Bramble — Iris Class
Bramble was built by the Zenith Dredge Company. The keel laying took place on August 2, 1943, and the launch followed on October 23, 1943.

The commissioning ceremony was six months later, on April 22, 1944.

The federal government paid $925,464 for Bramble.

Initially, Bramble was stationed on the Great Lakes as an icebreaker and buoy tender. This first tour of duty was brief and by mid-1944 Bramble, under new orders, left for San Pedro, California. Bramble operated out of San Pedro until March 1945 when she received orders sending her to Juneau, Alaska.

In February 1946 Bramble left Juneau for San Francisco, California. While based in California Bramble traveled to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Island to participate in Operation Crossroads. Bikini was the site of U.S. atomic bomb tests. Bramble took over responsibility for the maintenance of Aids to Navigation (AtoN) in Bikini’s lagoon from her sister ship Redbud, which had helped prepare the target area for the first round of tests.

After several weeks of refurbishing AtoN, marking channels into the lagoon, and working on the moorings for ships used as target vessels during the tests, Bramble left Bikini. Bramble paused about fifteen miles from the atoll to watch the detonation of an atomic bomb over the target area before setting a course for Hawaii.

Bramble moved again in August 1946, this time to Honolulu, Hawaii. She left Hawaii in July 1947 and took up station in San Francisco. She worked out of San Francisco for exactly two years and then moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Throughout her wanderings in the Pacific from 1944-1949 Bramble served as an AtoN tender.

Bramble spent four years operating out of San Juan. During this period she was engaged in AtoN work but was also very busy conducting Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. These SAR operations had Bramble assisting vessels ranging from sailing schooners to oil tankers. Her assistance was not limited to mariners; in April 1952 she went to the aid of ten survivors from a plane crash.

In July 1953 Bramble moved once again to a new homeport, this time it was Miami Beach, Florida. Bramble continued her AtoN and SAR work from Miami Beach. She also made goodwill visits on behalf of the United States to ports in Ecuador and Colombia.

While based at Miami Beach Bramble participated in an historic operation that took her far from the palm fringed shores of South Florida. On May 26, 1957, Bramble departed on a special mission. In the company of the larger cutter Storis and her sister ship Spar, the tender circumnavigated the North American continent. The Coast Guard convoy, known as Task Force Five, formed in Seattle, Washington, and headed north and west toward Alaska. They eventually reached Point Barrow and turned back east. By carefully working their way through the Northwest Passage, making preliminary charts as they went, the trio reached Baffin Bay and then the Labrador Sea.

From the Labrador Sea they entered the Atlantic Ocean and steamed south to the East Coast of the United States. The three cutters were the first U.S. vessels to complete a circumnavigation of the continent.

The long journey included 4,525 miles in the barely charted waters north of the Arctic Circle. At one point while transiting the Franklin Strait all three vessels became trapped in ice for several days until Spar battered her way free of the ice and cleared a path to open water. Had Spar’s efforts been unsuccessful, the U.S. Coast Guard would have abandoned the three cutters in the ice for the winter and evacuated their crews. Spar’s efforts did cause some damage to the cutter and divers had to brave frigid waters to conduct repairs.

The purpose of the voyage was to find out if the Northwest Passage was a feasible supply route between the Atlantic and Pacific, one that the U.S. military could use in times of war when enemy action might close other shipping routes. Military planners had especially high hopes for the Northwest Passage as a resupply route for the Defensive Early Warning (DEW) line. This line of radar stations guarded against surprise Soviet attack via the Arctic. Though Task Force Five completed the voyage without serious mishap, the difficulty of the journey and the conditions encountered by the vessels led military planners to abandon the idea of establishing shipping lanes across the top of the continent.

After Task Force Five completed its mission Bramble returned to Miami to take up her duties as an AtoN tender and SAR platform. These duties included assisting in the evacuations of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, under the threat of Hurricane Gracie.

In August 1962 the well-traveled buoy tender, with service in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea, returned home to the Great Lakes. She took up station in Detroit, Michigan, and went to work as an AtoN tender and icebreaker.

The Duluth shipyards originally built the 180s to carry out icebreaking duties. Their reinforced hulls and notched bows allowed them to power through ice up to several inches thick. On occasion, however, the ice was not the danger; instead it was the vessel they were helping that posed a threat. Bramble was breaking ice for the commercial vessel Robert S. McNamara when the following vessel got too close and collided with Bramble’s stern. The buoy tender survived without serious damage and it appears this was the only collision in which Bramble was involved.

Bramble underwent a Major Renovation at the Curtis Bay yard in 1974. The repairs included an overhaul of her engines, installation of a new hydraulic boom, and habitability improvements. After the yard period Bramble was assigned to Port Huron, Michigan. Bramble has operated out of Port Huron for the last seventeen years except for patrols in the Caribbean during the winters of 1986-1987 and 1997. During the 1997 trip to the Caribbean Bramble participated in training programs involving the marine police of ten island nations and joint operations with Venezuelan maritime forces.

One of the last 180s in U.S. service as a buoy tender, Bramble was decommissioned on May 22, 2003. Where she has been part of the Port Huron museum until its closing in 2011.

Purchased in 2018 by the current owner, with ongoing maintenance and repairs planned to be completed prior to departing from Miami on the 26th May 2019 to once again circumnavigate the United States, taking the North West passage, retracing the first ever passage completed in 1957 by Task Force Five.


Great Lakes ’43-’44
San Pedro, CA ’44-’45
Juneau, AK ’45-’46
San Francisco, CA ’46
Hawaii ’46-’47
San Francisco, CA ’47-’49
San Juan, PR ’49-’53
Miami Beach, FL ’53-’62
Detroit, MI ’62-’74
Port Huron, MN ’74-2003
Port Huron, MN – Museum – 2003-2011 (Museum closed in 2011 due to lack of funding)
Port Huron, MN – Private Ownership – Robert B Klingler – 2013-2018
Port Huron, MN – Private Ownership – Tom Clarke – 2018-Present