USCGC UNIMAK (WTR-379)
The USCGC UNIMAK (WTR-379) was stationed at Reserve Training Center Yorktown from 7 August 1972 to 31 May 1975. Its mission was to train reservists. USCGC Unimak (WAVP-379), later WHEC-379, WTR-379, and again WHEC-379, was a United States Coast Guard Casco-class cutter in commission from 1949 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1988.
Unimak began life as the United States Navy Barnegat-class small seaplane tender USS Unimak (AVP-31). She was laid down on 15 February 1942 at Seattle, Washington, by Associated Shipbuilders, Inc., launched on 27 May 1942, and commissioned on 31 December 1943. She served in Central America, the Galapagos Islands and the North Atlantic during World War II and in Hawaii, the Aleutian Islands and the North Pacific postwar. She was decommissioned on 26 July 1946 and placed in reserve.
The Navy loaned Unimak to the United States Coast Guard on 14 September 1948. After undergoing conversion for Coast Guard use, she was commissioned into the Coast Guard on 3 January 1949 as USCGC Unimak (WAVP-379).
The Casco class ships were built as small seaplane tenders by the US Navy. They were designed to operate out of small harbors and atolls and had a shallow draft. The fact that the class was very seaworthy, had good habitability, and long range made them well suited to ocean-station duty. In fact, an assessment made by the Coast Guard on the suitability of these vessels for Coast Guard service noted:
"The workmanship on the vessel is generally quite superior to that observed on other vessels constructed during the war. The vessel has ample space for stores, living accommodations, ships, offices and recreational facilities. The main engine system is excellent. . . .The performance of the vessel in moderate to heavy seas is definitely superior to that of any other cutter. This vessel can be operated at higher speed without storm damage than other Coast Guard vessels."
Once they were accepted into Coast Guard service, a number of changes were made in these ships to prepare them for ocean-station duty. A balloon shelter was added aft; there were spaces devoted to oceanographic equipment and a hydrographic winch as well as an oceanographic winch were added.
The Unimak was homeported in Boston from 3 January 1949 to 1 September 1956 and used primarily for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations. In June 1956, she patrolled the Newport, RI to Bermuda race. She was subsequently stationed at Cape May, NJ from 1 September 1956 to 7 August 1972 and used primarily for training reservists, including training cruises to Brazil and Nova Scotia. She took part in the cadet cruise of August 1965. On 7 March 1967 she rescued six Cuban refugees in the Yucatan Channel. On 10 March 1967 she rescued survivors from F/V Bunkie III in Florida waters. Five days later, she rescued 12 Cuban refugees who were stranded on an island. On 29 May 1969, Unimak towed the disabled F/V Sirocco 35 miles east of Fort Pierce, FL, to safety. On 3 April 1970, Unimak stood by the grounded M/V Vassiliki near Mayaguana Island until a commercial tug arrived.
From 7 August 1972 to 31 May 1975, the Unimak was stationed at Yorktown, VA, and was again used to train reservists. Between 31 May 1975 and August 1977 she was placed out of commission and stored at Curtis Bay. MD. On 22 August 1977, Unimak was reactivated and was homeported at New Bedford, MA, until 1988. She was used primarily for fishing patrol.
On 6 October 1980, she seized M/V Janeth 340 miles southeast of Miami, FL, carrying 500 bales of marijuana. On 14 October 1980, she seized P/C Rescue carrying approximately 500 bales of marijuana and P/C Snail with two tons of marijuana in the Gulf of Mexico. Three days later, she seized M/V Amalaka southwest of Key West, FL, carrying 1,000 bales of marijuana. On 19 October 1980, Unimak seized F/V Wright’s Pride southwest of Key West, carrying 30 tons of marijuana. In March of 1981, while on an OCS training cruise, Unimak intercepted M/V Mayo with 40 tons of marijuana. On 9 December 1982, she towed the disabled F/V Sacred Heart away from Daid Banks, 45 miles east of Cape Cod, in 30-foot seas.
Between 28 January and 9 March 1983, the Unimak was again deployed to the Caribbean for law enforcement patrol. On 27 and 28 February 1983, she towed the dismasted Wandering Star to Mathew Town, Great Iguana. On 3 March 1983, she towed the disabled M/V Yadrina to Mathew Town. On 30 November 1984, Unimak seized the sailboat Lola 100 miles north of Barranquilla, Colombia, carrying 1.5 tons of marijuana. Another drug bust occurred on 2 November 1985, when the Unimak seized tugboat Zeus 3 and a barge 200 miles south of the Dominican Republic carrying 40 tons of marijuana.
After her return to the Navy in April of 1988, she was expended as an artificial reef off the Virginia coast.
- Builder: Associated Shipbuilders, Inc., Seattle, WA
- Commissioned: 31 December 1943 (USN); loaned to USCG on 14 September 1948 3 January 1949 (USCG); permanently transferred to USCG 26 September 1966
- Decommissioned: 29 Apr 1988
- Disposition: returned to USN
- PARTICULARS, AS OF 1966:
- Length: 311’7 3/4” oa; 300' 0" bp
- Navigation Draft: 12' 7" full load, rear, max
- Beam: 41’ max
- Displacement: 2,498 fl
- Main Engines: Fairbanks-Morse, direct reversing diesels
- SHP: 6,080
- Performance, Maximum Sustained: 17.3 kts, 10,300-mi radius
- Performance, Economic: 10.0 kts, 20,800-mi radius
- Fuel Capacity: 166,430
- Complement: 10 officers, 2 warrants, 77 crewmen
- Electronics: Radar: SPS-23 Sonar: SQS-1
- Armament: 1 x 5”/38; 6 x .50 Caliber MG's
- Unimak, Cutter Subject File, USCG Historian's Office
- Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. II (1963), p. 110.
- "Listings: AVP's"; compiled and written by LCDR J. P. Smith, USCGR
- Robert Scheina, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), pp. 10-16.
- Ship's Characteristics Card: USCGC Unimak, 16 June 1966