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2020 Commercial 125-11-01United States Coast Guard Station Provincetown.

Although this facility did not open until 1979, and the Coast Guard did not come into existence until 1915, Station Provincetown can trace its establishment all the way back to 1872. Here’s how:

To a degree that would now astonish us — though it may not astonish future generations — the federal government once stayed away from the work of safeguarding its citizens’ lives. That fell to private philanthropy and religious charity. For sailors along this treacherous stretch of coastline, the original guardian angel was the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, founded in 1786 (and still in existence as a private charitable foundation) to reduce the needless loss of life from shipwrecks.

There was a special horror among witnesses of wrecks close to shore because they were unequipped to render assistance to men aboard foundering vessels whose cries could be heard over the roaring surf. And if there were no witnesses, on some desolate beach, survivors who had managed to come ashore on their own often faced subsequent death from exposure and starvation. The society began in 1807 to build rude shelters along on the coast. In these “houses of refuge,” marooned sailors could find some protection and even food until the tempest abated. Then the society constructed lifeboat stations, beginning in Cohasset, though these were manned only by volunteer crews. Their good works eventually extended to Cape Cod, J. W. Dalton wrote in The Life Savers of Cape Cod (1902).


2020 Commercial 125-11-02This map, adapted by David W. Dunlap from one in The Life Savers of Cape Cod, by J. W. Dalton (1902), shows where principal wrecks occurred in the second half of the 19th century.

The society attracted the attention of Congress, which began funding life-saving work in 1849 through the Revenue Marine Bureau in the Department of the Treasury. (The Revenue Marine had been established in 1790 — legendarily by Alexander Hamilton — as an armed maritime service whose mission was to enforce revenue laws. There was, at the time of its creation, no U.S. Navy.)

The loosely managed and widely spaced network of volunteer stations in Massachusetts and elsewhere along the Atlantic proved no match for disasters like the wreck of Powhattan off New Jersey in 1854, with the loss of more than 200 lives. Effective steps to bolster the system weren’t taken until 1871, when Sumner Kimball of Maine was named head of the Revenue Marine.

He ordered Capt. John Faunce to survey the life-saving network. “Most stations were in a dilapidated condition and too remote from one another to coordinate effectively,” as Dennis R. Means summarized it in “A Heavy Sea Running” in Prologue Magazine.¹ Expansion soon began that led to the establishment and construction of nine life-saving stations on Cape Cod in 1872-1873: Race Point and Peaked Hill Bars in Provincetown; Highlands, in North Truro; Pamet River, in Truro; Cahoon’s Hollow, in Wellfleet; Nauset, in North Eastham; Orleans; Chatham; and Monomoy, on Monomoy Island. (Wood End came later.)

Under Kimball, regulations were promulgated that made the Life-Saving Service a disciplined, dependable, selfless, and respected force — the “coast guards,” as Dalton referred to them in his book. The most famous rule was Section 252:

“In attempting a rescue the keeper [commander of the life-saving station] will select either the boat, breeches buoy, or life car, as in his judgment is best suited to effectively cope with the existing conditions. If the device first selected fails after such trail as satisfies him that no further attempt with it is feasible, he will resort to one of the others, and if that fails, then to the remaining one, and he will not desist from his efforts until by actual trial the impossibility of effecting a rescue is demonstrated. The statement of the keeper that he did not try to use the boat because the sea or surf was too heavy will not be accepted unless attempts to launch it were actually made and failed ….”²

The Race Point Life-Saving Station opened in 1873 as the predecessor of Station Provincetown. Lewis A. Smith, 40, an experienced surfman, was appointed the first keeper. He was succeeded in 1875 by John W. Young, who headed the station for 13 years until he was succeeded by Capt. Samuel Osborne Fisher (1861-1919), a Provincetown native who would remain at the helm until the dissolution of the Life-Saving Service. Fisher had been a surfman at Peaked Hill Bars in 1880 when the sloop C. E. Trumbull was wrecked, and three of his mates perished in a failed rescue. Five of the seven men under Fisher were also Provincetown natives and residents. One came from Truro. A Swede was the seventh surfman, but he was married to a Provincetown woman.


2020 Commercial 125-11-04The Race Point Life-Saving Station was the organizational predecessor of Coast Guard Station Provincetown in the West End. This 1910 postcard is from the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 10, Page 122, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 4495 (Dowd Collection).

2020 Commercial 125-11-03Surfmen drilled weekly in launching a specially-designed rescue boat into the waves. They wear cork flotation devices. This 1880 postcard shows Keeper John W. Young at left. Everyone looks pretty relaxed, given that a ship seems to be sinking in the distance. From the Scrabooks of Althea Boxell, Book 10, Page 118, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 4491 (Dowd Collection).

2020 Commercial 125-11-05Capt. Samuel O. Fisher, the keeper of the Race Point station at the turn of the 20th century, was a Provincetown native, as were Surfmen Frank Brown (far left), Edwin B. Tyler (center), George H. Burch (near right), and John B. Bangs (far right). Martin Nelson (near left) was a Swede, but he married a Provincetown woman. The photo comes from The Life Savers of Cape Cod, by J. W. Dalton (1902). Might their mustaches have functioned like baleen?

“All life-saving and lifeboat stations recruited their surfmen crews from among local, experienced boatmen and fishermen,” Tim Dring of the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association told me in 2018. “The reasons for this were primarily so that the station’s rescue crew would all be very familiar with the coastal areas in which they served, as well as with the local conditions; particularly sea and surf patterns during storms.”

Race Point, Peaked Hill Bars, and Wood End were transferred in 1915 to the newly created United States Coast Guard, formed by merger of the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service (as the Revenue Marine had come to be called). The Coast Guard remained a Treasury agency except in times of war, when it was part of the Navy. The service borrowed its founding date from the Revenue Marine and its unofficial motto, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back,” from the spirit of Section 252, which was adopted as Instruction No. 35.

In the 1920s, at the height of Prohibition, the Coast Guard built its own Station Race Point on the site of the old life-saving complex. Given its mission of interdicting contraband, the Coast Guard was kept very busy after the 18th Amendment banned the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” Fishermen like the celebrated Capt. Manuel “Sea Fox” Zora (1895-1979) were so experienced they could navigate the perilous coast on the darkest nights to reach “Rum Row.” This was a line of ships from Canada bearing intoxicating liquors of all kinds, anchored three miles (later 12 miles) off the coast and, therefore, beyond U.S. law. Provided the rumrunners weren’t stopped by the Coast Guard, they could ferry hundreds of cases from the mother ships back to the Cape and secrete the bottles along the shoreline, often under water, until the liquor could be picked up and delivered to thirsty Americans.


2020 Commercial 125-11-06This was the Coast Guard’s Station Race Point during the closing years of Prohibition, when rumrunners were Coast Guardsmen’s chief antagonists — unless they were friends or family. The postcard shows the station in 1972, not long before it was turned over to the National Park Service. It comes from the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 10, Page 4, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 4437 (Dowd Collection).

Provincetown rumrunners faced special challenges. They could not rely on Portuguese as a code language, as they might have around most ports. One February night, Zora and the crew of Mary Ellen landed 250 cases (3,000 fifths) on an island in the Pamet River. Sensing something amiss, Zora set out for the mainland in a dory, leaving his brother Jack aboard Mary Ellen with instructions to flee if ordered. Soon, Zora’s dory was overtaken in the dark by a dory carrying Chief Warrant Officer Emanuel F. Gracie (1885-1946).

Scott Corbett recounted what happened next in The Sea Fox (1956):

“Lifting his head [Zora] bellowed in Portuguese to his brother, ‘Jack, start that motor and beat it!’

“Manny had no more than issued the order when Captain Gracie countermanded it.

“‘Look, Jack, don’t start that motor!’ he shouted — in Portuguese!

“That was the hell of having half the Coast Guard Portuguese. They made life twice as difficult.”³

But there were advantages, too. In a chase ashore after the dories met, Gracie ordered Zora to stop running or be killed. He fired several shots that whizzed overhead. Zora, who was 10 years younger, at last managed to evade the officer.

Reminiscing years later, Gracie told Zora that he’d deliberately fired over his head that night; he did not — in fact — wish to kill his rumrunning foe but fellow townsman. “That was the reason there were no casualties among the Provincetown boys, of course,” Corbett wrote.

“The rumrunners were Provincetowners, and the Coastguardmen were Provincetowners, which made it all in the family. While Provincetowners might dislike each other sometimes, they don’t believe in killing each other over any such foolishness as the 18th Amendment.”⁴

This kind of coziness was in part responsible for the Coast Guard’s changing its station assignment procedures in the mid-1920s to bring in men from other areas, Dring wrote.

“The primary reason for this was the well-known fact that many of the local rumrunners were known by, or even related to the Coast Guard crews that were tasked with apprehending them. In the worst case that I am so far aware of, almost the entire crew of one particular New Jersey station was arrested and (for most of those arrested) served time in naval prison for collaborating with the rumrunners, or at least turning a blind eye to their smuggling operations.

“By mixing the crews, the Coast Guard tried to ensure that the crew’s attitude and professionalism were kept better aligned with service policy and regulations. By the end of Prohibition and well into the beginning of the World War II years, a typical station crew was a mix of local men and those assigned in from other parts of the U.S. The downside to this approach, as you might imagine, was the resulting lower level of local operating area knowledge among the station crew, particularly when required to operate under storm surf conditions in a rescue mission.”¹²

Station Race Point was showing its age by the early 1960s. It was long past the time that surfman launched specially shaped boats from the beach and into the sides of mountainous waves, and when stations had to be situated close enough to one another that surfmen could patrol the entire length of the Cape Cod oceanfront on foot. The complement at Race Point was more than the dormitory could handle. And the vessels were berthed at leased space on MacMillan Wharf, some three miles away. “The location became increasingly unsuitable,” an official history stated.⁵


2020 Commercial 125-11-07The Coast Guard’s first idea of a contextual station were buildings with gabled roofs and dormers. Fortunately, a more innovative approach prevailed. The drawing comes from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It was issued in 1975, but you could have figured that out just looking at this guy’s wardrobe and hairstyle.

2020 Commercial 125-11-08The original plan would have placed the quarters of the officer in charge and the executive officer on the Commercial Street frontage.

2020 Commercial 125-11-09Symmes, Maini & McKee of Cambridge came up with a modified saltbox plan, which accommodated solar collector panels on the rooftop. The rendering appeared in The Boston Herald American in 1977 and is found in the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 23, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 2248 (Dowd Collection).

2020 Commercial 125-11-10As this aerial view shows, the solar panels were actually installed, though the experiment did not last. The photo, by Jim Gilbert for the Provincetown-Boston Airline, is found in the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 18, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 2243 (Dowd Collection).

In early 1970, after the Coast Guard had been transferred from Treasury to the new federal Department of Transportation, it appeared that a new station might be built out at Long Point, although a number of options in town were being discussed, too.⁶ By October, it was clear that the Coast Guard’s preference was the parking lot at the foot of Johnson Street that had once been occupied by the Provincetown Cold Storage Company freezer. The next year, however, town officials disapproved the Johnson Street site.

That’s when the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board introduced the possibility of a new station on the West End site occupied by the Cape Cod Cold Storage freezer, which was on the verge of closing. The Coast Guard leaned at first toward a station on MacMillan Wharf, but finally chose the West End freezer parcel in 1975. Rationales included the property’s immediate availability; its remove from the center of town; and the fact that Coast Guard acquisition would preclude commercial development of the prominent site, consistent with plans to create a historic district.⁷

The United States acquired the land by condemnation in March 1977.¹⁰ Two years and $2.2 million later, Station Provincetown opened under the command of Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Ronald D. Knipple, who was also the last officer in charge of Station Race Point. His complement included five boatswain’s mates, five machinery technicians, three seamen, three seaman apprentices, a fireman, and a subsistence specialist (cook).


2020 Commercial 125-11-11When Station Provincetown opened in 1979, the officer in charge was Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Ronald D. Knipple (at right), who was also the last officer in charge of Station Race Point. The dedication program is in the Municipal Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 5808.

2020 Commercial 125-11-12Emphasizing neighborliness, the station was once surrounded by a low picket fence. The photo comes from the dedication program.

2020 Commercial 125-11-13Born in the Treasury Department, the Coast Guard was transferred first to the Transportation Department and then to the Department of Homeland Security. The photo was taken in 2008 by David W. Dunlap.

2020 Commercial 125-11-14Three Station Provincetown patches from the extraordinary archive of Rex M. “Wess” Wessling in Redmond, Wa. The first shows a 44-foot motor lifeboat upon a Coast Guard ensign on a life ring. The second shows 41- and 44-foot motor lifeboats on a map of Cape Cod. The third shows the 47-foot motor lifeboat CG 47209, within the Cape crook.

2020 Commercial 125-11-15Left: An ensign is on public display at the entrance to the station. Right: But the public is not encouraged to get too close. Photos, from 2011 and 2012, by David W. Dunlap.

What’s extraordinary, in retrospect, is the degree to which the government aimed — and largely succeeded — at building as contextually as possible. “The Coast Guard recognizes both the unique aesthetic character of the west end of Commercial Street and its own responsibility to construct a facility which, while meeting its operational commitments, blends harmoniously with the design of existing structures,” the draft environmental impact statement asserted.⁸

The conceptual design was disappointing. It called for Cape-houses-on-steroids: big buildings ill disguised by gabled roofs and dormers. The ultimate design, however, was an imaginative 130-foot-long, 9,000-square-foot building broken up into seven pavilions of varying sizes and footprints, with operations rooms, barracks, galley mess halls, and recreation areas. The arrangement diminished the massing considerably. Clapboard and shingle siding contributed to the sense of place. At the same time, a good deal of visual interest was created by the saltbox profile of the pavilions, with sloping roofs that once accommodated solar collector panels. Credit went to Dick Mullin of the architectural firm Symmes, Maini & McKee of Cambridge, which is still in business.⁹

“Part of the sensitivity of the design to the neighborhood may be due to the fact that Mullin himself is no stranger to Provincetown, particularly to the West End,” Jim Gilbert reported in The Advocate. His brother Daniel owned a home at 29 Tremont Street.⁹


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2020 Commercial 125-11-19The photos above were taken from 2009 to 2014 by David W. Dunlap.

Rep. Gerry E. Studds (1937-2006), who lived nearby at 91 Commercial Street, was the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony on 6 August 1979. He had fought both the Nixon and Ford administrations to get funding for the project, which finally got going under President Carter. “If it had not been for Gerry Studds, we would have had a station here but it probably would not have been until the turn of the century,” Vice Admiral Robert H. Scarborough, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, said at the ceremony.¹¹

Studds, who was known for his sense of humor, insisted that it was “purely coincidental” that the station should have opened just 200 feet away from his house within two months of his launching a 16-foot dory. He expressed his pleasure that the facility would use solar energy. “Not only is it clean, not only is it safe, but it is free from international political disruptions,” the congressman said. Station Provincetown is believed to have been among the first federal buildings equipped at their outset with solar panels.

Station Provincetown’s area of operation embraces 1,200 square miles of Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and four automated light houses: Long Point, Race Point, Wood End, and Highland Light in Truro. Five years after the station opened, on 1 May 1984, the dragger Victory II sank off Billingsgate Shoal. Its entire crew perished: Capt. Kenneth R. Macara II, 28; John Dorf, 36; and Benjamin Fernandez, 33. But it was the last time — touch wood — that a Provincetown fishing vessel went down with multiple losses of life.

Besides search and rescue missions, the Coast Guard has continued to battle contraband. Sometimes, the problem has been uncomfortably close to home. In 1982, 19 crew members — about two-thirds of the station’s complement — were reported for drug abuse. Roughly half were discharged, while the other half were reassigned.


2020 Commercial 125-11-20David W. Dunlap was permitted in April 2010 to visit and photograph some of the common rooms at Station Provincetown, including the two-story entranceway.

2020 Commercial 125-11-21The view through the large windows in the entry pavilion takes in Taves and Flyer’s boatyards immediately to the northeast.

2020 Commercial 125-11-22Left: The dedicatory plaque from August 1979. Right: This fifth-order Fresnel lighthouse lens would have been used in a lighthouse to focus and concentrate the rays from the lamp.

2020 Commercial 125-11-23The muzzle of a Lyle gun that was used to shoot a line out from shore to a ship wrecked on the sand bars. Once the line was fastened to the ship’s mast, stranded sailors could be carried to safety in breeches buoys or life cars suspended from the line. This one was made by the West Point Foundry (“W.P.F.”) in 1883.

2020 Commercial 125-11-24Models of the 41-foot utility boat and 47-foot motor lifeboat used by the Coast Guard.

2020 Commercial 125-11-25A photo of the Station Provincetown crew in dress blues hangs in the entry pavilion.

2020 Commercial 125-11-25AA conference room adorned with marine signal flags and pennants hung in alphabetical and numerical order.

2020 Commercial 125-11-26The mess hall seen from the adjoining galley.

2020 Commercial 125-11-27A painting of surfmen (looking more like anarchists from a distance) hangs in the mess hall.

2020 Commercial 125-11-28Left: A television and recreation room on the second floor. Right: A picnic area practically abuts 111 Commercial Street.

2020 Commercial 125-11-29Outside the television room is this deck, which offers an infinitely better show.

Three years later, in an episode at the center of Peter Manso’s Ptown (2002), Station Provincetown recovered hundreds of bales of marijuana from Colombia that smugglers were attempting to land at Boston. The smugglers were aboard a stolen shrimp boat they’d repainted in the livery of Divino Criador, a Provincetown dragger that today is known as Antonio Jorge.  When their rendezvous in Boston Harbor failed, they retreated to the Cape, where the fuel ran out. Accomplices ferried about 40 bales from the smugglers’ mother ship, dead in the water off Wellfleet, to Herring Cove Beach and hid them haphazardly in the dunes. The smugglers attempted to scuttle the phony Divino Criador, hoping to send divers back later to recover the underwater stash once the heat was off, borrowing a page from Manny Zora’s Prohibition playbook. Trouble was, the empty fuel tanks made the vessel bouyant. The stern remained above water.

Coast Guard divers got there first. “Instead of bodies, they found marijuana, tons and tons of it,” Manso wrote. “By 5 o’clock it was all over the news.”

“The next day the bay was dappled with bales of pot that had worked loose from the boat’s hold and floated to the surface. People grabbed boats and hurried out to snag as many as they could, joking that they were going ‘bale-watching.’ … The Coast Guard sent patrol boats out into the bay to recover what remained of the floating bales and also to excavate those that remained aboard the ‘Divino Criador.’ These they transported to the West End Coast Guard complex, where the soaked, plastic-wrapped, and very pungent bales were guarded by cops with shotguns, creating a wonderful photo-op for the local press. Not long after, what remained of those 40,000 pounds of Colombian Gold was professionally incinerated, an act that gave rise to a chorus of lament at the Old Colony.”¹³

More typically, residents and visitors appreciate having the Coast Guard in their midst. Even as an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, which it’s been since 2003, the station observes neighborly traditions. It assists each year with the Provincetown Harbor Swim for Life and Paddler Flotilla, for which it created a specially regulated area in 1996 of “all waters of Provincetown Harbor within 200 feet of participating benefit swimmers.”¹⁴ Though the solar experiment didn’t last long, Chief Petty Officer Paul Wells, who became the officer in charge in 2009, took steps to reduce energy and water consumption. His successor, Chief Warrant Officer John Harker, welcomed the town to a cookout at the station in 2015, on the occasion of the Coast Guard’s 225th anniversary. For its part, the town honored the history of the Coast Guard during a centennial parade for the Pilgrim Monument in 2010. A contingent of young men and women marched in the uniforms of the United States Life-Saving Service.


2020 Commercial 125-11-31Officers in charge in recent years have included Paul Wells, left, and John Harker, right. The photo of Chief Petty Officer Nelson was released by the Coast Guard and published in The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local on 9 October 2009. The photo of Chief Harker is by Peter J. Brown of The Banner, and was published 6 August 2015.

The life-saving mission is timeless, even if it no longer involves rescuing seafarers from mast tops in canvas breeches buoys over lines fired out to sea from a Lyle gun.

• In 2011, a Coast Guard helicopter on routine patrol from Air Station Cape Cod spotted the flaming wreckage of a single-engine Piper aircraft near Provincetown Municipal Airport. The crew landed to help responders. It took off with the surviving passenger, 47-year-old Tamar Levy, returning her to the airport for transfer to a second helicopter that carried her to a hospital in Boston. (The pilot, Stanley Wisniewski, died in the crash.)¹⁵

• In 2013, the captain of a private boat that was following a commercial whale-watching vessel lost sight of the larger craft more than 30 miles north of the Cape and grew disoriented. The Coast Guard directed TowBoatUS Provincetown, run by Capt. Noah Santos (Flyer’s grandson), to escort the private boat back to town. What made the incident noteworthy was that one of the temporarily stranded passengers was the singer Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child.¹⁶

• A month later, Station Provincetown dispatched its new 29-foot response boat to a point about two miles southeast of Wood End, where a 36-year-old crew member had fallen off the fishing vessel Lorio of Nahant. Chief Harker said the crewman was safely aboard 17 minutes after the Coast Guard received the first distress call. The Provincetown Harbormaster, Provincetown Police Department, and TowBoatUS also participated in the rescue.¹⁷

• In January 2017, Resolute out of Stonington, Me., reported a man overboard near MacMillan Wharf. The fishing vessel was unable to rescue him. Visibility was about 1,300 feet, the wind was blowing at 28 knots, the water temperature was 39 degrees, and the air temperature was 27. Crew members from Station Provincetown’s 47-foot motor lifeboat transferred to the Provincetown Harbormaster’s boat, which had located the man, and helped pull him in.¹⁸


2020 Commercial 125-11-32A photograph by the Provincetown Police Department, published in Coast Guard News on 28 May 2017, shows the Provincetown Harbormaster’s boat plucking some of the 44 people stranded on the wrong end of the West End Breakwater by unusually high tides. The Coast Guard and TowBoatUS assisted in the rescue.

• Four months later, 44 people were stranded on the West End Breakwater by unusually high tides. Two had already fallen into the water, and four others had plunged in to rescue them. Station Provincetown’s response boat, piloted by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Glora, joined the Provincetown Harbormaster and TowBoatUS in helping people off the breakwater and carrying them to shore.¹⁹


2020 Commercial 125-11-33A Coast Guard video shows William Bowen being airlifted off Station Provincetown’s 47-foot motor lifeboat and into a helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod for a quick trip to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. The view is looking straight down from the chopper’s doorway. The video was posted by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service on 1 September 2018.

2020 Commercial 125-11-34Bowen is much more clearly discernible in this frame, as the rescue basket nears the helicopter and the motor lifeboat begins pulling away.

Among the more dramatic rescues at sea occurred in September 2018 when 24-year-old William Bowen became entangled in lobster gear aboard Capt. Beau Gribbin’s Glutton and was pulled overboard, about two miles off Coast Guard Beach. Bowen was under 60 to 70 feet of water for about three to four minutes before he could be rescued by Glutton‘s crew. Almost unable to breathe, vomiting blood, and feeling water gurgling in his lungs, Bowed needed immediate help. Station Provincetown sent out its 47-foot motor lifeboat with an emergency medical technician from the Provincetown Fire Department aboard to assess Bowen’s condition. Air Station Cape Cod had dispatched a helicopter meanwhile. Bowen was placed in a rescue basket on the motor lifeboat and hoisted into the helicopter — recalling nothing so much as a breeches buoy rescue. He was flown to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. Miraculously, Bowen was discharged the next day.²⁰

Gribbin himself had played a crucial role five years earlier when the scalloper Twin Lights capsized off Race Point with Capt. Jean Frottier and first mate Eric Rego aboard. Glutton was within visual range and steamed over to assist. Captain Gribbin and one crew member rescued Rego with a life sling, while another crew member, in a dry suit, swam to Twin Lights and knocked fruitlessly on the overturned hull, seeing if he could raise Captain Frottier within, chillingly reminiscent of the efforts 85 years earlier to communicate with the crew of the sinking S-4 submarine.

For his efforts, Gribbin was presented with a special Coast Guard citation in January 2013 by Chief Harker. Jody O’Neil reported on the ceremony in The Banner: “The commendation took Gribbin by surprise. ‘Usually when the Coast Guard calls you in — ” he joked, leaving the sentence open-ended.'”²¹


2020 Commercial 125-11-30The town paid tribute to the United States Life-Saving Service during the 2010 parade marking the centennial of the dedication of the Pilgrim Monument. David W. Dunlap took the photo.

¶ Last updated on 17 December 2018.


125 Commercial Street on the Town Map.


Also at 125 Commercial Street:

Elisha Freeman’s Wharf.

J. Paine Jr. Lumber & Coal Yard.

John J. Duarte Shoe Shop.

Cape Cod Cold Storage Company | Atlantic Coast Fisheries Cold Storage (Overview).

Cape Cod Cold Storage engine house.

Cape Cod Cold Storage freezer.

Cape Cod Cold Storage filleting department.

Cape Cod Cold Storage trolley and tramway.

Coast Guard Station Provincetown boat house | Former Cape Cod Cold Storage cannery.

Cape Cod Cold Storage trap shed.

United States Coast Guard Pier.


For further reading online

• Capt. Samuel Osborne Fisher

Find a Grave Memorial No. 120436876.

• Capt. Emanuel Francis Gracie

Find a Grave Memorial No. 125205658.

• Capt. Noah Santos

TowBoatUS Provincetown website.

• Symmes, Maini & McKee

SMMA website.

• Chief Petty Officer Paul Wells

“Shipmate of the Week: BMC Paul Wells,” by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Belson, Coast Guard Compass, 22 April 2011.


Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.


¹ “A Heavy Sea Running: The Formation of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, 1846-1878,” by Dennis R. Means, Prologue Magazine, Winter 1987.

² Regulations for the Government of the Life-Saving Service of the United States, 1899.

³ The Sea Fox: The Adventures of Cape Cod’s Most Colorful Rumrunner, by Scott Corbett, with Capt. Manuel Zora, 1956, Page 182.

The Sea Fox, Page 242.

Station Race Point, Massachusetts; Station Provincetown, by the U.S. Coast Guard History Program, 2017. Race Point PDF.

⁶ “Coast Guard Considering Long Point Developments,” The Provincetown Advocate, 21 May 1970. In the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 10, Page 73, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website (Dowd Collection), Page 4616.

Proposed Coast Guard Station, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, by the Commander, First Coast Guard District and Jason M. Cortell & Associates Inc., May 1975, Page 64.

Proposed Coast Guard Station, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Page 19.

⁹ “New Coast Guard Station Breathes Life … Into Old West End,” by Jim Gilbert, The Advocate Summer Guide, 14 June 1979. In the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 19, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website (Dowd Collection), Page 2244.

¹⁰ Bernard Benkowitz et alia to the United States of America, 17 March 1977, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 2481, Page 41.

¹¹ “Provincetown Welcomes New Station,” by Susan Areson, The Provincetown Advocate, 9 August 1979. In the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 9, Page 16, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website (Dowd Collection), Page 2241.

¹² Email to the author, 11 December 2018.

¹³ Ptown: Art, Sex and Money on the Outer Cape, by Peter Manso, 2002, Pages 170-171.

¹⁴ Federal Register, 20 March 1966. Volume 61, Number 55, Page 11353.

¹⁵ “Pilot’s Family, Friends Puzzled by Plane Crash,” by Mark Arsenault, The Boston Globe, 2 September 2011.

¹⁶ “Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child on Boat Escorted Back to Provincetown,” by The Associated Press, WBZ 4 CBS Boston, 21 July 2013.

¹⁷ “Coast Guard Rescues Provincetown Fisherman,” by Ann Wood, The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local, 10 August 2013.

¹⁸ “Coast Guard, Local Agencies Rescue Fisherman off Provincetown Pier,” by Richard Couto, WJAR 10 NBC Providence, 9 January 2017.

¹⁹ “Coast Guard, Locals Rescue 44 Stranded on Breakwall in Provincetown,” Coast Guard News, 18 May 2017.

²⁰ “Close Call for Crew Member of the Glutton,” by Katy Ward, The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local, 6 September 2018.

²¹ “Provincetown Fisherman Commended by Coast Guard for Twin Lights Rescue Effort,” by Jody O’Neil, The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local, 24 January 2013.


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