Coast Guard says goodbye to their beloved 52s

Built at a cost of $235,927, the Coast Guard’s four Victory-class 52-foot steel-hulled motor lifeboats have earned their keep, stationed off the rugged and dangerous coasts of the Pacific Northwest since the 1950s and 60s. Built at the Coast Guard Yard after a century of experience with surfboats and life-saving vessels, they had a design that just wouldn’t quit.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian:

All four of the steel 52’ MLBs have served their entire careers at lifeboat stations out on the Pacific Northwest coast where their ruggedness and long endurance are needed for the typically high surf conditions that exist there, along with the operational need to tow disabled fishing craft over longer distances and over inlet bars. These lifeboats have all survived multiple capsizing episodes, as well as pitch-poling incidents. The only criticism that has ever been mentioned of these craft is their relatively slow speed, but in the heavy seas and surf in which they typically operate, this has not been viewed as a significant detriment.

Now, after being sidelined earlier this year on “restrictive duty,” these indestructible craft are in their final stages of being decommissioned and have been towed away from their familiar stations.

The Victory, Intrepid, Invincible, and Invincible were towed to Ilwaco, Washington to be pulled out of the water for the last time, shrink-wrapped, and removed from service. 

Retired Master Chief Thomas McAdams reflects on his experiences aboard these magnificent boats as expressed in a poem he wrote inspired by their decommissioning, to the heartbreak of Surfmen everywhere. 

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