Atop wooden stacks on a lot in Jacksonville Beach, an
80-foot-long, 16-foot-wide piece of history is quickly
becoming a victim of age and weather.
PT-761, a World War II-era patrol torpedo boat similar
to the one commanded by John F. Kennedy in the Pacific
Fleet, is in bad shape. Most of the boat's wood is rotting
and whatever metal it has left is rusted.
But Massachusetts resident Jim Melanson is confident
that PT-761 can be restored and displayed at a naval
museum in Salem, Mass. That's why he and two other
volunteers from the Northeast branch of the Defenders of
American Naval Museum, a non-profit group that helps
preserve PT boats, drove from Massachusetts to
Jacksonville Beach recently to build a cradle for the
boat's journey from Jacksonville Beach to Massachusetts.
"Being that she is in delicate condition, we have
to build a cradle for the trip up north," Melanson
The three men originally were going to build a wooden
cradle around the boat but after they arrived and saw the
boat's frail condition, they decided to build a steel
cradle. After the cradle is built, a crane will place the
boat on it, then the craft will be transported to Mayport
Naval Station accompanied by a police escort. The PT boat
will then be taken to Massachusetts aboard a Navy
"The support we have received from them [Navy] has
been incredible," Melanson said.
Melanson's group has spent about $10,000 to build the
cradle and to transport the boat, but he said it will take
close to $500,000 in materials and four years of volunteer
work to make the boat floatable, then another three years
of work to refurbish it.
PT-761 never saw any action during World War II because
the boat was built at the end of the war. The ship was
sold and converted into a luxury boat that cruised from
Miami to the Bahamas. On a trip up the coast, the boat
came into Jacksonville for repairs and never left, said
Charlie Sellers, a Jacksonville Beach resident who helped
the non-profit group obtain the boat.
Sellers said the boat sat unattended at the Pablo Creek
Marina for years before it was moved to its current
location behind the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in
south Jacksonville Beach 12 years ago.
Sellers was approached by the boat's owner about buying
it because the property where it is now was being sold and
the boat had to be removed. He called a PT reunion
committee and told them about PT-761 because he did not
want to see it destroyed.
A few days later, Melanson called to say he was
interested in purchasing the boat. He bought PT-761 for
"I knew she needed a lot of work," Melanson
said. "But it is one of three left in her
While Melanson and the other volunteers worked
feverishly to get the boat ready for its trip, a former PT
boat sailor arrived to see not a piece of history but a
piece of his past.
St. Augustine resident Norman Martin served on PT-192
for about a year and a half during the war. He came to see
PT-761 and verify its authenticity.
"They were something else," Martin said.
"The men on them knew the odds, yet we had such
confidence on the boat."
Before he left, Martin took one last tour inside the
"I wish you a lot of luck because you have a lot
of work," he said.
For more information on PT-761 and its renovation,
visit Jacksonville.com, keyword: PT-761.
Staff writer Christopher F. Aguilar can be
reached at (904) 249-4947, extension 19 or via e-mail at caguilarjacksonville.com.
Boat fan puts his skill into $1million restoration.
Tom Vartabedian - Staff Writer
Haverhill, Mass Bugle