EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 7, 2013

Remembering the crew that went down to the sea


In the mess room, Stevens looked out to where a life preserver from the Can Do hangs on the wall. “You think about it every year at this time,” he said. “It’s always there. Charlie Bucko taught me how to run a Coast Guard boat.”

Quirk’s son, also Frank, was serving with the U.S. Marines in Okinawa when he got word of his father’s death. His days aboard Can Do taught him that his father knew full well the risk he took in a storm.

One day, he remembers, in Salem Harbor, “a huge squall picked up out of nowhere. My brother was aboard, myself and my mother.” The sea slammed the bow so hard it ripped open the forward hatch. Water began pouring in. Mom was told to take the wheel.

“We tied a rope to my dad,” Frank recalled, and he went out on the bow to put down the hatch.

“I got off the boat that day and kissed the ground,” he said. He also announced he wanted no more of the sea, but his father minimized the incident.

At other times, the pair had worked as divers, recovering drowned swimmers, drowned divers and drowned boaters. But more frequently their missions were rescues.

“My dad was always helping people,” he said. “He was on the boat 7-24.”

State Sen. Bruce Tarr, one of the young volunteers working with the Coast Guard in 1978, spoke at the memorial. “They were good and faithful,” he said of his colleagues. “At the time of the tempest they gave us strength and courage.”

Gard Estes was also part of the volunteer surf patrol, and in the dark, at the height of the storm, he was part of a desperate effort to bathe Magnolia Beach in powerful searchlights, the better to give a target, a place to beach the wounded boat. “We had the beach lit up like the Fourth of July,” he said.

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