August 1, 2013

Ship known for 'Perfect Storm' rescue to be sunk

A nonprofit group is giving up on efforts to raise money to preserve the USS Zuni, which also is the only ship remaining from the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Associated Press

NEW CASTLE, N.H. — A historic ship that once called New Hampshire home appears destined to be sunk.

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The Tamaroa, previously the USS Zuni, was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1994.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

The USS Zuni is the only ship remaining from the Battle of Iwo Jima. But its most famous work was depicted in the book and movie "The Perfect Storm." Then known as the Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa, and based in New Castle, the ship rescued three people from a sinking sailboat and a crew of National Guardsmen after their helicopter crashed in the 1991 storm.

A nonprofit group has spent years restoring the ship with the goal of turning it into a maritime museum, but hasn't been able to raise enough money for repairs after the ship sprang several leaks in recent years. Tom Robinson, executive director of the Zuni Maritime Foundation in Richmond, Va., said after the group donates historical items to museums, the ship likely will be sunk off the coast of Delaware or New Jersey to become an artificial reef.

"It's a sad state of affairs," he told the Portsmouth Herald. "It broke our hearts. ... It hurt us desperately and all the people who worked so hard on it."

The ship was decommissioned by the Navy in 1946 and was re-commissioned as the Tamaroa. It was assigned to New Castle in 1985 and was used for search-and-rescue missions and law enforcement patrol.

American Marine Group expects to take ownership of the ship and sink it. Company co-owner Tim Mullane said that's better than the alternative of turning it into scrap metal because the ship will become habitat for oysters and mussels and will be accessible to divers.

"When you make them into a reef, it becomes a living memorial, where they know where the ship is and they know what's happened to it," he said.

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