Originally published in the Cape Cod Chronicle
Summer at the Orleans Historical Society is always a joy. The Meetinghouse is air conditioned (a very important qualification this summer!) and full of interesting things. During the day it’s the exhibits- this summer we have one on the German submarine attack on Orleans in 1918 as well as an art exhibit from the Addison Gallery of contemporary artists inspired by Henry Beston’s Outermost House. And the evenings have fascinating lectures and inspiring musical performance.
But it’s our other summer location people pay the most attention to and no one cares there is no air conditioning over there. During the summer, the motorized lifeboat CG3500 is docked at Rock Harbor. She’s the boat that rescued the survivors of the Pendelton during a nor’easter in 1952, known as the greatest smallboat rescue in Coast Guard History. Her story is told in a movie, many books, newspaper columns, and a permanent exhibit at the Meetinghouse.
This year she’s been having a great summer. It began in late April when she leaves her summer dock at Nauset Marine East on Meetinghouse Pond and goes to Coast Guard Station Chatham for her annual spruce up. OHS volunteers scrap and repaint her and any other repairs or work that are needed to ensure she continues for another year in peak condition. It is a lot of hard work by these dedicated volunteers.
Nauset Marine then transports her to Rock Harbor where she docks at the end nearest the bay. All summer you can view her from the dock and on Saturdays and Sundays you can board her between 2-4 and have volunteers show you around. There is also a souvenir shed manned Wednesday-Sunday afternoons.
Normally the CG36500 stays at Rock Harbor, except for some short trips into the bay for volunteers, people related to the rescue participants, Coast Guard people, and such. But this year she made a special trip to Cuttyhunk, part of the Elizabeth Islands near Martha’s Vineyard.
All along the route from Orleans to Sandwich through the Canal and into Buzzards Bay, people took photos, drone footage, and videos of her. The Wareham Department of Natural Resources Marine Unit gave her an escort through their waters. And then as the skies opened up, the CG36500 arrived in Cuttyhunk.
The island gave them a grand welcome. In the evening they showed The Finest Hours followed by comments by the CG36500’s current coxswain Dick Ryder and Bernie Webber’s daughter Pattie Hamilton. It was a great celebration of the bravery of that evening in 1952.
The next day, the CG36500 went to Coast Guard Station Menemsha for a Meet the Fleet event. Menemsha was the only Cape & the Islands station that the CG36500 had not visited since her restoration in the 80s. However, right before decommissioning from the Coast Guard in 1968, she subbed for another CG boat there. In fact, the same man who brought her from Chatham Station to Menemsha then actually drove her into Menemsha Harbor last week!
The following day a very tired and sunburned crew returned through the Canal to Orleans. They went home for well-deserved sleeps and the CG36500 was cleaned off and started posing for photographs immediately. The work of a brave boat is never done.
For the rest of the summer until around Columbus Day (exact schedule to be determined by the weather), the CG36500 will remain at Rock Harbor. She had an evening out earlier this week when Nauset Marine came to take her to the Orleans Police Department Block Party. But otherwise, she’s at the dock for viewing. And on Saturdays and Sundays, she can be boarded for Talk & Tours. If you’ve not visited lately, this is a good time to come!