Slavit Family Places Storied U.S. Coast Guard Boat on River; Free Tours to be Available

The last one of its kind, a 1959 U.S. Coast Guard boat is now on the Merrimack River in downtown Haverhill. (Courtesy photograph.)

There’s a new craft on the Merrimack River—a 1959, 40-foot former U.S. Coast Guard boat—and it will soon be available for tours as well as life-saving missions.

And the boat, which once famously patrolled the Great Lakes, has quite a history as Tim Slavit tells WHAV.

“It was the first boat on scene at a famous wreck called the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. A hurricane and a 700-foot container ship broke apart in seconds and the never saw the crew again with 29 men on board,” he says.

Slavit, whose legendary father, Capt. William J. “Red” Slavit, served many years as harbormaster, launched the boat Monday, making good on a promise he made to WHAV listeners last month. He says the Slavit family will offer free tours for up to 12 people at a time, complete with snacks and soft drinks, as a way of reintroducing the Merrimack and encourage visitors to the downtown.

“You know the City of Haverhill is in my heart and soul, I inherited that from my father and I think (Mayor) Jim Fiorentini is the same way. Jim Fiorentini worries about the river—and bringing people to the river—as much as I do and my sons,” he says.

Tours last one hour and complete a run between Washington Street and Rocks Village and back. The boat is docked at the Capt. Red Slavit Memorial Park on Washington Street.

The boat, built in Curtis Bay, Baltimore, Md., retains its Coast Guard name—CG-40587. It is the last remaining one of its type. Originally, Slavit says, the boats performed search and rescue, tow and harbor patrols. He adds he will use the boat to maintain the new channel markers recently installed and make it available to the Haverhill Police and Fire Departments for emergencies.

“It has specialized equipment on it. Not only a light system that will light up the river. We have fire pumps. A fire pump is not only for fighting a boat fire, but if there is a boat sinking, we can pump out a boat. We have cut-off saws. We have more equipment on that boat than anybody on the east coast,” Slavit notes.

Tours on the former Coast Guard vessel also preview next May’s planned launch of the family’s 150-passenger, 65-foot-long, excursion boat. Those who wish to reserve a tour may email [email protected].

At a joint meeting of the city Harbor Commission and the Greater Haverhill Foundation’s River Access Committee late yesterday afternoon, Fire Chief William F. Laliberty said he will look into what COVID-19 rules may apply for boat passengers.

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