NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Through a combination of tug boats and the power of the natural tide, the USS Theodore Roosevelt performed an about face maneuver and shifted 180 degrees at its pier May 17, putting it another step closer to leaving the shipyard in Newport News, Va. and returning to the operational fleet.
The “turn ship” operation, which provides an opportunity for vital systems on the ship’s port side to be overhauled, marks the first time TR has left her dock at pier three at Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding in two years. It is an important milestone that takes the ship closer to the end of its Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) process.
“Turning the ship is a major milestone for us in that it proves that we can accomplish all the major muscle movements that have to go into getting the ship underway,” said Cmdr. Brendan Murphy, TR’s navigator. “The deck department executes their job; the navigation department executes their job; the engineering department—all of the team comes together at a very specific instant in time when we get underway, and that’s a big part of what we do in the Navy.”
According to Ensign William Boll, TR’s boatswain (Bos’n), the evolution was “a 60% version” of a normal underway.
“We’ll be manning the foc’sle, the fantail and the bridge,” Boll said. “The fantail and the foc’sle will be where we’re manning up the wiring. We’re working with the shipyard getting wire ropes on and off the ship and making sure it’s a safe evolution.”
Boll had praise for the shipyard workers who worked alongside his crewmembers on the decks.
“They’re hard workers,” the Bos’n said. “The communication is great between the two of us—the Navy and the shipyard. They do their job, and they do it well.”
The deck department backed up the shipyard workers with communications and extra workers.
“Deck, as a department, we’ve been pretty much supporting the shipyard workers while they remove and work with all the lines that are going out to the pier,” said Seaman Merlena Peter, who worked as a sound-powered phone talker during the evolution. Peter, who has been aboard TR for five months, added, “This is the first time I’ve seen any movement of the ship, and it was kind of nice.”
After lines were cast from the ship, the aircraft carrier was guided by tugboats and used the current of an ebb tide to drift away from the pier, Murphy said. As soon as TR was clear of the pier, the tugboat Huntington propelled the carrier away from the dock and into the open water of the Chesapeake Bay. Two more tugs then joined TR on the starboard side of the ship, and they maneuvered opposite the tugs on TR’s port to hold the ship on both sides, forward and aft. The tugboats then rotated the ship clockwise so that TR’s bow faced the shore. Then, using the bay’s flood tide, they guided the ship back to the pier.
“We’ve had a lot of milestones in the past year,” said Capt. Mark Colombo, TR’s executive officer. “Probably others were just as important and just as significant in getting us out of the yards, but none were as noticeable of an achievement as it is to turn the ship. So because of that, I think we should all be justifiably proud. It was a heck of an accomplishment for us.”