Clamagore veterans want more time to raise money to save aging submarine
That’s what the Clamagore Veterans Association pleaded for Friday to keep the aging submarine parked at Patriots Point from making one final mission to the bottom of the sea as an artificial reef.
They asked for another 12 months to try to scrape together $3 million to repair the 68-year-old vessel that’s been a part of the Mount Pleasant naval and maritime museum since 1981.
The veterans group raised about $40,000 since Patriots Point first announced last summer it could no longer afford the upkeep or repair on the retired Cold War vessel.
Patriots Point gave them until June to come up with the money.
“We are not going to raise $3 million by June,” Clamagore Association President Bob Dewar of Florida frankly told the Patriots Point board.
The group wants to use some of the money already raised to enlist a professional fundraiser and have him under contract by Feb. 28.
Patriots Point has no problem with them trying to raise the money and hiring a fundraiser, but the board didn’t answer their plea for a one-year extension. Instead, the board decided to ask the group back in July for a status report on their fundraising efforts, according to Mac Burdette, Patriots Point executive director.
That left the veterans group scratching its head over whether to hire the fundraiser, not knowing if their efforts would be cut short in July.
“We would have to take a blind leap and go forward,” said Jackie Heard of the Save the Clamagore Committee after the meeting. The Huntsville, Ala., resident’s father, Jack F. Heard, served as commanding officer of the Clamagore from 1956 to 1958. She presented the latest Clamagore proposal Friday to Patriots Point.
“Do you throw the towel in now, or do you press on”? she said. “We won’t know until those lists are studied.”
Heard was referring to the lists of Clamagore veterans that the fundraiser would analyze to see the best potential for raising money.
“We would like nothing more than to have that money raised and keep the Clamagore where she is,” Burdette said. “But you have to do what is right for the long-term benefit of the museum.”
The waterfront tourist attraction intends to press on with the lengthy federal process of turning the Clamagore into a reef or finding another suitor for the submarine, board Chairman Ray Chandler said.
Citing an independent engineer’s assessment, Burdette is worried that rising water from a strong hurricane could swamp the submarine’s open hatches, causing it to sink and creating an environmental disaster in Charleston Harbor because of fluids and batteries still on the sub.
The naval and maritime museum in Mount Pleasant doesn’t have the money to repair the rusting vessel that’s been sitting in the harbor’s salt water for more than three decades beside the World War II aircraft carrier Yorktown, the centerpiece attraction that is staring at an estimated $81 million overhaul.
Under an agreement worked out last summer, the veterans group was to hire a qualified marine engineer to survey the vessel, but to save money the group deferred to a study commissioned by Patriots Point.
Speaking by phone during the meeting from Seattle, former Clamagore commander Don Ulmer said he had spoken with Boeing about committing $1.5 million in matching funds if the group raised the rest, but he said it was not a firm commitment and would revisit the aerospace giant if the time extension is granted.
Ulmer said also the group has been in contact with author and marine archaeologist Clive Cussler, who has offered support but no money. The group is also in talks with the Seattle Museum of Flight to see if it is interested in taking the submarine, Heard said.
If the extension is granted, the association pledged to shore up the open hatches as an interim measure against hurricanes.
The group has also contacted United States Submarine Veterans Inc., which has offered to handle monetary collections for the group because it’s a nonprofit organization.
If the final decision is to turn the submarine into a reef, Dewar asked that the sail and periscope be removed so they could be become part of a permanent memorial.
Some vestige of the vessel would remain as part of Patriots Point, Chandler said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.