With the exception of some rope work which will
be done in-house, the renovations to the famed Mirlo rescue surfboat
conducted by conservators from the National Park Service (NPS) are
The team of conservators worked on-site at the
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station last week, completing a number of
projects to make the surfboat shine.
The vessel, formally known as Surfboat No. 1046,
is the last surviving example of the typical 25-foot surfboat used by
nearly all of the early Life-Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard
Stations in the United States. It also holds a claim to fame as the
boat that was used on August 16, 1918 to rescue 42 sailors from the
British tanker Mirlo after it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off of
The project to revitalize the surfboat began in
the spring, when the four NPS conservators initially visited the
surfboat at its Chicamacomico location. During their visit, the team
removed a number of parts from the vessel to take back to their home
base in Charles Town, W.V., where the National Park Service’s artifact
conservation facility is located.
On this recent July trip, the team returned with
the new or restored parts, and spent the better part of a week
painstakingly reattaching these elements to the vessel. This included a
collection of bronze, chrome, and brass pieces which required a lot of
work to ensure that they would last for another century.
“It’s quite a process,” says Larry Grubbs, Vice
President of the Board of Directors for the Chicamacomico Historical
Association. “With some parts, they didn’t take the [original] tarnish
off - just stabilized it in place, so that it keeps that aged look, but
is protected from degrading any further.
“A couple of the pieces – like the nameplate of
the manufacture from the boatyard, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard
nameplate - they reproduced, and put replicas back on the boat simply
because of the sheer value of the originals on the boat.”
In fact, it’s estimated that the value of the
original manufacturer nameplate, (which is currently located in a
secure NPS facility), is worth around $200,000.
The surfboat also received a facelift of sorts,
with a whitewash covering the vessel’s exterior. “When the boat
was originally restored in the 1960s, it looks like they actually
sanded the paint down to the wood,” says Grubbs. “Because of that, it
gave the [NPS team] the leeway to do a whitewash, and to match the
paint and color that was on it before.”
The conservator team went through delicate
efforts to keep as much of the surfboat in original condition as
possible, going so far as to use a syringe with an acrylic adhesive and
a hot press to tack flecks of paint back into place.
“It was really something to watch them work on this last visit,” says Grubbs.
The NPS conservator team left on Friday, and now
it’s up to Grubbs to finish the remaining rope work to bring the
surfboat to vivid life.
“All of the structural stuff is done, but the
rope work will put [the surfboat] in a position where it looks more
like it would have on the morning of August 16, 1918,” says Grubbs.
“This means it will have tow ropes in place, as well as what they call
the lifelines on the side of the boat which hang down. They were placed
there because if there a man overboard, or they were rescuing someone
in the water, they would have something to hold onto.
“We have real specific directions from an expert
at the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association on the exact knots
that would have been used, the exact ropes that would have been used,
and so on.”
All work will be completed in time for the
Centennial Celebration during the week of August 16, and Grubbs says
that folks who haven’t seen the surfboat at its 1876 Station home in a
while will notice a change.
“They will absolutely notice a difference,” says
Grubbs. “You can certainly tell that it’s not a new boat, but as far as
the brightness of the colors, it’s very apparent.”
“When you look at the boat it’s very clear there has been some serious work done - it is really shining.”For