Journal Entry  -  October 20, 1999  -  Day 39

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

9 Degrees, 21 Minutes North


79 Degrees, 55 Minutes West

Days Run:

Transiting the Gatun Locks to a layover in Cristobal


Transiting the Gatun Locks to a layover in Cristobal

Panama Canal Transit:  October 16 - 20 / Balboa Pier 14 - 15, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, the Gaillard Cut, Gamboa, Lake Gatun, and the Gatun Locks.  One night's layover in Cristobal before departing for the Atlantic on Thursday, October 21.

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:  The USS New Jersey tonight is docked at Pier 7-A&B in Cristobal, Panama.  She was towed from the Gatun Locks this afternoon by the Sea Victory, and assisted by four Panama Canal Commission tugs to her dock.

The "Big J" Takes The Canal In Stride ... Now Heads North

The veteran Battleship's tenth and final passage through the Panama Canal during the past three days brings to an end any questions about her making it through successfully as a "dead ship tow," and now opens up a new chapter for those writing her history.

For as she has left the Pacific behind for the last time, and dealt easily with the jewel of Central America's geographic lifeline, the USS New Jersey begins the third and final segment of her homecoming journey tomorrow, as the future she faces along the way, and especially at her destination, remains an untold story.

No one can predict, of course, the nature of conditions facing her journey from this notorious gateway port town to the Delaware, just as speculation about her final donation site is speculative at best. Whatever transpires, however, in either case, will be grist for the observers and chroniclers in times ahead.

As she turns Northward tomorrow, after exiting Panama's crowded commercial Atlantic stepping stone to the Pacific, the ship will head for places with some names that belong in sea fiction - Serranilla Bank and the Yucatan Channel, Banco Sancho Pardo and Pasa Honda, then, of course, the more familiar Florida Keys, Carysfort Reef, Charleston, Hatteras, Ocean City and Henlopen.

What surprises have those places for this homeward warrior?  Certainly nothing greater than she's known before.  And what of her future once home?  Authorities confirm that a U.S. Navy decision on her donation site will come no later than January, 2000, and could well be announced before then.

Uncertainty may be a part of her future, but it has not been part of her journey so far.  The Grand Lady's passage from Bremerton to Balboa was as ideal as sailors in this business can ask for.  Her almost routine, and definitely jubilant movement through the three sets of Canal Locks was picture perfect, from the perspective of the Sea Victory's team to those responsible for the Canal.

The pride on the faces of Canal workers from Miraflores to Gatun, and among the authorities throughout the system who work closely with the Sea Victory, reveals the import that the New Jersey carries with her.

As for her passage through the Locks, and the Canal itself, only superlatives apply.

To watch the operation of the system is to witness mystery become fascination, admiration and amazement, at its scope, its engineering, its sheer ability to cradle huge vessels, absolutely tremendous cargo carriers, in its liquid elevator to a height of 85 feet to manage the passage across and through the Central American nation's excavated waterway, then down the other side an equivalent 85 feet to once again achieve sea level.

The Battleship entered each of these Locks -- Miraflores Monday, Pedro Miguel Tuesday, and Gatun today -- and simply let the water do the heavy lifting.

As filling a basin and watching a floatable object rise 85 feet right along with the water level.  Truly a remarkable and astonishing process to watch.

So the USS New Jersey was bathed and lowered through the final downward steps today, and now rests on a dock in Cristobal awaiting a Thursday departure, when she will be at sea again where she travels best.  Then the newest chapters of her history will begin to unfold.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


Previous Journal Page  
Next Journal Page
To Photo / Journal Index Page



Line Drawing of Big J

For best viewing use Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or Netscape Communicator 4.61 or newer.
This site is privately funded and maintained, it has no official sponsorships or affiliations.
Please send any Comments or Questions regarding this site to the webmaster.
Last updated on June 10, 2002.