Journal Entry  -  October 18, 1999  -  Day 37

Monday Afternoon Position Report
2:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time

8 Degrees, 56 Minutes North


79 Degrees, 34 Minutes West

Days Run:

Transiting the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal


Transiting the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal

Distance Of Second Leg:  September 21 - October 15 / Long Beach, CA to Balboa Anchorage, Panama: 2,948.7 Nautical Miles, the longest leg of New Jersey's homecoming voyage.
Total Average Speed Second Leg:  5.18 Knots

Distance Of First Leg:  September 12 - 21 / Bremerton, WA to Long Beach, CA: 1,193.6 Nautical Miles from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to Long Beach, CA anchorage.
Total Average Speed First Leg:  5.54 Knots

Position:  A very old friend came to pass through the Miraflores locks this morning on her way home.  The Grand Lady of American seapower, from 1943 to 1953 to 1968 to 1983 to 1999, graced the wonder that is the Panama Canal in a silent, farewell, salute to her friends in Panama.

In return, the workmen, the line handlers, the pilots, the administrators, the security guards, the countless men and women who operate the Panama Canal Commission's Miraflores passageway northward, honored the USS New Jersey, the State's Governor, the ship's veterans, her supporters, and scores of news media cameramen and reporters, as they successfully and proudly brought the veteran sea warrior through their Canal in model fashion.

The day was a celebration from beginning to end.

The USS New Jersey will now be moored to buoys in the Miraflores Lake this afternoon to await her continuing passage through the second set of locks tomorrow morning, the Pedro Miguel locks.

The Sea Victory will meet up with the New Jersey after she exits the those locks, and will then take her through the dramatic, 7.8-mile Gaillard Cut, and up to the third set of Gatun locks where she will remain overnight until a passage Wednesday.

Miraflores 1913, New Jersey 1999, Panama 2000

It was all smiles, all thumbs up, all congratulations this morning for everyone involved with the Battleship's proud departure from Balboa at mid-morning and her triumphant arrival and passage through the Miraflores locks shortly before noon.

It was though she was the first American Battleship ever to make the transit.  But that notion is opposite of reality, since she is the last to do so before the millennium turns the Canal into the capable, steady and now proven hands of the Panamanians.

From the Panama tugs, to the Miraflores tow engineers, to the workers lining the canal in respect and pride, the message this morning, the reality today, was one of can-do, will-do and have done.

Governor Christie Whitman, her husband John, New Jersey elected officials, supporters from every sector of the New Jersey community, and veteran Jerseyman from years past spent the morning aboard the battleship from Balboa to Miraflores.

Cameras were clicking everywhere, with every inch of her 2.4-mile transit.  The Governor, and the more than one hundred persons aboard, stood in the tropical Panamanian sun to witness this final passage of America's grandest class of warship move slowly northward with the pace of a child and the heart and spirit of a nation.

Panamanian newspapers this morning displayed New Jersey's star-capped 16-inch guns with Balboa in the background as the story referenced her departure.  The Americans and Panamanians on board the battleship for the 2.5 hour passage were universally in agreement that they were eye-witnesses to history today.

Governor Whitman expressed her own salute to Panama by reaching over the rails of the New Jersey to give her BB-62 hat to the Panama Canal Commission engineer operating the tow engine as the ship passed through Miraflores.   And no sooner was that done than the Governor was given and wearing a new Panama Canal Pilots' hat with gold leaf trimming on the brim.

At the observation deck at Miraflores, hundreds more gathered to witness New Jersey's entrance.  The crowd on board the ship lingered after she came to rest, not wanting the morning to end, not caring to depart the decks of the ship that carries so much history.

But the time to step ashore came.  They all left with a sense of tremendous joy in their hearts at being able to share this moment in the life of two nations which have come together to accomplish this first-time ever achievement, moving a powerless, "dead ship tow" through the Canal unaided by any of the ship's mighty propellers.

By all accounts, the passage was wonderful, the history made was forever memorable, the emotions felt by the veterans aboard were nostalgic and passionate, and the sense radiating from everyone was that the USS New Jersey is finally coming home, forever, and for good.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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