Out of Gloucester


February 7, 1978

Can Do Feared Lost

The Coast Guard held out faint hope late this morning for skipper Frank Quirk and a crew of at least three men aboard the pilot boat Can Do.   The 50-foot wooden pilot boat disappeared last night somewhere off the Magnolia-Manchester shoreline while on its way to rescue crewmen aboard a tanker grounded in Salem Harbor.   The crew of the Can Do were the following:

Capt. Frank Quirk, 49, of Peabody, left a widow and one son
Donald Wilkinson
, 35, of Rockport, left a widow and two children
Charles Bucko, a former Coast Guardsman
Norman David Curley, 35, of Magnolia
P. Kenneth Fuller, 34, of Magnolia, left a widow and five children

Hindered by 30 to 40-foot seas and 50-knot winds, the Can Do made little progress.  While calling for help at 9:30 p.m. Quirk reported that all his electronic navigational equipment had failed.  Quirk estimated his position only as somewhere off Magnolia and later called to say he had been injured when a wave surged over the bow and broke the pilot house windows.  Power was lost at the same time as waves engulfed the smokestack and doused the engine.

Coast Guardsmen attempted to locate the vessel from sea and local police and firefighters searched from shore without success.  When last in contact with the authorities at about midnight Quirk was using a hand-held radio.  Mattresses had been stuffed into the broken windows to keep out the seas.The vessel was still taking on water and there was not accurate approximation of its position.  Attempts to sight the vessel form shore this morning were hindered by driving snow that limited visibility to less than 100 yards.

Twice decorated by the city for his heroics at sea, Quirk habitually involved himself in rescue operations regardless of sea conditions.


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