The Newsletter of the USS SLATER's Volunteers
By Timothy C. Rizzuto, Ship's Superintendent
Destroyer Escort Historical Museum
Phone (518) 431-1943 Fax (518) 432-1123
First, a word about camel day. Before we can move the ship back to Albany, we have to set the sixteen two-ton apiece camels in place. This job does not have the thrill of the actual move, and this was the first time we have had to do it on our own without the help of the younger, stronger DOT Bridge Maintenance guys. On camel day ten guys showed up including Hack, "Band-Aid" Tom Beeler, brother Frank, Les, Raf, and Beth from our Snow Dock neighbors, the Dutch Apple Cruise Boat. Tom Moore and Roy Gunther worked on the camels doing the shackling. Bob Cross and John Kosa loaned us "Jimmy" and the Albany Water Department crane. We started work at eight-thirty and every thing was in place by 1300. Not bad.
The month started with the planned move across the river scheduled for Tuesday, March 28th. As we said last month, we wanted to be in place on the Albany side on Saturday, April first for our opening day. The Canal Corps Tugs were not available because they winter in Waterford on the other side of the Troy lock, so we made arrangements with Bart Brake of Empire Marine to move SLATER.
So, I was planning for an easy Monday with a few volunteers to continue the big clean up and make some leisurely preparations to get ready for the move on Tuesday. As is my custom when I arrive aboard, the first thing I did was check the answering machine. It was Bill Welch from Empire Marine. The message was simple. The weather forecast for Tuesday looked rainy and really windy. Could we be ready to move the ship that morning? I called Bill and said. "no way". He said that if the weather was too bad on Tuesday, they wouldn't be able to get us until Friday. With a Saturday opening, that was cutting it a bit close. Today, the weather was perfect. I told Bill, with only five volunteers aboard, I didn't see how we could swing it.
Two things happened to change my mind. Dick Walker showed up, and after hearing about the dilemma, said, "You want me to start making phone calls?" A few minutes later, Gary Sheedy showed up in his van. His help was vital in making the shore power disconnects and hookups. I said, "You think you could get the day off?" He got on the phone and got the day off, with the warning, "Don't change your mind." I called the tugs and said we'd be ready by eleven.
On move day, I can deal with any kind of weather but wind. On a dead ship, wind really makes me nervous. At that point we only had seven guys aboard. The crew started taking the wires off at nine. I went back to the fantail to se how it was going. All of a sudden, there were white caps on the river and the wind blew my hat off. Where did that come from? It's getting to be a move day tradition. Did I mention that the previous week had been seven days of flat calm?
Dick had good luck making phone calls and the crew began to arrive. By nine- thirty, all the wires were off. That was when I got another call from Bill. It was getting pretty gusty, and maybe we'd better hold off. When I told him all the wires were off, he said "okay". End of conversation. Every one started asking me "When are we leaving?" and I said, "When a tug makes fast to the fantail."
Meantime our promotion girls Joanne McFadden and Debbie Moore were frantically trying to alert the media that all their carefully planned press releases were now obsolete and that we were moving within the hour. We did everything we could to thwart their efforts, including cutting Deb's phone lines mid sentence while she was talking to the newspaper folks. Despite our best efforts to keep the move a secret, they managed to have three newspapers and two TV stations waiting for us on the other side. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Normally, we make the trip we have about thirty line handlers aboard. What the "over-the-hill guys" lack in youth, they make up for in numbers. However when we pulled up the gangway we had fifteen aboard counting Joanne and Nancy. The line handlers were Bob Callendar DE-744, Bob Dawson DD-723, Clark Farnsworth CV-32, Chief Dave Floyd, Dick Smith DE-5, Gordon Lattey, Larry Williams DE-246, Les Beauchaine DE-509, Ray Lammers APD-81, Erik Collin, Dave Riffley USCG, Frank Beeler, Danny Donovan, Cdr. Greg Krawczyk and myself. On the shore we left Tom Beeler DD-712, 878, Dick & Maralyn Walker USCG, Jerry Jones AO-144, Gary Sheedy ARL-23, Ken Kaskoun CVE-108 and Russ Ferrer USA.
The trip across was really smooth and really fast. We had the tide right, going out, but the strong south wind had us at the Snow Dock in about thirty- minutes when normally we take an hour of leisurely cruising. The tugs applied the "waterbrakes" at the dock and gently eased us right into position. The heaving lines began to shoot across. Some of us did better than others. By that time Tom Moore, Raf, Mike Stenzel and a few others had joined the shore party to meet us, and now the fun began. Getting the ship tied up with six on the focs'c'le and six on the fantail meant the "over the hill gang" really had to put out a lot more effort than usual. Even the electricians had to help with lines. It took a little longer, but by 1400, all the lines and wires were on the aluminum gangway rigged, shore power and water hooked up. With a few sore muscles we were ready for another season. Almost.
We had a note from Sam Saylor, DEHF President who organizes the Foundation Newsletter . Because of a computer glitch with the mailing list, some may not have received the "Volume 6, Number 1 - First Quarter 2000" issue of Trim But Deadly. If you are a regular Foundation Member and did not receive this issue just, write or call us and we'll make sure you get a copy.
Notes from Nancy: The last two weekends in March found me knee-deep in the great SLATER "spring cleaning adventure". Thanks to all my helpers, especially Chris Soulia, Julie Sussin, Eric Weidman and Claire Oesterreich, who sloshed along with me. (Tim was lurking about wearing "white gloves" and carrying his "dental mirror" making sure no one was slacking off!)
"WELCOME BACK" to all the TOUR GUIDES: those all important people who transform the ship from a cold hunk of iron to a living object with a soul for the visiting public! Our season has started and we are doing great; with guest numbers up substantially from last year. Thanks to our volunteer coordinator, Dick Walker, our watch list is up to date. We need help on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so give Dick a call if you can join us. Dick's "First-Mate" Maralyn is also starting the Tour Season with an organized and efficient Shop Inventory system that will provide us with accurate & up to date information. It was great to see everyone at the guides meeting in March .The next guide's meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 13th, at 1300 hours. Please try to attend as this provides our best opportunity to "fine-tune" our presentations and address any issues that may come up. Don't forget to sign-up for a name tag - the list is in the shed. I would also like to thank all those who assisted me with the preparation of the "Community Development Block-Grant" as we received notification of our acceptance in receiving this grant to help with our Education and Tour Guide program. Another "WELCOME BACK" to our favorite Motor-Home parking lot residents, Don & Ruthie Martin from Oxnard, CA. They just swung by after attending this years ships' reunion of the USS SWEARER DE-186, in Charleston, SC , parked their vehicle and went right back to work where they had left off last year.
Looking back, March was pretty nice month weather wise. April has been pretty crappy. Really good days alternating with really bad days. A foot of snow on our second Sunday shut us down completely except for a couple of Glens Falls Reservists, Russ Erik Collin, Eric Weidman and Nancy. In spite of it, our income has been twice what it was last year at this time. The effort in getting to the Snow Dock early and bringing Debbie Moore aboard to answer the phone has really paid off. The ACCVB and Gina Mintzer also provide the solid base for providing information to reunion groups about visiting ALBANY & SLATER Looking back, this crew has done some amazing things.
Again, our thanks to the Albany Water Department for the continued crane service. The snow made us especially grateful to Ed Sakacs DE-191, who drove all the way from Schenectady every time it snowed to plow a path to the ship in Rensselaer. Finally, and most importantly, thanks to the Albany Port Commission, Frank Keane and Mark Bruno and their crew for putting up with us for another winter. I hate to think where we'd be without their help getting through the winter.
As we enter our Third Full Season of Restoration Work & Tours an interesting sociological phenomenon has developed among the SLATER crew . It seems to be affecting those who have been on "Vacation Cruises" - I can't believe the comments from these people who have spent thousands on relaxing vacations in warm, sunny ports of call - "The ship was too clean & quiet, the coffee tastes terrible, the ship areas don't smell right and no visits allowed to the ENGINE SPACES!" The Perrella's said their Cruise aboard SS John W. Brown last August was far better than the Rennaisance-1; with realistic WW II "flybys", swing music, gun firings, US Marine Landing exhibits, and complete tours of all ship areas including the Engine Room! All this gives us hope for the future when SLATER can offer "living history" cruises of her own .
In the meantime, if you're planning a summer outing or family reunion consider a visit to SLATER; and by all means bring your neighbors and friends. Our museum ship offers a glimpse into the past and a realistic look at how a crew lived and worked aboard a Destroyer Escort during 1944-45. There is always room on our "volunteer crew roster" for you which can include visits & work in the ENGINE SPACES! Until next month . . . . . . .
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