Station History

Chatham Lighthouse Tours

Supplemental Material

The Wadena Disaster (The Mack Memorial)

The story began when two coal barges, the Wadena and the John C. Fitzpatrick, ran aground off Monomoy in March 1902. Several days after the grounding, the Wadena flew a distress signal. Eight men from the U.S. Lifesaving Service, (six from Harwich and two from Chatham), responded by launching a surf boat. Five men were taken off the barge, but when they panicked, the surf boat capsized! The five crewmen drowned as did seven of the eight lifesavers. Captain Elmer Mayo of the John C. Fitzpatrick saw one person hanging on to the overturned surf boat, launched a small dory and rescued surfman Seth Ellis, the only survivor of this tragic event.
The monument was erected to honor William Mack, the barge owner and his crew, as well as the surfmen who were lost. The monument also honors Captain Mayo and Seth Ellis.

The Pendleton Rescue (Motor Lifeboat 36500)

During a violent storm on February 18, 1952, two tankers broke up off of Chatham. The Fort Mercer was able to make a distress call and help from a cutter, tugs and planes were soon on its way.
The Pendleton , broke up quickly and couldn’t get off a distress call. The Pendleton was seen on Station Chatham radar. Two vessels were launched by Station Chatham personnel, but were unable to get across the bar. The motor lifeboat 36500 (36 feet long), with four Coasties, was then launched and proceeded to rescue 32 Pendleton crewmen over a Jacobs ladder. Unfortunately, a 33rd crewman slipped and was lost.
The Disney movie “The Finest Hours” recounts this tremendous rescue. The actual 36500 has been beautifully restored and is docked during the summer months at the entrance to Rock Harbor in Orleans.

DANGER – Rough Bar sign & Amber light

This sign is used to warn vessels entering Chatham Harbor of the rough conditions over the Chatham Bar. If the amber light is lit then this means that there are over 2 foot waves or swells over the bar.

The 44301 Motor Lifeboat

The 44' MLB was designed by the U.S. Coast Guard, with work starting on the prototype (USCG 44300) in April 1961. A total of 110, 44' MLB's were built for the U.S. Coast Guard, with the last boat (USCG 44409) being completed in 1972.

The last 44' MLB to serve with the US Coast Guard was the 44301, which was retired from service on the 8th May 2009 at Station Chatham in Massachusetts. The 44301 was kept on at Chatham due to the special bar conditions there. She was finally replaced by three 42 foot Special Purpose Near Shore Lifeboats built especially to handle the these unique conditions.

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 from grounding, moderate weight and, not so incidentally, speed are critical factors. These characteristics reached a peak in the 44’ motor lifeboat design.

Flags flown at the Station

The flags of the United States Coast Guard