Journal Entry  -  October 14, 1999  -  Day 33

Thursday Morning Position Report
8:00 a.m., Central Daylight Time

6 Degrees, 59.9 Minutes North


80 Degrees, 24 Minutes West

Days Run:

70.7 Nautical Miles


5.89 Knots (Average)

Total Run This Leg:  2,811.1 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.21 Nautical Miles
Hours / Days This Leg:  539.5 Hours, 22.48 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  137.6 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  9:00 a.m., Friday, tomorrow morning, at the Balboa Anchorage in the Gulf of Panama, awaiting entry into the Balboa Port Terminal.
Present Course:  90 Degrees due West Change at 9:00 a.m. to 55 Degrees.
Winds:  Westerly at 12 Knots
Seas:  3 Feet
Swells:  7 Feet from the Southwest
Barometric Pressure:   Not Reported
Air Temperature:  78 Degrees
Sea Temperature:  80 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles
Skies:  Cloudy
Sea Floor:  Ocean depths beneath the USS New Jersey at this point are 1,872 Fathoms, or 11,232 Feet.

Position:  USS New Jersey is now completing the Southernmost extent of her Final Voyage, having been on a course of 90 Degrees due East, and traversing 7 Degrees North Latitude, since 3:45 p.m. yesterday, afternoon, preparing for entry into the Gulf of Panama and a Friday morning Balboa Anchorage.

She is now 19.6 Miles due South of Punta Morro de Puercos, the Southern point of the Peninsula de Azuero, Panama, which forms the Western coastline of the Gulf of Panama.  At 8:45 a.m. this morning, Captain Kaare Ogaard will again alter course to a Balboa Anchorage approach heading of 56 Degrees, and proceed Northeasterly into the Golfo de Panama.  This afternoon, a North-Northeast course change to 26 Degrees will bring New Jersey closer to her final heading into the Anchorage.

Then, later this evening, the Captain will execute his final course change, and assume a trackline approach of 3 Degrees North into New Jersey's Friday morning Balboa Anchorage destination, there to await her passage beneath the Bridge of the Americas and into the Balboa Port Terminal.

Radio Pratique, Quarantine, Signals, Documents...

Passage through the Panama Canal, for any ship or tugboat, requires compliance with a myriad of rules and regulations, to safeguard the health and welfare of transiting crews and Panamanian community, and to manage the thousands of vessels requesting permission to transit each year.  USS New Jersey is no exception.

In BB-62's case, she will reach the Balboa Anchorage within the Gulf of Panama Friday morning, then remain there for nearly 24 hours until the Sea Victory brings her inside the Balboa Port Terminal.

There she will remain docked for two days until commencing her final passage through the Canal's three water elevators, the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks.  Then another short period of towing preparation, and into the Caribbean Sea on her way home.

The length of the Panama passage from the Balboa Sea Buoy in the Pacific to the Cristobal entrance range in the Caribbean is 47.8 Nautical Miles.   For the USS New Jersey, it will be the distance from three wars fought in the Pacific, from waters that will never touch her hull again, to a homecoming celebration along a Delaware River famously crossed by America's first President, and into the arms of a citizenry prepared to honor her past with a noble future.

But first, the maritime protocol.

Before anything else, Panama Canal authorities received advance notice that the Battleship would be passing through, and they granted permission for next week's passage.  Captain Kaare Ogaard, once in the vicinity of Balboa, notified authorities of his position and estimated time of arrival.

When the Captain reaches the designated Balboa Anchorage position and the USS New Jersey and Sea Victory are secured, the paperwork unfolds. Authorities will decide when to board the Sea Victory to inspect the crew's national and maritime documents, the tug's documentation for safety and performance requirements, and when to issue a "free pratique" or "provisional pratique," health clearances free and clear, or provisional.  A "radio pratique" can also be issued whereby the Captain informs authorities that all is well, and the Panama Canal Commission representative clears the vessel on the spot.

The term "pratique" comes from the French, meaning, literally, practice, and coming to mean liberty of converse, hence, says Webster, a certificate, given after compliance with quarantine regulations, permitting a ship to land passengers and crew, a term used particularly in the South of Europe.

All arriving vessels are instructed to wait in the designated Balboa anchorage for further instructions.  A Panama Canal official, the boarding officer, will come aboard the Sea Victory to examine some or all of the following - vessel's information and quarantine declaration, cargo declaration, crew list, passenger list, dangerous cargo manifest, Panama Canal tonnage certificate, vessel's plans, such as general arrangement, engine room, capacity, the vessel's log, all the vessel's documents pertaining to cargo, classification, construction, load lines, equipment, safety, sanitation and tonnage.

The list goes on.

But for such an important passage as the Battleship New Jersey, much of this information was known to the officials far in advance of this weekend's arrival.  Still, the boarding officer will board, and the documents will be reviewed, and the Battleship and her escort Sea Victory will become known to them in person.

Meanwhile, Captain Ogaard and his Crowley Marine Services' crew will have pulled in New Jersey's lengthy, open-ocean towline to a fraction of her length.  They will have prepared their home-away-from-home for anyone who decides to come aboard, and they will have made plans for their first steps on land since September 12th on the shores of Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington.

Those sea legs, fellas ... be careful.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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