The story of USCGC Bramble seems like it comes straight out of a Hollywood movie. She is one of the 39 original 180-foot seagoing buoy tenders built between 1942 and 1944 for the United States Coast Guard. All of the 180’s were named after trees, shrubs or flowers. This was a continuation of the longstanding lighthouse service practice of naming vessels after foliage found in the intended area of operation for that vessel.
In 1947, Bramble participated in "Operation Crossroads", the first test of an atomic bomb's effect on surface ships at Bikini Island. Bramble took over responsibility for the maintenance of Aids to Navigation (AtoN) in Bikini’s lagoon from her sister ship Redbud, which had helped prepare the target area for the first round of tests. Bramble paused about fifteen miles from the atoll to watch the detonation of an atomic bomb over the target area before setting a course for Hawaii.
In 1957, Bramble, along with her sister ships, USCGC Spar and USCGC Storis, were selected to attempt a forced passage along the northern shore of Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. The ships traveled through 4,500 nautical miles of semi-charted water in 64 days to recross the Arctic Circle into the Atlantic. The success of the mission distinguished the three cutters as the first American surface ships to circumnavigate the North American continent. Bramble and crew returned south and were hailed as heroes.
After Task Force Five completed its mission Bramble returned to Miami to take up her duties as an AtoN tender and SAR platform. These duties included assisting in the evacuations of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, under the threat of Hurricane Gracie. In August 1962 the well-traveled buoy tender returned home to the Great Lakes. She took up station in Detroit, Michigan, and went to work as an AtoN tender and icebreaker.
On 22 May 2003, the Bramble was decommissioned and became a museum ship, docked at the Seaway Terminal, but closed to the public in 2011 due to lack of funding. It seemed the end for this gallant vessel was near. In January 2013 the ship was purchased by Robert B Klingler of Marine City, Michigan, who created the company USCGC Bramble LLC. Some restoration was carried out and the ship continued as a museum, also making occasional short voyages. In 2014 Bramble was featured in the film “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”. However, funds continued to dwindle and the ship was put up for sale.
After years with no potential buyers, it seemed the ship was destined for the scrapyard.
But then on a fateful day in December 2018, entrepreneur and adventurer Tom Clarke of Roanoke, Virginia miraculously appeared at the very last moment and agreed to purchase the ship; not just for scrap...but to give her an entirely new lease on life! Tom Clarke has announced plans to send the vessel on an epic journey, replicating the circumnavigation of North America in 1957, including traversing of the North West Passage.
A small but dedicated crew has been working around the clock for months to get her ready for the first mission: to sail the ship south to dry dock in Mobile Alabama for a complete overhaul. Then it’s on to Miami for a Coast Guard celebration before heading north to Alaska, and eventually, the treacherous Northwest Passage.
Great Lakes ’43-’44
San Pedro, CA ’44-’45
Juneau, AK ’45-’46
San Francisco, CA ’46
San Francisco, CA ’47-’49
San Juan, PR ’49-’53
Miami Beach, FL ’53-’62
Detroit, MI ’62-’74
Port Huron, MI ’74-2003
Port Huron, MI – Museum – 2003-2011 (Museum closed in 2011 due to lack of funding)
Port Huron, MI – Private Ownership – Robert B Klingler – 2013-2018
Port Huron, MI – Private Ownership – Tom Clarke – 2018-Present
See uscgc-bramble.com for more information.