Coast Guard Cutter Smilax Becomes Queen of the Fleet

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. - Coast Guard Commandant and Gold Ancient Mariner Adm. Bob Papp and Silver Ancient Mariner Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Hearn pose with the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Smilax after a relief of watch ceremony in Atlantic Beach, N.C., April 14, 2011. The event was part of the celebration of the Smilax becoming the Queen of the Fleet as the oldest cutter in the fleet. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer Patrick Kelley

Washington, DC – Last night Admiral Bob Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and Gold Ancient Mariner sent the following all hands message to the members of the Coast Guard.


Today, at a ceremony in Atlantic Beach, NC, The Cutter Smilax relieved the watch as queen of the fleet.  Commissioned on 01 NOV 1944, Smilax is now the oldest commissioned cutter in the Coast Guard fleet. Smilax assumes this designation from CGC Acushnet, who was decommissioned on 10 MAR 2011.

Smilax was built at the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works in Dubuque, IA, more than 66 years ago at a cost of just under 200,000 dollars. At the time, World War II raged in both the European and Pacific theaters, Franklin Roosevelt was President and gasoline was roughly 15 cents a gallon. A lot has changed since then, but the one constant has been the care and devotion of Smilax’s past and present crews who kept her shipshape in Bristol fashion.

Smilax is currently responsible for maintaining 1,226 fixed aids to navigation and 26 floating aids to navigation throughout the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In earlier years, she performed similar duties while stationed in Fort Pierce, FL, from 1944 to 1954, New Smyrna Beach, FL, from 1955 to 1965, and Brunswick, GA, form 1966 to 1999.

In conjunction with designation as Queen of the Fleet, Smilax becomes the only ship in the fleet to have gold hull numbers. With her gilded hull numbers, Smilax joins a small and historical group of cuttersthat previously held the title of Queen of the Fleet, including: the Revenue Cutter McCulloch, CGC Campbell (WHEC-32), CGC Ingham (WPG-35), CGC Fir (WLM-212), CGC Storis (WMEC-38), and CGC Acushnet (WMEC-167).

Congratulations to Smilax and her crews, and Bravo Zulu.

Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant and Gold Ancient Mariner.

Photos from the relief of watch ceremony can be seen in the April 2011 photo album at

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.