This year’s lineup of visiting ships features U.S. Coast Guard cutters Alder, Bristol Bay, Biscayne Bay and Mackinaw; and the Canadian Coast Guard ship Constable Carrière.
Monday afternoon’s ship parade was a special opportunity for Tom Schneider and his father-in-law, Jim Beresford, who were guests aboard the Mackinaw as it arrived. Schneider said he won the opportunity to ride aboard the ship in a raffle for the Save the Catwalk fundraiser.
“It was a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for my father-in-law to get back on a Coast Guard boat after 65 years,” Schneider said. “It was a great opportunity to support the community, as well.”
While participating in a tour of the ship before it arrived in Grand Haven, Beresford noted the differences aboard the Mackinaw compared to conditions when he was in the Coast Guard.
“It’s a big change from back when I was in,” he said. “We had steering wheels ... there was nothing computerized.”
Beresford served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1952-56. He first served aboard the buoy tender Balsam, based in Astoria, Oregon, on the Columbia River, assisting in air/sea rescue as well as buoy tending. His next assignment was on the buoy tender Kukui, based in Oahu, Hawaii, for two years.
Beresford said the Mackinaw is an “amazing” vessel, and he took great interest in the ship’s onboard machine shop.
“I was a machinist,” he said. “It didn’t look like the machine shop I was in.”
Hundreds of people lined the boardwalk and the shore along the Grand River as the ships arrived.
Among them was Andrea Thomas, who watched the ships come in with her two children, 4-year-old Logan and 5-month-old Easton. They kept their eyes peeled for a glimpse of their dad, BMC Kyle Thomas, who is stationed in Grand Haven and came into port aboard one of the resident Coast Guard vessels.
“This is our third summer here,” said Andrea, adding that before that, her husband was stationed in Baltimore. “I love Grand Haven. I’m from Traverse City, so I love the small-town life on Lake Michigan.”
Andrea said the Coast Guard Festival is a busy but fun time for the spouse of a Coastie.
“It’s nice to feel the love,” she said. “We try to take part in almost every activity, and it’s more fun with the kids.”
Logan said he liked watching the ships coming in and enjoyed “watching for daddy.”
Tribune Managing Editor Matt DeYoung contributed to this report.