Rockaway Records
If you can top any record or claim a new one, click here
Ernie Birchfield
Dave Saam, GM3 and hooked Blue Shark
“I caught a 10 foot Blue Shark from the stern of the Rockaway on a hook and handline
that I made myself.  Does this qualify for a record?”
It was hooked and pulled aboard during one of many fishing sessions with Chief Gunners
Mate Vermilyea during various ocean station patrols.
Youngest Aboard?
“I WAS 15 years old when I reported aboard the Rockaway in 1942,” says Ernie Birchfield,
who quickly adds, “of course, the Navy never knew that.”
Claiming he was 17, he became part of a skeleton crew that went aboard while workmen
were putting the finishing touches on the Rockaway at the Bremerton Navy Yard.
Ernie Birchfield
Ernie Birchfield
Ernie Birchfield in 1941 at the age of 15                       Ernie in 2002 at the first reunion of the Rockaway.
“We were tied up aft of the California,” he said, “Shipyard workers were all over the
ship day and night.  The bunks in the first and second divisions were not installed yet.  
For the first time ever I had to sleep in a hammock.”
Besides being a plankowner and the youngest aboard, Birchfield also has the distinction
of being the first man to land in the Rockaway brig.  “My only regret,” he said, looking
back on those times, “is the knowledge that I was probably the biggest screw-up to have
ever served aboard.”
We can’t agree with his last opinion—and other shipmates may claim that position—but
we do agree with his feelings: “She was an outstanding ship.”
On Board the Longest?
Bruce Cranstoun stepped on board the Rockaway as an SNRD on 6 January 1961 and stayed
until he made Chief in 1968.
His first time ever aboard any ship or in the big city of New York, he made 4 Cadet Cruises—
through the St. Lawrence Seaway to The Great Lakes, through the Panama Canal to the West
Coast, and twice to Europe—13 Ocean Stations; 4 training trips to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba;
3 Bermuda Standbys; numerous surveys of the Baltimore Canyon when the Rockaway
became an Oceanographer; and enjoyed liberty in over 25 foreign ports.
Bruce Cranstoun
Bruce Cranstoun
Bruce Cranstoun, Seaman, 1961 in Lower Sound and Bruce Cranston, RDCM
retired, 2003 in Tichnor, Arkansas.
While the Rockaway was at the Coast Guard Yard in 1964, he met his wife, Bonnie, at the
Baltimore USO.  Now married for nearly 40 years, their son, Bruce, serves with the
Massachusettes State Police.
Nicknamed, Cranny, he left the Rockaway in 1968 and commissioned the CGC Gallatin, then
went on to the Edisto, the Northwind, the Edisto again, with 2 tours also at the Radar School
on Governors Island and finished up at VTS Houston/Galveston where he retired in 1980 as an
He plans to be at our next reunion.
If you can top 7+ years on the Rockaway, or claim another record, click here
Youngest Guest?
Mike Gunson
Possibly the only American boy to ever sail on a Coast Guard cutter to the center of the
Atlantic and witness a rescue, 9-year-old Mike Gunson, son of Warrant Officer John
Gunson, was thrilled when the crew of Rockaway rescued all the seaman from the
British freighter Wychwood in 1955 when it went aground on a reef.
Oldest Rockaway Art?
CGC Rockaway
Oil painting of the Coast Guard Cutter Rockaway by Dutch artist Klaas Koster (1885-1969)
Discovered for auction on Ebay by our shipmate, Louis Wood, this oil painting must have been created in 1954
when the Rockaway escorted the CGC Eagle to the Netherlands.
Artist Klass Koster never realized the American Coast Guard cutter he painted would later be sold to his
country and end its days in his hometown of Amsterdam, Holland just three years after his death.
I think I have the record beat for the "Youngest Guest" aboard the Rockaway. I lived in Norwalk,
Connecticut as a boy, and the Commander of the Rockaway at that time, Loy Renshaw, lived across the
street from us. We were good friends with his family.

In February of 1959, Loy arranged for my father and I to go on a short 2 or 3 day trip from Staten Island
to Baltimore on the Rockaway. It was truly one of the most memorable events of my childhood. I was
only 8 years old, but I remember everything so vividly. I do have some old photo slides stored away
somewhere, and if I ever locate them, I'll scan a few and send them along for possible posting on the

I remained very much involved with boating and many years later obtained my Master's license in
Seattle, where the Rockaway was built.

Thank you Rockaway, for the memories!

Bill Whitbeck
Seattle, WA