Wednesday, Nov 10, 1999 - Cape Henlopen Sea Buoy - 3:00 p.m. / EST
Thursday, Nov 11 - Delaware Bay to Philadelphia - 4:00 p.m / EST
The USS New Jersey
transited 86.34 Nautical Miles in 24 hours from the Cape Henlopen Sea Buoy through the
Northbound lane of the Federal Navigation Channel of the Delaware Bay and River, on a
deliberately slow, easy pace to accommodate the thousands of people who turned out to see
the most decorated Battleship in Naval history.
During this respectful Veterans Day passage, she was
greeted by vessels of every description, as well as by spectators crowded along the shore
lines of Southern New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, until she was gently granted her
new, and temporary, berth at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Pier 4.
Latitudes & Longitudes: Her positions through this transit ranged
from 38-46-00 / North and 75-00-00 / West at Henlopen, to 39-53-02 / North and 75-10-44 /
West at the Navy Yard's Pier 4.
Arrival Courses: Her course through this transit circled the compass:
293.1, 160.1, 304.8, 340.1, 337.1, 325.2, 336.0, 318.1, 356.0, 014.9, 334.8, 006.9, 041.5,
016.7, 035.1, 057.3, 050.6, 064.5, 091.6, 069.8, 053.7, 077.3, to 056.9.
Veterans Day Weather: At 5:00 a.m., Thursday, Sea Victory's logs
indicated a slight breeze of 5 Knots from the Northwest with a rippled water surface, but
as the morning turned to afternoon, the winds accelerated some over the water, forcing the
tug's personnel to scramble for heavier jackets.
Air Temperatures: 58 Degrees at 5:00 a.m., but noticeably cooler as the
Visibility: 10 Miles
Skies: Hazy at the outset, mostly Cloudy at noon, and later in the
afternoon, partly Cloudy with a warming sun that didn't last long enough.
Cuba, Miami, Grand Bahamas Island: At 9:00 a.m., Sunday, October 31, the
Sea Victory transferred the USS New Jersey to the Lake Charles, Louisiana Crowley tug
Mariner, and proceeded directly to Miami for port main engine repairs. The Sea
Victory traveled 465.6 Nautical Miles from Cabo Frances, Cuba, to Miami's Terminal 6 on
Dodge Island, arriving at 6:54 a.m., Tuesday, November 2.
The Mariner and the USS New Jersey resumed a Gulf of Mexico transit through the Straits of
Florida, past Miami, then onto the Bahamas, a journey of 533 Nautical Miles to the second
New Jersey transfer point off Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island, at 10:39 a.m., Thursday,
November 4. From Miami, the Sea Victory transited 79.8 Nautical Miles to the Bahamas
Then, from Grand Bahamas Island, the USS New Jersey proceeded 826 Nautical Miles to the
Cape Henlopen Sea Buoy, and 86.34 Nautical Miles from there to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Panama Canal Transit: October 16 - 21 / Balboa Pier 14 - 15, Miraflores
and Pedro Miguel Locks, the Gaillard Cut, Gamboa, Lake Gatun, and the Gatun Locks, and
Cristobal. USS New Jersey's clearance into the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic Ocean was
completed at 11:34 a.m., and her mark for the commencement of the Cristobal, Panama -
Philadelphia, PA Third Leg was passed at 11:42 a.m., 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
Total Average Speed First Leg: 5.54 Knots
Total Voyage Fish Catch: The Sea Victory team's last catch of the voyage was
October 25, not counting a Barracuda Cook CJ Good nabbed and prudently tossed back last
week. The total catch for the cruise was 28, including 4 Albacore, 4 Yellow Fin, 1
Yellow Tail, 4 Skipjack and 2 Bonita Tuna; 12 Mahi mahi, and 1 Wahoo.
The Grand Decorated Lady Surprised Them All
Mention the word destiny, and watch out. But here
it comes anyway, so visitors beware.
The crewmen of the Sea Victory, by the time they reached
Cape Henlopen, were ready to deliver the Battleship, and pull into Philadelphia, but fast. A turtle's pace up the Delaware was not something they relished. These guys
are movers, and once a job's done, let them on the next one.
Their voyage had been extended by that pesky engine for
openers, and now instead of heading directly home from Philadelphia after 60 days at sea,
they would take the tug 750 Miles to Jacksonville, Florida first. (As this is being
written, Monday, November 15th, they have reached Florida, and should be headed home by
The four Delaware Pilots who boarded the tug Wednesday
afternoon, the day before New Jersey's Philadelphia docking, and the two other pilots on
the Battleship, assumed they would be in for a long and troublesome cruise up the
Delaware, given the 45,000 ton payload behind the Sea Victory, and her obviously wandering
ways up a narrow, obedience demanding channel. They would have their control work
cut out for them, they were sure.
The planners of the 6,370 mile plus journey home had to
face the mid-October Panama Canal passage, because there, reservations are definitely
required for entry. But once through, speed could become a benefit, and an early
November arrival would be ideal. In fact, the sooner the better. But it was
not to be.
Weather forecasters throughout the trip sent pages of
data, graphs, summaries, and evaluations of upcoming conditions along the way, all the
while hinting that this storm was a potential threat, or that one could pose dangers, so
be alert, Captain. He was, of course, but they never came. In fact, they
arrived around New Jersey's trackline either after she had passed through, or so far ahead
of her that it didn't matter.
And just last night, for example, Hurricane Lenny formed
in the Caribbean where the "Big J" had spent days just two weeks ago, jogging to
find transfer lee south of Cuba. That's about where Lenny surfaced. And Katrina
whipped up her fury only after the ship had passed that Southeast Caribbean position off
Nicaragua in late October.
In the Atlantic, where the most brutal of the seas'
forces rage, nothing. Hatteras was distasteful, but what's new about that? (However,
Captain Ogaard reported last night that as the Sea Victory passed through those very
waters yesterday, on the way to Jacksonville, Hatteras was smooth as glass.)
It was almost as if everyone expected something that
never came, except one thing, and we'll refer to it as destiny, the New Jersey's golden
touch, or lucky charm.
If last Thursday's Veterans Day arrival had been planned,
it would have failed. Had the Sea Victory not experienced that malfunction, she
would have arrived in Philadelphia on November 7th, her original ETA, instead of the 11th. A weekend, granted, which would have allowed thousands of people to witness her
homecoming, but it would not have been Veterans Day.
The number of times people mentioned the
"destiny" of her arriving accidentally on the last Veterans Day of the
Millennium would make for a significant number, but whatever the cause, that was the day,
and it was a glorious one along the Delaware River Thursday.
By the time the New Jersey was halfway up the River, the
Delaware Pilots realized that Captain Ogaard's Sea Victory had the "aimless,
contrary" Battleship well in hand, and she towed like a charm. Their concerns
turned to relief, then to admiration.
The Sea Victory's hardened crew, those masters of steel
and tonnage and anchor chain, dismissed the idea of thousands and thousands of Easterners
showing up for the passage of a Battleship along their transit to Philadelphia.
Never happen, they thought to themselves. Until it actually did.
And along the way, the old, hard-bitten military veterans
were all smiles and wide-eyes as their tug rambled up the River with scores and scores of
people lining the shores, and scores of boats assembled alongside in a wavy procession of
admiration, pride, patriotism and nostalgia. Even the younger ones, though, stepped
outside to gaze in amazement at the outpouring of public spirit for the veteran warrior.
Passing beneath the Delaware Memorial twin Bridges at
10:33 a.m., just after the squadron of F-16s roared an aerial salute to the New Jersey,
the crewmen became true believers. Everyone did. How could one avoid the
Seeing the Governor's Twin Capes ferry loaded with
veterans and spectators, passing as close to the Battleship as possible, brought feelings
to the surface that rarely show themselves.
The small craft running alongside the powerful tugs,
slamming against the ebb tide and wind-blown surface, the Coast Guard cutters - one of
them, the leader "Mako," is the newest in its class, by the way - filled the
observers with a pride and sense of gratitude that is hard to measure, much less describe.
And those people, perhaps especially the ones at Marcus
Hook, a community, the pilots explained, that lost more men in World War II and Vietnam
than any other in Pennsylvania, and perhaps most other places, what do we imagine their
feelings to be at this passage?
It proceeded, this transit of admiration and memory, with
every foot of it belonging to each and every veteran who ever served his or her nation. To
those who returned, and those who did not. And to those who serve now, and will
tomorrow. These people are most special, don't forget. As we learned once
again last Thursday.
Standing on the Sea Victory's starboard passageway
watching the throngs of people on shore, and the assembled and self-orchestrated vessels
alongside, Chief Engineer Andy Cleland, an Air Force and Navy veteran, probably should not
have been interrupted, but how could we tell, or resist?
"Well, Chief," we asked, "so what do you
think of all this?"
"I'm glad to see the end of this trip, it's been a
long pull. That's quite a crowd we've got gathered out there," Cleland said.
"Well, this is Veterans Day, you're a veteran,"
we acutely observed. "What do you think? "We said the words, but
immediately realized they shouldn't have slipped from the tongue. They shouldn't have even
"Well," he said, "in that case, I'm very
glad to be any place."
We moved along to leave the Chief with his thoughts of
the long pull, the years in Vietnam, another long pull, and the sight of thousands of
regular folks offering their support to these tugboaters who brought their Battleship home
safely, and to their veterans, who kept their nation free.
At 12:23 p.m., the New Jersey passed beneath the
Commodore Barry bridge, which had a sign hanging from its lower portion reading:
"Bring Our Battleship Home." Then, at 2:11 p.m., as the three assist tugs
held New Jersey quiet in the waters off the entrance to the Philadelphia Navy Yard,
Captain Kaare Ogaard let go of his Battleship charge for the final time, executing the
release of her anchor chain. His tow was complete now, save for her docking.
Shortly before 4:00 p.m., the USS New Jersey was secured
to Pier 4, and the Sea Victory moved over the Pier 2's East side for the evening.
In a session with reporters there, Captain Ogaard was
asked if there was any significance, any poignancy, to New Jersey's arrival on Veterans
"That wasn't planned, honestly, and it worked out
well," Ogaard said to the reporter. "And I've got to say that I'm really
overwhelmed at the turnout of all the people all the way up the river. From first
light this morning, all I've seen is flashbulbs popping at us."
"Do you feel the historical significance? Does
it work on you," the reporter asked?
"To an extent, yes. I'm a Navy veteran. In fact, the
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was my first duty station out of boot camp in 1959. I
came here to get on a cruiser, the Galveston. They were putting her in commission,
and I was only there briefly, until I went to submarine training, so it's kind of
nostalgic to me. That's 1959, many years ago," the Captain said.
Friday morning, the Battleship no longer belonged to the
Sea Victory, but the honors bestowed on the Captain and his crew would not end there. Rear
Admiral Joseph Edward Snyder, Jr., retired, Commanding officer of the USS New Jersey in
Vietnam in 1968-69, had one more for them.
While CO of the New Jersey in Vietnam, Captain Snyder
designed and had specially minted, at his own expense, a Commanding Officer's meritorious
service medal, which he personally awarded to officers and enlisted, in recognition of
meritorious service to their country and to the USS New Jersey.
The bronze medal is approximately the size of a quarter,
and reads on one face:
"Commanding Officer's Meritorious Service
Award." The reverse face reads around the circumference: "USS New Jersey -
Fire Power for Freedom." The crest of the ship is in the center.
The medal presented to Captain Ogaard and his crew Friday
morning, has a green ribbon, clearly faded, because it is an original from the Vietnam
era. The maritime illustrator James Flood of Miami, who served under Captain Snyder
and was asked by him to make the presentation, offered it to Ogaard at 7:30 a.m., Friday,
30 minutes before the Sea Victory departed for Jacksonville.
"Captain Ogaard," Flood said, "I have the
honor of presenting to you a meritorious service award from someone special to me and to
the USS New Jersey. Rear Admiral Snyder, who has been following your journey from
Bremerton to Philadelphia, is aware of the difficulties you and your crew encountered over
the past two months. He asked that we award this medal to you personally for your
meritorious service to the USS New Jersey," Flood said.
According to acquaintances of Snyder, the Admiral felt it
was fate that he had a few medals saved since his Command of the New Jersey, and that such
meritorious service to the ship now should occur after all those years. He regretted
he couldn't make the presentation in person due to ill health.
Captain Ogaard looked touched, according to those in
attendance, as he closely examined the medal, reading both sides. After a brief
silence, he looked up and said, "I am truly honored to receive this."
At 8:00 a.m., Friday, Captain Ogaard and his crew took
the Sea Victory to Jacksonville.
New Jersey's homecoming voyage had ended. She was
home safe. Now, her future begins. And her fate lies with the U.S. Navy's Ship
Donation Office, which is expected to announce its selection of a donation site between
now and mid-January, with many believing it will come before then.
Her homecoming last week was a grand salute to an
honorable legacy. The Sea Victory's dedication of the tow to all her veterans will stand.
Her legacy ideally will help guide the generations ahead to an understanding of the
meanings of war and peace, and the incalculable value of the one over the other. As
a memorial, she will serve her nation still, and well, and long.
The homecoming voyage of the most decorated Battleship in
Naval history offered us an honor and privilege that can never be properly acknowledged,
especially to her veterans. But if the Jerseymen are satisfied, then so are we.
Thank you, for allowing me to share.
Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.