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.
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
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
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
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
Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.