EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 7, 2013

Remembering the crew that went down to the sea


The sea was such that Can Do could not get to the beach. “A little after midnight the Mayday came,” Estes remembered. Via radio, the increasingly desperate crew reported hypothermia along with serious injuries created when the windshield was smashed by the gale.

“I jumped in a Jeep and we went all the way to Salem looking for the boat and Frank. ... I was very close to Frank.”

Gloucester Police Lt. John McCarthy was a kid then, who loved working on the police boat. He aided the effort to light the beach. “We all set out in a four-wheel drive vehicle.” If the sea was impossible, the land was buried under so much snow it would be days before most roads reopened to cars.

McCarthy knew Quirk well. He smiled at the memory. “He was one of a kind. He was a pistol, he really was. And he could do anything on a boat.”

Both Quirk and Bucko had worked closely with the Coast Guard, winning the Mariner’s Medal for past rescues.

As the night wore on, Can Do’s messages came out of the freezing cold reflecting a fast-fading hope. And in the days following the storm, the bodies came ashore on beaches all along the North Shore. Can Do was spotted in the water, one body within.

Relatives and friends of the lost men attended yesterday’s ceremony, including Frank Quirk’s daughter Maureen Ouelette, a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter. A flowered wreath lay on a table, wrapped in a red, white and blue ribbon. Later in the day the Coast Guard would bring it out to sea and drop it upon the waves in memory of the crew.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk linked the Can Do crew to the city’s famous Fisherman Memorial and the words inscribed on it, words taken from Psalm 107 in the King James Bible: “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”

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