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Volunteers restoring rare Coast Guard boat

Apr. 14, 2013 - 04:25PM   |  
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CHATHAM, Mass. — One of the few remaining motorized Coast Guard surfboats has come back home to the Cape.

Under the fluorescent lights of the garage at Coast Guard Station Chatham, volunteers have been painting the 26-foot wooden boat and restoring its Buda diesel motor.

South Dennis resident Dick Boonisar donated it to the Cape Cod National Seashore. The boat, which has four rowing stations, will go on display at the Old Harbor Lifesaving Station in Provincetown.

"I really felt it should stay on the Cape because that's where it came from. I thought the Seashore would be a good custodian of it," said Boonisar, noting that he also approached other maritime organizations.

Boonisar has always had an interest in the Coast Guard. He remembers his summers growing up next to Gurnet Point Lifesaving Station in Plymouth. When the Coast Guard decommissioned the station he bought it and has spent years restoring it.

When the old Coast Guard surfboat became available, Boonisar bought it from an Eastham man in 1973. "It was something I had room for," he said. "I bought it to use it and I did use it."

But maintaining and storing the 4,000-pound boat got to be a bit much, Boonisar said. He ended up mothballing it and putting it on exhibit at the Gurnet station. Last month, it was taken to Chatham where Coast Guardsmen are among those who have volunteered their time to sand and repaint the boat and also restore the motor.

The boat has a long history on the Cape. It was originally thought to have been built in the mid-1940s and was part of the Nauset Coast Guard Station in Eastham. It might have been on the Coast Guard cutter Bibb.

It is one of only about three motorized surfboats in the country, said Richard Ryder, one of the volunteers helping to restore the boat. He is also a volunteer at the Old Harbor Lifesaving Station.

Once on display, Ryder said, visitors to the Old Harbor Lifesaving Station will be able to see the evolution of surfboats from oars to engines.

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