Thursday, Nov 4, 2010
It was all smiles from the approximately 100 attendees at the ceremony transferring a newly completed 26-foot Monomoy type surfboat on its wagon from the North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center to Cape Lookout National Seashore.
It had taken 18 months for the volunteer boat builders at the center, located in Beaufort, North Carolina, to build the historically accurate surfboat and wagon from copies of 100-year-old plans acquired from historical rescue craft expert Tim Dring and from the National Archives.
Now, with the support of the North Carolina Maritime Museum, the volunteers of the Watercraft Center, the Friends of Portsmouth Island, the United States Coast Guard and the National Park Service, a treasured piece of coastal history once again can be seen in local waters. After its demonstration voyage, the park will be transferring the boat and wagon to its new home – the newly restored boat bay in the Portsmouth Life Saving Station.
Within what are now the boundaries of Cape Lookout National Seashore, three U.S. Life Saving Stations were built between 1888 and 1894. From these stations, the surfmen of the U.S. Life Saving Service, using rowing or “pulling” surfboats like the Monomoy, went to the rescue of shipwreck survivors in all kinds of weather. These stations and their surfboats continued to be used when the Life Saving Service became the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915.
Two of these stations still stand, with the station at Portsmouth almost unchanged from when it was first built. New exhibits, including historic station equipment from the turn of the century, were recently installed in the Portsmouth Station. But something was missing, a boat for the boat bay.
The Monomoy type surfboat, one of several types of boats known to have been used by the U.S. Life Saving Service at their Portsmouth Station, was chosen for this historic building project as it was used in the station’s most famous rescue, that of the Vera Cruz in May 1903. On that day, it took 35 trips to transfer over 300 stranded passengers from their ship to safety in the village of Portsmouth.