Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Columnist: George Copna "Aboard the Cartigan in Panama City- 1962"

The following is another story from the long career of the USCG Cutter Cartigan, formerly moored in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay. George Copna, who was a Radioman 2nd Class aboard the Cartigan, has been providing me with some stories and photos of the ship which I am only too happy to post here. This is the latest from Mr. Copna, the illustration is one he previously sent, and which I could not make fit into the last post. It is actually an artist's portrayal of the so-called "buck and a quarter's", a class of cutters so named for their tonnage, which was 125 tons displacement. It is also one of Mr. Copna's favorites illustrations. Here is his story;

Panama City, not to be confused with Panama City Beach, in the 1960's was a "hopping" tourist town. There were, and still are, two major marinas in the city. One was in the downtown area and the other was in the St. Andrew's area, which is where we moored, starboard side to!

During the summer months there was always a good deal of foot traffic on the marina, especially when a large ship was underway in the area. It so happened one summer day that we were coming in to moor after a day of drills. The Captain allowed the XO to conn the ship and bring her in to moor. I should mention at this point that the 'Cartigan' seemed to have a re-enforced bow and was once used to break ice up north in a river for a period of time. As usual, we were drawing a crowd of tourists and they were gathered about 25 yards from the end of the dock.

I was RM2 at the time and my special sea detail billet was as sound powered phone talker on the bridge so I had a ring side seat for what was to come. Apparently, the XO brought the ship in a little too fast and at too steep of an angle and she got away from him. We soundly impacted the end of the concrete marina, the bow riding four to five feet up high, severing a large water line and creating a large geyser of water and chunks of concrete. This in turn sent the observers scurrying for cover, for which there was none, and the captain into shock. The XO maintained his cool, backed her down and tried it again, this time successfully. The bridge gang all had to muffle our collective laughter because it was indeed a sight to see. The only damage done was to the marina facility and the XO's pride. The saga continues!

I hope you like this, because it is true to the best of my memory and it is published in a book about the Coast Guard here in Panama City.

I saw this ship almost daily in Brooklyn for several years. I actually used to go out of my way to see her, never thinking that I would one day be corresponding with one of the many men who sailed her. My conclussion? Sometimes things just work out that way...


  1. My father was c/o on the Cartigan in the 60s... Lt. Lipham

    1. Would love to hear any stories you might remember about the ship. Also if you would like to share any photos - here or on Facebook- I know that they will be greatly appreciated. That ship was a big part of my teen years.

  2. My brother John McNeely was on the Cartigan in the 60’s in Panama City, Florida. We have had a difficult time finding any information on it. Please share if you have some. Thanks, Penny

  3. Wish I could help you. I used to see the Cardigan in Sheepshead Bay and was very surprised that there was any interest in it. George Copna was the first to react. You might try looking for the ships webpage, if they have one. Glad you stopped by,sorry I am not able to give you more info....