Aged 110, USS Texas is the only surviving battleship which can boast of having served in both the world wars. But the past many years, it has been a challenging job for the US government to maintain the ship because of its rusty hull that at times forced workers to pump out about 2,000 gallons (7,570 litres) of water per minute from its surface.
To ensure the historic vessel doesn’t sink and can continue hosting visitors, the foundation in charge of its care was set on Wednesday to tow the ship from its long-time home along the Houston Ship Channel to a shipyard in nearby Galveston for much needed repairs.
The journey from its longtime berth at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in the Houston suburb of La Porte is part of a USD 35 million project to repair the hull and ultimately restore the ship to its former glory.
After being repaired, the ship will be eventually rehabilitated in a new location in Texas, possibly in one of three nearby cities, including Galveston, in order to attract more visitors and increase revenue.
“Moving the ship for repairs is the major step in getting the ship back to tip top shape,” Tony Gregory, the president of the Battleship Texas Foundation, said on Tuesday as he stood on the vessel while workers made final preparations.
The battleship will be pulled by four tugboats at a pace of about 5 knots per hour. The 40-mile (64 km) journey to Galveston was expected to take about nine hours and won’t be without risk as the ship’s hull could leak enough to sink it.
“Once we get going, I anticipate it being pretty smooth… We feel like were prepared,” Gregory said.
Since 1948, the USS Texas has been located at the state historic site where the decisive battle in the Texas Revolution was fought. There, it served as a museum and tourist attraction. The battleship was previously taken to the same shipyard in Galveston for repairs in 1988.
For the last three years, the ship has been closed to the public as the foundation has been preparing for the repairs. In 2019, the Texas Legislature approved the USD 35 million to fix the hull. The foundation is planning to make other fixes which it’s paying for. All the repairs are expected to take up to a year to complete.
The foundation expects many people to gather along the ship channel to watch the ship go by.
Theresa McGowen, an interior designer from nearby Deer Park, said she planned to watch the ship on Wednesday and expected to get emotional while recalling memories of visiting the vessel as a child and then later with her children.
“It has a lot of meaning because it has a lot of special memories and the history of it as well. And they’re not bringing it back (to La Porte). There’s a little sadness with that,” she said.