Newsletter Masthead - 34KB

[February 1999]


[April 1999]

Hello All !

What a month we've had.  Here is the latest:

Decks laid in cargo bay - You can really walk inside her now!  All 47 KB decking is complete. Doc Warren has built a neat routing jig, which he is using to rout treads into the deck.  There are two rows of these routings, and they gave the troops better footing on the slick decks. Painstaking work here, people, Doc is going at it like crazy!

Decks are cut and ready for installation in the engine flat. The reason we haven't put these in is ANOTHER Higgins story.  The plans indicate a layer of CELOTEX between the frames and the decks in this part of the boat.  It seems that CELOTEX (made from pressed sugar cane stalks) was a hi tech insulation board during the war.  This material provided sound and vibration damping capabilities in the boat, making things more comfortable for the crew. The problem is, there used to be different types of CELOTEX available on the market and we can't get the type that was used during the war.  We are going to put this aspect of vessel construction on temporary hold.  It is recommended that we not use the currently available product for various reasons.  We are definitely not pushed for a rash decision here, so we will use the luxury of the time we have and think about it.  I'll let you know what we decide to do.

The deck cleats came in!  Wow, are they good looking.  To refresh your memory we had to have these cleats cast at a foundry because they are a discontinued item.  Highwater Bronze (Michelle) came to our rescue and made a casting pattern from the remains of one of the Irish Bayou Wreck cleats and cast six of them.  The new cleats are malleable cast iron, just like the real McCoys!  Thank you Highwater Bronze.  Great work!!!  Ed Daroca had the cleats galvanized for us.  Hebert Steel comes through again for us!  While I'm bragging about Ed and Hebert Steel I've got to tell you about the cleat brackets.  The two cleats on the aft deck were reinforced and tied in to the frames with large steel bolt-in brackets.  We needed the brackets, so Ed and Hebert Steel volunteered to fabricate them for us (to plans of course!).  Ed delivered the galvanized brackets last week.  Thanks Ed and Hebert!  By the way, the two after cleats use these brackets because Mr. Higgins wanted them to be super strong in case they were needed for towing another boat or two or three!  This was another of those little touches of EXCELLENCE that set Higgins boats apart (wait till I tell you about LIMBER CHAINS and SPRINGS later in this issue).

Coaming brackets are ready!  We had a couple of these, but needed several more so we made them at my shop.  John Housey gave me the steel for them and my guys turned to and fabbed them up.  Ed Daroca had all of the brackets galvanized.  Great TEAMWORK!

Deck coamings are cut and ready!  These boards are ready for final installation NOW.

Engine foundations finished!  Joey has the foundations ready to accept the engine.  I just got off the phone with Titus Deshotel 41 KB at Coastal Erection Crane Service (Mr. Titus is former USMC WWII) and they will have a crane at the boat for us on Good Friday (April 2nd) for the engine lift.  We were going to wait for this lift, and accomplish it when we shift the boat from the temporary cradle to the display cradle but I changed my mind.  The final straw was when I saw Joey Madere standing around with nothing to do.  BINGO, time to shift to plan "B"!  Hoisting the engine in now will keep Joey and crew busy for a while.  We really have started to run out of work, so we want to do everything we can to maintain our momentum.  I'll let you know about our successful engine installation in the next issue.

Rudder quadrant and stock are installed!  Final fit up accomplished.

Maneuvering rudder installed!  Final fit up accomplished.

Shaft and screw (propeller) installed!  Final fit up accomplished.

Sheaves for steering cable are installed!  Final fit up accomplished.

After deck beams are complete!  Finished, but not quite in yet.

After decking is cut and ready!  Finished, installation in mid April.

Cargo bay deck "curbing" installed!  Aubrey Adams supervised this work.  These curbs are the big boards which run fore and aft along each side of the cargo bay.  Their job was to keep combat boots (with soldiers in them) and jeeps out of the bilges of the boats.

Life jacket racks installed!  Ray Asprion took on the tedious task of installing these.

Bilge piping complete!  Both bilge suction and discharge with all valving complete for both original hand and engine driven systems.  George Benedetto ran this job.  You know, it's really tough to find a good plumber when you need one......Huh, Ed?  Al?

The Groco sea strainer and foundation is installed!  Bruce handled this task.  Complete!

The winch foundation is installed!  Ready now for that genuine "found this in my backyard is it what you need, Jimmy?" Wes Gladhart provided, Joey Madere rebuilt Beebe bow ramp hoisting winch!  We will be wrapping cable on the winch drum before we know it!

The two backup electric bilge pumps are in!  Jimmy Dubuisson oversaw this.  I'm glad we have them onboard.  Thanks Jimmy!

These were all of the major accomplishments this month.  We are leaping ahead as you can see. The installation of the engine will be the final turning 40 KB point.  We will be rounding 3rd base when the engine goes in.  The day we started the boat, Graham Haddock told me this job would take two years.  That was in June 1997. did Mr. Haddock know it would take two years?  We will be wrapping up this job in June for sure.

We got some great news this month!  The Most Reverend Phillip M. Hannan, former Archbishop of New Orleans has agreed to attend the Christening and Bless our boat!!!  We are truly honored that the Archbishop will be with us.  He served in WW II as a Catholic Services Chaplain assigned to the 505th regiment of the 82nd Airborne.  Archbishop Hannan served in three campaigns with the 82nd.

There is one other important note that makes Archbishop Hannan's presence special.  During the war, then-Archbishop of New Orleans Francis Rummel used to bless Higgins-built PT squadrons prior to their commissioning.  Archbishop Hannan will be carrying on a fine New Orleans tradition by blessing our boat.

We are looking forward to having you at our celebration Your Excellency!

The Navy has been checking in regularly.  As previously mentioned, the Washington Navy Yard (The Navy Museum) is sending a crew down to check us out.  The Navy crew will be here any day now.  I have a full agenda planned to bring them up to speed on what we've done.  We have been assisting them via pictures through the mail.  Ralston Cole at Stewart and Stevenson may be able to help them with that engine he found in Paraguay.  I know Spencer McIlvaine REALLY wants that engine, but it may have a better home at the Navy Museum.  If they need the engine, Ralston will help them (in addition to being a member of our Higgins team, Ralston is an Annapolis grad).

Jerry Strahan hosted a representative of "The History Channel" at the boat this month.  They are looking at the possibility of putting together a Higgins documentary.  Kinda neat.

Karen Reisch and her Christening crew are cranking along with all of the myriad details of that function.  They continue to meet very regularly at the USCG ISC New Orleans office spaces (Thanks Captain Ned Peak for hosting).  The ISC is going to be the temporary home of the Higgins boat when we go through sea trials this July/August.  Our team met the crew from USCG Group New Orleans last week.  Captain Rusty Terrell and company came to visit to check our progress and to help us work out our "needs" list for the sea trials.  We absolutely can't go wrong with help from the Captains Peak and Terrell.  The red carpet is laid out and the Higgins crew is looking forward to our days at the ISC!  Karen has also been very busy briefing all of the New Orleans area Flag officers.  I accompany her whenever possible, but she is carrying most of the load.

Many thanks go to US Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and Eighth US Coast Guard District Public Affairs office for providing a GREAT aerial photo of our christening site.  Petty Officer Dillard from D8 Public Affairs rode one of our CG helos on a training mission to get this very important photo.  We have blown it up to poster size and the christening committee will use it for event planning.  Great planning tool.  Bravo Zulu US Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and 8th U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs!

Through over 20 monthly newsletters I've sent out, many readers have become familiar with some of the names of the builders of the PA33-21.  I have never compiled a list of exactly who the people were who made the sawdust fly, the metal spark, and the paint flow, until now.

The reason I withheld such a list is because I wanted to see the boat nearly complete before we determined exactly who the builders were.  I think it is extremely important to record the names of the crew members who "came early and stayed late".

In the 22 months that the boat has been under construction, the people whose names appear below have never failed the project.  Every one of them came to the rescue, many times on short notice...again and again and again.  Only TWO of these people are professional boat builders. The rest are:  contractors, cabinetmakers, tire dealers, lawyers, doctors, steelworkers, a Hot Dog salesman (who is a well known author), an IRS guy, a boat captain/musician, a teacher, a banker, a refrigeration mechanic, a commodities broker, an accountant, a swimming pool repairman, and all of those GREAT retirees!


































For your information, the demographics of the list are as follows:

About 1/2 are "seasoned citizens"

3 are former Higgins Industries employees

9 are WW II Veterans

4 are Korean War Veterans

2 are Vietnam Veterans

2 served on Higgins boats during WW II

3 have been awarded the Purple Heart

The oldest is 86.

The youngest is 25.

3 are currently serving in the Armed Services

I've got more to say about this bunch...later.  After the boat is finished!

[February 1999]

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[April 1999]

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