Former Island Coast Guard personnel recall Station Menemsha
Executive Petty Officer Jordan Baptiste, recently assigned to Coast Guard Station Menemsha, joins a unique fraternity of men and women who have served at the Chilmark station. Some, like Mr. Baptiste, already called Martha's Vineyard home. Many others arrived here having never been to Martha's Vineyard. Eventually, some of these made Martha's Vineyard their home.
In conversations with The Martha's Vineyard Times, former Coast Guard personnel spoke about the camaraderie of the crews and the personal satisfaction they got from helping people in distress.
Robert E. Kinnecom of Oak Bluffs served at Station Gay Head, the precursor to Station Menemsha (see history on Page 36), in 1951 and 1952, when it was located next to the lighthouse on the cliffs. The rescue boats were kept at a boathouse in Menemsha. His father, Chief Petty Officer Harold .E. Kinnecom, commanded the station prior to World War II. Then, the rescue boats were kept and launched from Lobsterville Beach.
A first class sonarman, Robert Kinnecom served with 13 men, and they worked six days on and two days off. "And you could only go into town one night during those six days if you were married," he said. "Otherwise, you stayed right there on the cliff for six days. And we had to take care of the lighthouse when the lighthouse keeper was away or he was sick."
Mr. Kinnecom, who served in the Coast Guard from 1949 to 1953, added, "I was with some great guys."
Susan Larsen of Chilmark graduated from college with a degree in French in 1985, and promptly left for the Coast Guard, which came as a big surprise to her parents who were unaware she had enlisted. Originally from Wareham, she worked hard to earn her coxswain license. The former boatswain's mate second class arrived at Station Menemsha in late 1986 and served as the station's first woman coxswain, responsible for operating the 41- and 44-foot rescue boats. "It wasn't easy at all, but it was fun, and I don't regret it," she said.
One of the attractions Station Menemsha offered was the service area, which encompassed the waters of Vineyard Sound, Buzzards Bay and 20 miles south of the Vineyard.
"Driving the boats was my favorite thing, that was a lot of fun," she said. "I liked the forty-four the best because it was slow, but it was really powerful. But the forty-one was fast. That was a nice boat, but you couldn't go in every type of weather. The forty-four, you could."
Islander Wayne V. Iacono of Chilmark, now a lobsterman, served two stints at Station Gay Head during his eight years in the Coast Guard. He was there from 1967 to 1969, went to Vietnam for one year, and returned for another two years in 1971, serving as executive petty officer, the job Mr. Baptiste will have.