Tuesday, May 12, 2015

USS Constitution slated for three-year restoration

A history resource article by  © 2015

The celebration of George Washington's birthday aboard the USS Constitution in Malta harbor.  Oil on canvas by
James G. Evans.  Courtesy U.S. Naval Academy.
Over 20 years ago I had the opportunity to tour the USS Constitution while I was in Boston for a computer networking conference.  It was in the dead of winter and the wind was biting cold but the crew of the Constitution looked smart in their historical uniforms.  I was surprised to learn that these men and women were actually active duty Navy personnel and not just volunteers placed aboard to answer questions from tourists.  I even remember the Chief rapping out the rules we were to follow while on board the ship and smiled thinking of my father who had served over twenty years in the Navy before his retirement.  Perhaps it is because of my admiration for his service that always draws me to ship tours and was the reason for my visit that day.

A 28-minute history of the USS Constitution:


Over the years I have toured the USS Bowfin, a WW II submarine docked in Oahu, Hawaii and, of course, the USS Arizona Memorial there as well as the famous WWII aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (replacement of the ship of the same name sunk at the battle of Midway) at Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum near Charleston, South Carolina. When the USS Missouri stopped in Oregon for repairs just before it was retired and moved to a permanent dock in Hawaii, my husband and I had the privilege to board it. I have also toured and photographed the tall ships Hawaiian Chieftain and The Lady Washington that travel up and down the west coast from their home port in Grays Harbor, Washington.

A crew member of the tall ship
Lady Washington adjusts a winch
Photo by Mary Harrsch © 2011
In 2004 when I attended yet another technology conference in Baltimore, Maryland I took the opportunity to tour the USS Constellation.  Although the original Constellation was a frigate like the Constitution and commissioned in the same year as the Constitution (1797), it was dismantled in 1853.  It was replaced with a second Constellation designed as a sloop in 1855 and it is that ship that is on display in Baltimore harbor today.

The sloop-of-war USS Constellation docked in Baltimore Harbor.
Photographed by Mary Harrsch © 2004

Now, those of you visiting the Boston area from May 15 to May 29, will have the unique opportunity to see the USS Constitution transported to dry dock for a 3-year restoration.

Here's a schedule of events:

Timeline of Events Associated with Dry Docking

Friday, May 15, 2015 (All times are subject to change)
8:30 a.m. Cassin Young (WW II destroyer) underway by tugboat to basin area
9:30 a.m. USS Constitution underway by tugboat from Pier 1 West to Pier 1 East
10:30 a.m. USS Constitution moored at Pier 1 East
11:00 a.m. Cassin Young back to Pier 1 West

Sunday, May 17, 2015 (All times are subject to change)
7:30 a.m. Dry dock ready for flooding
8:00 a.m. Flood dry dock
11:30 a.m. Remove caisson (door) and tie up behind USS Constitution
1:30-2:00 p.m. Run lines from ship to shore to prepare for the movement of the ship
2:30 p.m. Install temporary lighting and ensure the ship is trim and ready

Monday, May 18, 2015 (All times are subject to change)
7:00 p.m. Divers from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard ensure all is ready for the transit
8:00 p.m. Remove brow (platform to enter or leave the ship); remove shore electrical power
8:20 p.m. Tugboat comes along side USS Constitution
9:20 p.m. Tugboat positions USS Constitution in front of the dry dock
10:20 p.m. USS Constitution guided into the dry dock by three capstans (winches) and line handlers on either side of the dry dock
11:20 p.m. USS Constitution in position in the dry dock
Midnight Caisson (door) reinstalled and dewatering begins

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 (All times are subject to change)
Midnight to 0:45 a.m. Divers standing by front and back to ensure the ship settles on the keel blocks properly
0:45 a.m. Divers verify ship’s position
1:00 a.m. Ship rests on the keel blocks at the bottom of the dry dock
1:10 a.m. Divers confirm keel contact, begin installing sliding side blocks to brace the ship
1:40 a.m. Install addition wood braces to the sides of the ship
2:00 a.m. Divers confirm side blocks are fitted properly to the ship
2:10 a.m. Install gangway
2:15 a.m. Install shore electrical power

I would encourage any of you visiting the Boston area during this time to attend!