The motor lifeboat involved in one of the great small-boat rescues in Coast Guard history, once left to rot in Wellfleet, Mass., recently underwent its third restoration.
Named CG36500, the 36-foot vessel now back on its Cape Cod waters, was decommissioned in 1968 after 22 years of life-saving service with the Coast Guard. The CG36500 made its way from Cape Cod to Mystic, Conn. for the WoodenBoat Show this June and it’s restoration was awarded with a 1st place in Power, Owner Restoration, and overall Judges Choice.
In 1981 the Orleans Historical Society performed its own rescue after being granted ownership of the lifeboat, jump-starting restoration plans. After a total the group tallies at 1,958 labor hours, a cost of about $140,000 and an abundance of cedar, the major restoration was completed this spring.
The CG36500 is the 36-foot wooden motor lifeboat that was instrumental in the 1952 rescue of nearly all the men aboard the 503-foot oil tanker Pendleton, which split in half amid a nor’easter off Chatham, Mass. (Read more on the rescue at www.soundings online.com, Keyword: Pendleton.)
“The Coast Guard considers this rescue to be the greatest small-boat rescue in its history,” says Peter Kennedy, who is on the board of directors of the Orleans Historical Society, and officer-in-charge of the CG36500 project. “This is one reason why it was worth restoring.”
Though the lifeboat has undergone two other cosmetic restorations, the project was the most demanding, requiring more effort than originally realized, according to Kennedy.
“We ended up discovering more rot than we predicted. We ended up replacing the deck beams of the coxswain flat, the deck beams on the well deck, the running deck and all four bulkheads,” Kennedy says.
The boat was restored to original condition with cedar and fir on bent oak frames above the waterline, and cypress on bent oak frames below the waterline.
Because of the discovery of more rot after the fiberglass was removed, the project ended up costing $15,000 more than the original estimate, says Kennedy.
Funding came from the Fred J. Brotherton Charitable Foundation, a private foundation; a public grant from the Community Preservation Act; and private donations, says Kennedy. Six to eight volunteers, mostly retired and living on the Cape, dedicated 414 hours of labor. The restoration also required 1,544 hours of work by a local yard, Marine Restoration and Salvage, owned and operated by Suzanne Leahy and located in the Orleans Industrial Park.
No major work was done to the hull during this restoration because it was judged to be in fairly good shape. During a refit in the 1990s, some of the shear clamps were replaced and the boat was resheathed in Monel below the waterline. Monel is a high-end, corrosion-resistant metal, and was likely the reason for the hull maintaining its good condition, according to Kennedy. The boat’s 1968 GM 4-71 diesel engine was rebuilt in the 1980s, and late-model safety equipment was installed to enable her to cruise Cape Cod waters at that time.
At that time, a decision was made to sheath the topside in fiberglass, which likely led to the unexpected degree of rot, according to Kennedy, which he says was most likely an effort to cosmetically enhance the boat or delay further deterioration, but the result created a host of problems.
“All that fiberglass sheathing over wood accomplishes is locking in moisture, accelerating the rot,” Kennedy says. “This decision caused the main reasons for such a major restoration in 2009.”
CG36500 was relaunched at the end of May from Rock Harbor in Orleans.
See related articles: Antique & Classic Wooden Boat Shows Calendar
This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the September 2009 issue.