Salty Air

The Caretakers of CG36500, the Hero’s Boat

CG36500
Brian Tarcy
Written by Brian Tarcy

ORLEANS – “We celebrate the Coast Guard with this boat,” said Richard Besciak of Orleans, a volunteer who helps maintain CG36500, the boat that saved 32 men from the sinking of the tanker, The Pendleton off of Chatham in 1952.

CG36500

36 people fit on this boat

As of this month, CG36500, is back at its summer berth in Rock Harbor. “Part of our mission is to give a sense of what the Coast Guard does,” said Besciak.

Besciak and the others who maintain the boat said they expect a lot of interest this year after the movie about the rescue, “The Finest Hours,” was released last summer.

On Sunday, volunteers loaded storage lockers back onto the boat for the season and then took some time to reflect on why they do what they do.

CG36500

John Norton, Richard Ryder, Tom Strangefeld, and Dave Archibald, discuss the best way to load this locker onto CG36500.

“It’s a matter of pride,” said Richard Ryder, of Eastham. Ryder is the operations manager for the Orleans Historical Society, which owns CG36500. “We’re taking pride in a beautiful boat and we’re taking pride in the guys that put their lives on the line,” he said.

So here were these volunteers setting the boat up for the summer and happily talking to any visitors who wandered by. “I was a kid in Chatham when it happened,” said Ryder.

“The word around town wasn’t that they saved 32, but that they missed one,” he said.

CG36500

Dave Archibald passes rope to John Norton, who puts it in the storage locker aboard CG36500.

The story of the dramatic rescue, filling a 32-foot boat with 36 people, including four crew members, is well known on the Cape and, as mentioned, the subject of a recent Hollywood movie.

For these volunteers, each in their own way, the story is personal. And they also love the boat, and watching people marvel, as Ryder said, “at how many people fit on the boat.”

Besciak said, “The immediate reaction we always get is that they can’t believe how small it is.”

Besciak, a former history teacher in Harwich and Sharon, said of seeing the CG36500, “It’s magic. It’s the same way you feel if you

CG36500

John Norton and Dave Archibald load the locker onto CG36500.

visit the Constitution or the USS Massachusetts.”

CG36500

Where heroes stood

Dave Archibald of Chatham said he was in Korea when the rescue happened, but he has a great appreciation of old boats. He described himself as a “lifer” around boats, and said of the CG36500, “I appreciate that the interest is still there.”

And Tom Strangfeld of East Harwich, who was drawn to the CG36500 by his love of wooden boats, said, “History is so much more relevant if you have a tangible object to look at. It comes to life when you are standing there staring at it.”

Rock Harbor is the place to do just that.

See also…

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About the author

Brian Tarcy

Brian Tarcy

Brian Tarcy is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. He is a longtime journalist who has written for the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, the Cape Cod Times and several other publications. He is also the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including books with celebrity athletes Cam Neely, Tom Glavine and Joe Theisman. His most recent book is, "ALMOST: 12 Electric Months Chasing A Silicon Valley Dream" with Hap Klopp,who created the iconic brand, The North Face. For more information see Briantarcy.com, Almostbook.com, and Whatzgonnahappen.com (NFL Picks).

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