Tim Heaney remembers the cramped living quarters and tiny shower aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Blackberry.
Tim Heaney remembers the cramped living quarters and tiny shower aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Blackberry. He remembers four- or five-day trips aboard the ship to repair or replace navigational beacons. He remembers a small refrigerator that often wouldn’t hold enough food for those long trips.
When he looked upon the boat in the water Thursday near Cherry Point’s Hancock Boat Docks, he could think of one thing.
“It makes you feel old, sad and old,” said Heaney, a former Coast Guard petty officer who served aboard the Blackberry from 1990 to 1993.
The ship is part of a government liquidation sale, and depending on the buyer, could be turned into scrap.
“It’s very rare that we get working large boats,” said David Landry, the assistant site manager for the auction. “It’s very rare that the government gets rid of something like this. It’s cool, just because of how old it is.”
The Blackberry was one of three 65-foot inland buoy tenders built for use by the Coast Guard. It was commissioned in 1946 and spent time in Alabama and Tennessee before coming to North Carolina in 1962.
When Heaney worked on the ship, it was based out of Oak Island along the southeast coast of the state.
“We went from Fort Macon to the South Carolina line,” he said. “It was never routine. We worked the inlets, and that was the hardest part with the buoys and the shoals changing constantly.”
The boat was in service 62 years before it was decommissioned in October of 2008. In those years, it traveled 250,000 miles and was responsible for placement of 25,000 aids to boat navigation such as buoys or beacons.
“It’s just too slow now,” said Heaney, who retired from the Coast Guard after 20 years and is now a parts and service support representative with Gregory Poole Marine Power in Beaufort.
Since it was decommissioned, the Blackberry has been used at Cherry Point for towing objects for target practice. The ship is still in working order, with a rebuilt diesel engine providing power.
As of Thursday afternoon, the top bid on the boat was $15,700, with bids closing on Friday.
Heaney said one his memories of being aboard was the small shower, cramped leaving quarters and the refrigerator, too small for the crew on extended trips.
“The fridge was the hardest part,” he said. “We all had to bring our own food, and that was a problem. We would be gone four or five days. We had a couple of group meals, but the rest, you were eating sandwiches or the frozen dinner type stuff.”
Still, Heaney said he would think of the ship fondly, no matter its future.
“A lot of good memories,” he said. “She’s 66 years old. She’s done something.”