|Saturday, October 31st was certainly a red-letter day at the
Higgins Boat Project! It was really a three ring circus....There was
Lloyd Lovitt from Memphis Tennessee inspecting the Boat with Graham Haddock.
Mr. Lovitt, as a young U.S. Navy officer was assigned to Higgins Industries
at the outset of WWII as a U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships inspector. There
was the gang, installing a silver dollar in the skeg (brings good luck you
know). The coin was bedded in Dolfinite (Joey Madere's idea, brings
double good luck). Then the skeg / strut / maneuvering rudder and port
/ main rudder and port were all permanently installed. What a sight!
Richard McDerby was keeping an eagle eye on ALL of that underwater gear...he
wants to be darn sure everything stays where it's supposed to be when HE
hits the beach with this boat!
Gail Higgins Jones (our sponsor) was there. She has known Mr. Lovitt
since she was a little girl. Her dad (Andrew Higgins Jr.) used to take her
to ride horses at Mr. Lovitt's years ago and she and Mr. Lovitt have kept
in touch over time. Gail had a proud look in her eye as she watched
our crew fasten down the skeg.
Mr. Haddock and Mr. Lovitt had a long conversation about our plans set. He
confirmed that we are in fact building ALL of the correct features into our
Boat. He had been in charge of standardizing the Higgins boat plans
for all yards producing boats for the government, and he and Mr. Higgins
had traveled the country visiting those yards to ensure the standardization
process. Yes, they even visited "Chris Crate" (Mr. Haddock's term of
endearment for Chris Craft) in Algonac! Even small differences in boats
from different yards were causing headaches for the fleet as they readied
damaged boats for the next assault.
When Mr. Lovitt and I met he told me "I want you to know that this boat is
absolutely representative of boats I saw being built at Higgins Industries
during the war." I asked him if he had any change orders or suggestions
for us, and he said none were required. We were to stay the course!
Well, I was really happy to hear that.
In the midst of all this, with cameras snapping and Diana Baker and crew
filming...there was our crew, desperately trying to get some work done.
Joey Madere was more than mildly irritated. Ed Daroca and Al Haydel
were being admonished for making too much noise. There were the Coast
Guard Bowmans impatiently tapping their feet on the hull, wanting to get
to work. Recording history and getting a landing craft built are two separate
missions that do not necessarily marry up well! Despite all of the
hoopla, our crew DID accomplish a lot of work.
As nice as it was to see the history happen, what I appreciated most was
seeing Al Haydel working on that hull. Al will wince as he reads this,
but he is our larger than life "Paul Bunyan" character on this project.
Al has been faced with some major challenges in his life lately, and he is
recovering from major surgery - but you would never know it. There
he was up there on the hull sanding away. I have to imagine his doctors
would be concerned about him getting sawdust in his lungs through that hole
in his throat, but Al's not gonna let a little thing like that stand in the
way of progress. Al is a horse. He has always been "there" for this
project from the beginning. Most don't know it, but Al is the guy who
was first on scene at our workshop. He volunteered to measure, sketch
and estimate material we needed for the workshop fence. Wild horses
can't keep Al from seeing this through. I'm speaking for everybody
on the project when I say we are very proud to have Al Haydel in our midst.
OK Al, you can relax, I'm done (for now).
Karen Reisch was awarded the ANDREW JACKSON HIGGINS AWARD by the Mayor's
Military Advisory Council. This award is given annually to the area
citizen who has been most supportive of the military in the Greater New Orleans
area. Karen is very deserving. We are very proud of you,
By the way, Karen is super busy with christening issues for us. This
is a BIG JOB!!! While I'm talking about our crew, I've got to tell
you a little story about Janine Bowman (LTjg, USCG). Janine and her husband
David have been an incredible team for us on the boat. When we decided
to rout all of the seams between the bottom planks, George Benedetto built
a router guide to make the job easy (and straight). We are talking
HUNDREDS of feet of routing here people! Well, on routing day George
was out of town and no one realized a routing jig existed. Janine thought
the job had to be done by hand. No one told her a jig existed!
She routed every seam with no jig! Talk about STRAIGHT LINES!!!
If this is lost on any of you, TRY it sometime. UNBELIEVABLE
job Janine. You had some serious woodworkers in awe of the work you
did. Now, what some of you don't know is that Janine is one of the
finest pistol shooters in the United States! Yep, she sure is!
(Janine, all of that DRY FIRING was good for something wasn't it?)
I love this story.
George Benedetto and I met with Jack Leary and Mike Dunn at the boat a week
ago. Jack is the engineer who we have selected to design our boat cradle.
All of you who regularly read these newsletters know that I have been
worrying over this issue for months. Jack is going to do a great job,
I'm certain. Mike has been calling with lots of great questions as
they are working out the preliminary plan.
Hebert Steel came through with some great fittings and weldments. They
are galvanized, epoxy primed, painted and ready to bolt on. Thank you
Ed Daroca and Hebert Steel!
Manufab has the drawings for the ramp sheave brackets. They will be
producing these very soon.
The fuel tanks have been primed and top coated. They are ready to install.
We can't find the correct cleats for the boat. I shipped the best one
we had from the Irish Bayou wreck to a company in Maine. This outfit
will cast a set of cleats for us using the one I shipped as a pattern.
That good old wreck sure has been handy. We have Bert Duplantis
to thank for that. We wouldn't have the wreck if it weren't for Bert!
OTECH has begun the refurbishment of the bow ramp. We are tracking
well on this.
The crew caulked the bottom planks on the day before Thanksgiving! We
used the 3M 5200 caulk (white). We will sand and prime / paint the
hull by 30 Nov 98.
The roll-over crate is constructed around the boat now. It is a VERY
well built crate at that. Graham Haddock and Dave Sintes teamed up on the
We will roll the boat on 07DEC98 at 0900 HRS. Dave Sintes
is in charge.
Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Meyer for their great donation to the
project! Mr. Meyer is a USN veteran of WWII. Thank you very much
The Masters, Mates and Pilots Union also sent us a great gift! Thanks
to Captain Ed Higgins for helping. (Ed is AJH's nephew, and he has
a son on active duty in the USCG).
DONOVAN'S MARINE keeps coming up with supplies when we get in trouble.
Thank you very much Mr. Garver for the help!
Thank you WIRE ROPE CORPORATION OF AMERICA for providing us with some great
wire rope!! Mr. Louis Rolfes of Metairie, LA helped us get this stuff!
Earl Fredricks has been running around like crazy seeing to all kinds of
things for us. Earl has been doing the circuit between MANUFAB, LOWERY
BROTHERS, OTECH, HOBSON GALVANIZING etc etc. Earl is a Korean War USN
vet, and is a highly respected Marine surveyor. We couldn't have a
better man on the job! Thank you Earl.
We will christen the boat on 06 NOVEMBER 1999 at 1200 HRS.
We are less than a year away from THE DATE. The pace is moving very
rapidly now. We are beginning to move in several dimensions now.
Woodworking, Machinery, Electrical, Cradle and Christening issues are
all hitting us. This is a progression that is to be expected, and it
is a sure sign that we are getting close. Mr. Haddock says you can't
launch a boat until the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the
boat. We have to be close! Mark your calendars accordingly.
November 6this the date.
Sorry this newsletter has so few paragraphs, I had to pack lots into our