Clamagore veterans try to buy time to save sub
MOUNT PLEASANT — The days may be numbered for the submarine Clamagore at Patriots Point if a veterans group can’t raise the money to save the vessel.
In a compromise worked out between Patriots Point officials and the Clamagore Veterans Association, the group must hire a qualified marine engineer to render a survey on the condition of the aging vessel and its threat of possibly sinking and releasing dangerous chemicals into Charleston Harbor.
If the survey indicates the submarine is not in immediate danger, Patriots Point’s board of directors will consider giving the veterans group two years to raise about $3 million to restore the 67-year-old tourist attraction that’s been part of the naval and maritime museum since 1981.
If they can’t raise the money, Patriots Point will proceed with plans to turn the submarine into an artificial reef.
“We hope that doesn’t happen,” said George Bass, treasurer and past president of the Clamagore Veterans Association. “We are optimistic we can raise the money.”
The group has about $30,000 now, Bass said.
He believes Patriots Point officials overstate the submarine’s condition, that its problems are cosmetic and it should be sent to dry dock for repairs.
Patriots Point already has begun the process of ridding itself of the vessel in case the money can’t be raised because of the lengthy process involving federal and state officials.
“We have two trains going at the same time — theirs and ours,” Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said. “We are trying to be responsible, and we are trying to be fair. We don’t want to allow what happened to the Laffey to happen to the Clamagore.”
Patriots Point had to borrow $9.2 million from the state to keep the destroyer Laffey, one of the former warships in its tourist fleet, from sinking into the harbor four years ago. The tourist attraction is still trying to repay about $8 million on that loan.
Its annual budget is about $10 million, and it does not have the money to pay for restoring the submarine, Burdette said.
Patriots Point is turning its attention to the costly repairs on the Yorktown, estimated at more than $81 million.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.