Bernard “Bernie” Webber, a crewman at the Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, has fallen in love with a local girl, Miriam Pentinen. The two plan to marry on April 16, but as per Coast Guard regulations, Bernie must seek permission from the station’s commander, Daniel Cluff. On the day he is due to ask permission, Bernie is dispatched to pilot his lifeboat, CG 36500, to rescue the oil tanker, SS Pendleton, which broke in half off the Chatham coast after getting caught in a nor’easter. Bernie takes Andrew Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard P. Livesey as his crew. When Miriam hears about this, she, like a number of other townspeople, thinks this is a suicide mission. Few people in Chatham trust Cluff, since he isn’t from the area and doesn’t know its treacherous weather. Miriam even goes as far as to drive to the station and urge Cluff to call Bernie back. Cluff refuses, and brusquely orders Miriam out. Bernie steers CG 36500 to the stricken tanker, even though he loses his compass along the way. Even though his boat is only designed to take on 12 people, Bernie manages to rescue 32 crewmen. Relying on his knowledge of the coast in place of his compass, he turns CG 36500 toward home–a task made more difficult when Chatham loses power. However, Miriam and the other townspeople drive their cars to the pier and turn on their headlights to guide Bernie in. Two months later, Bernie and Miriam are married; they stay together for 58 years until Bernie’s death in 2009. Webber and his crew receive the Gold Lifesaving Medal.