Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ships in The Charleston SC Harbor...

During our recent trip to South Carolina…and specifically Charleston, one thing I was looking forward to was some serious ship spotting, combined with some up close aircraft viewing.  To some degree, I was frustrated, partially because we only saw one big ocean going ship in the harbor.
Appropriately enough, the first vessel we saw that wasn’t just a pleasure craft, turned out to be a harbor pilot boat, the ‘Ft. Sumter’.  This 75’ boat was delivered by Gladding and Hearn Shipbuilding in August of 2000.  It has a beam of 21 ft. and a maximum speed of 27 knots.  FYI, Gladding and Hearn was established in Somerset MA in 1955 and they specialize in building tugs, fishing vessels, fast ferries and pilot boats.

The photo of this second ship is of poor quality…of course I took it…not my better half, Laurie, who is also my photo-spouse!
Since I was unhappy with this photo, I went on-line to see if I could grab a quality photo of the ‘Carolina Belle’ from the Charleston Harbor Tours website.  Since I could only grab multiple photos, I can only refer readers to for a better view of this classic looking harbor cruise ship.

Notice, I said ‘classic looking’.  That’s because the ‘Carolina Belle’ is not even close to being as old as the design intends it to look!  The 35 ton, 80’ ship was built by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury MD in 1988.  It was originally named ‘Belle Island’ and it was delivered to Belle Island Charters in Stamford CT.  We did take this harbor tour…and while it was interesting, especially from a historical viewpoint…the boat was a little too crowded for our liking.  Charleston Harbor Tours is located at 10 Wharfside Street in Charleston.  Phone: 800-979-3370.
So, while cruising the harbor on our tour, we also took a photo of this ‘little’ ship.
This of course, is the USS Yorktown (CV-10).  It was built in 1943 and it served in WWII and the Vietnam War.  It also was used in the Apollo 8 recovery efforts and it was featured in the movie, ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!  It was originally going to be named the ‘Bon Homme Richard’, but that was changed after CV-5, also named the USS Yorktown, was sunk in the Battle of Midway.
One of our goals had been to visit the Yorktown at the ‘Patriot’s Point Naval and  Maritime Museum’ on Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant SC, right across the harbor from Charleston.  I especially wanted to have a close look at the 27 aircraft displayed on her deck and in her hangars.  They range from an N-2 Stearman to a FG-1D Corsair to an F/A-18A Hornet.  Not only did we run out of time, but the humidity was very high and the temperature was about 90 degrees…it would have been punishing on the carrier deck!  Next visit for sure!  One concern… In my research, I noted that in October of 2009, the Navy had informed the Museum that repairs had to be made to the Yorktown, or they had to ‘dispose’ of it!  That would be a huge loss!  
When I saw this ship cruising out of the harbor, I knew what it was but I was surprised to learn that this isn’t a US Navy Ship…it’s a US Army Ship!  This is the USAV (Logistics Support Vessel) 'Major General Charles P. Gross'.  The Army has 8 ships of this type.  To us old timers, this is an upgraded version of an LST (Landing Ship Tank).  It will carry 15 M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks or 82 standard shipping containers.  The ship is 272’ long, with a beam of 60’ and when fully loaded it has a speed of 11.5 knots.  This ships home base, (or port), is Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The last ship that we saw was this leviathan, the ‘California Highway’.  It’s a bulk car carrier measuring 653’ long with a beam of 105’.  It can hold 3,765 cars and it belongs to Fukunaga Karrin Co., Ltd.  The ship is registered in Panama.  It is big…no doubt…but appearance-wise it’s just a big self propelled sea-going barge.  I really enjoy looking at ships with a more traditional superstructure.

The next time we drive over to Charleston, the top goal will be to visit the USS Yorktown along with the other displays at the Patriot Point Naval and Maritime Museum.  They include a ‘Medal of Honor Museum’, the submarine USS Clamagore plus, of course, all of those great aircraft!  Check out the museum at 
Note: All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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