What is a Monomoy Lifeboat?

There were many Monomoy life boats built with slightly different designs and for different purposes.  Most seem to have eight oars, ours has ten.  Many are lap-strake, ours is caravel planked (smooth hull). Many only have a steering oar, ours can use a steering oar but is also fitted with a rudder and tiller. 

What we know about ours is that she was probably built to use as a life boat on a USCG cutter. It and many more of them wound up at Kings Point Maritime Academy and were used for cadet training. The kids beat them up pretty badly and maintenance got to be too much. As a result, KPMM replaced them with fiber glass boats and gave many of the old ones to the Cape May Maritime Museum.  CMMM then gave us one.  Al Klineburger, a Dirty Hands Gang member, agreed to be the project manager to rehab our boat. Click here to read about, and see photos of, our restoration process.


More on the Monomoy Lifeboats

Monomoy Surfboats were designed for the high surf off Monomoy Island and Chatham, Massachusetts (Cape Cod).

“Made to both transit the most unimaginable waters that nature could conjure and to return through the same surf loaded with the storm's victims, these boats required a degree of skill unparalleled among mariners. Keen knowledge of the vagaries of breaking surf, instant, explosive power to take advantage of the interval between combers and relentless grit to continue rowing while beyond exhaustion were prerequisites to a crew even entering a surfboat.” -- Hull Lifesaving Museum

The Monomoys are 26’ long with a 7’ beam and draw of about 2‘ with the crew on board. Most weigh over 2,000 lbs. The rowing configuration is double-banked, that is, the eight rowers sit in four pairs side-by-side on fixed thwarts (benches). (In single-banked boats, like racing shells, rowers sit fore and aft of each other, each on their own seat.) Each rower handles a single 12’ wooden oar. The oars range in weight from 11 to 15 lbs. A coxswain stands in the stern and steers with a 16’ oar. In a BAWRA race, a 10th person rides in the bow for added safety.

“The Monomoy design is an evolution of the classic utilitarian whaleboat: a double-ended, lightweight, cheaply constructed boat to be rowed or sailed under all conditions in pursuit of whales and for use in general ship's work. In 1934 the U.S. Coast Guard standardized the design for contract purposes, and thousands were built for use as lifeboats and gigs aboard not only naval and military ships but also commercial freighters and ocean liners.....The boat is quite simple and Spartan.” -- From Wooden Boat Magazine, A Tale of Two Sisters: Carvel vs. Cold Molding, January/February, 1982 By W. Tay Vaughan, III