The Cambrian

Historic tugboat Alma returns to Morro Bay

Alma, a tugboat used by the military during WWII to rescue people on an oil tanker torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Cambria, is seen in this 2014 photo.
Alma, a tugboat used by the military during WWII to rescue people on an oil tanker torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Cambria, is seen in this 2014 photo.

The historic tugboat Alma is home again, after having been restored. From noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 5, there’ll be a smoked-chicken barbecue in Morro Bay to celebrate.

The lunch is sponsored by Tognazzini’s Dockside restaurants. Tickets ($15 for adults, $7 for children) are available at Coalesce Bookstore, 845 Main St., Morro Bay, and at the event.

The two-day celebration — from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5 — will happen next to the Embarcadero parking lot near the power plant, across from Great American Fish Company and the T-pier.

Attendees can tour a U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat and the DSRV Avalon (a 50-foot U.S. Navy Mystic-class Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle or submarine).

The Central Coast Maritime Museum Association is raising funds to build a maritime museum on the site.

According to the website for the association and the future museum, at www.morrobaymaritime.org, the 48-foot Alma was traditionally built of sawn oak frames and carvel planked with Port Orford cedar by the Beviacqua Brothers near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in 1927.

The tug gained notoriety on the morning of Dec. 23, 1941, soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Alma, under the command of Merle Molinari of Cayucos, headed north from her Cayucos mooring to successfully search for and rescue crewmembers of the Union Oil Tanker Montebello. The tanker had been torpedoed by a Japanese sub.

The Montebello still lies at the bottom of the Pacific in 880 feet of water off the coast of Cambria, and the ship has been the focus of several exploratory underwater missions.

An oar from the Montebello was donated by Frank Goodall in 2008 to the Cambria Historical Museum, where it has been on display. The museum is at the intersection of Center Street and Burton Drive.

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