She is the heroic rescue ship immortalized in the movie “The Perfect Storm,” but today, the Zuni/Tamaroa is struggling to survive past a few more rainfalls.
While her impressive repertoire also includes surviving Iwo Jima, receiving four Battle Stars after World War II, and policing the seas during the Cold War, the ship is in need of repair, but remains anchored 250 yards away from dry dock. However, the historic vessel—which earned its dual name because it was originally named the Zuni during its time in the Navy and later renamed the Tamaroa after transitioning to the Coast Guard—is at risk of becoming scrap metal if it cannot find the $500,000 it needs to get to land.
“It’s do or die right now,” said Tom Robinson, executive director of the Zuni Maritime Foundation. “We have to get the ship into the emergency room before we start major surgery, and the emergency room is dry dock.”
Earlier this year, the Zuni Maritime Foundation was well on its way toward beginning “major surgery” on the Zuni/Tamaroa to turn it into a tourist attraction, educational platform, and JROTC training ship. The foundation named a national fundraising chairman, identified a shipyard for some exterior repairs, and was invited to dock the ship in Old Town Alexandria, where it would be considered a national historic landmark.
The ship has an extensive history that includes surviving Iwo Jima, participating in World War II’s South Pacific Campaign, safeguarding against Soviet radio ships during the Cold War, and perhaps most notably, the rescuing Air National Guard crewmen during the 1991 “No Name Storm of Halloween,” which was eventually depicted in the film “The Perfect Storm.”
However, an unexpected leak in the vessel’s hull caused the Coast Guard to label it a hazard to navigation, meaning it cannot be moved from the marine yard in Norfolk, Va., where it is currently stationed. Now, the foundation is trying to raise $500,000 to bring the ship to dry dock and make the necessary exterior restorations, which include scraping, painting and replacing parts of the hull.
“It either is going to be scrapped where it is or given a new life,” said Robinson. “We hope it is the latter.”
While Robinson says the owner of the salvage yard that currently houses the vessel has been extremely accommodating and patient, “it can’t just sit there forever, his company cuts up ships.”
If the foundation can secure the money it needs to keep the ship afloat, the Zuni/Tamaroa will move to Alexandria, Va., where it would be permanently docked as a national historic landmark. Not only would the ship be featured as a museum for tourists, but it would also be used as a training vessel for Navy and Marine JROTC cadets. Robinson says the Navy has been especially supportive of the organization’s efforts and hopes that providing cadets with the opportunity to learn on a profoundly historical and accomplished ship can bolster their enthusiasm.
“This was a boat that got right into the middle of the fighting. The little ship that could had to make its way through the minefields and get through the wreck ships and wreck tanks and while it was being fired on,” said Robinson. “If we can get people to help us out and get some funding for this, then we are going to have a very famous ship with a very impressive history that will be around for a very long time.”