By Seth Daniel
The oldest sailing warship still afloat will once again be afloat this July 23 and 24 as work crews wind down the two-year restoration project and prepare to put Old Ironsides back afloat around midnight on July 23 and into July 24.
Navy officials on the USS Constitution’s Facebook page confirmed that the operation is a-go for July 23 and 24, and that it would once again be a night-time operation based upon the tides. Hundreds of spectators are expected to come out for the overnight piece of history.
The operation will begin on Friday, however, as the Cassin Young moves from its current location so that the USS Constitution can take up its usual place on Pier 1.
On July 23, around midnight, the careful operation involving Navy engineers and other support staff will take place to put the 200-plus year old ship back afloat.
Until that time, residents can still visit the ship in dry dock in the Navy Yard and see the bottom of the historic hull and the workings of the ship that are usually underwater. It isn’t expected to be out of the water again until 2037.
Two years ago, in May 2015, a huge and exacting operation took place overnight when Navy engineers and work crews carefully put the old ship into its dry dock home. It was a hand-held operation using ropes and a few tug boats to coincide with the high tide and low tide.
The move was sometimes at a snail’s pace, going about one inch at a time during the critical moments.
As part of the repair process, oak planks, the outer copper sheeting and anything is disarray was repaired or replaced. The entire bottom of the boat was re-caulked and sealed. The Navy has a grove of white oak trees at a base in Indiana, called Constitution grove. Trees from there were cut to replace the hull planks.
The Navy estimated the entire repair process would cost between $12-15 million. During the repair process, the ship still was open to the public in a limited capacity and was staffed by Navy crew.
The ship has been repaired many times before, staring in the mid 1800s and having a full restoration in 1927. The last time it was in dry dock was 1992.