Placing Laffey

With the WWII destroyer Laffey and Coast Guard cutter Ingham gone, Jamie Widener had access to repair a gangway at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum on Thursday. Patriots Point faces the next hurdle of where to put the Laffey when she comes hom

For the busted-up destroyer Laffey, now safely tucked into dry dock for emergency repairs, a new question arises: Where to put the warship when it's ready to come home to Patriots Point.

And the familiar follow-up: how to pay for it.

Officials at the military museum initially thought the Laffey would fill the spot of the Coast Guard cutter Ingham, which departed last week for repairs. After a brief stay at a local Coast Guard pier, the ship heads to Florida for more extensive repairs and will become an exhibit in Key West after hurricane season.

But putting the Laffey in Ingham's spot places "The Ship That Would Not Die" of World War II fame in a more precarious position if a hurricane churns up the harbor. And the Laffey extends about 60 feet longer than the Ingham and would require extra moorings to accommodate her.

The Patriots Point Development Authority at a Thursday meeting instructed interim executive director Dick Trammell to consider a few possible locations for the ship. Massachusetts-based marine surveyor Joe Lombardi, who headed up the ship's move, received a hero's welcome at the board meeting and gave his own opinion on where to restore Laffey.

Lombardi said both the Laffey's and the Ingham's former spots would leave the ship vulnerable to storms and would require Patriots Point to move piers any time the destroyer needs repairs. He suggested placing the ship alongside the aircraft carrier Yorktown off its starboard bow.

"Spending a lot of time in both the Ingham and the Laffey, they weren't big draws unless you are really interested in those ships," Lombardi said. Positioning the Laffey near a popular feature could turn her into a moneymaker, he said. Each location comes with its own set of logistical problems and financial constraints. Trammell said after the meeting that a state loan of $9.2 million allows for moving the ship in and out of its current spot, but not for any additional work due to a change in location.

"I'm looking at it from a marketing perspective, getting it up there and being visual," Trammell said. "What might pay us money over time might cost more now."

The board also instructed Trammell to find a holding place for the Laffey when she leaves Detyens Shipyards. They tossed around ideas such as keeping the ship at a State Ports Authority facility in the meantime, though some board members worried about restricted public access at such a site.

Trammell hopes to reopen the Laffey to the public at Patriots Point in February in honor of her commission date. Lombardi said Detyens Shipyards expects to finish work Dec. 17.

He said workers will cut the hull's plate next week and, by project's end, will retrofit the entire hull with 3-inch plate. The repairs, which Lombardi termed "the Jaguar of jobs," should last 30 to 40 years.

One board member asked Lombardi if the ship's condition, as seen in dry dock, proved dire enough to justify the emergency funding.

"You were on a tipping point," Lombardi answered. "I've got to tell you, it's scary."

With the Laffey and the Ingham addressed, Patriots Point next turns its attention to the deteriorating submarine, Clamagore. The museum plans to bring the ship ashore to a land exhibit, either by floating it over the marsh with a cofferdam or by putting inflatable bags underneath it and towing it out.

Before dismissing Lombardi, board chairman John Hagerty brought up the sub:

"While we've got Joe here," he said. "What should we do with the Clamagore?"

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