This US Coast Guard Cutter Has an Enlightening Name

June 17, 1999

(Photo caption: Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Popelars, commanding officer of Cutter Frank Drew, pilots the buoy tender on the James River in Newport News, Virginia, Feb. 22, 2018. Courtesy of the Defense Information Visual Distribution Service – https://www.dvidshub.net/image/4176717/coast-guard-cutter-frank-drew-crew-services-buoys-elizabeth-james-rivers-va)

U.S Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Frank Drew was officially transferred from the Wisconsin-based shipbuilding firm Marinette Marine to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) for use primarily as a buoy tender. (Buoy tenders are vessels used to maintain and replace navigational buoys.)

This cutter was named after a longtime lighthouse keeper in the Great Lakes region. Frank Drew had been born in 1864 in Green Island Light on Green Island, which is located in Green Bay (an arm of Lake Michigan) and approximately four miles (6.4 kilometers) off the coast of Marinette, Wisconsin. His father Samuel Peter Drew was the head keeper for that lighthouse at the time.

Frank Drew eventually followed in his father’s career footsteps, initially serving from 1899 to 1903 as first assistant keeper for the Port des Morts Island Light (now known as the Pilot Island Light) on Pilot Island in Lake Michigan. He was then assigned to the lighthouse where he was born. Drew served as first assistant keeper for Green Island Light until 1909, when he was promoted to its head keeper.

Drew, whose brother George helped him out as an assistant keeper, compiled an exemplary record of heroic rescues during his two decades as the Green Light’s head keeper. One especially noteworthy lifesaving effort took place when he led the rescue of more than 20 people from the gasoline boat Neptune after that vessel’s engine went dead in the midst of rough weather out at sea. Over the years, Drew received numerous citations for his leadership and rescues. Drew ended up retiring in 1929 due to heart problems. The Sheboygan Press reported at the time that he would be leaving with “the memories of a life that has been vividly colored with adventure.”

Drew died two years later and was buried in Marinette. Nearly seven decades later, the lighthouse design featured in the logo for USCGC Frank Drew was derived from his headstone.

This USCG vessel was the seventh of a Keeper class of coastal buoy tenders that had been authorized in the mid-1990s. Each of these vessels has been named after various U.S. lighthouse keepers who performed their lifesaving duties with distinction. All of the Keeper-class cutters have been built by Marinette Marine. Along with serving as buoy tenders, these vessels also routinely carry out such assignments as search-and-rescue missions, law enforcement activities, marine safety inspections, environmental protection efforts, natural resources management, and icebreaking operations.

For more information on Frank Drew, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Drew_(lighthouse_keeper).

Additional information on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Keeper-class cutters is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeper-class_cutter.

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