Friday, July 14, 2006

USCGC HEALY Launch


Still a most memorable day... 15 Sep 97, almost nine years ago! Despite my obvious frustration w/parts of my job, I still love having been involved. Bureaucracy aside, I have met some of the best people in the world, and together we have designed and built some of the coolest stuff I'll probably ever see in my life.

Icebreakers are HEAVY, very heavy, and the Mississippi River is only so deep, so when we pushed this big beast of a boat down the ways - it splashed greater than anybody had calculated! Thankfully it didn't stick to the muddy bottom, but it did squirt LOTS of water, and some very dangerous waterbourn debris into the crowd. The VIPs got soaked! We peons didn't even realize it hadn't gone perfectly until we saw a little blood on the ground, and a few dazed and confused among the crowd.

Imagine, the old inclined wooden ways are sturdy enough to support the entire structure through years of construction, and yet also designed to literally fall apart at just the right moment during a side launch. A little grease, a little shove, and then when the speed and angle are just right for the ship's weight... the ways simply crumble into the water with the ship. These broken way bits (massive pieces of lumber and huge nuts & bolts) were what got squirted into the crowd with that massive splash. And because so much of HEALY's hull is reinforced w/2" thick steel, it was far heavier than the shipyard's prior launches, creating an unexpectedly forceful expulsion of the water beneath.

Inclined ways were already becoming a thing of the past, in favor of more precise construction and launch techniques. If my memory serves me correctly, HEALY's launch was set to be Avondale's last side launch anyway, and I think the Navy stopped side launches altogether after HEALY's. Side launches are spectacular, and HEALY's was even more so! A stern launch is still pretty cool to watch, but I have passed on a couple floating dry dock launches (who wants to watch a ship-sized bath tub fill, very slowly).

2 comments:

  1. You were not nominated but I found you through a link to wfr.

    You are the winner today.

    http://blogofthedayawards.blogspot.com/2006/07/blog-of-day-awards-for-saturday-july.html

    June 30 post has code if you want to display your award.

    Thank you

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  2. Hi SMF,
    I was there that day. I was working on the Casino boats at Westwego at the time. I'm a sailor and I think a pretty good judge of wind speed. When the shockwave from the Healy's bellyflop hit me in the second row, it was over 70mph. There were bitty bits of driftwood and gravel in that spray. It was definitely more exciting back in the day of side launches.

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