The best summer volunteer job on Cape Cod? This one comes with a cannon
Suddenly, it's 1902 and you have joined the U.S. Life-Saving Service. You've got to be ready to rescue sailors in deep trouble, clinging to ships foundering in the offshore breakers. And chances are, this high stakes rescue will take place during a hellacious winter storm.
If you're lucky, you can use the surfboat, fight through the churning ocean and grab survivors from the ship. But if the surf is too heavy, you may have to break out a bronze cannon, known as a Lyle gun, stuff in some gunpowder and blast a line out to the ship.
If that works, you may be able to rescue the sailors one at a time, hauling them over the waves and back to the beach in a zip line-like contraption known as a breeches buoy.
Let's return to the modern comfort of 2023, where folks might say "I wonder what that was like?" Well, here is your chance to find out. The Cape Cod National Seashore is seeking volunteers for their Beach Apparatus Drill, a popular summer demonstration at the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station in Provincetown.
And, yes, the Lyle gun is involved, firing a line to a drill pole that stands near the station. A member of the team is "rescued," zipping to safety in a breeches buoy.
Sure, this seems like one of the most interesting and even glamorous volunteer opportunities on Cape Cod, especially because you get to wear period uniforms known as surf-whites. But you've got to be committed to the role.
Seashore volunteer coordinator Daniel Blankenship put it this way in a press release: “Joining the team does require dedication, hard work, and sweat while performing the drill on the sand in the heat of the summer, but it’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of the group that keeps this truly unique tradition alive for hundreds of visitors every year.”
Volunteers are required to attend training in June and be ready to go for the program, which takes place on Thursday evenings in July and August at the Old Harbor station, which is located at Race Point Beach.
David Spang of North Truro, a former Seashore ranger, played the 1902 keeper of the station, Hezekiah Doane, for many years during the program's run. "We had a lot of fun and developed a real team approach," he recalled in a phone interview. "The group still comes over to my house for a cookout."
He also said prospective volunteers should know what they're getting into. "There is a physical aspect to it," said Spang. "You're working on a hot day out in the dunes."
If you're on the fence about volunteering for the drill, perhaps this passage about lifesavers from the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association will push you over the edge:
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"They were called storm fighters, and they were called storm warriors. When wind and wave conspired to kill those who dared to tread upon the sea, the men of the United States Life-Saving Service left the comfort of their sturdy stations and entered the battle."
Keeping that story alive seems like a fine volunteer gig. You can apply for a Beach Apparatus Drill team position at volunteer.gov. And get ready to travel back in time.
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Best summer volunteer job on Cape Cod? This one comes with a cannon