Digest>Archives> May 1997

Abbie Burgess Launched

By Mary Johns


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A huge crowd gathers in Marinette, Wi. to honor ...
Photo by: Brian Humphrey

Marinette, Wis.-In a thick fog-perhaps as befits a vessel named for a lighthouse legend-the U. S. Coast Guard buoy tender Abbie Burgess was launched April 5 at Marinette Marine Corp.

The 175-foot buoy tender is the third in the Coast Guard's Keeper series of coastal vessels, all named after famous lighthouse keepers. Previous launchings included the Ida Lewis, whose home port is Newport, RI, and the Katherine Walker, who will be berthed at Bayonne, NJ.

The other vessels were launched on sunny days. But the Abbie Burgess was christened in the rain, which drove onlookers, mostly Coast Guard families and Marinette Marine employees, to the company's huge indoor "yard."

"Christening gives a ship its identity," said Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Allan Primm, who was responsible for researching the real Abbie Burgess and designing the exhibit focusing on her life. In the course of his research, Primm unearthed a photocopy of what appears to be a newspaper photograph of Abbie. With computer enhancements, the photocopy now resembles an oil painting.

An actress portraying Abbie Burgess added drama to the ceremony. Keynote speaker at the launching was U. S. Rep. Jay Johnson, D-Green Bay. In addition, a Fresnel lens was on display.

Linda Trent, wife of Master Chief Petty Officer Rick Trent, was the boat's sponsor, christening the vessel with a bottle of champagne. Seconds later the vessel slid into the icy waters of the Menominee River, which divides Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

The moment was recorded by news photographers. Launchings are always news here, but the Abbie Burgess, named for a woman who, as a teenager, tended two Matinicus Rock lighthouses and her family while her father was ashore for a month in January 1856, drew media attention from throughout the Upper Midwest and New England. "Everyone in the state of Maine must know who Abbie Burgess is," said Primm.

The Abbie Burgess will operate out of Rockland, Maine, about 25 miles from the islands where Abbie spent most of her life. An 18-member crew will maintain buoys as well as participate is search and rescue, environmental response and ice breaking activities.

Marinette Marine will build at least seven more Keeper Class buoy tenders, as well as a number of Juniper Class ocean-going buoy tenders. The contracts have pumped new life into the shipyard, established during World War II. Fewer defense industry contracts and a general decline forced the shipbuilder to lay off hundreds of employees during the 1980s. The Coast Guard contracts have enabled the shipyard to rebound. It now employs about 600 workers.

This story appeared in the May 1997 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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