Salty Air

The Caretakers of CG36500, the Hero’s Boat

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.


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.


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.


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


John Norton and Dave Archibald load the locker onto CG36500.

visit the Constitution or the USS Massachusetts.”


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…

This Police Car Is A Rock Star – Orleans 1946 Chevy Fleetmaster

About the author

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 the author of "YOU CAN'T SELL RIGHT FIELD; A Cape Cod Novel." He is also the author or co-author of more than a dozen mostly non-fiction books, including books with celebrity athletes Cam Neely, Tom Glavine and Joe Theisman. His previous book was, "ALMOST: 12 Electric Months Chasing A Silicon Valley Dream" with Hap Klopp,who created the iconic brand, The North Face.
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Brian is a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan with a long-running NFL predictions/political satire column connecting weekly world events to the fate of his favorite team, now at

1 Comment

  • My name is Júlio Tanomaru and I’m an Electronics engineer and professor in Brazil. I have just finished reading the book “The Finest Hours” in its Portuguese version (“Horas Decisivas”), which I bought at a discount bookstore in a shopping mall. I had never heard of the incredible rescue before, but I was impressed by the acts of heroism described in the book. Congratulations for preserving the CG36500, which I hope to see in person someday.

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