I recently read with interest news articles about the memorial service for Gordon Huggins, retired Coast Guard member and sole survivor of the Triumph disaster.
I remember that stormy night long ago, Jan. 12, 1961. I was a young boy living in a beach house in Seaview. My mother and I were leaning out an upstairs window looking out at the ocean in the darkness. The wind was howling through the trees and military planes were flying out over the ocean dropping ominous red aerial flares. We knew something serious was happening but, little did we know that we were witnessing one of the worst maritime tragedies that was occurring off the Columbia River bar.
The next morning we sadly heard of all the men and boats lost that night. Later that morning, I went down to the ocean. On the beach, just south of the Seaview beach approach, floating in a crab hole, was a long wood boat pike pole. The boat pole, which had one end snapped off, had intricate naval rope work on it. I knew it was off one of the Coast Guard boats. I took it home and it was in my garage for over 35 years.
One day a friend of mine said he knew a Clark County Deputy, Gordon Huggins, who had been the only survivor of the Triumph. I told my friend the story of finding the boat pole on the beach and he conveyed that story to Gordon.
I met Gordon the next week and when I opened the trunk of my car and he looked at the pole, he had a look of amazement on his face. He said, “That is the boat pole off my boat!” He said he knew the man that did the rope work on it.
I then told Gordon he should have the pole and I gave it to him. Years later, while visiting the Astoria Maritime Center, I saw the pole hanging on the wall at the Triumph exhibit. It’s fitting it’s in a place of honor.