MOUNT PLEASANT -- The repaired destroyer Laffey is listing about 6 degrees toward the Yorktown in its new berth at Patriots Point, but museum officials say it's nothing to be alarmed over.
The World War II ship will take about 30 days to settle into the trench left in the sediment when the submarine Clamagore was removed earlier this week and towed to the south end of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said.
The 377-foot-long Laffey, known as "The Ship That Would Not Die" for surviving Japanese kamikaze attacks in 1945, is longer and wider than the submarine and is going through a nesting process of settling in at the new site, Burdette said. It returned to Patriots Point after three years Wednesday to much fanfare.
"She is in no danger of tipping over, and her hull is in excellent shape," Burdette said.
Bob Howard, Patriots Point director of operations, said Thursday that the submarine was about 26 feet wide at its broadest point below the waterline in the marshy waters next to the Yorktown, leaving a bathtub-like hole in the mud. The Laffey is about 41 feet wide below the waterline, too broad to fit snugly into the trench left by the Clamagore during its 30-year stint at the same location.
"It's going to take a few cycles of the tides going in and out for the mud to go into position and the Laffey to settle into the bathtub left by the Clamagore," Howard said. "We don't know for sure how long, but we think it might be about four weeks."
Burdette also explained why the area was not dredged to make a wider trench for the Laffey's return.
He said it would have cost close to $400,000 and environmental permitting would have held up the ship's return up to eight months.
"We wanted to stay away from dredging for environmental reasons, and we don't have that kind of money," Burdette said. "We just need her to settle down in the sediment."
Burdette said people visiting Patriots Point over the weekend, when the naval and maritime museum is expected to reopen to the public, will notice the Laffey leaning to its starboard side, especially at low tide, and partially resting on the wooden pilings between the ship and the Yorktown.
He called a press conference Thursday to explain what was happening so visitors would not be alarmed.
Workers were busy Thursday reconnecting power to the ship. Power, water and sewer lines were cut beneath the concrete pier leading to the Yorktown so a 60-foot section of the pier could be removed for the extraction of the submarine and the new berth of the Laffey.
The Laffey has been sitting in Shipyard Creek in North Charleston for three years after having its rusting hull repaired at a cost of $9.2 million. Patriots Point borrowed money from the state to pay for the work and must repay the loan within two years.
The work of moving the ships around this past week cost about $1.1 million, which the museum was able to afford.
Patriots Point plans to hold a celebration marking the Laffey's return on April 14-15, the weekend before the April 16, 1945, anniversary when more than 50 Japanese aircraft targeted the vessel during a battle off Okinawa.
Thirty-two crew members died and 71 were injured when four bombs and six kamikaze bombers struck the ship.
The Laffey also participated in the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944, and survived a German shell, which failed to explode, off the coast of Cherbourg.