LA PORTE, Texas (AP) – It is the only surviving battleship to have served in both World Wars and fought against Nazis and the Japanese army during World War II. But the biggest challenge of recent years for the USS Texas has been a leaky, rusty hull that sometimes forced workers to pump about 7,570 liters of water per minute from the 110-year-old ship.
To make sure the historic ship doesn’t sink and can continue to receive visitors, the foundation responsible for its care will tow the ship from its old home along the Houston Ship Channel on Wednesday to a shipyard in Galveston for much-needed repairs.
Tony Gregory, the chairman of the Battleship Texas Foundation, said Wednesday that pulling the ship through tugboats and getting it started was perfect. He said there would have been problems in the first 15 minutes after the ship towed, but there were no problems.
“It went smoother than we thought and faster than we thought…and she’s gone, down the canal,” he said.
Gregory said he expects the ship to arrive in Galveston at 4 p.m.
The journey from its old berth at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in the Houston suburb of La Porte is part of a $35 million project to repair the hull and eventually restore the ship to its former glory.
The repairs to the ship are part of the foundation’s plans to eventually relocate it to a new Texas location, possibly one of three nearby cities, including Galveston, to attract more visitors and increase revenue.
Moving the ship for repairs is “the most important step in getting the ship back to top condition,” Gregory said on Tuesday, standing on the ship as workers made final preparations.
The battleship is towed by four tugs at a speed of about 5 knots per hour. The 40-mile journey to Galveston is expected to take about nine hours and will not be without risk, as the ship’s hull could leak enough to sink it.
“Once we get going, I expect it to go pretty smoothly… We feel like we’re prepared,” said Gregory.
Since 1948, the USS Texas has been on the historic site of the state where the decisive battle in the Texas Revolution was fought. There it has served as a museum and tourist attraction. The battleship was taken to the same shipyard in Galveston earlier in 1988 for repairs.
The ship has been closed to the public for the last three years as the foundation has prepared for the repair. In 2019, the Texas Legislature approved the $35 million to repair the hull. The foundation plans to make other repairs for which it pays. All repairs are expected to take a year.
The foundation expected many people to gather along the ship’s canal to watch the ship go by.
Tricia Thomas, 50, who was one of those invited to watch the ship disengage, said she became emotional and in tears when she saw the ship move and heard its whistle as it began its journey. When the ship started to move, Thomas said, the people clapped and cheered.
“It’s amazing to see a 100-year-old ship back on the water, moving like she’s done for so many years. It was exciting,” said Thomas, who lives in the Houston suburb of Kingwood.
Thomas said it is important to her to preserve the ship so that future generations can learn its history and remind people how to come together for a common cause greater than themselves.
“I think that’s probably the greatest story she can tell,” Thomas said.