U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bramble Goes to Court Auction

USCGC Bramble
USCGC Bramble

Published Nov 19, 2019 7:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. District Court, Southern District of Alabama has entered an order to auction off the retired U.S. Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Bramble. Once a familiar site on the Great Lakes, Bramble will be sold at auction on December 4, 2019. 

The vintage vessel has been under arrest in Mobile, Alabama, for unpaid bills. She was sold to USCGC Bramble, LLC in 2013. This entity ran the vessel as a museum ship. Financial backer Tom Clark bought Bramble in 2018 and has refurbished her, with plans to recreate her 1957 Northwest Passage voyage.

Bramble was built by the Zenith Dredge Company, Minnesota, and launched on October 23, 1943. Six months later the 180-foot vessel was commissioned on April 22, 1944, with an initial designation of WAGL meaning “auxiliary vessel, lighthouse tender,” which changed to WLB in 1965.  

The federal government purchased or built 39 of these vessels, built in three sub-classes, from 1942-1944. The United States Coast Guard designed the 180’s to service aids to navigation, perform search and rescue missions, carry out law enforcement duties and conduct ice-breaking operations. Members of the class have served in the Coast Guard from 1942 to the present and have significantly contributed to safe navigation on inland and international waters in times of peace and war.

In 1947, Bramble participated in Operation Crossroads, the first test of an atomic bomb's effect on surface ships at Bikini Island. Bramble took over responsibility for the maintenance of aids to navigation in Bikini’s lagoon from her sister ship Redbud, which had helped prepare the target area for the first round of tests. Bramble was located about 15 miles from the atoll to watch the detonation of an atomic bomb over the target area before setting a course for Hawaii.

In 1957, Bramble, along with her sister ships, USCGC Spar and USCGC Storis, were selected to attempt a forced passage along the northern shore of Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. The ships traveled through 4,500 nautical miles of semi-charted water in 64 days. The success of the mission distinguished the three cutters as the first American surface ships to circumnavigate the North American continent.