Scuttled Coast Guard Vessel has Storied History

Daily Republic - June 19, 2009

Resting on the south bank of Hill Slough is the mostly submerged, forgotten, rotting remains of a D-Day veteran -- the 83-foot rescue cutter CG-1.

For anyone wanting to hoist a beer in honor of the World War II vessel whose crew saved soldiers off of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, a part of CG-1's starboard bow is now the bar at the La Cabana restaurant in Old Town.

Retired carpenter Don Crouse of Suisun City recently tracked down the hulk in the marsh after reading news stories about the anniversary of D-Day that ignored the Coast Guard's role.

“You hear every year about the Army, Navy and Air Force at Normandy, but you never hear about the Coast Guard,” Crouse said.

Crouse had long known a few facts about the boat because he was friends with Tom Costello, who built the bar 10 years ago to be part of La Cabana's predecessor, the Grizzly Bay Brewing Company.

This year, Crouse decided to find the cutter's remains, hoping to collect some of the planking to make picture frames for wartime photos of the boat he acquired.

“I am fascinated by the Coast Guard and I wanted to give them credit,” Crouse said.

The resting place of CG-1 was first discovered in 1995 when Costello and his wife were walking their dog along Hill Slough and spotted it in the water.

Because the brewery Costello was planning had a nautical theme, he figured part of the bow would make a good bar.

Costello and friends returned to cut off 27 feet of the bow section, floated it back to town and then spent a month sandblasting and refinishing it.

Their work revealed the letters CG on forward end, but no one paid any attention until after Grizzly Bay opened and a patron stated the boat was a Coast Guard vessel.

Another examination of the hulk revealed hull numbers which retired Vacaville Coast Guard petty officer John Davidowski used to discover its heritage.

Built in 1942 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the slim vessel had a single-planked wooden hull and a bronze wheelhouse. It was one of 230 that would be built during the war and nicknamed the Matchbox Fleet.

The boat spent two uneventful years patrolling the East Coast before it became one of 60 boats shipped to England to become USCG Flotilla One, Davidowski said.

Their job during the Normandy Invasion was to rescue soldiers and sailors from ships sunk on D-Day.

It was assigned to the waters off Omaha Beach where the American forces ran into a buzzsaw of German fire and suffered horrendous casualties.

CG-1 started that day first pulling 24 soldiers and Royal Navy men from a sunken British ship and then rescued 19 men from a shattered landing craft, according to Davidowski.

By the end of June 1944, the flotilla saved 1,438 men, and by the time the flotilla was decommissioned, that number rose to 4,438, Crouse said.

CG-1 was shipped back to the East Coast, decommissioned in 1962, converted into a touring yacht and brought here.

Residents have told La Cabana owner Ramses Solis that at one point, CG-1 was bought by a man who used the boat for trips to San Francisco Bay and Sacramento.

Eventually, the owner simply drove the boat into Hill Slough and scuttled it, Solis said.

CG-1 was later stripped of its fittings and it bronze wheelhouse because the bronze was worth a small fortune, according Davidowski.

Patrons often ask about the bar “and they are surprised when I tell them it was part of a real boat,” Solis said.

When Crouse walked out to the hulk, only at low tide can the decaying pieces of hull and decking be seen.

“Can't make any picture frames from that,” a disappointed Crouse said.

He will post his pictures of the boat's remains on various Coast Guard history sites to let those interested know the final fate of the small vessel.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .