My Mission (Describes a day at the motor lifeboat training school)
CG-44300 (The first of the U.S. Coast Guard 44ft motor lifeboat)
The U.S. Coast Guard, 44-foot motor lifeboat
By William D. Wilkinson Photos U.S. Coast Guard
An important chapter in the history of worldwide search and rescue craft
The 44-foot motor lifeboat is a unique craft in the overall development of American coastal lifeboats. A strong challenger of the Pacific Northwest’s trying conditions, the "44" has been used successfully around the nation and has had a worldwide influence on search and rescue craft. In the development of the 44-footer we see a prime example of a vessel being designed for very specific conditions, translating design concepts of seaworthiness, ease of handling, speed, weight, draft, strength and capacity into a much-loved boat that Coast Guard crews speak of in almost reverent tones. Just how did this remarkable craft come to be?
Lifesaving craft have evolved over a period of more than 200 years into boats of highly specialized design well suited for their ultimate purpose. Coastal lifeboats perform search and rescue work under heavy sea and surf conditions. They go out when other craft are returning to port, and run in harm’s way in hazardous conditions that create distress and disaster for other vessels. Lifeboats must not only survive, but also return safely with the rescued survivors and crew. These are boats whose success depends on the crew, which must have complete confidence in the design and construction of their boats—the basis of their safety and work.
No matter how it is propelled—by oar, sail or motor—a coastal lifeboat needs certain essential design characteristics to make it a sea boat for all weather. A high degree of stability, great strength of construction, rapid self-righting and self-bailing, reserve buoyancy, a hull bottom reinforced against damage, moderate weight and, not so incidentally, speed are the factors that make or break a lifeboat. These seakeeping characteristics reached a peak in the 44-foot motor lifeboat, and are now being improved upon again with the advent of the 47-foot class.
A look at the long and colorful history of the 44-foot lifeboat begins shortly after the Lewis & Clark expedition reached the Pacific Coast. In the young United States, coastal rescue work was becoming organized. The Massachusetts Humane Society, a private lifesaving organization, placed its first lifeboat on station at Cohasset in 1807, thus beginning generations of specially designed boats for coastal rescue work. By 1872, the organization had 72 lifeboat stations along the Massachusetts coast, and the roots of the National Lifesaving Service had been established. The Newall Act of 1848 established lifesaving stations along the New Jersey shore to aid shipping heading in and out of New York and Philadelphia. As stations multiplied, so did the scope of lifesaving craft.
The early boats furnished to both the Massachusetts Humane Society and the federal lifesaving stations were more correctly called surfboats rather than lifeboats. The surfboats were generally open, shallow-draft boats measuring 20 to 27 feet in length, developed for launching directly from the beach into the surf. Their design was greatly influenced by the local inshore fishing craft with which the lifeboat station crews were most familiar. Early surfboats were neither self-bailing nor self-righting, although these later became important features.
From Surfboat to Lifeboat
While the surfboat was an indigenous American adaptation, the larger lifeboats were cross-cultural descendents of a single important ancestor. The lifeboat type used by the U.S. Lifesaving Service, and later the U.S. Coast Guard, through the 1950s was a direct evolution of the standard self-righting, self-bailing coastal lifeboat of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) of Great Britain. In contrast to the surfboats, the lifeboat type was generally larger (over 27 feet in length), more heavily constructed, of deeper draft, and both self-righting and self-bailing. Normally these craft were kept at sheltered moorings or launched from slipway, rather than from the open beach.
In 1873, the newly reorganized U.S. Lifesaving Service purchased a 30-foot self-righting, self-bailing, pulling and sailing lifeboat from the RNLI, which had spent many years developing a successful lifeboat. Adopting the RNLI’s design with some modifications, the result was a new American lifeboat, 26 feet 8 inches in length. By the late 1880s, the standard American pulling and sailing lifeboat had grown to 34 feet, and in 1899 one of these larger boats was modified to accommodate a gasoline motor. Over the next eight years, significant improvements were made in both motors and lifeboat design. By 1907, these features were combined in the first class of American lifeboats designed from the keel up as motor lifeboats.
When the U.S. Lifesaving Service was merged with the Revenue Cutter Service in 1915 to create the U.S. Coast Guard, the new service quickly turned to making significant improvements in the traditional English-design lifeboat. The first new model resulting from this project was Type H, which was built from 1918 until 1928. Lifeboat Type T was built between 1928 and 1931, followed by the Type TR built between 1932 and 1937. The last double-ended wooden hull motor lifeboat design that could still trace its origins back to the original English lifeboat of 1873 was the Type TRS, built from 1937 to 1956. (The 36-foot motor lifeboat displayed in the Museum’s Great Hall is a Type TRS.)
The gasoline motor and later the diesel engine brought the 19th-century boat design into the twentieth century. However, the hull form, with its round bottom and double ends, limited its speed. The first standard 36-foot motor lifeboat of 1907 did 9 miles per hour with a 40 horsepower gasoline motor. Years later, the 36-foot 8-inch Type TRS—the last of the line—only did 9.88 miles per hour with a 90-horsepower diesel motor.
From Wood to Steel
Hull material was another limiting factor. For almost 90 years, almost all coastal lifeboats in the United States and Europe were built of wood. By the late 1930s it was increasingly difficult to obtain high-grade lumber with straight grain and even texture that could meet the rigid standards required for lifeboat construction. And, as it has been for centuries, the wooden boats were costly to maintain and repair. With costs increasing, Coast Guard officials began to consider alternatives in both design and construction.
In the very early years of the U.S. Lifesaving Service metal hulls were tried, but for a number of reasons ultimately proved unsuccessful. The Francis lifeboats of 1849-1856 were built of corrugated galvanized iron; in service, they proved to be too heavy and difficult to handle. Maintenance was a serious problem, with considerable and rapid structural deterioration. Later, between 1873 and 1876, further attempts were made to develop an iron hull, but this, too, proved inadequate. Metal as a boatbuilding material for American coastal lifeboats would not be seriously considered again until 1938.
In that year, design development began for a self-righting, self-bailing, steel hull motor lifeboat 40 feet in overall length. This breakthrough boat (numbered CG-40300) was built in 1940 at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. Instead of the traditional double-ender hull, the CB-40300 had a slightly squared stern, but her hull remained a traditional round-bottom displacement hull. Fitted with a 120 HP Sterling Petrel gasoline engine, she made 10.36 statue miles per hour on her trial runs— only about a mile per hour faster than the Type TRS of 1937. The CG-40300 was, in effect, a traditional but slightly larger and faster boat than the 36-footers, and built of steel instead of wood. It was a modest step forward, although not popular with most lifeboat crews who still preferred the wooden hulls.
After brief service at several lifeboat stations along the East Coast, the CG-40300 was transferred to the Great Lakes where she served at the Plum Island Lifeboat Station, Wisconsin. She was eagerly greeted there, because her steel hull enabled her to work well in light ice conditions. The boat was retired in 1979 after 39 illustrious years of service.
With the advent of World War II, future lifeboat development was put on hold. Production of the Type TRS motor lifeboats continued on a limited basis at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland, during and after the war. At this cradle, wooden hull motor lifeboats from the Type H through the Type TRS were built, with the last Type TRS being completed in August 1956. It marked the end of 83 years of wooden hull lifeboat development and construction for the U.S. Lifesaving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.
A New Chapter
A major new chapter in American coast lifeboat development opened in when the first 52-foot self-righting motor lifeboat was completed— the first steel motor lifeboat since the 40-foot CG-40300 of 1940. Their design emphasized strength, seaworthiness, and durability in order to operate on the dangerous bars of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Powered by twin 150 HP diesels, they have a top speed of 11 knots and a cruising range of 495 nautical miles. The four motor lifeboats built between 1956 and 1962, Victory (CG-52312). Invincible (CG-52313), Triumph II (CG-52314), and Intrepid (CG-52315), have been an outstanding success and are still in service. However, these boats, the largest motor lifeboats ever built by the Coast Guard, were never intended as a service-wide replacement for the 36-foot wooden hull motor lifeboat.
By the late 1950s, the 36-footers were averaging 25 to 30 years of active service, and the oldest boats had serious deterioration problems. While maintenance costs rose, the Coast Guard’s needs were also changing. Their work involved a growing number of search and rescue cases, as people took to the water in ever-greater numbers both in pleasure boats and small commercial fishing vessels. Faster rescue craft with greater cruising range and towing capability were clearly needed.
Those craft would come about in the early 1960s, as a completely new motor lifeboat class. Until 1960, given the slow and evolutionary progress in coastal lifeboat design, the most significant improvement had been the replacement of oar and sail by the gasoline motor and, later, the diesel engine. But the stage was set for a radical departure.
Designing a Most Remarkable Lifeboat
By the late 1950s, the art and science of small craft design had progressed significantly, with advancements in reliable towing tank studies, metallurgy (improving the qualities of steel and aluminum as boatbuilding materials), and diesel engine design (producing more powerful engines that were also smaller in size and lighter in weight). The Coast Guard, in setting. out to state the requirements for a new lifeboat class, undertook a most comprehensive design, construction and evaluation process. They consulted experienced lifeboat personnel from throughout the country on the weaknesses as well as strengths of the 36-foot motor lifeboat. They also sought recommendations as to what features should be included in a new lifeboat design. The resulting set of requirements was published in July 1960.
The new motor lifeboat should be self-righting and self-bailing, and able to operate successfully in coastal waters under unusually severe weather and sea conditions. It should be able to negotiate large breaking seas and run into large seas without excessive pounding. It should have increased power and speed, with a full-speed range of 150 miles, and twin screw propulsion to provide greater reliability and improved handling. Improved rescue and towing capability, protected accommodation for survivors and crew, and more efficient, safer working areas were also called for. Structurally, the hull should be of welded Corten steel for greater strength and less corrosion, and it should be designed to withstand icebreaking and accidental groundings, as well as the hard use of working in severe weather, heavy seas and surf.
For the first time, the steering station was located amidships. It would include an integrated steering and engine control console, special clamped compass and remote-controlled electronic equipment including a 100-mile range radio transceiver, direction finder, depth sounder and radar.
After the preliminary design was developed, a 1/12-scale model was built for towing tank testing. The results of these tests, further studies and the construction of wood mock-ups to determine the best arrangements for the mast platform, crew stations and the steering console, provided the additional data required to complete the final plans for the new 44-foot motor lifeboat.
Construction of the prototype boat, CG-44300, began in April 1961 at the Coast Guard Yard. In February 1962, the CG-44300 was launched. She survived her sea trials with flying colors, earning accolades from the Service as "...the most remarkable piece of equipment to bolster the operational capabilities of the Coast Guard since the development of the 52-foot MLB." Coast Guard Headquarters announced the completion of the CG-44300 on March 9, 1962, stating that it was the prototype for an 18-boat construction program, later expanded to 25 boats designated CG-44301 through CG-44324. In total, 110 of the 44-foot motor lifeboats were completed over a ten-year period. During that time, inflation took its inevitable toll: whereas the cost per boat in the first program was $115,000, the last boat (CG-44409) was completed in 1972 at the cost of $225,000
—an increase of almost 100%.
The Life Story of a Lifeboat
On April 14, 1962, the CG-44300 left the Coast Guard Yard for the Chatham Lifeboat Station, Massachusetts, visiting a number of lifeboat stations along the East Coast from Hatteras Inlet to Maine before reporting for duty. The delivery and station crews all evaluated the boat’s operations. By October, the boat had left Chatham for the 13th Coast Guard District, arriving in Seattle, Washington on the October 19th. She then went to Station Yaquina Bay, Oregon for rough-water evaluation in the heavy breaking surf conditions of the Pacific Northwest. The 44300 turned in outstanding performances under conditions ranging from large ground swells offshore to strong ebb chop, moderate breaking seas, and large dangerous seas on the bars and reefs. Operation in following seas was also excellent. During the evaluation period she covered 3,000 miles at an average speed of 11.1 knots while consuming fuel at the rate of 20.4 gallons per hour.
CG-44300 served at Station Yaquina Bay from October 1962 to 1981. In July 1981, she was transferred to the National Motor Lifeboat School at Cape Disappointment, Washington, serving there for another 15 years. The boat always saw very hard duty, going end-over-end and rolling completely several times. But she also won the admiration and. indeed, the affection of her crews, training coxswains from stations throughout the United States in adverse weather and sea conditions.
End of an Era
While responding to a search and rescue mission out of Cape Disappointment on July 29, 1996, the CG-44300 experienced a serious engine breakdown and was withdrawn from service. Although the boat itself was still in excellent condition, the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged engine could not be justified. By then the 44-foot motor lifeboats were beginning to be replaced by the new 47-foot MLBs. After surveying, the boat, the Coast Guard turned her over to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where she has joined an outstanding collection of U.S. Coast Guard rescue craft.
A Worldwide Legacy
Almost from the moment she was designed, the 44-foot motor lifeboat was recognized as a major and historic step forward in lifeboat design. In Scotland in 1963, delegates to the Ninth InternationaI Lifeboat Conference saw motion pictures of the CG-44300 being tested on the bar at the entrance to Yaquina Bay, and were presented with two papers on the new 44-foot motor lifeboat. Great interest among the delegates eventually resulted in the spread of the design to several other countries. The British RNLI was deeply impressed, and purchased the CG-44328 in May 1964, later having more than twenty built in England as the Waveney Class lifeboats. (Truly, history had made a complete circle. In 1873, an English lifeboat strongly influenced American lifeboat design, an influence that lasted until 1937. Now, in 1964, an American lifeboat determined the design and construction of a major class of British lifeboats!)
Other countries adopted the new design: the Italian Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Norwegian Life Saving Service, which made a few modifications (such as an enclosed bridge) for better operation in the extreme cold of Norwegian waters.
An American Legacy: The 47-footer
By the mid-1980s, the oldest of the Coast Guard’s 44-foot motor lifeboats were approaching 22 years of hard service. In 1981, there were still 105 boats in active service operating from 77 stations along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Great Lakes. But it was time to plan for an eventual replacement. The new lifeboat design had as its goal a boat retaining the durability and survivability of the 44-footer combined with 30 years of technological progress.
The acquisition project spanned almost 10 years of development, construction and evaluation first of limited production boats, followed by full production of approximately 100 replacement motor lifeboats. The prototype 47-foot motor lifeboat, the CG-47200, arrived at Station Cape Disappointment to begin tests and evaluation in September 1990. The replacement of the venerable 44-foot motor lifeboat had begun, and undoubtedly there will be an exciting story to tell of the "47s" in just a few years’ time.
For the Future
CG-44300 is now preserved at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where it speaks to a significant chapter in the development of the American coastal lifeboat. The boat, with her equipment and accessories intact, bearing the scars and stories of her long career, will enable the Museum to interpret the technology of American and international coastal lifeboat design, and the very human stories of search and rescue on the Pacific Northwest coast. With her sister rescue craft—a 36-foot motor lifeboat, 25-foot motor surfboat, and other earlier craft—44300 stands for the continuing history of the great professionalism, courage and valor of U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat crews.
The author is deeply indebted to numerous U.S. Coast Guard personnel for providing background data for this article, especially to Capt. Robert W. Witter USCG (Ret.) and Dr. Robert M. Browning, Jr. U.S. Coast Guard Historian.
William D. Wilkinson is director emeritus of The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Virginia. This article is excerpted from his forthcoming book, The History of American Coastal Rescue Craft from 1807 to the Present, and is used with permission.
Describes a day at the motor lifeboat training school By Jennifer Miller Photos U.S. Coast Guard
We sent our intrepid administrative secretary Jennifer Miller on assignment to capture the essence of a USCG motor lifeboat. She returned with a fascinating story.
It’s usually hard for me to wake up at 5:30 in the morning. But not on this day—I was heading out to observe 44-foot motor lifeboats (MLB) training on the Columbia River Bar. I was going out there: on the bar, going through the surf, getting a taste of what it would be like to work on an MLB. My vantage point would be from CG-47213, a 47-footer.
I had done my homework. While I was researching the 44-footer, I learned about the capabilities of motor lifeboats and how they could pound through 20-foot surf. I read the stories of #44300 facing 35-foot waves during rough-water training in 1962. I saw the pictures of boats being tossed, turned, rolled, and pitched in the surf. I talked to the men who piloted the boats, and heard their stories of big surf. But that was not enough to prepare me for the day’s adventure.
First, I had to suit up. With water temperature around 50 degrees, and a strong east wind, hypothermia is a definite hazard. I was given a mustang suit, polar fleece undergarment, boots, and helmet. The mustang suit is neoprene, the same fabric used in wet suits, with a bright orange nylon shell. The suit provides both flotation and thermal protection. The polar fleece undergarment is worn under the mustang suit, but over regular clothing. It is a water-resistant material designed to hold in body heat even when wet. The red helmet and large black boots round out my attire. What the outfit lacks in aesthetics, it makes up. for in function.
Once suited up, I was introduced to the crew and boarded motor lifeboat 47213. This boat is truly an impressive piece of technology. She can be piloted either from inside the wheelhouse or from one of two stations on the outside deck. The coxswains prefer the visibility of the outside deck during rough conditions or during a rescue, but the wheelhouse provides shelter during long transits. I was assigned the position between the two steering stations on the outside deck. What a great view! From 14 feet above the water, I could see and hear everything.
Before we left the dock I was given a pyrovest: a net vest with pockets containing items (such as flares and a knife) which I would need if I ended up in the water. I was also given a belt with two heavy nylon straps about three feet long with clips on each end. While in the surf, the crew is required to clip the straps to rings located about every two feet along the rails of the boat. If the crew needs to move around, they clip one strap and unclip the other, then move and clip again so that they always have at least one strap attached. The straps not only keep the crew from being thrown overboard, but also keep them from being thrown into the equipment. The crew told the story of one coxswain who was thrown so violently that he was knocked out cold.
We were ready to go. One of the coxswains loaned me his gloves, and for that I was very grateful. I strapped myself in and evaluated my surroundings. I quickly realized that I had better not get seasick; it would be almost impossible for me to get to the side of the boat. I was instructed to keep my knees bent, eyes open, and to hold on!
The Columbia River bar runs east and west between the North Jetty and Clatsop Spit. Today’s mission was to practice "laterals," running south parallel to the breaking waves, and then turn around and go north again. The boat should snake through the waves, not going too far east or west. There were two trainers, two trainees, one engineer, and myself aboard. Two 44-foot MLBs also engaged in training accompanied us. After a quick equipment check, we were off to the bar. I observed the 44-foot MLBs for a few minutes. They entered the bar parallel to the surf and when a large wave came, they squared up, turning directly into the wave. For a split second the boats would disappear into white water before plowing through to the other side of the wave. Although the trainer stated that the surf was small, 10 to 12 feet, I was in awe of both the power of the boats and the power of the water.
Then it was our turn. The trainer ran the boat back and forth across the bar, explaining his methods. After each run the boat returned to the buoy, in deeper, safer water, to evaluate the run. It was the students’ turn to try and maneuver through the surf. The 47213 MLB provided a better roller coaster ride than anything I have experienced. I intently watched the waves trying to anticipate which way the boat would roll or pitch. Most of the time, the boat would ride over the wave and set down gently on the other side. When it got a little rougher, my legs and arms would stiffen or flex to try and compensate for the boat’s movement. When I heard "Hold on," the fun began. At first I did not take the suggestion seriously, but I only made that mistake once. The boat was tossed by a wave with such force that twice my feet left the deck. I watched as the boat lifted over the top of the wave and held on for dear life as the boat slid down the backside. The trainer reminded me to stay loose and keep my knees bent. I can only imagine how stiff I looked with my teeth clenched and a death grip on the handle. As the waves broke and the wind gusted, the crew got sprayed with water. Every once in a while, I got a taste of salt water or felt the dribble of 50-degree water down my back.
The second drill was to run the boat out toward sea, then turn around and come back. The trick is turning around without getting broadsided by a wave, and returning without having a wave break over the stern. The 47213 MLB is fast enough, with a maximum speed of 25 knots (29 miles/hour). to run at the same speed as the waves. Once the coxswain finds a break in the waves, he can ride that break all the way in. The 44-foot MLB's maximum speed is only 14 knots (16 miles/hour). It is common for the waves to be moving faster than the 44-foot MLB, forcing the her to turn around and square up to the surf until they find another break.
We were out on the water for more than two hours. My hair was wet, my arms and legs were sore, and I had developed an entirely new respect for the ocean. It was truly a powerful experience. The raw power of the surf, the power to take a 47-foot, 40,000 pound boat and toss it around like a toy, and the skills and temperament of the crew were all equally impressive. The coxswain not only had to maneuver the boat through constantly changing wind and surf conditions, it also had to respond to information that was being given by other crew members, such as location. The crew was always calm and collected.
Returning to the dock, someone asked how big the waves were. The coxswain held out his hand, and using his thumb and index finger, measured out about an inch. To him, the surf was insignificant. To me, it was huge, big enough to engulf a small boat. Then again, for him it was just another day at the office. For me, it was an adventure I will not soon forget!
The first of the U.S. Coast Guard 44ft motor lifeboat By Jennifer Miller Photos Columbia River Maritime Museum and U.S. Coast Guard
From the Machinery Log...
17 Mar 80: Caved in the FWD turtle after minutes worth of breaker drills. Damage appeared to be due to structural weakness and not the size of the breaker. I’d sure be tired, too, after 19 years of back-breaking work, being rolled, pitch poled, run aground on rocks, bounced off jettys, run on the beach, cussed at, and last of all being needle gunned to death.
What would she say if she could speak? What would Motor Lifeboat 44300 tell us about her 35-year duty with the United States Coast Guard? Would she explain all the scars and scrapes that were so noticeable as she was lifted out of the water, or would she dismiss them as just part of doing the job?
The 44300 will always have her secrets, because the records of her active rescue days are hard to find. But the following stories represent just a few of 44300’s remarkable adventures.
While serving at Station Yaquina Bay, the boat completed five to six hundred missions per year. But the most-told story is not of a mission, but of an ordinary day when she was tied up at the dock. Around 6:20 on a clear August evening, the 517-foot Peruvian freighter Inca-Huayna-Capac, loaded with lumber, was headed out to sea when she lost steering control. The 9,624-ton freighter was headed straight for the 44300 at almost five miles an hour. Trying to avoid a collision, the freighter’s captain reversed the engines and dropped the anchor, but that was not enough. The Coast Guardsmen saw the freighter coming, and yelled for everyone to get off the docks, just in time to get everyone to safety. The freighter pushed the 44330 past the docks and under a boathouse destroying several pilings on the way. The 44300 was completely submerged and assumed to be a total loss. When the debris was removed, the 44300 popped up and righted herself! Coast Guardsmen praised the boat’s sturdiness. "She’s still afloat and not taking on any water, stated Seaman Martin Rothwell to the Oregonian shortly after the event. To this day, the scar from the freighter is still visible on the starboard side just below the well deck.
On November 13, 1969, CG-44300 was called to escort the Rustler, a Mexican tug, across the bar and into Yaquina Bay. The mission should have been a easy, but when the motor lifeboat reached the Rustler’s reported location, the tug was nowhere to be found. As CG-44300 searched up and down the coast, beach parties were sent out between Depoe Bay and Beaver Creek to help locate the Rustler. The Rustler was finally found several miles to the north, apparently in no immediate danger. With the storm worsening, the 44300 refueled and headed out to assist the Rustler. By this time, the sun had set. Shortly after crossing the bar, the 44300 was hit by a large wave and knocked parallel to the surf The next wave was 38 feet high and breaking. Hitting broadside, the wave forced the motor lifeboat to roll over. After a quick check of crew and engines, the 44300 headed out to safer water. Eight miles offshore, with the boat no longer in danger of being hit by another large breaking wave, the crew conducted a more thorough check This revealed that all the communication equipment, except the FM radio, was gone. The mast and the radar were broken, the anchors were gone, and almost everything else was bent, broken, torn loose, or stove in. Despite the damage, the 44300 was still operational. She was given a back up radio from a ship in the area and waited out the night. The next morning, the storm being over, the 44300 returned to Yaquina Bay. If it had been necessary, Chief Webb said, "the 44300 would have continued up north to aid her (the Rustler), even after receiving considerable damage."
In 1981, the 44300 was transferred to Cape Disappointment to serve as their first permanent training vessel. She was Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mare Steve Bielman's boat of choice. "She pulled me out of a lot of tough situations," according to Bielman. She has rolled over at least six times and pitch-poled, rolling stern over bow, three times. When used for training, she was exposed to some of the worst conditions the Columbia River Bar produced. Training included maneuvering, anchoring, rescues, maintenance, navigation, and rough water work. Rough water drills required that the crew manage up to 20-foot surf conditions for hours at a time. It was always the physical limitations of the crew, not the limitations of the boat, that defined the abilities of the 44300. The 44300 was like a well worn old pick-up truck; not pretty, but it got the job done," said Lt. White of Station Cape Disappointment.
Her last mission was fitting of her career. On July 30, 1996, the 44300 was called to active duty so that the entire complement of Station Cape Disappointment could attend the Gold Lifesaving Medal award ceremony for a fellow crewmember. The 44300 was stationed on the bar for emergencies. (With the increased number of pleasure boats crossing the bar during salmon season, the rescue boats are positioned across the bar to shorten emergency response time.) She responded to a call from a 17-foot pleasure craft that was disabled and adrift. Just after arriving on the scene, 44300 lost her port engine. However, the crew was determined to make this mission a success, and towed the pleasure craft inbound before being relieved by another boat. This turned out to be her last mission.
The 44300 gives us only a glimpse of her 20 years saving lives and 15 years training others to save lives, with countless adventures and dangerous rescues. With this history, it is easy to personify the 44300 into a boat that incorporates the personalities and attitudes of everyone involved in her existence. Like the designers, she was knowledgeable; like those who built, repaired, and maintained her, she was reliable; like the coxswains who piloted her, she was strong; and like those in command, she was always capable. Most of all, she was humble. The people of 44300 would never brag of the risks and sacrifices that they took every day to make the oceans a safer place for all. However, the Museum intends to tell some of these stories of risk, sacrifice, tragedy, and glory. The Museum intends to honor 44300 by making her the centerpiece of an entirely new exhibit at the Museum, where she will share the stories of people and vessels in trouble, and how these lifeboats save lives and property across the United States.