Two historic U.S. Coast Guard vessels left Astoria and Warrenton in Oregon on Aug. 16 for the short trip to the Coast Guard’s motor lifeboat school at Cape Disappointment, where they were welcomed by guardsman from around the country there for training.
The two vessels left after a short visit to cross the Columbia River bar for the last time on their way to Westport for final display.
Despite their age — 88 and 72 years old — these classic, front line Coast Guard vessels transited between the Columbia River and Grays Harbor with ease, said Westport South Beach Historical Society Executive Director John Shaw.
“Both boats have been recently donated to the Westport South Beach Historical Society to be included in a boat program to preserve and display historic search and rescue vessels of the West Coast,” said Shaw.
In 2019, the historical society took the lead along with the city of Westport to achieve the city’s designation as an official Coast Guard City USA — the first for Washington state.
“The boat project is in keeping with elements of the society’s mission to preserve and interpret the local history and preserve historic structures,” said Shaw. “Along with its long-term commitment to the Westport Maritime Museum, Destruction Island Lens display, and the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, the society will be preserving and displaying the boats to the public.”
One of the vessels, the 30429, was recently donated by Raymond Carlisle of Portland, after Carlisle had heard about the boat program. The 30429 has a long history, including service at Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor in Westport, as a general utility vessel and in particular doing work on aids to navigation.
The other, 36391, “is an extremely significant vessel, fully restored by Glenn and Naomi Cathers and already of museum quality,” said Shaw. “Glen and Naomi Cathers have done a fantastic job over the years having taken on the job of complete restoration of the 36391. The 36391 has a great backstory — Glen’s father served on the boat during his Coast Guard service as commanding officer at Point Adams on the Columbia River from 1936-1940. Glen was also a Coast Guardsman.”
The 36391 includes parts from 11 other similar vessels, including parts from the 36554 that for years was displayed at the Westport Maritime Museum and later moved to the local station. The 36554 was the Willapa Station boat for many years.
“After several years of cruising and campaigning the boat, Glen and Naomi have donated the boat to the Maritime Museum to be displayed to the public as part of celebrating and interpreting Coast Guard history,” said Shaw. “The story of the restoration and the years of work and cruising will be part of the story told at the museum.”
Shaw said the 36 — the class of 36-foot motor life boats like the two donated — represents the type of vessel used by the Coast Guard for many years and is of the type involved in many rescues and other Coast Guard stories told at the Westport Maritime Museum.
“When interpreting local history, it’s important to know who you are,” said Shaw. “The Coast Guard, Lifesaving Service, and lighthouse are such significant parts of Westport’s and Grays Harbor’s history, and it’s important to preserve and display these boats and their stories for the public.”
Shaw says the boat program in essence is similar to other museums who focus on elements related to their own stories: “The Polson Museum (in Hoquiam) has a wonderful locomotive and lumber carrier as part of the story of they tell, and Aberdeen in its day had the fire apparatus and historic automobiles.”
The Westport South Beach Historical Society has a long history and partnership with the city of Westport in telling the story of the region’s history and utilizing it as a tourism component as well.
“Museums are well recognized economic engines utilizing their connections and visitation as a tourism draw,” said Shaw. “COVID has shown us the importance of being able to engage with the public in more creative ways — not just what we can put in a building. The boat program will add to our public engagement that is more accessible to out visitors.”