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Preserving our maritime history

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I am thankful for so many things this season, including the unique and colorful maritime history we all share on these beautiful coastal islands. As I was researching the history of our Coast Guard and its landmark buildings on Cuttyhunk, I imagined this to be how the men s presence there might affect an island girl s experience in the late 19th century

The southwest breeze blowing across Vineyard Sound ruffled my linen dress and ungraciously lifted the hem of my skirt, rudely exposing my ankle. I grabbed frantically at the material and nervously glanced up the beach to see if anyone had noticed my indiscretion. The uniformed men were unaware, and went about steadfastly performing their required breeches buoy drills.

This was one of my secret summer pleasures, sneaking away from the cottage to watch these handsome Life-Saving Servicemen from behind the safety of a sand dune as they practice their brave sea rescues. Ever since the new Canapitsit peninsula station had been built a few years ago in 1889, the island social life had come alive. I had come alive! And now it was almost over; we had spent the past eight weeks talking and laughing together. The dreaded last day of July had arrived all too quickly, and the annual dance was this evening.

Our bright, girlish faces twirling alongside those muscular, sunburned men in their blue and white service uniforms; it was always the highlight of the summer. I could already feel my heart pounding with anticipation as my mind drifted off. Yes, the light blue taffeta dress would be just perfect; it matches my eyes as well as the cap band he gave me from his uniform. I would wear his cap band as a belt around my waist to show that we were courting. My parents disapproved, of course, but I am 18 now and all of the Cuttyhunk girls are wearing their gentlemen s cap bands as belts. Many of the island girls were marrying the Life-Saving men. Would I be next?

After tonight, he had to return to duty out at the Life-Saving Station, and would not be free again until next June. His rescue work is incredibly dangerous, with frequent shipwrecks occurring at the Graveyard and over at Sow and Pigs Reef. All I would see of him from now on would be the bright red glare of his two red Coston signals that he carries every night when he is back on watch, in order to warn ships that get too close to the reefs. It was better than not seeing him at all, I guess.

I jumped nearly a foot as a particularly large wave crashed nearby and loudly dragged the cobble across the shoreline. No, I m not going to let myself think about all of that unpleasantness right now. Tonight the Life-Saving Station will be transformed under a full moon for a beautiful summer evening of dance, with the life belts, blocks, and tackle as our nautical ornaments and the giant coils of rope as our chairs. We will have each other until the fiddle and the banjo go silent at exactly midnight, and it will be magical.

(Sources: The Story of Cuttyhunk, Haskell, L. 1952; Cuttyhunk Island & Striped Bass 1883-1897, CHS 1980 and Cuttyhunk as I Remember It in 1904, Brewer, CHS 1979)

The United States Coast Guard traces its history to 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of vessels to enforce taxes and prevent smuggling. The fleet was known both as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service. Beginning in the 1830s, islanders were piloting and rescuing ships along the Cuttyhunk shores, which provided the islanders with a livelihood until the early 1900s and the industrial revolution.

The Massachusetts Humane Society established three buildings on Cuttyhunk in 1847, well-equipped with supplies, with mortars for shooting lines across the decks of stranded vessels, lifeboats, and surfboats, and manned by volunteers dedicated to sea rescue. Captain Frederick Allen was the captain of the Massachusetts Humane Society for many years, and invented an unsinkable lifeboat. Due to the prevailing southwest wind, strong currents and heavy fog, many sailing ships were driven aground on the Graveyard, as the south side of Cuttyhunk was known, and on the Sow and Pigs Reef lying to the southwest of the island.

The U.S. Life-Saving Service was organized later, in 1878, as a separate agency, but the station for the Elizabeth Islands out at Canapitsit was not built until 1889. In the meantime, lifesaving was carried out jointly by the local men of the Massachusetts Humane Society and those with the federal U.S. Life-Saving Service. Stations were placed at points where wrecks were unusually frequent, to improve a mostly volunteer network of rescue stations that assisted mariners in distress along the very busy coastlines. Life-Saving Keepers had to be able bodied, of good character and habits, able to read and write and be under 45 years of age, and a master at handling boats, especially in rough weather. Because of the excellent service of the Humane Society, Cuttyhunk received one Life-Saving Station, built near Canapitsit. Later there were as many as 16 men stationed on the island, but at first there was only one keeper and six surfmen. The keeper s salary was not to exceed $800 a year, and the surfman received $50 a month plus living quarters. Some of the Cuttyhunk men at the first Life-Saving Station with Captain David Bosworth were Tom Jones, A.P. Tilton Sr., Walter Allen, Humphrey Jamieson, and Russell Rotch. Later on, an outbuilding formerly used as a shed by the Canapitsit station became a private residence, with an airstrip which is still there today. With both the Humane Society and Life-Saving Service, most island men were somehow involved in aiding or assisting in rescues when needed. At first, there was rivalry between the new Life-Saving Station and the long-established Humane Society to see which group could be the first to reach a shipwreck, even though some of the men served in both groups. Following the tragic loss of several Cuttyhunk rescuers in the attempted rescue of the brig Aquatic in 1893, the groups fully cooperated, and competition stopped. In the Aquatic disaster, widower Timothy Akin Jr. died with four other Cuttyhunk Lifesavers (Frederick Akin, Hiram Jackson, Eugene Brightman, and Isaiah H. Tilton) trying to rescue the crew when it ran aground on Sow and Pigs Reef. His death left the seven Akin children orphaned, to be raised by islanders. Josiah Tilton was the only rescuer to survive, but all on the brig were saved.

There were numerous shipwrecks around Cuttyhunk throughout the years, including the bark Wanderer in 1924, which was the last square-rigged whaler out of New Bedford; the Pilgrim Belle steamboat in 1985 ran aground on her maiden voyage; the Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 ran aground off Cuttyhunk in Vineyard Sound; and the scalloper Legacy ran aground near Canapitsit in 2001. Rescues became less frequent as there were fewer sailing vessels. The Cuttyhunk light was removed from the West End, Sow and Pigs Reef area, by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006, so no navigational aids remain.

In 1915, an act of Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life-Saving Service, creating a single maritime service, the Coast Guard, dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation s maritime laws. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939.

One of the last two remaining structures of our rich maritime heritage on Cuttyhunk is the welcoming U.S. Coast Guard boathouse built in 1938, originally used to hold boats and equipment for sea rescues, decommissioned in 1964, and now town-owned. Coast Guard service for the Elizabeth Islands continues from neighboring stations in Menemsha and Woods Hole. In its original location at the town ferry dock, the one-and-one-half-story building is a classic example of Colonial Revival architecture with its dormered ridge-hip roof. The boathouse sits on pilings which form the foundation for the building. The three 12-foot bay doors facing the channel allowed the launching of the picket boat, lifeboats, and surf boats used by the Coast Guard for sea rescue. The interior is still original, for the most part. Three separate tracks, similar to a railway, extend from the boathouse to the water for launching and hauling the craft. There is wood-plank flooring with a pitch in the floor to aid in launching the boats. The building has survived four major hurricanes and their associated flooding since 1938.

The U.S. Coast Guard Station/Quarters at Cuttyhunk was built in 1954, shortly after the Canapitsit station was moved to Menemsha in 1952, where it stands today. Commissioning of the new station at Menemsha took place on March 12, 1954. Twenty years later, the Coast Guard officially changed the name of the station to reflect its actual location. The Coast Guard Quarters/Barracks building is located on a hill up the street from the boathouse. It is also decommissioned, and maintained and managed by the Coast Guard as vacation rentals for active and retired Coast Guard members. The basketball court at the barracks was recently rebuilt with a concrete surface and new nets and backboards. Both traditional structures are signature buildings with their distinctive regulation colors of white wooden shingle siding and red-cedar shingle-roof architecture, and are associated with assistance, rescue, and lifesaving on the island.

The boathouse is known for its association and contribution to the maritime history of the Elizabeth Islands and protection of the waters of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound. Local Coast Guard history, especially during the WW II installations on the islands, is strongly linked to the lives of generations of local families. There is a unique local historical connection revealed in the genealogy of the island, where guardsmen served and stayed. There is also a significant historical relationship between the boathouse and the Massachusetts Humane Society (1847), the U.S. Life-Saving Service (1870) and the U.S. Lighthouse Service (1910). The building represents the island s maritime history, culture, architecture, and tradition of lifesaving from the mid-1800s to the present. Its current use is mainly for town marine-equipment storage. The boathouse was given as a gift to the town of Gosnold in 1997 by the USCG, with a preservation restriction.

Since 1999, when resident Shelly Merriam prepared a historical survey of the property, the town has worked cooperatively with the Massachusetts Historical Commission. MHC deemed the boathouse is eligible for National Historic Register designation. There was a barge ramp completed next to the boathouse for container trash removal in 2001. It is the first phase of improvements at the harbor landing and transportation center. An exterior renovation of the boathouse was completed by the town in 2003, supported by donations, and in 2009 rebuilding of the town dock adjacent to the boathouse was completed. Three years ago Gosnold selectmen submitted the required forms and photographic documentation to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for recommendation to the National Register of Historic Places. Two years ago, the final phase of improvements to the harbor landing and transportation center next to the boathouse were underway, and recently, the town board of selectman sought and were awarded a grant of $782,000 by the Massachusetts Seaport Council. This year, painting of the west side of boathouse was completed, and the north-side green garage doors will be painted.

(Sources: Cuttyhunk and the Elizabeth Islands from 1602, CHS 1993, and Statement of Significance Cuttyhunk Historical Society, Merriam, S.L., 2012)

For Cuttyhunkers only

Upcoming meetings: Next selectmen s meeting scheduled for Dec. 4, 2015.

Ferry schedules: Please contact J.P. Hunter at Sea Horse Water Taxi for information about holiday trips to and from the island:[1]

The M/V Cuttyhunk ferry will run a normal schedule on Monday and Friday. Please contact Jono Billings with any questions: .[2]

School news: Cuttyhunk Elementary School celebrated Veterans Day with an outdoor patriotic ceremony honoring veterans and a rededication of the new school flagpole with a plaque honoring Mary Sarmento. Martha s Vineyard resident Frank Raposa found and generously donated the new flagpole to the school, which came from a large catboat. Island resident Lee Lombard installed the flagpole.

Artists retreat: Cuttyhunk Island Artists Retreat for September 2016 at the Avalon Inn is filling up quickly! This sold out last year, so a few additional rooms have been added. Don t be disappointed! For more information:[3]

Job opening: Fire chief job is posted in the Town Hall. Updates: There are only a few more locations to go, and the island septic projects will be finished. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2015. Real estate tax bills will be coming out this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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College Football: Bobcats try to win out and finish season on high note

Sports Editor

Texas State still thinks it s a better team that its record indicates. In fact, that very phrase, or something close to it, was uttered twice following the Bobcats 16-3 victory over Louisiana-Monroe last Thursday night inside Bobcat Stadium. Dennis Franchione said we believe that we re better than what we ve shown during his introductory remarks, and senior safety Aaron Shaw echoed those sentiments about 10 minutes later.

With Texas State at 3-7 on the season, the Bobcats, by record alone, are the eighth-best team in the Sun Belt. Texas State has lost to four of the seven teams in front of Franchione s crew (Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia State and New Mexico State). How about the remaining three teams?

The Bobcats have a date with SBC frontrunner Arkansas State on Dec. 5 in Jonesboro. They dispatched fourth-place South Alabama rather handily (36-18) last month their best win to date and Texas State won t face second-place Appalachian State this season. Truthfully, the Bobcats may or may not be better than 3-7. That s up for debate.

One thing is clear: Texas State has two more shots to improve where it stands. The Bobcats visit Idaho (3-8) on Saturday before the aforementioned regular season finale against the Red Wolves (7-3). With that in mind, Texas State holds out hope that it can win out.

It has been an unusual year, but if keep the glue together for two more weeks, we can do some things, Franchione said. Unusual might be the best way to describe the events of last week, including a Twitter farce that claimed Franchione would retire after the season and has since been quashed.

On three different occasions in the span of six days, Franchione fielded questions about his job security. After last Thursday s win over the Warhawks that snapped the Bobcats three game losing skid, Franchione was asked if he s had any conversations with top brass in the athletic department about his future.

Nobody has shared anything with me, Franchione said. If there have been any conversions about my future, I don t know about them, so not as far as I know. I just keep coaching my kids. Through it all, the Bobcats have adopted an us against the world mentality. Franchione lauded his team s focus during practice last week, especially with any chance of a bowl game out of the realm of possibility. In a speech that sounded like it came from the heart, Shaw said Texas State didn t care what anyone else said the media, classmates or fans in the buildup to last Thursday s home finale with ULM.

We zoned them out, and played for each other and that s all that matters, Shaw said.

While it wasn t pretty, the Bobcats gritted out a win at home on Senior Night. Or as Franchione described it, Texas State found a way. Junior quarterback Tyler Jones and company did enough he found tight end Lawrence White for a pair of touchdowns on seam routes and Shaw intercepted Warhawk quarterback Earnest Carrington s pass and returned it 73 yards to set up the game-clinching touchdown with about nine minutes left in regulation. If the Bobcats are going to win their remaining two contests, it will likely take more. On paper, the Vandals are far more formittable on offense than the Warhawks, and A-State is the Sun Belt s best team.

Back to Idaho, even without receiver Dezmon Epps, who was dismissed from the team earlier this week after several disciplinary suspensions, Paul Petrino s team has the second-ranked passing attack in the Sun Belt (271 yards per game). So, this Saturday should be a huge test for Texas State, which surrendered 471 yards through the air against the Panthers and quarterback Nick Arbuckle. The good news? The Vandals aren t in the same zip code as far as passing stats are concerned; Georgia State, after all, has registered a robust 348.2 yards per game through the air.

The bad news? The Bobcats don t have the sort of offense to go light up the scoreboard for big numbers and match a potent offense like Idaho score for score. Texas State has registered the following point totals during its past four games 13 (Georgia Southern), 21 (New Mexico State), 19 (Georgia State) and 16 (ULM). Truth be told, injuries aside the Bobcats are on their third center and without starting guard Felix Romero (torn ACL) Texas State has eight of its 11 starters from the season opener at Florida State who are at or near full health, including Tyler Jones, Robert Lowe, C.J. Best, Brandon Smith, Lawrence White, Adrian Bellard, Brandon Sarabia and Ryan Melton. In fact,

Lowe is the only player that s banged up. He hobbled his way to 85 yards against the Warhawks, and should be close to 100 percent by kickoff come Saturday afternoon. The Bobcats dispatched ULM despite a dismal offensive performance. They may not be as lucky on Saturday.

Admiral Paul F. Zukunkft, Commandant, US Coast Guard

By Tony Munoz[1] 2015-11-11 15:12:09

You recently completed your first year in office as the 25th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. How did it go?

Okay, I ll give you my report card after one year and it starts with the guiding principles of my tenure as Commandant. First was to align ourselves with the Department of Homeland Security. On that note, I would give us an A. We implemented unity of effort, not just in operations but also in our major acquisitions program.

Second, I was insistent that we have intelligence drive our day-to-day operations, so we merged them and really closed the gap in terms of our activities in the Western Hemisphere and our ability to conduct interdiction operations in our counter-drug efforts. Today, we have one of our newest National Security Cutters, the Stratton, about half-way through her patrol and right now she s got about 14 tons of cocaine on her flight deck. Actually, it s locked up.

Third was to push forward our acquisition program, and on that front I m very encouraged by the reception we ve received on the Offshore Patrol Cutter. We would not have had that great reception had it not been for the strength of our overall acquisition strategy. We ve managed to keep growth down to one to two percent across every program, which is quite remarkable for any entity, whether public or private. So great progress there.

Fourth, we started to turn the corner on driving sexual assault out of the Coast Guard. What encourages me are individuals coming forward and reporting out. Until recently this was a bit of an unknown element of behavior in all the armed services, but many of our victims are now stepping forward. In fact, this year so far we ve had about 25 or so reports that are over 20 years old. So these are victims who have sat on embedded behavioral trends for over 20 years and now recognize that this is a service that wants to drive out sexual assault.

And finally, I m very encouraged by the growing diversity in the Coast Guard. We are now the most diverse service academy among all the military academies, both in gender and ethnicity. Last year nearly 40 percent of the entrants were female and a third were under-represented minorities, and this year s class is similar.

Tell us about your career prior to becoming Commandant.

I just completed my 38th year of service since graduating from the Coast Guard Academy and, out of those 38 years, I ve spent 34 in the field and just four at Coast Guard headquarters. What that gives you is a perspective across all of our mission sets of the challenges we face, whether in the air, on the water, or offshore. It allows you to speak first-hand to those challenges rather than just read a report about it and gives you a very good handle on what the strengths of our service are. And quite honestly, the strength is in our people.

As we oftentimes get fixated on recapitalizing our acquisition program, we cannot lose sight of our people. I ve spent 34 years working side by side with almost all the men and women in the Coast Guard, and that has really prepared me well for this assignment.

Did you have any mentors along the way?

Probably the most important was my first commanding officer. The first unit you re assigned to can make or break you in terms of where you go with your career, and it was never, ever in my vision that I would be the 25th Commandant of the Coast Guard. But my first commanding officer, who retired as a Rear Admiral, was John Lockwood, and he gave me guidance along the way. When you re an ensign, you make mistakes, but he would look at those mistakes as teachable moments to learn from. Then as my assignment was coming to an end, he took me aside and said You need to be a commanding officer of a patrol boat. He provided a very strong recommendation, and my second assignment was as a commanding officer.

So that opened a number of other doors, and as I moved on to bigger ships and positions of command there was another admiral who went on to become our 21st Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Jim Loy. He really refreshed the culture of leadership within the Coast Guard. And he was a role model for me, someone I always aspired to be, even though I m probably about seven inches shorter than him. But I certainly embraced his philosophy when it came to leadership.

What is your number one priority right now as Commandant?

I m glad you asked me that because it s easy to list three, four or five. But the one I don t deviate from is the recapitalization of our Offshore Patrol Cutters. These are the midsize cutters that fall between the large National Security Cutters and the smaller Fast Response Cutters. They will replace ships that are operating on the front line right now that are 50 years old. We have three bidders right now. About a year from now we will select one. The vision we have is to build a fleet of 25 ships that can operate in some pretty harsh conditions.

The Arctic is increasingly in the news these days. Does the U.S. have the assets to really manage that region of the world?

For a service that prides itself on Semper Paratus, can I truly say that we will always be ready in the Arctic? The answer, quite frankly, is no. We re able to manage that risk this year by moving five ships into the area and we have two helicopters based out of Deadhorse, Alaska. People may ask, Well, what is our role with Royal Dutch Shell? I see our role as providing oversight. Not holding their hand but providing oversight. If they do have a release of oil I need to make sure I ve got somebody on scene to verify that. I also need to make sure we can mount an emergency response.

Is the image of the Coast Guard as a search-and-rescue operation appropriate?

I think it s one of many. If you look at our various mission sets we do them all around the clock, 24 hours a day, whether it s a mariner in distress or a threat in the homeland or an oil spill or a drug smuggler trying to get his goods to the U.S. It s the same awareness response and ability to launch that come from our search-and-rescue DNA, and it applies across all our mission sets.

Cyber security and cyber warfare have become huge issues, and you seem to be well ahead of the curve on them. You created a Cyber Command within the Coast Guard and now you have a new report on cyber strategy. Tell us about that.

If you think of cyber as the ocean or the air, it s a domain that we ve been operating in for some time. We ve just taken for granted that it s always going to be accessible, but that s not the case anymore as we ve seen from the attacks on SONY and the Office of Personnel Management and dozens of others. So let me walk you briefly through the three aspects of our strategy:

  • First, we need to be able to defend our cyber capability, which means our ability to access cyber. So we created a Cyber Command and its mission is to defend our space and protect it from hackers.

  • The next component is to enable operations in cyber. So when I talk about intelligence driving operations I mean that on the weekend before last we had six drug interdictions across an area the size of North America. These are 30- or 35-foot boats, and we were able to put airplanes and Coast Guard cutters over and next to each and every one of them and confiscate over three tons of cocaine. I would not be able to do that if I didn t have open and ready access to cyber, and it s no different with search-and-rescue.

  • The third piece is protecting critical infrastructure in the maritime domain, which the Coast Guard has very broad authority to do. And by critical infrastructure I mean our ports and the ships that call on those ports and all the ancillary facilities and terminals. Much of that is fully automated and can be remotely accessed. If these systems were hacked in such a way that would shut down our maritime transportation system, it would have a very devastating impact on our national and economic security.

As the Coast Guard marks its 225th anniversary this year, what is your view on its evolution over the years and where it s going?

Great question because when I embarked on this self-described marketing campaign I needed to define ourselves in terms of what s happening in the 21st century and not so much what happened back in 1790.

When I look at what s happening in the Western Hemisphere I begin with the roughly 68,000 unaccompanied minors who crossed our borders last year. They re fleeing countries that have been overrun by drug-trafficking organizations and have some of the highest crime rates in the world Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. In Honduras it s worse than Iraq was at the height of the insurgency. So the parents who can afford it are putting their young boys and girls in the hands of a human trafficker to get them out of harm s way and into the U.S. That s one challenge.

Then there s drug-trafficking itself. It s a $750 billion enterprise and over 450,000 Americans have died in this country due to drug violence and drug overdose since 9/11. That s something I need to be focused on because much of this commodity moves by water and that s the one place where traffickers are most vulnerable. And I have the ships and the planes to stop them.

The Arctic is beckoning as it has for some time. The Coast Guard finds itself as the lead in the maritime domain in the Arctic and then certainly in the cyber domain, whether it s a state or non-state actor trying to compromise critical infrastructure. And, yes, we will still save lives and be responsive to migrant flows.

So when I look at the context of the 21st century Coast Guard it s much different than the Coast Guard of 1790. Everywhere I look I see a greater need for more Coast Guard and not less, even though for some period of time we always used the motto, We do more with less. And then some of our senior crusty petty officers would say, We no longer do more with less. We do everything with nothing! But we never reached that point, and we re beyond it now.

It s a new era, and we need to be a little bit smarter and a little bit more forward-thinking as we confront the challenges of the 21st century. And we re well on our way.


  1. ^ Tony Munoz (