Renowned Millo Surfboat Gets Facelift
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 2:01 PM
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National Park Service restorers work to restore a 1911 surf boat used in the Millo Rescue 100 years ago.
The surfboat was on display at the Chikama Comico lifesaving station in Rodançais in 1874 and is the only surviving example of a 25-foot-long, 8-inch long surfboat used by nearly every rescue station in the United States . It was a state-of-the-art motorboat in the early 1900s.
The boat was designed to accommodate 30 shipwreck survivors and a life crew.
In April, conservator Curtis Sullivan, an expert in wood and metal, took a close look at the surfboat while teammates Anne Ennes and Mick Fesser cleaned the fenders. The museum’s conservation team hails from the National Park Service’s Harper’s Ferry Center in West He, Virginia. The surf boat is owned by the National Park Service and is on long-term loan to the Chikama Comico Historical Society.
Watching over the conservators were the knowledgeable Tim Dring (current president of the American Lifesaving Services Heritage Association) and Larry Grubbs (vice president of the Chikama-Comico Historical Society Board of Directors).
Sullivan reports that the surfboard is in “good condition.” Surfaces are cleaned, peeling paint is visible and metalwork is cleaned and preserved. Much more may be achieved.
The ship looks the same as it did in 1918, although it doesn’t have “US Coast Guard” on the stern and “Station 179” on the bow. Also, it doesn’t have a motor. To launch the surfboat, the lifeguard paddles it through the waves before starting the motor.
This surf boat was built by Beebe Boatyards in Greenport, Long Island, New York. Using that design she was built the 27th. The official name is BB McClellan Self-Bailing Motor Surf Boat (No.1046).
Two retractable propellers descend to power the boat. The propeller moves up so that it is protected by the hull during takeoff and landing, and does not interfere with the use of the oars.
The surf boat frame is oak as is the gunwale. Cedar makes up the hull. The benches or “obstacles” are Southern White Pine.
Surf boats have a familiar feature. It’s self-salvation. There is a bilge and his two manholes for access. Bilge pumped by hand.
The 8-horsepower engine was powered by gasoline and seawater cooling. You can shift gears forward, reverse and into neutral. The air intake faced the stern, but was not sufficient during use. The hatch was left slightly open when the motor was running.
Sullivan examined the metalwork, propped open one side of the hatch, and looked around. He gently pulled the wire from the choke to the engine. The wires were surfboard originals.
Surfboat number 1046 remained at Chikama Comico until the 1930s when it was retired and replaced by more modern surfboat models. Still, surfboats were considered historic, Dring reports. The U.S. Coast Guard then stored historic boats, including Surfboat 1046, at Maryland’s Curtis Bay Depot. In 1939, the boat was donated to the Mariners Museum in Newport News for an outdoor display. Donated to the National Park Service in 1956, from 1968 to 1970 she underwent a major restoration at the US Coast Guard warehouse in Portsmouth, Virginia. After restoration, Surfboat 1046 was stored at the Little Kinakeet lifesaving station, Dring said. In 1983, the famous surf boat was returned to the Chikamacomiko Lifesaving Station under a long-term loan agreement with the National Park Service.
Conservation efforts are gearing up for the 100th anniversary of the Millo rescue carried out by the U.S. Coast Guard crew of Chikama Comico. His action-filled week is scheduled for August 13-17, and a memorial event is scheduled for his rescue day, August 16.
On 16 August 1018, Surfboat 1046 was launched four times and finally passed the breaker. The torpedoed Myrlo was about six miles offshore. A surfboat and her crew navigated through the burning sea to rescue British sailors. Surfboat 1046 and her crew brought her 42 shipwreck survivors to shore, where she landed four times.
See the special Beach Apparatus Drill, a recreation of the Trouser Buoy Drill, every Thursday at 2:00 PM throughout the summer, beginning the week of Memorial Day.
Repair crews are expected to return to Chikama Comico in July to finish preserving the surfboard. Accommodation for his April stay was donated by Jeff Guzy.