USS Constitution, America’s Ship of State, successfully undocked the night of July 23, 2017. Under a partially cloudy sky and then the glow of an orange-tinged sunset, the filling of Dry Dock 1 began at 4:05 p.m. The process of re-floating “Old Ironsides” after the 26-month dry docking was underway.
The time-lapse video below provides several perspectives on USS Constitution, the filling of Dry Dock 1, and the removal of the ship from the dock.
As the later afternoon wore on and into the early evening, the water in the dock continued to rise. Preparations for the undocking continued by the staffs of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston, the crew of USS Constitution, and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
A select group of people boarded the ship for the undocking, including: USS Constitution Commanding Officer CDR Robert Gerosa, USS Constitution crew members, NHHC Detachment Boston staff, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard staff, several former “Old Ironsides” commanding officers, and Director of the Naval History & Heritage Command RADM Samuel Cox, USN (Ret.).
Throughout the afternoon and well into the late night, hundreds of spectators visited the Charlestown Navy Yard to watch the undocking and to visit the USS Constitution Museum, which remained open until midnight for visitors.
The caisson, which is held in place with a combination of ballast water and the pressure of Boston Harbor, began to be de-ballasted around 9:30 p.m. As the tide continued to flood the dock, Constitution lifted off her keel blocks around 9:50 p.m. “Old Ironsides” was afloat!
All supports underneath and alongside the ship were removed, thereby ensuring that Constitution‘s out haul from the dock would be unobstructed. At 10:45 p.m. the emptied and floating caisson was completely removed from the entrance of the dry dock. A little after 11:00 p.m., the NHHC Detachment Boston’s beaver boat picked up the out-haul line that was attached to Constitution‘s stern bridle and began the slow tugging of the ship from the dock.
Below is another time-lapse video by Greg M. Cooper Photography of the flooding and undocking sequence from the head of Dry Dock 1.
Congratulations to the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston, the officers and crew of USS Constitution, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for successfully undocking “Old Ironsides” at the end of her first 21st century dry docking!
The activity that is the subject of this blog article has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage Grant program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin, Chairman. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command
Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.