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.
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.
“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.
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
visit the Constitution or the USS Massachusetts.”
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.