The Coast Guard Cutter Red Cedar entered my life in 1988. I stepped out of boot camp in Cape May, N.J., and reported ten days later. I had no clue I’d extend my love of the Coast Guard through the collection of postal history.
The Red Cedar was a buoy tender, a hard-working, black hull cutter based in Portsmouth, VA. The ship had responsibility for aids to navigation – mainly buoys – on the southern Chesapeake Bay, the coast down to Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, and the Potomac, James, and Rappahannock Rivers.
I served on her from 1988 until 1990, when I transferred to Quartermaster “A” School and eventually to the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba, out of Boston.
The Red Cedar was a 157-foot ship launched in 1970. If my memory serves, she had a crew of about 30. It rode hard – the vibration would get to you, and being in the back near the engines, you could hang up any sleep if we were steaming overnight.
There was nothing easy about the work. The worst was replacing regular buoys with ice buoys, primarily along the Potomac River. It made for cold, hard, long days.
In 1999, the Red Cedar was decommissioned and transferred to the Argentine Navy, where she exists as the ARA Ciudad de Zarate.
Coast Guard Postal History
As a stamp collector, one of my specialty areas is the postal history of the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 2012, I was in McClean, VA, for work and went to a stamp show in Arlington. To my surprise, I ran across four covers commemorating the Red Cedar and its decommissioning and transfer to Argentina.
Three envelopes have the “H” Rate stamp, Scott #3269. One contains the Snowy Owl stamp, Scott #3290.
Rear Admiral J. Timothy Riker, USCG Reserve, signs one envelope. Mr. Riker is a decorated Coast Guard veteran of 30 years who started his career as an enlisted recruit, retiring in 2000 and being called back into service after 9-11.
Three covers are also signed (on the back) by what I believe to be the then Commanding Officer of the Red Cedar. Unfortunately, I can’t quite make out the signatures.
One Fall, we were tasked with the restoration of Thimble Shoals Lighthouse. Sandblasting that joker was the worst thing in the world. It was terribly hot, and you had to wear a protective hood. Even still, sand got everywhere and into everything, both inside and outside the ship, as well as inside an outside the human body.
I hated every second of it.
But I ran across a postal card (of course)!!! And though not specifically about the Coast Guard or the Red Cedar, it has a home in my Coast Guard Postal History Collection.
Through the collection of postal history, I combined two loves – my time in the Coast Guard and stamps.
These covers have no real financial value, maybe a few bucks each. But they are beautiful reminders of a time I look back on fondly. And they are worth more, to me, than many of my more expensive stamps and covers.