Port Townsend: Coast Guard’s ‘iron men’ of World War II era swap stories of days on wood-hull cutters

PORT TOWNSEND — Where the 87-foot Coast Guard cutter Osprey now sits in the Boat Haven, there once were three 83-foot wooden-hulled cutters.

Ralph Gallant can tell some amazing tales of what the “iron men” manning those wooden boats did.

From pulling grounded sailboats off beaches to recovering bodies from shipwrecks, the crews of the cutters stayed busy off Jefferson County.

Gallant and two dozen other sailors of “83-footers” from throughout the nation met Saturday at the Port Townsend Yacht Club to reminisce.

They had hoped the last operable 83 in original configuration would join them at Port Townsend, but it was delayed en route from California.

Eventually, the vessel will be tied up in Port Ludlow as a museum.

Next year the group will step aboard, organizer Dick Craig vowed.

Most from Northwest

Most of the men at the reunion were from the Pacific Northwest, but a few hailed from farther away — like California and Nevada.

From the deck of the Yacht Club, Osprey could be seen tied up in the marina less than 100 yards away.

Pat Gogan was stationed in Port Townsend in the early 1960s. He sat across the table from Duane Fuehr, who served aboard an 83 in Friday Harbor.

Both men talked about touring the five-year-old Osprey and compared it to their former ships.

Most notable to them is the coed setup of modern cutters as well as amenities such as hot water and showers.

“Back then it was against federal law to have a woman aboard a Coast Guard cutter,” Gogan said.

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