JIB  Power”

by Sandy Schwaab, CGC Ojibwa

Buffalo-area , New York was home to several military commands. In addition to CG Base/Group Buffalo, which included CGC Ojibwa and CGC Buckthorn, several small-boat stations, and a buoy depot, the area hosted USAF Station Niagara and the USS P(name deleted to protect the “innocent”), a former minesweeper used as a Naval Reserve Training Vessel. The USS P was commanded by an active duty LT and an essential, full-time active duty crew, augmented by reservists throughout the year. Now, you all still remember, I hope, the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story? A fairy tale starts off with “once upon a time,” while a sea story starts with “this ain’t no s--t.”

             On a fateful day in the fall of 1968, the P prepared to get underway for a reserve training cruise. She was moored in the Niagara River a bit north of the city with a large, stone breakwall separating the dock from the main river channel; still, an area with swift current requiring some experience to negotiate getting U/W. As luck would have it on this cruise, a Navy Reserve CAPT happened to be part of the embarked reserve crew and “requested” (as only a full CAPT can do!) to take the ship out. After some serious doubt, the CO reluctantly agreed and the rest, as you can imagine, was history.

             The CAPT set Special Sea Detail, got the ship U/W, and backed out into the current. Remember the breakwall? You guessed it! No sooner had he made mid-channel than the current grabbed the ship and swept her stern-first toward the wall. Before the CO could correct the error, she went up on the breakwall by the stern, wiping out both screws and both rudders. Her crew managed to get a line back to the dock and winched her home – as embarrassed as you can imagine! A bad day for the USS P and her CO (who was, unfortunately, relieved of his command); an interesting adventure to come for Ojibwa!

             Early the following Spring, after our winter icebreaking was completed, the Jib got orders to tow the P to the shipyard in Sturgeon Bay , WI ; how demeaning for the Navy – towed to the yard by the Coast Guard! Taking P alongside, we got her out into “beautiful” Lake Erie and dropped her astern for the long ride to WI. After a relatively uneventful trip hauling this “barge” through Lake Erie, Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River, Lake Huron, the “Straits,” and half-way down Lake Michigan, we swung into Sturgeon Bay, arriving on a misty evening, tired and ready to go ashore.

             Taking the P alongside again to put her on the dock, our crew decided that some form of “tribute” was needed for this out-of-the-ordinary mission. As always, the old Navy – Coast Guard rivalry reared its ugly head as we tried to come up with an appropriate statement that would live long in the ship’s history. Our QM1 and an SN suddenly disappeared and came back with a can of Spar paint and a set of 3” stencils. While the Navy crew was busy getting their mooring lines out on the dock side (no one watching their outboard side), the QM and SN hopped aboard the P and made their way, unseen, to the stack deck. None of our guys, including the Skipper, were quite sure what they had in mind, but we were sure it would prove controversial – we weren’t disappointed!

             Our guys returned to the Jib only moments before docking was completed, both with huge grins. As we took in our lines and prepared to dock ourselves for the night, the entire Navy crew was on deck assisting in the take-in. As soon as we were clear of P, the QM1, on the bridge, turned on one of the searchlights, aimed it at the P’s stack, and let loose on the horn. In the late evening fog suddenly appeared, in 3” Spar letters on a gray stack, the words:



There arose a simultaneous cheer from our side and a long stream of “expletives” from the Navy!

             While all in good fun, after a long, boring tow job and the usual inter-service rivalry, I will leave the rest of the evening’s “entertainment” to your imaginations, as both crews went on liberty in the lovely, yet very small, town of Sturgeon Bay. The “locals” had a hard time figuring out who was who, as the only serious difference in our uniforms at the time was the shield on our sleeves (forget our “Donald Duck” hats – they’d already been stolen by the local girls!) Only a few of us (and them) ended up in the local slammer, “bailed” out by our respective skippers and the CO of the Marine Safety Detachment at Sturgeon Bay . All in all – another job “well done” and an adventure for the crew of the “mighty Jib.”


C.A. (Sandy) Schwaab