Point Reyes Historic Lifeboat Station
How many prayers went unanswered along this prominent point? How many lives were lost and how many tears of sorrow fell for those who drowned in a cold dangerous sea? If you were fated to wreck along the rocky headlands or to beach in the pounding surf of Point Reyes beach, your cries for help and mercy would often be lost among the unrelenting waves of the Pacific.
A Call to Action
Before the establishment of Life Saving and Lifeboat Stations, the remains of vessels littered the beaches and the rocks along the United States coastline. Horrified spectators witnessed the drowning of passengers and crew, helpless to do anything. In the same waves that smashed hulls and took lives of the unsuspecting, some heard a call to action.
Though lifesaving's role in maritime history begins in the 1780’s, it was not until 1871 that a coordinated government agency was established to aid distressed mariners. The United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS) provided hope for those whose fate was once sealed by pounding ocean waves and foreboding coastlines of the United States. The USLSS was a model agency and its surfmen would earn a place in the hearts of Americans for their feats of bravery.
A New Hope at Point Reyes
In 1890, alone on the long stretch of empty beach, the Point Reyes Life-Saving Station opened with a crew of eight and a seasoned keeper on a lonely stretch of Great Beach known for its notorious pounding surf and bad weather. Their positions were poorly paid, difficult and full of danger. The surfmen patrolled the beaches of Point Reyes with an ever-vigilant eye, looking for shipwrecks and their desperate crews. They walked the beaches day and night, with the fog chilling them to the bone and the wind blasting sand at the unprotected skin of their faces.