After repairs, Constellation, Torsk to return to Inner Harbor

Arrival set for Monday after seven weeks in dry dock

March 20, 2011|By Frank D. Roylance and Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun

The 1854 sloop of war Constellation and the World War II submarine Torsk are due back in Baltimore's Inner Harbor Monday after seven weeks in dry dock for scrubbing and repairs.

The Constellation is scheduled to be towed from the Sparrow's Point Shipyard at 9 a.m., arriving at Pier 1 by 10 a.m. The Torsk will follow, arriving about 2 p.m., according to Chris Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore, the vessels' caretakers.

The move is about three weeks late, the result of unexpected rot discovered in Constellation's hull. The extra repairs and time in dry dock could cost as much as $140,000, bringing the final tab to nearly $500,000.

"We have definitely received some support as a result of the effort being publicized, and that has been wonderful," Rowsom said. "We will obviously be looking for additional support."

On Sunday, volunteers and others came out to show their support as workers made last-minute preparations to return the vessels to the water.

Michael Brassert of Baltimore visited the shipyard to get a view of the Constellation that isn't available at the Inner Harbor — the bottom.

"People who appreciate design of boats and yachts are always interested in what the bottom looks like," said Brassert, a volunteer with the USS Constellation Cup, a sailboat regatta that raises money for the ship. "It's the bottom that makes it go well through the water."

The Constellation's curvaceous underside makes it a thoroughbred of ships, Brassert said.

Ten members of the USS Torsk Volunteers Association, which provides maintenance for the submarine, arrived in the early afternoon for the sub's final cleanup.

Their other assignment: spend the night on the 1944 submarine, looking for leaks once the dry dock has been filled with millions of gallons of water to launch the vessels.

Mike Eacho, a volunteer who has slept on the Torsk before, said the quarters are comfortable. And after cleaning, he said, the volunteers planned to sit around, eat dinner and watch movies.

"It won't be 'Titanic.' We usually watch submarine movies," said Eacho, 58, who served in the Navy for 22 years. "Most of us are submariners."

A crew will also sleep on the Constellation, but there won't be any movies. "It's a 19th-century ship," Rowsom said.

Workers have been on the job daily for weeks, racing to get the work done in time for the tourist season, Rowsom said.

The Constellation, though, will need to return to dry dock in about three years to finish the job of replacing rotted wood. Rowsom suspects that tab could run about $1.5 million.

Torsk came through with only a few small surprises. "The extra time in dock has been good for the sub," Rowsom said, and it returns with a few fresh coats of epoxy paint.

The sub's one remaining bronze propeller was removed, he said, and will be incorporated into a local memorial to the men of the World War II submarine service.

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