Two WWII vets, still hard at work
Here we see past Warship Wednesday subject, the oldest vessel in the U.S. Coast Guard, and one of the last ships afloat and in active service that dates from World War II: the Gorch Fock-class segelschulschiff USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active-duty square rigger.
This uncommon view of her was taken last week at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, the only one in the service, as Eagle undertakes the next step in her five-year SLEP modernization. She is inside the former U.S. Navy ARD-18 Class Auxiliary Repair Dock, USS Oak Ridge (ARDM-1).
Built at Alameda in 1944, the Oak Ridge is 81-years young and during her lengthy Naval career was based in the Philippines, Groton, Rota, and Kings Bay until she was disposed of in 2001. The 551-foot dock can lift ships up to 437-feet long, making her ideal for the Coast Guard as her largest vessels, the new National Security Cutters, are just 418-feet oal.
The dock was transferred to the Coasties in 2001 with the assumption she had about five more years left on her before she would be condemned, and Eagle may be Oak Ridge‘s last customer.
The dock is in bad shape.
According to a 2015 DHS report, she sank in 2011 resulting in $4 million in repairs and costs $1 million per year to barely maintain– 11 times greater than the more modern Syncrolift shiplift system the Yard has installed.
Her gantry cranes, installed in 1963, are inoperative as “it is no longer cost-effective to fabricate replacement parts for crane engines, structure, and controls.” Further, “Other installed equipment including diesel generators, auxiliary pumps, boilers, streamlines, welding gas, air compressors, airlines, and crew berthing have all been removed from
service over the past 10 years as a result of disrepair.”
As far as her hull, she is supposed to be dry-docked herself every 10 years but hasn’t been since the 1990s and there are no active shipyards within a safe distance from the CG Yard capable of drydocking her, so, “this work has been permanently deferred until Oak Ridge is removed from service,” which is expected in 2018.
As for Eagle, on the other hand, the last mid to walk her decks likely hasn’t been born yet.