Journal Entry  -  October 14, 1999  -  Day 33

Thursday Evening Position Report
8:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time

7 Degrees, 30 Minutes North


79 Degrees, 43 Minutes West

Days Run:

52.1 Nautical Miles


4.34 Knots (Average)

Total Run This Leg:  2,863.2 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.19 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg:  551.5 Hours, 22.98 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  85.5 Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  11:30 a.m., Friday, October 15, at the Balboa Anchorage, Gulf of Panama
Present Course:  26 Degrees North-Northeast
Winds:  Southwest at 20 Knots
Seas & Swells:  Combined at 8 Feet
Barometric Pressure:  1010 Millibars
Air Temperature:  79 Degrees
Sea Temperature:  80 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles
Skies:  Scattered Clouds
Sea Floor:  Bottom depths are beginning to decrease as USS New Jersey moves farther into the waters of Golfo de Panama, at this point, 244 Fathoms, or 1,464 Feet.

Position:  USS New Jersey is now 16 Miles East of Punta Mala, the designated West entrance point to the Gulf of Panama.  The entrance to the Canal from this point lies 93 miles North-Northeast.  Captain Kaare Ogaard estimates that New Jersey will reach her Gulf of Panama, Balboa anchorage at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Shorten The Tow Wire, Prepare For Anchorage

Shortly after noon today, the Captain and crew of the Sea Victory began the work that separates them from all other seaman who do not ride the towboats for a profession.  They reported to their work stations, outfitted with safety gear from head to foot, and started the massive and expert task of removing much of the open-ocean tow chain that makes up the connections between the Sea Victory and the USS New Jersey.

The same procedure preceded New Jersey's approach into Long Beach, and will be conducted one more time at the mouth of the Delaware River, in preparation for her journey up river, along the shores of New Jersey, and into the Philadelphia Navy Yard the first week of November.

The open-ocean tow of the 45,000 ton Battleship, as Captain Ogaard has noted earlier, has more to do with the stability of the towing vessel than the naval vessel.

"The Battleship is very heavy and stable, but the tug is lighter and more susceptible to the motions of the sea," the Captain said.  "The greater the length of the tow wire, the gentler it is on the tow gear, including the wire and the connections.  The shock absorption benefits increase with the length of the tow wire," he said.

As the New Jersey approaches a port, the depth of the water decreases from that of the deep sea.  Her journey from Bremerton through the open Pacific has seen regular soundings of 10,000 to 18,000 feet.  At 8:00 p.m. this evening, for example, nearing the Gulf of Panama, the depth was 1,464 Feet, and decreasing with each mile toward Balboa.  If the tow line of more than 4,000 feet was not shortened, it would drag on the bottom of the Gulf, a situation always to be avoided, according to the Captain.  Such a situation would invite damage to the tow line, a breach of the Sea Victory's connection to the battleship, and a possible loss of the tow.

A very heavy tow line dragging on the bottom of the seabed across who-knows-what kind of natural or man-made obstructions and debris is not what the tow's Captain desires.  The more he can reduce the possibility of injury to the tow wire, the happier he is.  His tow line was shortened this afternoon.  All the Sea Victory's deck hands were involved.  Given the weight of each segment of connection, it's a wonder the task doesn't require twenty men, not six.

It isn't the weight of the Battleship, to be sure, but when the Captain pulls in the tow wire with the tug's powerful winch, he's also pulling the ship in closer to the tug.  That's 45,000 tons right there.  The ship's 3-3/8-inch, 260-feet of chain, forming the first connection, weighs 29,218 pounds.  It's connected to 250-feet of pennant at 2,915 pounds.  Then, 180-feet more of chain is attached at 20,991 pounds.  And, finally, the Sea Victory's 3,418-feet of primary 2-3/4-inch tow wire, at 48,059 pounds, completes the connection.

That's a total tow connection package weighing 101,183 pounds, or 50.6 tons.  The crew had to handle that kind of bulk this afternoon, and they did it in stride.

As the tow wire connections were pulled in for tomorrow morning's Balboa anchorage, the Sea Victory crew grappled, hoisted, shoved, leveraged, shackled, hammered, pinned, and maneuvered those various pieces of tonnage this afternoon with the expertise of jewelers.

Their tools were far larger and heavier to do this job, and the sea beside them demanded their constant balance, but their touch was identical, and the results were the same - a smooth, fine, clean and effective piece of workmanship, which will now allow the Captain to enter the Balboa anchorage tomorrow, minus the threat of a huge catenary dragging on the bottom of the seabed.  That is why he shortened the tow wire.

Now, he will quietly and precisely move USS New Jersey into position to enter Balboa's holding area, knowing that his tow wire is as straight and secure and protected from harm's way as it can be, and therefore, the Battleship is safe.  Safe for another anchorage, before heading home.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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