NEW YORK – The USS Intrepid, the aircraft carrier that survived World War II bomb and kamikaze attacks, got stuck in the mud in the Hudson River on Monday as tugboats tried to pull it from its berth.
The ship – a huge floating military museum that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists a year – was supposed to be towed across the river to a dry dock in Bayonne, N.J., for a $60 million renovation.
Six tugs pulled with a combined 30,000 horsepower but moved the Intrepid only about 15 feet. Not even an unusually high tide could free the 27,000-ton, 872-foot-long ship from the ooze.
“We had the sun, the moon and the stars in alignment, and it was just a very disappointing day for us,” said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
White said he was unsure whether officials would try again to move the ship, or refurbish the carrier where it sits. The ship was not blocking the Hudson’s busy shipping lanes.
The next high tide is Dec. 6, but that will be about a foot lower than Monday’s, White said.
“We were able to move her 15 feet, and then she came to a halt. We tried to add more power with another tugboat but we couldn’t wiggle her free,” said Jeffrey McAllister, the chief pilot of the tugboat operation.
The Intrepid has been moored at a pier on Manhattan’s West Side for 24 years, during which time silt accumulated as deep as 17 feet around its keel. The decommissioned ship no longer has engines, but it does still have its four propellers, each about 15 feet across, and they got stuck in the mud.
Crews had removed 600 tons of water from the Intrepid’s ballast tanks to give the ship added buoyancy, and dredges removed 15,000 cubic yards of mud to create a channel from dockside to deeper water.
Elected officials, veterans who served on the Intrepid and others had waited on the flight deck for the beginning of the five-mile journey down the river. Helicopters flew overhead; New York Police Department blue-and-white power boats, Fire Department boats and a Coast Guard cutter were on hand to accompany the aircraft carrier.
The final mooring lines were cast off at the order of 80-year-old retired Rear Adm. J. Lloyd “Doc” Abbot Jr., who served two years as the Intrepid’s skipper in 1960-62 and was named honorary commander for the day.
“It was the best job I ever had,” Abbot said, standing once again on the ship’s deck. “Intrepid had a soul of her own. How can a hunk of iron have a soul, you may ask. But I loved her. She kept me safe and at times I kept her safe.”