Famed Mirlo rescue surfboat ready for commemoration

Published 1:26 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

At Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in Rodanthe, Surfboat 1046 is ready for the Aug. 16 commemoration of the famed 1918 Mirlo rescue.

The work by National Park Service conservators is amazing.

In April, National Park Service conservators Curtis Sullivan and Anne Ennes along with Mick Feeser surveyed the surfboat – the last of its kind — removed hardware and metal work and assessed the overall shape of the 100-year old craft.

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The team returned the last week in July. Cleaned and coated metal work and hardware were reinstalled.

The boat’s white paint was peeling. It’s now covered in a bright, white glaze.

The oak gunwales were dull and scarred. A glossy, spar varnish renewed the wood.

A special paste wax was applied to the gray decking, which now looks cared for.

The boat’s markings were painted: U.S. Coast Guard and Station No. 179. Prior to the conservation work, no markings were visible.

Fenders were recreated. Paint on the old ones was flaking.

Screw eyes are used to lash the fenders to the boat. Only nine of the original screw eyes were left on the boat. The conservators searched for a company that could reproduce the hardware. Ball & Ball Antique Hardware Reproductions, Exton, Pa., agreed to do the work.

Boat name and builder plates were reproduced and installed. The original ones are simply too valuable.

Surfboat 1046 is on display in the 1874 station on the grounds of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station. The surfboat is the sole-surviving example of the 25-foot, 8-inch long surfboat used at almost all rescue stations in the United States. It was the state-of-the-art motorboat in the early 1900s.

The conservation effort is in preparation for the 100th Commemoration of the Mirlo rescue performed by the U.S. Coast Guard crew from Chicamacomico. A week filled with activities is planned for Aug. 13 through 17 with the commemoration event set for Aug. 16, the day of the rescue.

On Aug. 16, 1918, Surfboat 1046 was launched several times before finally getting through the breakers to the torpedoed Mirlo was about six miles offshore. The surfboat and its crew went through a burning sea to rescue the British mariners. Surfboat 1046 and its crew landed four times to bring the 42 shipwreck survivors to shore.

This historic vessel can be seen at the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Museum and Historic Site, 23645 NC Highway 12, Rodanthe, from April through November, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission is $8, $7 Seniors (65+) and students, and $6 Youth (ages 4-17). Children under 4 are free. Admission is good for a week.

Attend the special beach apparatus drill, the reenactment of breeches buoy drill, at 2 p.m., every Thursday through the summer.

On Aug. 13, the Chicamacomico Historical Association and the Dare County Arts Council will host a reception at the DCAC gallery in Manteo featured preserved old cedar shakes from the station turned into works of art.