Friday, November 16, 2012

Demise of USS Clamagore (and other Patriots Point ships)

Many naval museums in the United States have suffered not just from the economic downturn, but also because ships in their collections have reached the age where they need considerable repair. World War Two-era ships are all pushing 70 years of age and the management of the museums have not always planned for the fiscal costs of preventative maintenance.

One museum in particular has a fleet of World War Two ships that are as in bad shape as they could be. Patriots Point in South Carolina, once housed a sizable fleet of five or six ships. The aircraft carrier Yorktown, destroyer Laffey, submarine Clamagore, Coast Guard cutters Ingham and Comanche, and the nuclear powered freighter Savannah.

Today, Comanche is an artificial reef, Ingham was moved to Key West, and Savannah moved to Baltimore. Laffey's hull was in such bad condition and in peril of sinking, the museum was forced to take a $9 million loan out from the state of South Carolina for repairs. Yorktown requires an estimated $100 million worth of repairs and the museum is moving forward with plans to construct a cofferdam around the ship and make in situ repairs to the ship's salt water-ravaged hull.

That leaves Clamagore, the last remaining Guppy III sub left in the world. The sub is at risk of capsizing due to deterioration of the hull. Three million dollars are needed to begin repairs and even if they are done, the salt water of Charleston Harbor will force the ship back to dry dock within 15 years. Here are some more photos of the boat:

Criticism has been levied at the museum for effectively biting off more than they could chew with such a sizable fleet of museum ships.

One solution is to dry berth Clamagore similar to what was done with USS Drum in Mobile. 
An engineering company called Dennis Corporation has apparently developed a plan to move the ship on land. They've created some renderings of their solution:

USS Clamagore

But much of the land around Patriots Point museum is slated for redevelopment to help raise funds for the museum, and it isn't clear if there will be enough real estate available for the sub. An interesting and potential Catch 22.

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