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Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
NEWPORT AND WALDPORT, LINCOLN COUNTY; 1970s:
Shipwreck treasure piqued FBI’s interest a day too late
By Finn J.D. John June 1, 2021
DAWN WAS JUST breaking, and Tom McAdams had just barely crawled into bed, when he got the alarm. A 50-foot sailboat was washing ashore near Waldport.
McAdams had been up all night escorting a leaking fishing boat into port after it got caught in a bad storm 20 miles offshore. Now it was the morning of Dec. 13, 1973, and it was his wife Joanne’s birthday. He’d planned on snatching four or five hours of sleep and then maybe doing something with Joanne.
Instead, he was sprinting across the street to Newport’s U.S. Coast Guard station, jumping a fence, and bounding into his 44-foot rescue lifeboat.
McAdams was a master chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard (and still is, albeit retired; he’s now in his 80s). In 1973 he was the commander of the Newport station, and was already probably the most famous enlisted man in Coast Guard history, a title he certainly holds today. By the time he retired in 1977 he had personally rescued hundreds of people, and taught hundreds of other rescuers how it was done.
On this particular morning, though, there wouldn’t be much for McAdams to do. He raced out across the Yaquina Bay bar — which was rough, but it takes a lot to stop a 44 from crossing any river bar — and turned south. But by the time he’d gone a mile or so, the station radioed that the yacht had gone up on the beach, out of reach for a rescue boat. Other Coasties, rescue swimmers Greg Albrecht, Lewis Cavina and Bill Masten, were on their way down Highway 101 to the beach; saving the people on the boat would be up to them.
When the rescue swimmers arrived, they found a middle-aged couple struggling feebly in the icy surf in their life jackets, trying to swim to shore. The rescuers quickly got them out of the water and onto dry land.....
This article is still under its initial two-month embargo, during which participating newspapers have exclusive rights to it. Then, on June 11, 2021, the rest of this article will appear here!
In the meantime, you can probably find it published on the Website of one of our member newspapers or community radio stations.Thanks for your patience, and thanks for supporting your community newspapers and radio stations!
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(Sources: BMCM Tom McAdams Interview, an oral-history interview recorded on Feb. 13, 2004 by Foundation for Coast Guard History, accessed via Clive Lawford’s 44-foot Motor Lifeboats page at 44mlb.com; archives of Portland Oregonian, Dec. 14-16, 1973)