Monday, November 06, 2006

The Intrepid is stuck!


Aircraft carrier stuck in New York City mud
POSTED: 2:00 p.m. EST, November 6, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- The legendary World War II aircraft carrier USS Intrepid got stuck in deep Hudson River mud Monday as powerful tugboats fought to pull it free to tow the floating museum down river for a $60 million overhaul.

The mission was scrubbed at around 10:30 a.m. as the tide went down, said Dan Bender, a Coast Guard spokesman.

Officials weren't sure Monday when they would try to move the Intrepid again, or whether they might try instead to leave it in place and refurbish it in its Manhattan berth, Intrepid President Bill White said at a news conference.

The next unusually high tide is December 6, but that will be about a foot lower than Monday's tide, which officials had thought would help float the carrier free of the sticky mud, he said.

After 24 years at the same pier on Manhattan's West Side, the warship that survived five Japanese kamikaze attacks began inching backward out of its berth, but the tugs moved it only about 15 feet before its giant propellers jammed in the thick mud. The decommissioned war ship no longer has engines of its own.

"We knew it was not going to come out like a cruise ship," said Matt Woods, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum's vice president for operations.

Six tugboats had strained to move the giant ship.

"We were able to move her 15 feet, and then she came to a halt. We tried to add more power with another tugboat but we couldn't wiggle her free," said Jeffrey McAllister, the chief pilot of the tugboat operation.

"We were missing our open window. We had to give up because the tides were going down," he added. "She was moving, we were hopeful, she started to creep along but then she stopped."

Monday's departure was timed to take advantage of the yearly high tide so the tugs could pull the 27,000-ton ship out of the slip where it has rested in up to 17 feet of mud. Removal of 600 tons of water from the Intrepid's ballast tanks gave the ship added buoyancy, and dredges removed 15,000 cubic yards of mud to create a channel from dockside to deeper water.

The planned $60 million refurbishment, which is expected to take up to 2 years, will include opening up more interior spaces to the public, upgrading its exhibits and a bow-to-stern paint job. The pier also is to be rebuilt. The city is contributing $17 million, the state $5 million, the federal government $36 million, plus $2 million in private funds.

Elected officials, veterans who served on the Intrepid and others had waited on the flight deck for the beginning of the journey five miles down the river to a dry dock in Bayonne, New Jersey. Helicopters flew overhead; New York Police Department blue-and-white power boats, Fire Department boats and a Coast Guard cutter were on hand to accompany the aircraft carrier.

"The Intrepid stands for everything we believe in ... our freedom and our values," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the send-off ceremony before the tugs began their work.

The final mooring lines were cast off at the order of 80-year-old retired Rear Adm. J. Lloyd "Doc" Abbot Jr., who served two years as Intrepid's skipper in 1960-62 and was named honorary commander for the day.

"It was the best job I ever had," Abbot said, standing once again on the ship's deck. "Intrepid had a soul of her own. How can a hunk of iron have a soul, you may ask. But I loved her. She kept me safe and at times I kept her safe."

The Intrepid serves as a living memorial to the arms services, a tourist attraction that draws hundreds of thousands people a year and, if the need arises, will become as an emergency operation center for city and federal authorities. The FBI used it as an operation center after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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