Articles

That time a Coast Guard icebreaker made a massive drug bust off the coast of Jamaica

Nope, that headline isn't a mad lib. A Coast Guard icebreaker was sailing near Jamaica, the hot island in the tropics, and seized a boatload of marijuana.


The capture came in 1984 and represented the first narcotics bust for an Arctic icebreaker.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Northwind was based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, and spent most of its time breaking ice in the Great Lakes, Arctic, and Antarctic regions. But it was known to do some cruises in warmer climes, occasionally even the tropics.

The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind in 1986, assisting Greenland in repopulating musk-ox herds. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

In 1984, the Northwind was operating in the Atlantic. It MEDEVACed a woman from a sailboat one day, put out a fire with the U.S. Navy on another, and captured 20 tons of marijuana on its own on another day.

The seizure came on Nov. 4, 1984. The Alexi I was sailing 240 miles from Jamaica when it was spotted by the Northwind and stopped. The Coast Guardsmen found 20 tons of marijuana onboard.

That had to be rough for the crew of the CGC Glover, which had made news three days before with a 13-ton record-setting bust. At the time, the Northwind's was the largest maritime marijuana capture in history, breaking a 1976 record established by the CGC Sherman.

The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind was heavily armed for its class. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Northwind served for another five years after the incident but was decommissioned in 1989 and sent to the James River Reserve Fleet. The ship was later broken down for scrap.

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