|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
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
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
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
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. Hmmm...how
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!
"THE HIGGINS CREW"
J. M. DUCKWORTH
MR. & MRS. FRANK STRAUGHAN JR.
AUBREY ADAMS JR.
HAROLD BUCHLER JR.
DAVID & JANINE BOWMAN
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!