The Former USCGC ALERT WSC-127
OLDEST OPERATIONAL EX-UNITED STATES COAST GUARD CUTTER
"Alert (a-lurt) adj. vigilant, watchful, observant."
CLASS: Active Class Patrol Boat
BUILDER: American Brown Boveri Electric Corp., Camden, NJ
COMMISSIONED: 27 January 1927
LAUNCHED: 30 November 1926
DECOMMISSIONED: 10 January 1969 and sold 6 October 1969
DISPLACEMENT: 232 tons
LENGTH: 125 feet
BEAM: 23 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 7 feet, 6 inches
PROPULSION: 2 x 8-cylinder, 400 hp diesel engines
Max speed: 13 knots, 1945, 2,500 mile range Econ. speed: 8.0 knots, 3,500 mile range
COMPLEMENT: 3 officers, 17 men
ARMAMENT: 1927: 1x 3"/27 1941: 1 x 3"/23, 2 x depth charge tracks 1945: 1 x 40mm/80 (single), 2 x 20mm/80 (single), 2 x depth charge tracks, 2 x mousetraps 1960: 1 x 40mm/60
In the 1920's the United States Government was actively involved with the enforcement of Prohibition (The Volstead Act). During that era, the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was illegal. In an attempt to assist with the capture and arrest of liquor smugglers on the upper east coast of the United States, President Calvin Coolidge ordered the construction of thirty-three new Coast Guard cutters.
Construction began in 1926, and on November 30, 1926, WSC-127 Alert was launched and commissioned on January 27, 1927. The Alert was built by the American Brown Boveri Electric Co. of Camden, New Jersey at a cost to American taxpayers of $63,000.00. The hull was of riveted steel construction, and powered by twin 150HP Winton diesel engines. The Alert is a member of the “Active Class” of medium endurance cutters, one of thirty-three built, of which the first was WSC-125, the Active.
The mission of enforcing prohibition and seizing illegal liquor was short lived, and in 1928, the Alert navigated the Panama Canal, on her way to the West Coast of the United States, arriving in January of 1929. The Alert was assigned duty in the Bering Sea, conducting search and rescue missions and providing supplies and assistance to native inhabitants of the Ketchikan, Alaska area.
On December 7, 1941, the Alert was assigned to the United States Navy, and was a member of the WESTSEAFRON Naval force, conducting submarine patrols and other war related activities up and down the west coast. After the war, the Alert was reassigned to the United States Coast Guard, and stationed at Alameda, then Morro Bay, and eventually, in 1959, San Diego, California.
Alert at Morro Bay 1952
In January of 1967, the United States Coast Guard held an open house on the Alert at her station in San Diego, noting in the official press release that the Alert was the "grand old lady of California Coast Guard Cutters". The press release further noted that the Alert was involved in 65 to 70 rescue cases per year, and included runs the length of the Baja peninsula. At various times during her long career, the Alert was armed with three-inch guns, 20mm guns, machine guns, depth charges and various other types of armament. The Alert was decommissioned by the United States Coast Guard after forty-two (42) years of service on January 10, 1969.
Nicknamed "buck-and-a-quarters" by sailors who served on this type of cutter, the Active Class cutters were 125 feet in length and 23 feet on the beam. Affectionately recalled by Coast Guardsmen as reliable, rugged and rough-riding, these ships were equipped with wooden decks, above and below, constructed with 3" by 3" douglas fir.
The Alert was purchased from the Coast Guard in 1969 by Highland Film Labs and Mr. Barry Brose signed the receipt for her. The Alert was then maintained in her original Coast Guard condition, which was essentially unchanged from 1945, and was very active in San Francisco bay maritime activities. The Alert was utilized by the sea scouts for training purposes, and occasionally she made appearances in the news, television shows, and movies. Since 1990, the Alert sat unused and many of her systems became inoperable. In early 2005, the Cutter Alert Preservation Team, Inc., a non-profit corporation, was formed and took over ownership of the Alert, and after eighteen months of overdue maintenance by devoted C.A.P.T. chief engineer Mike Stone, the Alert was once again operable and seaworthy.
A home was finally found for the Alert in the Pacific Northwest, and After a shakedown cruise to the Faralon Islands off the California coast in early 2005, the Alert headed north. This was her first open ocean voyage in over 35 years and other than some rough seas and a balky port engine the voyage was uneventful. After a short stay in Coos Bay and Rainier Oregon the Alert finally arrived at her final destination... Portland, Oregon.
At the Coos Bay city marina Coos Bay, Oregon
Currently located in the Portland, Oregon area, the Alert is overdue for a dry docking and some much needed hull and deck work. The Alert's Winton diesel engines were replaced in 1942 by the US Navy with twin 400HP General Motors 268a 2-cycle diesel engines, and they both continue to provide her with reliable power. The Navy also installed a submarine gyroscope, which is still operational. The majority of her systems and equipment are original to 1926, including the 32vdc electrical system, generator control board, lighting, Hyde windlass, brick-lined diesel galley stove, hot and cold fresh water plumbing, rudder controls and engine order telegraph.
The Alert celebrated her 80th birthday, in 2006 and recent research with the United States Coast Guard Historian's office, and many other sources, confirm that the Alert is the oldest engine powered ex-United States military warship in operating condition in the world. The Alert is also the oldest originally configured ex-United States Coast Guard Cutter afloat.
The future for the Alert will consist of museum type tours of the ship and her systems, overnight stays for youth and veterans groups (she has berthing for over thirty-five persons plus three officer's state rooms); and of course remaining operational in order to conduct on the water activities as a good will ambassador of her home port of Portland, Oregon.
Volunteer crew, Rainier to Portland
If you would like to know more about the Active class of cutters, and their great history should, go here or to Amazon for the recently published book "Rumrunners, U-Boats, & Hurricanes" by Bryan Galecki. Two of the Alert’s sister ships, the Bedloe and the Jackson, while attempting to reach a Victory ship torpedoed by a U-Boat off the East Coast of the United States in 1943, were caught in a monstrous hurricane. Both ships capsized and sank with loss of life. The book is a gripping tale of historic events and human survival, and includes a complete and detailed history of the Active Class of cutters with references to the Alert.
This is a complete list of all 33 of the Active Class Cutters.
WSC-125 Active 1927
WSC-126 Agassiz 1927
WSC-127 Alert 1927
*WSC-128 Bedloe 1926
WSC-129 Bonham 1927
WSC-130 Boutwell 1927
WSC-131 Cahoone 1927
WSC-132 Cartigan 1927
WSC-133 Colfax 1927
WSC-134 Crawford 1927
** WSC-157 Cuyahoga 1941 Transferred from US Navy
WSC-135 Diligence 1927
WSC-136 Dix 1927
WSC-137 Ewing 1927
WSC-138 Faunce 1927
WSC-139 Frederick Lee 1927
WSC-140 General Greene 1927
WSC-141 Harriet Lane 1927
*WSC-142 Jackson 1927
WSC-143 Kimball 1927
WSC-144 Legare 1927
WSC-145 Marion 1927
WSC-146 McLane 1927
WSC-147 Morris 1927
WSC-148 Nemaha 1927
WSC-149 Pulaski 1926
WSC-150 Reliance 1927
WSC-151 Rush 1927
WSC-152 Tiger 1927
WSC-153 Travis 1927
WSC-154 Vigilant 1927
WSC-155 Woodbury 1927
WSC-156 Yeaton 1927
* Lost 14 Sept. 1944 in a hurricane off Cape Hatteras, N.C
** Sank after being struck be a freighter in Chesapeake Bay 1978