THE U.S. COAST GUARD AT NASGI
We only had the detachment there during one summer. I donít have any photos of our house boat, but it looked pretty much like a trailer mounted on a barge and was about 40 feet long. It was on loan from the CG Station at Marblehead, Ohio. We towed it back there at the end of summer.
There were four people attached to the station. Yours truly was in charge of the detachment and was a Boatswains Mate, this will sound bad, but either a third or second class Petty Officer at the time: canít remember which. It would have been in the early 60s, as I was in the CG from 1959 to 1963. We also had a Second Class Engineman, and two Seaman. The Enginemanís last name was Shinavier (sic?), and one of the seamanís names was Brian Mazey. I can picture the other Seaman but cannot remember his name.
One of us was off at any given time so there would always be three of us on duty.
Detroit River Light was a manned station at the time, no shore ties back in that time period. We would run one of them into the mainland for supplies instead of them having to go in with their small boat. Sometimes I would leave one of our personnel on the light so we could give the lighthouse person a little more time off the light. He would be part of our crew in case we received a call. The lighthouse crew was on 21 days and off 6. There was a diesel generator running at 3600 RPM night and day on that thing, and a fog signal when required. No sound absorption or OSHA in those days.
I remember once, when on our way out of the channel for some reason, we came upon two Navy personnel who had, I believe, flipped over one of the small aluminum boats that were available for Navy personnel to use for recreation. They were glad to see us and thought things were looking pretty bleak until we came along.
We did make other runs and Iím not sure where or if the logs from that station still exist.
Also, the wind would drive the water out of the channel when it was out of the west, so we would have to take our boat out of the Navy moorings until the water returned to normal levels.
We had to go to Belle Isle for diesel fuel and would bring it back in 55 gallon barrels on the 40 footer. The Navy crew had a lot of talent for rigging things to make life easier. They had rigged an aircraft supercharger to an electric motor so we could transfer fuel to drums on shore rather than have to pump it by hand. They seemed to have many such labor saving devices.
One thing I will never forget is that we were on a subsistence allowance and usually cooked our own meals. One Sunday we decided to go up to the Navy Mess Hall and have breakfast. We would pay for the meal out of our allowance. When we got to the place in the line where there was a cook at the griddle, he asked us how we wanted our eggs. This was totally foreign to us and we thought he was jerking our chain, and was going to have some fun with the CG personnel. We stood there saying okay come on just give us the eggs and he kept asking how we wanted them. Finally it dawned on us; he was not kidding and would actually cooks the eggs to our liking. Talk about egg on your face. I will never forget that. Iím sure we hurried back to the Navy moorings right after that and told them the story.
We had no radar on our boat and navigation was by magnetic compass. There are a lot of changing shoals in the river around those islands and I remember that we would often have to watch our wake to see which way it was curling so we knew if we were getting into shallow water. Looking at photos on your website, things are a lot different today. There were two bridges to the island if I remember correctly, and if we took down our radio antenna the bridge didnít have to open for us to pass through.
Regards, Ralph Fodell
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Revised: June 30, 2010