Blizzard of ’78 foiled a rescue at sea in little-known tale

On the night of Feb. 6, 1978, more than a few afternoon commuters were still stuck in their cars in Providence in the midst of the strongest blizzard to hit the Northeast in 150 years. And just off the New England coast, mountainous waves, produced by the same storm system, crested at heights of 40 feet. Winds blowing off those waves hit speeds of 115 miles per hour. The stage was set for a high-seas drama that wouldn’t rate much attention in the next day’s editions of The Providence Journal and The Boston Globe, according to Massachusetts native Michael Tougias, an author who was to speak at the Providence Boat Show on Sunday, close to Monday’s anniversary of the great blizzard. Tougias’ story, based on his own book, offers an oceanic perspective on the great blizzard. He constructed it with dramatic dialogue from 10 hours of taped marine radio communications. Not long after then-Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy declared a state of emergency in Rhode Island, a pilot boat left its berth in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on a mission to help a Coast Guard vessel that had lost its way in the roiling seas near the entrance to Salem Sound. The pilot boat, named the Can Do, set out to accomplish an impossible task. Read the story here 08:44

Remembering the pilot boat ‘Can Do’  – from February 7, 2013 Click here