Blizzard of ’78 36th Anniversary the Pilot Boat “Can Do”

The “Can Do”


These Photos of the “Grampus” in Beverly Harbor are from 2009 .

The Grampus is the old pilot boat “Can Do” that was lost with all hands (crew of five) in the Blizzard of ’78 .

The Damaged Hull was the only thing left of the Can Do when it was later raised from the sea.

The Workboat Grampus previously the pilot boat Can Do was raised in 1981 and after a complete re-build was returned to service. She has served on numerous projects over the years. The name Grampus (the original name of the vessel) is an old term for a pilot whale, appropriate for the sleek black hull of the vessel. Grampus is 47ft long and is powered by an 855 Cummins diesel. She was originally built as a yacht, and travelling as far south as the Amazon.

Inspite of what some have said she is not haunted or is she?

Thanks go out to MuffyHowards from Cape Ann Online for the heads up on these Youtube Videos. The Story of the Gloucester Pilot Boat Can Do. It’s a long series at least 13 parts. You’ll hear actuall Radio Transmisions from the USCG and the Pilot Boat Can do during this Tragedy.

From Publishers Weekly;

“Before The Perfect Storm, there was the 1978 blizzard that lashed the Massachusetts coast with blinding snow, 90-mile-per-hour winds and 40-foot waves. Into the juggernaut sailed the small boat Can Do and its crew of five civilians on a doomed mission to assist two other vessels imperiled by the storm. As in The Perfect Storm, all hands were lost; but since the Can Do sank only a few agonizing miles from shore, there are records of terse radio transmissions to help the author recreate their last desperate hours. Journalist Tougias (The Blizzard of ’78) fills out his absorbing account with lots of search-and-rescue procedural details, recollections from others who endured the monstrous seas of that hellish night and 300 years’ worth of maritime disaster sagas. At times, the book feels padded with lengthy, adulatory back stories about the Can Do crew and needless speculations (i.e., “Kenny Fuller likely thought of his wife, knowing that if he died it would be especially hard on her”). And the story’s outcome-the Can Do never got anywhere near the boats it went to help, both of which survived the storm-raises questions about the wisdom of the heroic ethos it celebrates. Still, Tougias delivers a well-researched, vividly written tale of brave men overwhelmed by the awesome forces of nature.”

Also if your interested in this story Check out the book: “Ten Hours Until’ Dawn”

By Micheal Tougias


  • Great book, after reading this book, you will never be cold again.. amazing


  • Ten Hours Till Dawn is a phenomenal book. A must read. Great videos. Thanks so much.


  • I was sitting in a hotel room in D.C. with nothing to read. A recco for this book came through via GMG and within minutes I had downloaded it. Awesome timing. Great book. Very sad.


  • Fabulous commentary!! Thank you, Micheal Tougias…


  • I was in Rockport and Gloucester April of 1978 and learned of the fate of the Can Do. I will never forget the brave crew. I had met one of the crew on previous trip, through a friend of mine that grew up in Marblehead. It truly affected me and still does. To the author of this story, thank you for telling it.
    It is a fine tribute to the men who lost their lives trying to save others.


  • Yes – its an amazing book.


  • Thanks for posting. The book was a very good read. While in central mass I know we got a ton of snow (I think about 3 feet) but didn’t know how bad things were out here on the coast and the book really brought it to life.


  • I was on the USCG cutter Vigilant out of New Bedford Ma, on this horrific evening, the break water wall had been closed in New Bedford and we were out at sea riding out the storm just north of the Cape Cod Canal. The weather was beyond description, 100+knot winds, (our anemomitor only went up to 99, and it was pegged all night long) 60+ foot seas as we were heading north to try and assist/find the CanDo, the USCG 44′ rescue boat out of Station Gloucester, 44317, the USCG Cutter Cape George, and the Global Hope. We battled thru the night, head into the mountainous seas and did not get off shore Marblehead/Salem until the next morning. Thru out the night we pushed on in vain and listened to the radio transmissions of the CanDo, USCG 44317, Cape George, and the Global Hope. It was a tragic evening to say the least. I knew Frank and crew personally and can never express the loss I felt personally and that of all of my fellow crew members as we struggled against some of the worst conditions ever seen off of Cape Ann.

    The book “Ten Hours Till Dawn”, is a tremendous recount of that difficult night, but it only touches the edges of what it was truly like.

    I will tip one this evening for Frank and Crew.


  • Thank Paul I love these gems of history and the stories behind it 🙂


  • This is a heart-pounding and heartbreaking story, and the story teller is amazing. Thanks for making this video series, I couldn’t take my ears off it and I’ll never look out at Gloucester Harbor again without thinking about this.


  • Is that memorial down in front of the hotel at Cape Ann Marina for the crew of the Can Do?


  • …would like to see the video


  • I was stationed to the Coast Guard Cutter Cape George (95306) in June of 1978. The rest of the crew had all been involved in the rescue mission in February. No one talked at length about it, but when the subject came up, body language and facial expressions always chilled. In 1978, as before and since, the Coast Guardsmen and women all live by the official motto, “Semper Paratus’, (Always Ready) and by the unofficial motto, “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.” Enough thanks and praise cannot be directed at these brave individuals.



  • I’m from Marblehead and was a sophomore in high school when the blizzard struck. I was at my friends house in town and we listened to the whole disaster unfold we heard the may day go out and then the Can Do was gone. A few days after the boat was lost the crew started washing up on the beach by where we lived. My dad found the package with all the crews personal effects. I was a diver and later dove on the boat where it ended up by Tinkers Island. When I graduated I went on to the Coast Guard.


  • Rob Pittendreigh

    My mother-in-law and I were playing backgammon that night sitting in a warm house, at the kitchen table. The house was built 100 feet back from a 40 foot high sea wall. While we enjoyed hot coco, that frigid, snow blinding night, twenty foot rollers were grinding a 120 foot steel work barge, that had broken free of it’s morning, down the sea wall on the Salem Harbor side of Marblehead. We both listened in shock to this haunting tragedy unfold on my farther-in-laws radio scanner. The wind was screaming, visibility was less than 100 feet because we couldn’t see the barge from the kitchen window. We had to walk outside to confirm what was causing the agonizing screeches only to discover the steel sides of the barge grinding against the granite wall. We listened to a Coast Guard cutter from Boston lose it’s electronic navigation equipment (sonar and radar) and have to turn back to port. We listened to another Coast Guard cutter from somewhere northeast of Salem and southwest of Gloucester get hammered (I am a New Bedford guy so don’t judge my poor North Shore geographic knowledge). He also lost his electronic navigation equipment (sonar and radar) had to rely on some emergency vehicles and their flashing lights on both sides of the entrance to Salem Harbor to safely get him back in to port. When he finally docked, (I’m 66 now so the memory is not what it use to be but…) I recollect the skipper vigorously thanking the emergency vehicles over his radio and on docking the cutter… kissing the dock (if he didn’t he should have). I remember the CAN DO’s last broadcast described how a wave had just taken the boat’s bridge off while at anchor off one of the islands. The captain’s last remark was that the next wave would destroy her (CAN DO). I remember my shock and amazement at how calm he was…………That was the last broadcast we heard, only static followed and then deafening silence. I remember like it was yesterday. I now realize that I had misjudged the captain of the CAN DO. He was not crazy he was courageous. Once again a Captain Courageous sailed from Gloucester.

    I have told my sons that story my entire life as an example of how easily the sea can claim a life. Not to intimidate, but rather to teach them respect for the sea, because, I have taught them to Love it as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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