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Contact: Jody Anastasio, District Interpreter, 508-487-1256
Visitors to Cape Cod National Seashore’s Old Harbor Life-Saving Station at Race Point Beach have the unique opportunity to step back in time as park rangers in period dress perform a historical reenactment of the beach apparatus drill. The drill was performed by the crew of the US Lifesaving Service every Thursday at the turn of the 20th century. The reenactment takes place at 6:00 PM every Thursday in July and August at Old Harbor, and is family-oriented.
This is the 30th year that the seashore has offered this popular interpretive program. The program showcases one method used to rescue crews from wrecked ships off the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” in the early 1900s. While most rescues employed surfboats to rescue multiple victims at once, when the sea was too rough, the surfmen used the beach apparatus, or breeches buoy to rescue people one at a time. The drill involves firing a projectile out of a small, cannon-like gun, over a simulated ship’s bow and rigging up lines to haul the buoy from shore to ship and back. Only a handful of sites around the United States demonstrate the drill, making this a unique experience for most Cape Cod visitors and residents.
“Cape Codders have always had a close association with the sea,” said Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price. “Being a surfman was a great honor, and for the crew aboard a wrecked ship, seeing a flare or lantern on the shore signaled that they’d been spotted and experienced help was on the way. The reenactment brings to life this very dramatic aspect of the Cape’s maritime history,” he said.
The cost for the program is $5 for adults age 18 and over; and $2 for seniors and children age 7-17. Children age 6 and under are free. Following the reenactment, visitors can tour the recently restored life-saving station and view the rescue equipment. In the future, Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore will be undertaking a fundraising campaign to furnish the restored building with exhibits and furniture.
IF YOU GO: Old Harbor Life-Saving Station is located at Race Point Beach, off Race Point Road, Provincetown. In addition to the reenactment on Thursday evenings at 6:00, the building is open daily in July and August from 2:30 to 5:00 PM. Visitors arriving during the daytime must pay the $15 daily vehicle fee to enter the beach parking area.