The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Cuttyhunk sails across Port Angeles Harbor against a backdrop of fog hugging the shoreline. in June 2020. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Cuttyhunk sails across Port Angeles Harbor against a backdrop of fog hugging the shoreline. in June 2020. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

‘Saying goodbye to an old friend’

Coast Guard decommissions Cuttyhunk after 34 years of service

PORT ANGELES — A longtime resident of the Coast Guard base at Port Angeles left the harbor on Friday but parts of it will return.

The Coast Guard decommissioned Coast Guard cutter Cuttyhunk (WPB 1322) Thursday during a ceremony at Air Station Port Angeles that was presided over by Capt. Mark McDonnell, 13th Coast Guard District chief of response, the Coast Guard said in a press release.

“It was like saying goodbye to an old friend,” said Jim Stoffer on Friday.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Cuttyhunk (WPB 1322) bow their heads during a benediction prayer starting the cutter’s decommissioning ceremony held Thursday, May 5, 2022, at Air Station Port Angeles. The crew would transition from the Cuttyhunk to the Anacapa, another 110-foot Island Class patrol boat which would in turn serve the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark)

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Cuttyhunk (WPB 1322) bow their heads during a benediction prayer starting the cutter’s decommissioning ceremony held Thursday, May 5, 2022, at Air Station Port Angeles. The crew would transition from the Cuttyhunk to the Anacapa, another 110-foot Island Class patrol boat which would in turn serve the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark)

He had served as the cutter’s commanding officer from 2002 to 2005.

“It was a lot of good memories and a lot of good work,” said the Sequim resident, the cutter’s eighth commanding officer out of 16, and one of four of its commanding officers who retired in the area.

“It’s no longer a cutter.”

The Cuttyhunk was to leave the Port Angeles Harbor at 5 p.m. Friday, Stoffer said earlier in the day, flying its largest flag on its way to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The cutter’s engines and generator will be put into the Anacapa, another 110-foot Island-class patrol boat, which will then come to Port Angeles for a couple of years, Stoffer said.

The remainder of the Cuttyhunk will be scrapped.

Posing at the Cuttyhunk decommissioning ceremony are, from left, Jim Robson of Poulsbo, a former commanding officer of the cutter; Jim Stoffer and Chris Robinson, both former commanding officers now living in Sequim; and Bill Gittins, who served with all three and now lives in Port Townsend. (photo by Diana Stoffer)

Posing at the Cuttyhunk decommissioning ceremony are, from left, Jim Robson of Poulsbo, a former commanding officer of the cutter; Jim Stoffer and Chris Robinson, both former commanding officers now living in Sequim; and Bill Gittins, who served with all three and now lives in Port Townsend. (photo by Diana Stoffer)

The Cuttyhunk spent its entire 34-year career in Port Angeles, Stoffer said.

It’s rare for a ship to stay in one place like that, he said.

“For one to be here for 34 years is a pretty big deal,” he commented.

The Cuttyhunk was one of the Coast Guard’s 37 remaining 110-foot Island-class patrol boats; the fleet — including the Anacapa — is being replaced by the larger cutters.

The Cuttyhunk assisted in one of the largest maritime drug seizures in the Pacific Northwest. It was near Cape Flattery in December 1997. More than 3,500 pounds of marijuana, estimated at a street value of $15 million, was recovered from the OK Jedi, a 60-foot sailboat with three people onboard.

Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Garver received the Coast Guard Cutter Cuttyhunk’s commissioning pennant during a ceremony held Thursday, May 5, 2022, at Air Station Port Angeles. The ceremony was held to decommission the Cuttyhunk, and Garver, the vessel’s commanding officer, received the pennant in accordance with tradition. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark)

Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Garver received the Coast Guard Cutter Cuttyhunk’s commissioning pennant during a ceremony held Thursday, May 5, 2022, at Air Station Port Angeles. The ceremony was held to decommission the Cuttyhunk, and Garver, the vessel’s commanding officer, received the pennant in accordance with tradition. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark)

The cutter was nicknamed “The Pest of the West,” according to the Coast Guard, which said the cutter’s crews completed over 1,000 operations ranging from law enforcement boardings to search-and-rescue responses throughout the region.

“We did a lot of enforcement, a lot of search and rescue. Boaters would say, here comes that pest again,” Stoffer said.

Commissioned on Oct. 5, 1988, the Cuttyhunk was the 22nd of 49 110-foot patrol boats built in support of the Coast Guard’s maritime homeland security, migrant and drug interdiction, fisheries enforcement, and search-and-rescue missions.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside the final crew of Coast Guard Cutter Cuttyhunk,” said Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Garver, commanding officer, on Thursday, according to the press release.

“During my time onboard, there have been many engineering challenges on our aging 110-foot ship, and I have witnessed the resiliency of our crew as they spent time away from families in selfless service to our country,” he continued.

“I am grateful for the crew’s dedication which echoes the hard work put forth by our predecessors during the cutter’s 34 years of service.”

The Cuttyhunk was built by Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, La. It was named after Cuttyhunk Island, the site of the first English settlement in New England, located off the southern coast of Massachusetts.

The Cuttyhunk assisted U.S. Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in several submarine escorts before Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor was established to ensure the safe transport of Ship Submersible Ballistic Submarines.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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