As one epilogue to the 1997 bestselling book and 2000 movie “The Perfect Storm,” by part-time Truro resident Sebastian Junger, the 74-year-old U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa was set to be sunk as early as today, April 20, weather permitting, as part of an artificial reef project near Cape May, N.J.
“The Perfect Storm,” a fictionalized account of the Andrea Gail’s last fishing expedition, during which its six crew members went down in the storm during a swordfishing trip, also chronicles the rescue of the three-person crew aboard the 32-foot S/V Satori by the Tamaroa.
Formerly the USS Zuni when it was commissioned in 1943, the U.S. Navy tug was the last surviving ship from the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima. It was renamed Tamaroa when it was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1946 and had a storied history of rescues near Cape Cod, including the 1956 sinking of the cruise liner Andrea Doria off Nantucket, before being immortalized by the rescues during the notorious 1991 nor’easter that became known as the Perfect Storm.
Junger acknowledges the scuttling of the ship is a fraught issue for survivors.
“People are very emotional about not preserving this vessel,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. “No matter what you do, people are going to be upset. Emotions on both sides are totally valid.”
From its homeport in New Castle, N.H., the 205-foot Tamaroa rescued the crews of both the yacht Satori 75 miles off Nantucket and a downed New York Air National Guard helicopter that was attempting a rescue of the doomed fishing vessel Andrea Gail hundreds of miles north, during the 1991 storm.
“It’s always sad when you sink a ship, but some good will come of it,” said retired Coast Guard Capt. Larry Brudnicki in a NavyTimes story last October, when the Tamaroa was originally scheduled to sink. He had commanded the ship during the Perfect Storm rescues 25 years earlier and prefers that the ship become an artificial reef, benefiting recreational fishing, rather than scrap metal.
“It’s being repurposed. It’s being used,” Brudnicki said. “If it’s cut up, who’s going to know that their razor blade came from the Tamaroa?”
Decommissioned in 1994, the Tamaroa was the subject of a preservation project until the repairs became too rich for the benefactors. New Jersey and Delaware acquired the vessel for $300,000 and have prepared it to be part of the deepwater DelJerseyLand artificial reef, which is jointly managed by Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The Tamaroa will join other ships like the destroyer USS Radford, sunk in 2011.
While there had been talk of the Tamaroa being sunk on the 25-year anniversary of the storm last October, the project has only just been given the needed federal environmental clearances. Delaware’s Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, organizer of the reef project, also needs a 48- to 72-hour window of calmer weather to…