The P-520 on the hard at Yacht Maintenance Co. in Cambridge in 2021. Image: Cheryl Costello

WWII Crash Rescue Boat Seized by Federal Marshals

It was a head-turner coming across the Chesapeake Bay—the nation’s last operational World War II-era P-520 crash rescue boat. And now it has been repossessed by U.S. marshals.

The wood-hulled U.S. Army Corps rescue boat, built in 1944, was used to recover downed pilots during the second World War. It landed in Curtis Bay in 2020 on a winding course all the way from the West Coast, and the next spring, ended up at the same Cambridge boatyard that originally built several P-520s.

At the time, the hope was to make the P-520 a traveling, floating museum that would educate people about a grim aspect of WWII history. Those aspirations came to an abrupt halt, however, when the 85-foot historic boat was seized in January from where it was most recently tied up at Baltimore’s Port Covington.

The owner of the P-520, Louisville Naval Museum, Inc., was a nonprofit formed in 2019 whose slogan was “Restoring America’s Naval History, One Ship At A Time”, according to its LinkedIn page. (Its website no longer exists). Louisville Naval Museum (LNM) had no physical museum, but had an address listed in Louisville, Kentucky. When Bay Bulletin reached out to Lewis Palmer, who identified himself as LNM’s president and CEO, he said, “No comment.”

LNM bought the boat in 2020 in California for $1, according to Coast Guard records, after its former owner passed away.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, LNM had entered into an agreement with another historic boat-preserving nonprofit, Maritime Pastoral Training Foundation, Ltd., (MPTF) to transport the boat from California to Louisville. LNM instead moved the boat from California to Palm Beach, Florida. The “necessaires” MPTF provided included $86,450 in sea freight and other travel costs. According to the District Court Verified Complaint, MPTF have never received any payment. They filed a maritime lien for a total of $92,923.65 with the Coast Guard.

A U.S. District Court Clerk issued a warrant for U.S. marshals to seize the P-520 from Port Covington. A substitute custodian has been named and the boat is being kept in Stoney Creek, according to Ted Yadlowsky, who began volunteering when the P-520 arrived in the Maryland area as an “unpaid consultant”.

Bay Bulletin interviewed Yadlowsky back when the boat arrived in Cambridge in April 2021, and we got an up-close look at its floating history. Yacht Maintenance Co. was proud to put its old-fashioned railway to use and accommodate one of the same types of vessels that were built there some 75 years earlier. There were plans to bring the P-520 to various festivals around the Bay.

But then, Yadlowsky says, he parted ways with LNM and the vessel. “They weren’t doing things properly. There were major safety concerns. I had issues with some of the individuals in the group.”

In 2022, the P-520 took part in Navy Fleet Week in Baltimore, tying up in Port Covington. From there, Yadlowsky says further plans seemed to go away and the boat’s new home became Port Covington.

When U.S. marshals prepared to seize the P-520, they brought in some former volunteers with knowledge of how to operate the vessel, including Yadlowsky, he says. He tells us he helped U.S. marshals find a safe location at a private dock in Stoney Creek, where the vessel won’t incur charges.

According to new documents MPTF shared with Bay Bulletin Feb. 8, because the P-520 was not released within 14 days of its seizure, the next step is a required public notice of the action and arrest.

We will continue to follow developments in this case and the possible fate of this unique vessel.

-Meg Walburn Viviano & Cheryl Costello