Coast Guard, guests honor rescue boat’s legacy of service

CHATHAM, Mass. – During a decommissioning ceremony here today, the crew at Coast Guard Station Chatham, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen, and Massachusetts Congressman William Delahunt were among a tent full of guests who said goodbye to the last 44-foot rescue boat in service, turning a page in maritime search and rescue history.

The 44-foot motor-life boat, one of nearly 100 of its kind built, began its service on March 25, 1963.

Recognizing the need for a new and improved type of rescue craft, the Coast Guard designed the 44-foot motor-life boat to be self righting and capable of withstanding extreme weather.

It was more powerful, faster and had better handling than rescue boats before it. On deck, it was configured to handle dangerous tows and rescues, while the inside provided safety and comfort for the crew and survivors.

“The 44 was very reliable,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer David Jonason, the officer in charge of Station Chatham.

He said the boat, in service for 46 years, was capable of handling more than 20-feet seas.

“She’s certainly seen that and more on several occasions,” he said.

Jonason said the boat was also a pioneer for the future of search and rescue, and its legacy has helped the Coast Guard develop a fleet of new rescue crafts, including the new 42-foot Special Purpose Near-Shore Lifeboat that was delivered to Station Chatham on July 2, 2008.

Allen, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said, “We honor the past, but we don’t operate in it.”

He said as the Coast Guard brings new rescue boats into service, it is essential to also bring forward the lessons learned from the 44-foot motor-life boat’s mission history.

Delahunt, who joined Allen and other distinguished guests at the podium, said, “This isn’t just about celebrating the decommissioning of a single motor-life boat – we’re celebrating the service of the fabled 44’s that have done so much for so many, particularly here in this community, on the cape and islands.”

The now retired 44-foot boat will make its final voyage to New London, Conn., where it will be displayed at the Coast Guard Museum.

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