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 Post subject: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:03 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3032
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Do we give a damn for our history at all?

http://news.yahoo.com/ap-historic-ship- ... 34914.html


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:58 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8355
Location: Baltimore, MD
Of course we do.

But that's not the question being raised here.

The relevant question is either "Can we find someone to pay millions in acquisition costs, plus untold missions to restore or make presentable at least some of this ship AND pay millions in maintenance, storage, movement, and operating costs to keep this behemoth alive somewhere?" OR "Are we going to make this another long-term drain on the U.S. treasury by dumping said costs on the public through guilt trips and political activism?"

All the reasons this ship has lingered on for decades rather than being converted to commercial operation or set up as a museum piece at someplace like New York City or Norfolk are still completely valid, all revolving around the old adage of a boat being "a big hole in the water into which you regularly pitch money." The laws of physics haven't changed, nor have the laws of economics. Those numbers all but guarantee that this ship in private preservation will never become self-sufficient, even if you pulled a massive ruse and convinced everyone that it's the Titanic brought up intact from the ocean floor.

Now, if the person that bought a winning Powerball lottery ticket in New Jersey turns out to be a huge (and I mean HUGE) SS United States fan......


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:10 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 5:00 pm
Posts: 746
Location: NJ
I agree with Mr. Mitchell. And I feel a deep sense of sadness every time I look over at her sitting mournfully at the pier. She sat for many years in Baltimore before coming to Philly only to be tied up to another pier awaiting the cutters torch. And yes it will be a very sad day when she is indeed towed to the breakers. And she will be followed by an even more historic ship, the USS Olympia who is also sitting at a pier in Philly. But one needs to recognize the enormous task in restoring one of these behemoths and then the huge sums of money to keep them in top shape. So it is with deep regrets that she will be scrapped because in this economy, there is just not enough donors with deep pockets to take on the challenge of putting the type of money required into a project of this type.

Mr. Ed


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:44 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3032
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Of course we do.

But that's not the question being raised here.

The relevant question is either "Can we find someone to pay millions in acquisition costs, plus untold missions to restore or make presentable at least some of this ship AND pay millions in maintenance, storage, movement, and operating costs to keep this behemoth alive somewhere?" OR "Are we going to make this another long-term drain on the U.S. treasury by dumping said costs on the public through guilt trips and political activism?"



I will respectfully disagree with Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Ed, at least to a point. If their case is what it is, then we have no business with a national or state park system, we have no case for Steamtown or the Smithsonian, we have no case for keeping the USS Constitution, we have no case for preserving Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, we don't even have a case for a public education system.

At the very least this should be a debate for public support.

(Come to think of it, wasn't it political activism that preserved all those things in the past? Why is that forbidden now? And why should the railroad preservation "society" or "community" be the only group that's supposed to be so noble? Tell me, what has that gotten us?)


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:17 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8355
Location: Baltimore, MD
J3a-614 wrote:
At the very least this should be a debate for public support.


A debate? Most certainly. Bring it on.

The duty with ANY such preservation effort, be it Mark Twain's pen or the Golden Gate Bridge or the entire state of Alaska, is to "sell" the concept of preservation, setting aside assets, and assuming long-term custodianship of whatever is proposed for preservation, be it a barn or the Grand Canyon. The alternative is private custodianship as a for-profit or not-for-profit enterprise, of everything from a Lincoln autograph to Meteor Crater and Luray Caverns.

We have, or have had, major controversies over such places as Steamtown NHS, the Texas State RR, the North Carolina Transportation Museum, PRR 1361, the British NRM and the acquisition and repair of LNER 4472, and other such publicly-funded rail preservation projects. Often, in such case as this (not limited to rail preservation by any means), the public gets "sold" the idea that they can "save" this house or that meadow or that covered bridge for "only" the cost of acquisition. Then, a year or decade later, they get vocally upset when they're asked to pony up the costs of a new roof and siding, or increased insurance costs, or new flues, or repointing the foundation/mortar, and/or extra staff to administer the expanded department/agency.

Absent some massive set-aside such as an entire drydock built to preserve this ship, the SS United States, like other big watercraft of its ilk, is a proven "black hole" for money. It's impractical for commercial sailing in 2013; it won't fulfill the cruise market's demands; it burns money just sitting at the dock; and it's one of those cases where picking up the whistle and building everything under it anew may be a smarter alternative, dollar-wise. This "patient" has been comatose and kept alive artificially for decades now.

We rail preservationists have been getting upset at how many things are presented for our "rescue" at literally the last seconds. If this happens--yet again--with this ship, we have just cause for being upset when all it does is prolong the seemingly inevitable. I'd love to be proven otherwise, but absent that aforementioned Powerball lottery winner, I can't justify asking every last American to pony up a buck apiece--and that's a fair estimate of the scope of money we're talking about.


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:37 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 7:57 am
Posts: 2355
Location: Faulkland, Delaware
As mentioned by Mr. Ed, the USS Olympia is nearby and in need of a large infusion of money. Unless there is a miracle, Big U is done. She is a floating carcass, stripped of all her interior furnishing, machinery, and everything historic. She is not really suitable for anything else other the being developed into a mall or hotel. It should also be noted that she has been at the pier for nearly a decade and locals are saying that she is now stuck in the mud. The old girl can't get a break.

The USS Olympia on the other hand is the only one of her era still around, is completely intact, very significant in the history of our country, and needs a relatively small amount of money compared to the boatloads of money needed for the Big U. In fact, the money dumped into the Big U just to keep her rusting in Philly so far would have been enough to take care of USS Olympia's hull issues.

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Wilmington, DE

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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:47 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2438
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
J3a-614 wrote:
Do we give a damn for our history at all?

http://news.yahoo.com/ap-historic-ship- ... 34914.html


This is a facetious question. Of course we do, but even "giving a damn" about our history costs money. Just from reading the article, it costs $80,000.00 a month to berth the S.S. United States in her current condition. In other words, it costs almost $1 million a year just to keep her in dock, that is before any restoration, stabilization, or even painting.

As far as public financing to restore her, think of it this way. There are limited finances. Sure, you could have the park service take over the Big U, but at what cost? Even if you could find a state of local agency willing to take care of her, at what cost? What funding gets cut elsewhere to pay for the upkeep? What money gets diverted from other projects?

At the end of the day, it makes things like fundraising, building car barns and work on steam locomotives look easy by comparison.

Do we give a damn about our history? Sure, but sometimes we can't give a damn about all of our history. When you rob Peter to pay Paul, Peter suffers.

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David M. Wilkins

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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:43 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:47 pm
Posts: 475
tomgears wrote:
As mentioned by Mr. Ed, the USS Olympia is nearby and in need of a large infusion of money. Unless there is a miracle, Big U is done. She is a floating carcass, stripped of all her interior furnishing, machinery, and everything historic. She is not really suitable for anything else other the being developed into a mall or hotel. It should also be noted that she has been at the pier for nearly a decade and locals are saying that she is now stuck in the mud. The old girl can't get a break.

The USS Olympia on the other hand is the only one of her era still around, is completely intact, very significant in the history of our country, and needs a relatively small amount of money compared to the boatloads of money needed for the Big U. In fact, the money dumped into the Big U just to keep her rusting in Philly so far would have been enough to take care of USS Olympia's hull issues.


Correction: the Big U is not stripped of her machinery. Her engine rooms are completely intact. The only mechanical things missing are her 4 props (all of which are preserved as various marine museums around the country), and since they aren't trying to get her to run, the props aren't a major concern. He furnishings are gone because excessive amounts of asbestos were used as insulation (and everybody that follows this website knows what a bitch asbestos is).

I've been following the Big U and her story ever since a former Scoutmaster pointed her out to me while we were on a trip in Philly when I was 11 years old (over 10 years now). From what I've been able to figure out, the worse thing that has happened to the Big U was that the SSUS Conservancy got a hold of her. They had good intentions, I have no doubt, but they had absolutely NOTHING planned before they obtained ownership of her. All of the money that Gerry Lenfest donated (around $8 million) went to docking fees while the Conservancy tried to figure out what to do with her, and as such they can't afford to maintain her anymore.

Continuing on that tack, the Conservancy has no clue how to fund raise. I'm part of an ocean liners group on Facebook and the general consensus is that we all would like to take a tour of the ship, even in her derelict shape. However, the only way you can get on board that ship is if you make a $5,000 donation. How many people do you know that will drop $5,000 to tour a derelict ship? None, right? The average person could probably donate $100 max and what does that get you in return? A membership card and newsletters. Even if you stretch it to $500, you get a book, a DVD and a membership card. Now, I understand that expecting equal value back for what you donate is incredibly unrealistic, but $150 for a tour of the ship is not, and a lot more average people will be willing to put up the money to do it. Hell, the group in CA that owns the USS Iowa started giving tours the day after that ship docked in LA, before any sort of work had been done. The group is targeting big spenders that have no interest in donating, simply because of the success they had with Lenfest. I don't want to see her scrapped, but if she is, I won't be surprised.

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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:23 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1808
The design of UNITED STATES hull presents the major issue with converting the ship for alternate use. The hull is curved, and the interior decks are not level. This is described in nautical terms as sheer, camber and tumblehome. Defined as

Quote:
Sheer: The rise of a deck - usually toward bow and stern. Sheer increases freeboard, and helps keep the vessel from shipping water in rough seas - particularly at the bow.
Camber: The convex upwards curve of a deck. Also called round up, round down, or round of beam, usually around one-fiftieth of the beam. Not all ships have cambered decks; ships with cambered weather decks and flat internal decks are not uncommon.
Tumblehome: Inward slope of hull sides above the waterline - the opposite of flare. Tumblehome was a usual feature in sailing ships and many ships built before 1940. Only seen on tugs and icebreaking vessels, sometimes used to reduce topside weight, and for reducing radar cross sections.


So unlike a rail car that can be gutted (tunneled) and reused as a gift shop, hotel space, party room, etc., the UNITED STATES presents major design challenges. In addition there is the fact that the ship is displayed in a salt water environment with a superstructure of aluminium attached to the steel hull (with now 60 year-old insulation between the two). And the list goes on.

Wesley


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:54 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:47 pm
Posts: 475
wesp wrote:
The design of UNITED STATES hull presents the major issue with converting the ship for alternate use. The hull is curved, and the interior decks are not level. This is described in nautical terms as sheer, camber and tumblehome. Defined as

Quote:
Sheer: The rise of a deck - usually toward bow and stern. Sheer increases freeboard, and helps keep the vessel from shipping water in rough seas - particularly at the bow.
Camber: The convex upwards curve of a deck. Also called round up, round down, or round of beam, usually around one-fiftieth of the beam. Not all ships have cambered decks; ships with cambered weather decks and flat internal decks are not uncommon.
Tumblehome: Inward slope of hull sides above the waterline - the opposite of flare. Tumblehome was a usual feature in sailing ships and many ships built before 1940. Only seen on tugs and icebreaking vessels, sometimes used to reduce topside weight, and for reducing radar cross sections.


So unlike a rail car that can be gutted (tunneled) and reused as a gift shop, hotel space, party room, etc., the UNITED STATES presents major design challenges. In addition there is the fact that the ship is displayed in a salt water environment with a superstructure of aluminium attached to the steel hull (with now 60 year-old insulation between the two). And the list goes on.

Wesley


They managed to make it work with the Queen Mary out in Long Beach, so I'm sure (if it ever gets there) interior design won't be a major issue. The aluminum superstructure is always brought up when talking about the United States, but the inspections done by NCL in the late 2000s didn't give any indication that there were major issues. And as for the connection between the two, it's survived for over 50 years now; I imagine it'll be ok for the future.

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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:21 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 9:29 am
Posts: 212
Here's my question:
Why are they paying $80K/month for dock fees? I'm sure they are only rarely using the dock for work on the ship......sounds like they might be over paying for storage and not being too smart about where to store her.
Just a WAG, but, $80K would probably cover a year's storeage in with the navy's reserve fleet. Minor work, like paint can be done anywhere.
Maybe if they wake up, They might be able to get such a storage plan set up before they run out of money.


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:06 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:44 am
Posts: 627
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
As much as I love classic ocean liners, I feel strangely unsentimental about the fate of the "Big U." Its (now gone) interiors seemed cold and sterile to me, and in many ways it was just a glorified troop transport- a relic of the cold war that had a short useful life. Adapting it into a warm, inviting place of commerce and entertainment means totally transforming it into something it wasn't, and most mall-goers don't care much about speed records or how impressive its engines are. Doesn't make much difference sitting stationary in some harbor somewhere anyway.

On the other hand, I think it's a fascinating relic just the way it is-- rusting away across the street from the IKEA store. Let people just imagine what it must have been like. It won't last that way forever though.

Maybe they should remove the funnels and masts and any other unique architectural elements that might be easily incorporated into a newly-constructed replica that's more building than ship, and start from scratch.

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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:36 am 

Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:29 pm
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Location: Youngstown, OH
http://binged.it/14sbe4x

Look at the relative sizes of the three "preserved" ships, Olympia at the top left, New Jersey across the river and United States at the bottom. Big U is gigantic even compared to the New Jersey, and it makes the Olympia look like a tugboat.

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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:15 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:09 pm
Posts: 298
The 80k/month to dock her is high, but does not seem to terrible for what we are talking about. Consider shore power, insurance, possibly a guard, etc..it adds up quick.

I agree with Mark, There fundraising and such has been very unimpressive. Lots of wine and cheese partys, etc.. not much for the "little guy". I understand not letting every Tom, Dick & Harry on the ship to tour it (Remember, it is in a secure port facility), but they could have arranged a tour a handful of times. People do what to see what they are giving money towards.

The only thing that I think will save the U is if a large hotel or casino took on the project. Just wait until they need to have it towed or drydocked...Which I imagine is due before any large project takes place.


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 Post subject: Re: Off Topic (Marine Preservation)--Last Call For Big U?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:21 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1808
As a comparison, a 2010 article about QUEEN MARY in Long Beach describe the sums of money being spent to modernize the accommodations on that ship.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/02/business/la-fi-queen-mary3-2010mar03

And the Wiki article describes a string of money-losing efforts to operate the ship since its arrival in Long Beach in 1967.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Queen_Mary

Wesley


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