated ballast, and installed a smoke detection system and new fire-fighting equipment.  


210-foot Class File, Historian's Office, USCG HQ

Anderson, F. C. & R. C. Stancliff, "The Reliance Class 210-Foot WPC," The Engineer's Digest (May-June 1962), pp. 11-15.

Schiena, Robert, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), pp. 39-47.


The Courageous was built at the American Shipyards in Lorain, Ohio and launched on 18 March 1967.  She was delivered to the Coast Guard and commissioned on 19 April 1968.  She was initially homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and served there through 1972, conducting search and rescue and law enforcement patrols.  On 10 September 1968 she towed the disabled sailboat Ibex 20 miles North of Bimini to Miami.  On 6 October 1968 she medevaced a boy suffering from the bends from the F/V M.M. Winter off the coast of Florida.  On 21 April 1969 crewmen boarded the German M/V Helga Witt following a request by the Witt's commanding officer concerning armed men on board.  The Courageous then escorted the German merchantman to San Juan.  

On 29 through 30 April 1969 she assumed duty of on-scene commander following fire on the British tanker Mobile Apex, taking the blazing tanker in tow and took her out of St. Croix, Virgin Islands.  The cutter and crew were awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation "for exceptionally meritorious service during the period 29 April to 2 May 1969" for this action.  From 11 to 28 July Courageous participated in BOMAX (Barbados Oceanographic and Meteorological Experiment), hosting Coast Guard cadets and scientists.  The crew assisted scientists with assembling and launching devices for measuring ocean currents and temperatures.  An article on this assignment was published in the August 1969 issue of Popular Science.  On 7 August 1969 stood by the M/V Pionyr following its grounding until a commercial tug arrived on scene.  On the 30th, Courageous assisted in a medevac from a sailboat 320 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  On 12 October 1970 the cutter once again assisted in a medevac and then towed the F/V Janice Elaine to Miami.  On 1 August 1971 Courageous seized the yacht White Cloud near Cuban waters and arrested two for aiding draft evaders.

On 23 December 1971 RCC Miami notified Courageous to undertake a rescue of the 26-foot S/V Ian's Cradle with 4 persons on board, during a severe gale, east of Fort Pierce.  The sailing vessel and her crew had attempted to sail to Bimini in other than optimum weather conditions.  By the time the request for assistance was broadcast, Ian's Cradle had been dismasted and had lost one person overboard and the remaining three, including an infant, were in mortal danger.  The Courageous got underway and located the sailing vessel and after much trouble managed to secure a towline.  Due to the worsening of the sea conditions, a helo was requested out of St. Petersburg, and the three survivors on Ian's Cradle were lifted off their vessel to safety. The Ian's Cradle sank ten minutes later.  During this rescue, Courageous lost all of her helicopter nets, her long antenna, and sustained other damage.**  Unfortunately Courageous sustained another loss when an elevator in the galley collapsed and killed SS3 Dean Renolds in 1973.

She changed homeports in late 1971 to Cape Canaveral.  On 21 December 1977 Courageous seized vessel Isla de Aruba carry illegal drugs, marking the beginning of her duties on the "front lines of the drug war."  On 18 March 1982 she seized the Cayman Island-flagged Damocles carrying 28 tons of marijuana.  She changed homeports once again in 1982 to Key West.  On 25 January 1984 she seized a work boat with 20 tons of marijuana on board.  On 17 March 1984 Courageous seized another work boat with 20 tons of marijuana on board northwest of Providence Channel.    

On 20 March 1984 a boarding team seized the F/V Griffon 75 miles east of Great Abaco Island carrying 30 pounds of marijuana.  On 6 May 1984 her boarding team once again seized the M/V Canta Dora 14 mile north of New Providence Island carrying 10 tons of marijuana and on 25 June 1984 again seized M/V Henry I 100 miles north of Yucatan Channel carrying 8.5 tons of marijuana.  They again seized a small fishing vessel with 5 tons of marijuana on board near Rum Cay and on 18 August 1984 they seized P/C Mayo near Rum Cay with 5 tons of marijuana on board.  On the same day her team seized the P/C Miriam C 65 miles northeast of Nassau carrying 15 tons of marijuana.  On 24 August 1984 her crew took a break from law enforcement and rescued 10 from the M/V Rio Teta, which the crew had scuttled to avoid being searched.  Courageous began a new year by seizing the F/V Black Stallion 330 miles northwest of Puerto Rico carrying 10 tons of marijuana on 14 January 1985.

In March 1987 she was decommissioned and entered Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia for her MMA (see above for details of the conversion).  Courageous was returned to the Coast Guard on 5 March 1990 in Portsmouth, Virginia.  The cutter was then placed in commission "special status."  Following an extensive onload of needed supplies, the crew completed a five month engine overhaul in Portsmouth.  During subsequent engine trials, a shaft alignment problem was discovered by the crew.  A five month drydocking at the Coast Guard Yard for shaft repairs was required.  In addition to shaft repairs, a new steering motor was installed, both anchors were replaced, and a new computer system was installed in the cutter's combat information center.  Having completed the repairs to the shaft alignment and undergoing extensive crew training and ready for sea preparations, Courageous arrived at its new homeport of Panama City, Florida, on 3 February 1991.  She was formally recommissioned on 16 March 1991.

Courageous once again began performing her routine maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and defense readiness patrols in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.  One of her commanding officers described her duties thusly: "Courageous is a 210-foot Medium Endurance cutter with a crew of 63 enlisted, 12 officers, and a four-person aviation detachment when we have a helicopter embarked. Our patrol schedule generally takes us on six-week patrols throughout the Caribbean and Florida Straits with port calls in places like San Juan, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Key West, and the Dominican Republic to name a few. Patrols are usually followed by a six-week maintenance period in homeport. Our primary missions are law enforcement, migrant interdiction, and search and rescue."

On 8 September 2001, a good Samaritan located a raft 25 miles south of Alligator Key, FL.  Chincoteague on scene and embarked nine Cuban migrants.  The raft was destroyed as a hazard to navigation. The migrants were transferred to cutter Courageous where Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) interviews were conducted.  On 12 September, the nine migrants were transferred to the cutter Nantucket (WPB-1316) and returned to Cuba. 

On 3 September, Coast Guard Station Marathon intercepted nine Cuban migrants, 10 miles south of Sombrero Light, FL. All nine migrants were transferred to cutter PADRE for further transfer to cutter Courageous for INS interviews. On 9 September, the nine migrants were returned to Cuba by cutter Key Largo.  On 3 September, a good Samaritan spotted two Cuban migrants on a raft, 30 miles south of Key West, FL. Cutter Padre embarked the migrants for further transfer to cutter Courageous for INS interviews. On 9 September, the two Cuban migrants were returned to Cuba by cutter Key Largo.

Additionally, on 3 September, utter Courageous intercepted two Cuban migrants on a raft, 40 miles south of Marathon, FL. Cutter Courageous embarked the migrants where INS interviews were conducted. One of the migrants was returned to Cuba on 9 September, the remaining migrant was transferred to cutter Nantucket and returned to Cuba on 12 September.  On 3 September, an Air Station Miami HH-25 aircraft spotted a 25-foot vessel with approximately 28 Cuban migrants on board. Cutter Courageous intercepted the raft, 39 miles southeast of Marathon, FL. All 28 Cuban migrants were taken aboard cutter Courageous where INS interviews were conducted. The raft was destroyed as a hazard to navigation. On 9 September cutter Key Largo returned all 28 migrants to Cuba.  

On 5 September, cutter Courageous located a raft with six Cuban migrants, 10 miles north of Cay Sal Bank, Bahamas. On 7 September, the migrants were transferred to cutter Manitou and later transferred to Bahamian authorities in Freeport, Bahamas.  On 5 September, cutter Courageous intercepted 19 Cuban migrants on a go-fast 11 miles north of Cay Sal Bank, Bahamas. Two of the migrants are suspected to be smugglers and were turned over to the U.S. Boarder Patrol. INS interviews were conducted on cutter Courageous. On 12 September, the migrants were transferred to cutter Nantucket and returned to Cuba. 

As of October 2001, a memo from the cutter noted that: "During a recent 45-day deployment, Courageous patrolled the waters between Key West and Cuba, and was primarily involved with the interdiction and repatriation of Cuban migrants in the Straits of Florida. Courageous intercepted 58 Cuban migrants on the high seas, and was responsible for the care and feeding of 94 additional migrants from other Coast Guard units. Courageous also rescued 3 Cubans who were stranded on Cay Sal Island, a small, deserted island 110 miles south of Miami.

Courageous experienced her most challenging migrant mission on September 5, when she stopped a 30-ft speedboat 50 miles south of the Florida Keys, with the assistance of a Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. The Courageous boarding team discovered that the "go-fast" was smuggling migrants from Cuba to South Florida, and had 17 migrants secreted into a small locker in the bow of the speedboat. Most of the Cubans were unconscious and near death from dehydration, and the crew of the Courageous quickly recovered all seventeen onboard where the ship's medical technicians quickly stabilized the most critical migrants. After subsequent INS interviews, the migrants were repatriated to Cuba one week later.

In addition to the migrant interdiction missions, Courageous was also the on-scene commander during the Coast Guard's search and rescue mission for a downed Cuban aircraft on September 19 and 20. The nine survivors, including three children, were rescued by the passing 580-foot Panamanian freighter Chios DreamCourageous embarked a medical technician on the merchant vessel in heavy seas to perform emergency medical care; after the evacuation of the most critical survivor by helicopter, the remaining survivors were transferred ashore for medical treatment in Key West.

The final two weeks of the deployment were spent at Naval Station, Mayport where the crew underwent an intense period of classroom training and practical underway exercises to hone their navigation, damage control, first aid, and seamanship skills."

She was decommissioned on 19 September 2001.

**Our thanks to former crewman Mark Holmes for letting us know about the rescue of Ian's Cradle in December, 1971.


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.