With a day (and a rental car) to put to good use before last evening’s wedding reception, Colleen and I drove south from Nag’s Head down the strand of sand that makes up the ‘Outer Banks’ to a wide spot named Chicamacomico and a museum dedicated to the U.S. Life Saving Service, a turn-of-the-last-century component of the Coast Guard. The Service was created to ‘professionalize’ the training and methods of what had been the acts of random volunteers drawn to the beach. There are books written on the extraordinary efforts these men and women made to rescue passengers and crew from stricken vessels up and down both coasts of the U.S. In hazardous reaches, there were such stations approximately every 8 miles! The architecture for these stations was proscribed. The Federal contracts were straight-forward and practical: A boat house, bunks for 8 men, cookhouse, that the buildings be movable and not to be mistaken for private homes. The rest was left up to the architect, contract budget constraints, and significant local flourishes (community pride). Some of their signature design elements found their way into our guest cottage in Oriental, NC. We had gone to see the ‘real thing’.
What we found in the preserved buildings and memorabilia was a fascinating account of maritime Americana. I am awed by the skill and courage exhibited by ‘Coasties’ then… and now in rescue operations. One sailor’s thanks!