Journal Entry  -  September 12, 1999  -  Day 1

Northbound Puget Sound Traffic Lane
Sunday, 7:00 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time
Latitude: 47 Degrees, 34 Minutes, 21 Seconds North
Longitude: 122 Degrees, 32 Minutes, 11 Seconds West

159.9 Degrees

Speed: 6 Knots +/-

The USS New Jersey left for home this morning in sunlight and bright, blue skies, headed on a Final Voyage through one ocean that saw her fight three wars and into another which took her to a fourth conflict.  She will pass from one ocean to the other, through the Panama Canal, for the tenth and final time of her 57-year career.

The decorated battleship was still quiet and undisturbed at 4:00 a.m. this morning when the Crowley Marine Services' powerful tug Sea Victory headed out of Seattle's Pier 17 to awaken her for this final journey.

Captain Kaare Ogaard and his crew of six departed in the darkness as three other Crowley assist tugs followed closely behind.  They crossed through Seattle's Elliott Bay toward Bremerton in the cool morning with the anticipation of preparing the retired warrior for an elegant and fitting trip home to the land of her beginning.

As the four tugs slid quietly into the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, "The Big J" could be seen at rest between two other mighty, wartime Naval vessels -- the carriers Misway and Ranger.  Sea Victory's floodlight shone on New Jersey's stern, and the assist tugs assumed their places, ready to pull her away from Foxtrot pier.

The battleship's departure from her 8-1/2 year Bremerton slumber would commence at 6:00 a.m., just in time to meet the Sound's highest tide two hours later.  The connections made to her for towing would consume the time in between. Strong rigging and powerful chains couple the tug to the 45,000-ton steel dreadnought for the surest, safest journey.

The darkness, the brisk cool air and the still waters of Puget Sound would give way later to a brilliant Sunday sun with a sky clearer and bluer than usual, a perfect natural send-off for stately battleship.  After a deliberate and careful maneuvering of the battleship from her berthing, and the linkage secured between her and Sea Victory, the towing team began to move northward.

Six miles out of the shipyard, and through the favorable slack water of Rich Passage, the Sea Victory then came to a stop.  Here, additional chain and couplings would become part of the towing line to increase the stamina and resilience of the bond that will couple these two vessels for the next 1,190 miles to Long Beach, California and well beyond.

In the distance, the imposing backdrop of 14,411-foot Mt. Rainier, Seattle's landmark to the south; and to the west, the inspiring Olympic Mountains which will serve as an eastern setting once the vessels head down the Pacific coast off Washington in two days.

Today's successful departure has put the USS New Jersey on her homeward course and as the sun sets this evening, she will be inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca, spending some of the time in Canadian waters, as she travels the traffic corridors assigned to Pacific-bound vessels.

Her mission today was to be underway.  That she has done, with the able and professional assistance of seamen and sailors whose lives are dedicated to the safe and sure transit of the mighty, of which BB-62 is a proud and steady symbol.

Many of her former crewmen were nearby this week, paying their respects to her, honoring her memory, and remembering the shared duty that brought them all together once again.  They laughed and shared stories of their time aboard her massive decks.  And they fell quiet and thoughtful, too.  At the idea that so many more of them were gone than were there.

The New Jersey has made for many stories and many memories. Through her journey homeward, her contributions and the dedication of those who served her will be shared.  And the seven men entrusted with her safekeeping will share as well: their seamanship, their sense of pride, and their dedication to her safe homecoming.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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Line Drawing of Big J

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