Saturday, May 17, 2014


In 1921 the US Government Printing Office published "Instructions for United States Coast Guard Stations." The duties and responsibilities of surfmen included the following:

"A surfman on lookout...shall not sit down, lie down, sleep, read, entertain visitors, or do anything else that will tend to interfere with the proper discharge of his duties... He shall not take into the lookout any book, paper, pamphlet, or other reading matter, or any chair, stool, bench, or other seat, nor shall he permit any such article or articles or any person not connected with the service in the lookout while he is on watch."

US Coast Guard Station, Portsmouth Island

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:03 AM

    What exactly is "while he is on watch" ... does one stare out at the ocean looking for someone in trouble? How does one on watch learn of a situation for them to respond? Were there certain ways of communication to relay a distress call? Was this an efficient way to do things? My goodness, that is one impressive structure for one person??

  2. Each Life Saving Station had a keeper (captain) and 6 surfmen (later 7; still later 8). During daylight hours they took turns keeping watch for ships in distress from the tower (hence the restrictions about reading material & visitors). At night surfmen patrolled the beach on foot. In the 44 year history of the USLSS they responded to more than 28,000 ships in distress, and rescued more than 177,000 people. It is a remarkable story of bravery, courage, and dedication.

    There is more information about daily station life here:

  3. Anonymous9:34 PM

    We will never know how many lives were dramatically changed by these very special people. Which of us would have never even been born.