Motor Life Boat Evolution
Some histories of lifeboats trace their evolution to 1784 when Englishman
Lionel Lukin redesigned a 20 foot Norwegian yawl as a self-bailing,
self-righting unsinkable boat. His concepts may represent the first
development of the true lifeboat.
The Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat CG36500 represents a stage in the evolution
of rescue boats and the history of lifesaving, beginning in England with the
construction of the Original in 1790. The Original was built by Henry
Greathead, was 30 feet long, and there were six pairs of oars (12 rowers!).
She rose sharply at both bow and stern. She had no rudder, but had a long
steering oar and could be rowed in either direction. She remained in service
for 40 years at South Shields, England. One hundred years later, in 1902, a
typical lifeboat would have been the Ryder, a 35 foot long Standard Self
Righting Lifeboat of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) The
Ryder was sponsored by a Mr. William Ryder, and housed at Looe on the
Cornish coast until 1930. She carried a crew of three plus ten men to row
her and was equipped with a lugsail and mizzen. Please go to
www.polperro.org/lifeboat.html for more info on this restored boat.
Rescue boats in America trace their history to 1851 when pulling surfboats,
typically 26 to 30 feet in length, were used in rescue operations by
volunteer groups. Such a group would have been the Massachusetts Humane
Society. These groups evolved into the U.S. Life Saving Service in 1872.
Motor Lifeboats (MLB) began in 1899 when the Marquette Life Saving Station
on Lake Superior installed a gas engine in a 34 foot lifeboat. In 1908, the
first gas powered 36 foot boats were in service. IIn 1915, the Revenue
Cutter Service and the Life Saving Service were combined and became known as
the US Coast Guard. In Massachusetts waters in 1916, there were 36 foot
MLBıs in Gloucester, Point Allerton (Hull), Wood End (Provincetown), Monomoy
(Chatham), and Cuttyhunk. Gradually the boats had increased horsepower but
retained the ability to be sailed or rowed.
The H series Motor Lifeboats had
now evolved, incorporating a double ended hull design with an enclosed
engine compartment midships called the Model T. Later came the Model TR, for
Revised, and later the Model TRS, for Revised and Simplified. CG36500
represents the 36 foot TRS model, developed in 1937 initially with a
gasoline engine, typically a Sterling Petrel of about 100 horsepower. Most
of the TRS boats were later converted to diesel power. The 36 foot TRS model
was the main rescue boat of Coast Guard Life Boat Stations around the
country. All the TRS boats were built at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay,
MD. Production ceased in 1956, with 135 boats being built. (CG36416 thru
36474, then 36479 thru 36554) CG36500 was built in 1946 and was stationed at
the Chatham Life Boat Station. She is 36 feet, 8 in. long, has a 10 ft., 8
in. beam, and a 3 ft, 5 in. draft. The boat weighs 20,000 pounds. She is
designed to be self righting and self bailing, with a 2000 pound bronze
keel. She is planked with cypress over white oak frames and fastened with
bronze screws.The rub rails are of white oak, and the hull is sheathed with
Monel plating for protection during winter ice breaking missions. The boat
has a Detroit Diesel 4-71 engine.
Traditionally, the boats only navigational
aid was a compass. She was equipped with a radio. She could be found moored
at the foot of Claflin Landing or off the Southeast end of the Chatham Fish
Pier. The boat was used to service the two Coast Guard Lightships off
Chatham (POLLOCK and STONEHORSE) as well as search and rescue work. Although some
deck covering, rub rails, mooring bitts and hardware have been replaced, the
rest of the boat is original as built.
The TRS Model was replaced by the 44 foot all steel, twin engine MLB
starting in 1963. The last 36 foot MLB, CG36535, was retired from active
service in 1987. Since 1991, the 44ıs are being replaced by the all
aluminum, twin engined 47 footers. The
last 44, the CG44301, has been retired and is awaiting transfer to a new Coast
Compiled by Richard G. Ryder from various sources.