USCG Cutter Tamaroa, ex-USS Zuni, to be Reefed off NJ Coast

tamoroaThe historic USCG CutterTamaroa will soon be sunk as an artificial reef in the Atlantic Ocean 25 miles south of Cape May Point, New Jersey.  The old ship has had a remarkable history.  Built in 1943 as USS Zuni, the 205-foot fleet ocean/salvage tug and one of seventy Cherokee-class fleet tugs saw service in World War II in campaigns in the Marianas, the Philippines, and at Iwo Jima.  After the war, she was transferred to the US Coast Guard and renamed Tamaroa.  

USCGC Tamaroa had a 48 year long career in US Coast Guard, serving on safety patrols, in drug interdiction and fisheries protection. She was the first Coast Guard Cutter to arrive at the sinking passenger liner Andrea Doria after the collision with the the Swedish liner Stockholm 1956. Tamaroa may be best known for rescuing the crew of the yacht Satori, as well as the crew of a downed Air National Guard helicopter during the “Perfect Storm” of 1991,
described in Sebastian Junger’s book, The Perfect Storm.

USCGC Tamaroa will also be remembered for a landmark tort case, related to the actions of a crew member while the ship was in drydock in 1963. An intoxicated seaman returning to the ship, opened a series of valves on a floating drydock in the Ira Bushey yard on Brooklyn’s Gowanus canal.  The open valves caused tanks on one side of the drydock to flood, causing the Tamaroa to slide off the docking blocks and into the drydock wall.  Both the drydock and the ship suffered significant damage. The yard owner sued the Coast Guard which was found to be at fault, establishing that the ship owner was responsible for damages caused by the actions of a crew member in the course of his employment.

The Navy Times reports that New Jersey and Delaware officials say the 205-foot ship will help expand their joint deepwater reef 25 miles south of Cape May Point by attracting large game fish and aiding the Garden State’s $1.7 billion recreational fishing industry.

They plan to sink the Tamaroa around Oct. 30, the 25th anniversary of “The Perfect Storm,” although no official announcement has been issued.

The man who commanded the ship during the 1991 “Perfect Storm” said sinking the Tamaroa is a better outcome than being demolished for scrap metal, a common ending for old service ships.

“It’s always sad when you sink a ship, but some good will come of it,” retired Coast Guard Capt. Larry Brudnicki said. “It’s being repurposed. It’s being used. If it’s cut up, who’s going to know that their razor blade came from the Tamaroa?”

Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

This entry was posted in Current, History, Lore of the Sea, Ships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to USCG Cutter Tamaroa, ex-USS Zuni, to be Reefed off NJ Coast

  1. Ginny says:

    What a beautiful (and obviously very sea worthy) hull shape. Wouldn’t she make a gorgeous private yacht? And so much prettier than any of the current breed of ever larger power boats.

  2. Indeed Ginny and a nice straight bow now so popular again. In 1956 I was in my second of four years as a Deck Apprentice in the Merchant Navy on the North Atlantic run so remember the Andrea Doria/Stockholm collision. Some years later I wrote an report on that collision when sitting my British Master’s Certificate of Competency as part of a study of “radar assisted collisions”. Does seem as waste of an interesting vessel.

    Good Watch.

  3. Rick Spilman says:


    From what I have read the Zuni Maritime Foundation, a non-profit, spent a decade trying to turn the old ship into a museum but failed to raise the necessary funds and had a very hard time keeping up with hull leaks. I think the ship may have sunk at the dock a few years ago.

  4. james colby says:

    Are any local boats in the Wildwoods and Cape May area going to have a sighting tour of the sinking?

  5. JD says:

    It’s been sitting here in Norfolk, first at the end of our street at Little Creek looking so sharp next to all those ugly US Navy Velveeta cheese boxes they call ships. I knew what it was the day it appeared and got to gaze at her off my back porch every evening. I took a bunch of pics now buried on hard drive somewhere. I even donated that year towards restoration work.

    Now at American Marine Group, the salvage reef specialist (under fire in years past by Norfolk and Portsmouth due to the numbers of derelict boats clogging up the inlet.) The handsome hull is beyond salvage sadly (estimated by some to be $2-million worth of work, which sadly is beyond the reach of interested parties.) Something noble about it being sunk as is, rather than painfully broken, yet cold comfort to those who find value in the tough, noteable vessel.

    I have been sorely tempted to go ‘commando’ and sneak aboard just to see and take some photos of it up close before it is returned to the earth. Hell, if I asked nicely (and waivered) they’d probably allow it. Hmm, wonder if it’s been towed yet?

  6. JD says:

    While awaiting moderation approval for previous comments, I’ll voice to request any info on the sighting, schedule of tow or sinking. If moving foward with this, I’m in Norfolk and would welcome the opportunity to document the journey and the sinking.

    I’ve a hearty constitution, decent sea-legs, Scout ethos, discretion, several cameras and above-average writing skills!