USS Constitution‘s successful undocking on July 23, 2017, from the Charlestown Navy Yard’s Dry Dock 1, marked the end of the first phase of restoration work on the ship. Once in the water, Constitution‘s hull needed several weeks to swell the planks below the waterline. On August 2, 2017 “Old Ironsides” and USS Cassin Young were switched around Pier One in the Navy Yard and returned to their regular berths (photographs below). Constitution‘s restoration is now in its final phase, which includes outfitting the ship and re-installing the rest of the rig. This work will be finished by the spring of 2018.

 

 

A Boston Towing & Transportation Company tow boat snugs up alongside USS Constitution’s starboard quarter while the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston beaver boat ties up to the ship’s starboard bow. Both vessels propelled and maneuvered Constitution from Pier One East and out into the mouth of the Charles River, where she awaited USS Cassin Young’s move back to this berth. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

 

A second Boston Towing & Transportation Company tug assisted in moving the Charlestown Navy Yard’s 1901 caisson to Pier Two West. The 2015 caisson floats in the foreground, awaiting its return to Dry Dock 1. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

This short video captures the moving of USS Constitution from the Navy Yard’s Pier One East berth to the mouth of the Charles River and the subsequent move of USS Cassin Young from Pier One West back to Pier One East.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ct5O-ICSQJE&w=560&h=315]

 

 

USS Cassin Young, with a Boston Towing tug and the NHHC Detachment Boston beaver boat, being maneuvered toward her regular Charlestown Navy Yard location, Pier One East. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

USS Constitution is now back at her regular Charlestown Navy Yard berth at Pier One West (photo below). The crew of “Old Ironsides” are once again offering multiple deck tours of the ship for the visiting public.

 

A view of USS Constitution, which is once again located at her Charlestown Navy Yard berth, Pier One West. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

While the dry docking is over and the ship has returned to the waters of Boston Harbor and to her Pier One West berth, work on Constitution continues. Over the course of several days in August, “Old Ironsides'” replica guns were installed. Her saluting battery of two retro-fitted replica 24-pound long guns were some of the first to be put aboard the ship.

 

Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston riggers use a crane hoist to remove parts of the main hatch structure in preparation for the two saluting guns (one is in the foreground) to be brought aboard USS Constitution. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

A view through one of USS Constitution’s gun ports, as a saluting gun is hoisted off the pier and swung aboard the ship. Each replica 24-pound long gun and carriage weighs close to 7,000 pounds. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

NHHC Detachment Boston riggers Daniel MacLean and Ryan Whitehead carefully guide the saluting gun through USS Constitution’s main hatch while rigger William Rudek waits to receive the gun below. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

USS Constitution’s starboard bow retro-fitted gun in place on the gun deck. Note the 44mm saluting gun mechanism protruding from the cascabel (back end) of the barrel; this modern gun equipment is disguised by an aluminum cascabel cover when not in use. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Detachment Boston]

 

USS Constitution‘s 32-pound carronades were placed on the spar deck after the installation of the long guns. Though these guns are replicas from the 1927 restoration, they were cast to the actual weight of real carronades and thus each barrel and carriage weighs approximately 3,500 pounds. The video below shows the NHHC Detachment Boston riggers using the crane and a pallet jack to swing the guns aboard and then maneuver them into place at the gun ports.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvXcO6xT630&w=560&h=315]

 

For about one month, between mid-July and mid-August, visitors to USS Cassin Young in the Charlestown Navy Yard could view the two Dry Dock 1 caissons berthed at Pier Two West. The side-by-side “floating gates” represent 100+ years of evolving technology. The 1901 caisson is the oldest extant riveted steel vessel built in the Charlestown Navy Yard and the 2015 caisson is the latest in floating gate design.

 

Between mid-July and mid-August, 2017, Dry Dock 1’s two caissons, the 2015 (left) and the 1901 (right) were briefly berthed together at Pier Two West. Note the difference in hull shape – the 2015 is quite straight-sided, while the 1901 caisson is more bulbous or boat-like in shape. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

On August 21, 2017, staff from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard came down to the Charlestown Navy Yard to conduct the de-watering, or draining, of Dry Dock 1. Because salt water can eat away at the granite walls and floor of Dry Dock 1, it must be kept dry, even when there is no vessel in the dock.

 

The 2015 caisson, manufactured by Steel America, is maneuvered into place at the foot of Dry Dock 1 in the Charlestown Navy Yard by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard staff. Note the diesel-powered pumps in the right foreground, ready to empty the dock. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

The emptying or “de-watering” of the Dry Dock began around 9:20 a.m. The caisson is held in place, at the threshold of the Dry Dock, by ballast water in its lower hold. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

This time-lapse video show the emptying of the Charlestown Navy Yard’s Dry Dock 1.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG4P5F0_xZk&w=560&h=315]

 

 

Dry Dock 1 was nearly empty by 4:30 p.m. on August 21, 2017. The caisson, clearly visible at the foot of the dock is held in place by its ballast water and the pressure of the water of Boston Harbor on the outside of the floating gate. The dock has been enlarged several times in its history and today can hold 4.8 million gallons of water. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

 

 

Honors for the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston Staff

Since 1991, the USS Constitution Museum has presented its annual Don Turner Award 

“to a person or team of people…who have contributed significantly to efforts to preserve important vessels or who have made significant contributions to our knowledge and understanding of ship design and construction.” [“Criteria”, Don Turner Award, USS Constitution Museum]

The award was created to honor Don Turner, the former head of the USS Constitution Maintenance and Repair Facility (now the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston), for

“his singular contribution toward the preservation of ‘Old Ironsides’ and the skills that built her, as well as his knowledge of and dedication to the ancient art of shipbuilding, and to recognize others who are similarly dedicated to maritime preservation and advances in ship construction and design.” [“Summary”, Don Turner Award, USS Constitution Museum]

The 2017 Don Turner Award was bestowed on the staff of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston for the 2015 – 2017 dry docking and restoration of “Old Ironsides”.

“The legacy of USS Constitution lives on thanks to the dedicated work of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston. Combining modern technology with traditional shipbuilding techniques, the Detachment Boston works tirelessly to preserve and maintain America’s Ship of State. Due to the care and craftsmanship of the Detachment Boston ship restorers and riggers, Constitution remains the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, preserving an important symbol of America’s maritime heritage to share with future generations.” [“A Salute to Maritime Preservation”, presentation of the Don Turner Award, USS Constitution Museum, September 14, 2017]

 

Richard C. Moore, Director, Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston, accepts the Don Turner Award from Anne Grimes Rand, President, USS Constitution Museum and Paul George, Chairman of the Board, USS Constitution Museum. (U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Erin Bullock/Released)

 

(U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Erin Bullock/Released)

 

Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston staff at the presentation of the USS Constitution Museum’s Don Turner Award. Back row (left to right): Kevin Mansfield, Antwine Burdett, John Hinckley, Jon Stolarski, Michael Desmond, James Almeida (obscured), Greg Dumont, Richard Moore, Ryan Whitehead, Daniel MacLean, Allan Carman, Stephen Nichols, Bruce Caporal, William Rudek, David Cavanaugh, Gordon Lincoln, Bruce Comeau, and Joshua Ratty. Front row (left to right): Margherita Desy, James Gillis, Jose Hernandez-Juviel, Timothy Burns, Eric Boyer, Anita Petricone, Robert Murphy, and Alex Briere. (U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Erin Bullock/Released)

 

 

Congratulations to all of the women and men of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston who had a hand in the 2015-2017 dry docking and restoration of USS Constitution:

 

James Almeida     Karen Anastas     Eric Boyer     Adam Briere     Alex Briere     Antwine Burdett     Timothy Burns

Bruce Caporal     David Cavanaugh     Bruce Comeau     Michael Desmond     Margherita Desy     Greg Dumont

Charles “Jay” Fiste   Errol Flynn     Elizabeth Frost     Jeffrey Gallagher     James Gillis     Steven Gillis     Jeremy Hafley

Joseph Halter     Jose Hernandez-Juviel     John Hinckley     Patrick Jewkes     Michelle Johnson     Robert Leiby

Gordon Lincoln     Daniel MacLean     Thomas Maloney     Kevin Mansfield     Peter McPherson     Richard Moore

Robert Murphy     Stephen Nichols     Martin Parker     John Pelikan     Anita Petricone     Joshua Ratty     Kelsey Raver

Steven Ridlon     Ian Robertson     Nicholas Rosa     Milt Ryan     William Rudek     Jon Stolarski     Gregory Weisman

Stephen West     Ryan Whitehead

 

– M. M. Desy & E. Briggs

_____

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.

The Author(s)

USS Constitution Museum