Restoration Project Overview
How did 44376 got to where it is today?
44376 was manufactured in the late 1960ís at the US Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore Maryland. Once completed, she was shipped to the Charlevoix Michigan Coast Guard Station. Charlevoix has a long Coast Guard history starting with the US Life Saving Service. Charlevoix has a long lighthouse history as well with a lighthouse located at the end of the pier and also a Lighthouse Depot existed on Lake Charlevoix for servicing buoys and storing oil and supplies for lighthouse located on the northern end of Lake Michigan. The US Life Saving Service built a station here in 1890 and they eventually tore the original station down and moved to where the lighthouse depot was located to combine services once the Lighthouse Service merged with the US Coast Guard. The old lighthouse depot is where 44376 was shipped and served out of for most of her life. Toward the end of her career she was transferred to Station Marquette and served there until it was taken out of service.
The Coast Guard disposes of excess property and surplus items such as boats through giving them to other federal, state or local governments. If no takers can be found in that process, the items go on sale to the public. Sometimes they are sold to foreign governments or they are given away to local law enforcement or fire department agencies for example. Through a surplus property disposal to the State of Michigan, two Coast Guard 44 foot motor life boat (44' MLB) were released in the late 1990ís, 44323 and 44376.
These two boats have a near identical story of how they got into private ownership. They were given away by the State of Michigan to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society who manages the Whitefish Point Lighthouse. One boat was to be used for shipwreck research, while the other was to be a lawn ornament as a static display. At the time, 44323 was in running condition and no work had to be done to it. 44376 on the other hand had problems. While 44376 was stationed in Marquette one day, a valve off the sea chest froze and flooded the engine room, partially sinking her at the dock.
After a review of the boat, the US Coast Guard decided against fixing it back up since the fleet of 44ís were being replaced by the 47 foot motor life boats. When the engine room flooded, the engines needed major rework. They were partially taken apart and then left that way to rust. The boat was towed to Sault Ste. Marie for disposal and was lifted onto the pier and dock area near the Soo Boat Tours and the Valley Camp Ship Museum. This happened in the winter of 1996 and it was towed to the Soo in 1997, where it sat, rotting away, rusting it begun its restoration.
44376 and 44323 were transferred from the Shipwreck Society to the Bay Mills Indian Tribe and when they discovered they could use then, they then transferred them back to the Shipwreck Society, they were then sold into private ownership to a gentleman in DeTour Michigan. He used 44323 for his diving and salvage operation and 44376 was abandoned on the dock pier in Sault Ste. Marie until June of 2001 until its present owner, Jeff Shook came along to save her from continued deterioration.
Upon first look, I actually passed up on buying her. The engines had been partially tore down, leaving the heads exposed and in a marine environment, plus the fact that the engine room flooded, the rust of the components was severe. The boat needed a complete paint job as well. The hull paint was chalking and some spots of rust were developing. The deck has anti-skid on it and then it is painted gray. This anti-skid was flaking off at the touch of a finger from exposure to the weather and sun. The electrical system needed a lot of help and wires were all over from being disconnected, part of them from the Coast Guard removing equipment, the other ones from the engine work that was attempted at one time.
Finally, I felt this calling that the boat needed to be saved and I was going to work on it, even if it took several years. My first thought were to trailer it back down state near home where I could work on it over time and get it fixed back up. After some measuring and calling some boat haulers, it was determined that wires would need to be moved because the boat was just to tall, or I would need to cut off the pilot house area and weld it back together at its final destination. These options were too costly and just not practical.
Plan B went into action, a local shipyard named MCM Marine was located close by. They are a full service ship yard that offers a drydock, cranes, mechanical and painting services. They had worked on a lot of ships, tugs and local Coast Guard boats. So after contacting the shipyard owner and going over a game plan of what services they would provide and what services I would perform, I chose them to do the work instead of trying to tow it someplace else and the project started.