CAPE MAY POINT, N.J. — A ship that towed warships to safety during World War II and battled 40-foot waves to help rescue seven people in what was portrayed in the book and film "The Perfect Storm" is poised to be sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts.
Officials told The Record newspaper the 205-foot Coast Guard vessel Tamaroa will help grow a reef near Cape May Point by drawing large game fish and boosting recreational fishing.
"It's always sad when you sink a ship, but some good will come of it," said retired Coast Guard Capt. Larry Brudnicki, who commanded the ship during the fateful 1991 storm. "It's being repurposed. It's being used. If it's cut up, who's going to know that their razor blade came from the Tamaroa?"
The sinking is planned around Oct. 30, the 25th anniversary of the storm in which the Tamaroa helped rescue the crew of a sailboat and a downed Air National Guard helicopter in waters off Massachusetts.
Long before its role in "The Perfect Storm," the Tamaroa was known as the USS Zuni, which was first deployed by the Navy in World War II. Following the war, the Zuni was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed the Tamaroa. The vessel spent nearly five decades rescuing ships in distress, intercepting smugglers at sea and enforcing fishery laws.
Efforts to convert the ship into a museum and memorial ended in 2012 after its hull was found to be leaking.
"I'd rather see her be a permanent undersea memorial than be scrapped," said Bill Doherty, a New York man who served on the Tamaroa in the late 1960s. "She has too much history for that."
To those who oppose the sinking of the ship for sentimental reasons, Harry Jaeger, co-founder of Zuni/Tamaroa Maritime Foundation, said you can put on your scuba gear and it'll be right there.