USS Cobia (SS-245)
Report of Drydock Project
By Russell Booth
History and Description of the Project
At the request of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum (WMM), formerly the Manitowoc Maritime Museum, a preservation survey was made of the WW II submarine USS Cobia (SS-245) on April 26 - 30, 1990. The survey was conducted by myself and assistant Jim Adams in conjunction with the staff of the Museum. On the final day of the initial inspection a diver was sent to evaluate the underwater hull. The scope of the survey was to determine the general condition of the submarine and was aimed at several areas which affect the soundness of the vessel. The purpose of the survey was to generate a document that could be used as a tool to guide long-range preservation planning.
Cobia had not been drydocked since 1964 and at that time the work was not guided by preservation goals or standards. The WMM wanted to develop a long-range strategy for preserving the submarine which was designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL.) The goal of the 1964 drydocking was to put her into a state of preservation that would extend the possible service life of the submarine by a few years. The goal in preserving an National Historic Landmark however, is to save as much of the historic fabric of the vessel as possible for as long as possible. The 1996 inspection, the condition report and the subsequent shipyard specifications for Cobia were all developed using the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects, which are included in this report as Appendix 4.
The first step in developing a long-range preservation plan for the submarine was to evaluate the general condition of the submarine and to develop a list of specific needs that could then be prioritized. Then funding issues could be quantified and the plan could be implemented once funding was secured. Following the inspection a report was prepared of the general condition of the submarine with recommendations. Although the submarine was in very good condition at that time, there were many unknowns that could not be evaluated unless the vessel was in drydock. Further, by drydocking the submarine as soon as it was feasible to do so, the loss of historic fabric could be minimized. Preventative maintenance is not only more practical than waiting until serious problems develop, but it is less expensive over the long-run.
Another aspect of the initial survey was to determine the accuracy of Cobia's appearance within the context of her wartime service. In preserving and restoring a historic vessel, a specific point in her history should be chosen so that the vessel can be accurately presented and interpreted. Although Cobia saw extended service beyond WW II, her World War II service is clearly the most significant point in her history. This is the reason she was named a National Historic Landmark. Slight modifications had been made during the Korean Conflict and the Naval Reserve period. Also, modifications were made to allow visitor access when she was opened to the public. These changes could be easily reversed to put the submarine back into WW II condition. The modifications are indeed part of Cobia's history. If they are well documented and any items removed are archived by the Museum, it is then acceptable to restore Cobia to her most significant period.
It was also noted in the report that Cobia is the most complete of the four remaining unaltered Gato class submarines (USS Cod in Cleveland, USS Drum in Mobile and USS Silversides in Muskegon.) Cobia has most of her historic fabric intact, including equipment, tools and spare parts. For this reason, I recommended that the specific point in time, mid-1945, be selected to guide all of the preservation and restoration work. At that point, Cobia was admirably fulfilling the role for which she had been built, patrolling the oceans in the service of her country during a very challenging time. Cobia and her crew were part of an elite force that played a decisive role in US history: the Submarine Service of the US Navy during WW II.
Following the submission of this report, WMM developed a Statement of Need, which is included in this report as Appendix 1. The Statement defined the specific preservation needs of the submarine. I then prepared the first draft of the shipyard specifications which could be used by the Museum to arrive at the amount of money that was required. Together these two documents served as a tool that could be used by Burt Logan, the Director of the Museum at the time, to secure funding to accomplish the necessary work. I continued to work with the Museum as the insurance and towing specifications were developed and attended a meeting in October, 1994 at the Museum with all parties concerned to discuss a plan of action. The minutes of that meeting are included in this report as Appendix 3.
I agreed to act as the supervisor for the project under the guidance of the new Director of the WMM, Isacco Valli. Mr. Valli had been closely involved throughout the entire project up to that point in his capacity as Curator of the WWM. As Director, Mr. Valli moved the project ahead and all of the plans were made so that the vessel could leave for Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in September, 1996 to accomplish the work.
Cobia was closed to the public following Labor Day, September 2, 1996. The next two days were spent preparing the submarine for the tow to the shipyard and she departed on September 5. The following section is a daily log that I kept during the entire project from Labor Day when I arrived in Manitowoc until I departed on November 2. It contains detailed descriptions of the work that was done and is followed by a summary of what was accomplished and a list of future preservation goals.
September 2, 1996
Depart San Francisco for Manitowoc. Upon arrival I contacted Isacco Valli, Director of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, and met with him to discuss the immediate plan for preparation work to get USS Cobia ready to move into drydock. I stopped by submarine to look things over with my assistant Jim Adams who traveled with me from San Francisco to assist in moving the submarine and the preparations need.
September 3, 1996
Arrive at USS Cobia at 0600 to begin work. Worked with Paul Rutherford, maintenance superintendent at USS Cobia, and Jim Adams, USS Pampanito volunteer, to begin opening ballast and fuel oil tanks for removal of water and oil. Currently Cobia is drawing 16' 2" and a draft of 14' is required to enter the drydock. Javco Company arrives to begin pumping into a vacuum truck. Once pumping has begun attention is turned to items that need to be accomplished prior to departure on September 5. The rudder is approximately 27 degrees to starboard. Attempts to move the rudder back to center by hand fail due to a lack of hydraulic fluid in the system. Thirty gallons of hydraulic oil is ordered and a thirty ton porta-power is borrowed from a near by marine construction company. The rudder is successfully centered by pushing on the ram with the portable power. The thirty gallons of hydraulic oil will be used at a future date and was stowed aboard the submarine. Kaddinger Towing begins working on the list of items needed to be done specified by George Leightner, the marine surveyor, and the Coast Guard. The day's pumping brought the vessel up about 10 inches. An inspection of the vessel revealed that there might not be enough time to accomplish the desired draft prior to departure and that some pumping might have to be done at the shipyard. Several detail items were attended to and the work progressed well.
September 4, 1996
Pumping resumed and the boat was raised to 15'. Several tanks were pumped to achieve not only the raise but to keep her in trim as well. At the end of the day six inches were still required and plans were made to continue removal at the shipyard. Met with George Leightner to discuss his recommendations and further assess the vessels seaworthiness for the tow. The permanent mooring lines were removed and fiber lines were installed. The gangway was removed as well as the gas, phone and electrical lines. Met with the Coast Guard for final inspection of the vessel. Items required by the Coast Guard were obtained and the boat was set for departure the next morning at dawn.
September 5, 1996
Departed for Bay Ship at Sturgeon Bay. Very foggy for the start of the trip and slow going until the fog burned off about two hours later. Very beautiful day on the lake and smooth going. Regular inspections of the vessel were performed during the passage to monitor any possible water intrusion, torpedo tubes and the after engine room sea chest especially. No problems.
Arrived at the shipyard at about 1500 and tied up in the channel at the front of the shipyard. The Javco truck was waiting and we began to finish the pumping to achieve a 14' draft both fore and aft. The pumping continued until 0300 (9/6) and the truck left to discharge the removed oil in Green Bay with plans to return ASAP.
I met with the dockmaster and reviewed the blocking plan and the setup in the drydock. I approved the plan, which is a modified version of the Navy three docking plan. The measurements were all taken from the original docking plan for SS-245. The shipyard appears to be clean, organized and active.
September 6, 1996
Not much sleep last night. We started pumping when we arrived and continued until about 0300. Even then we pumped until 1100 today and finally moved in the drydock. They were very careful and competent and the boat was on the blocks by about 1800. Richard Myrick, Pampanito volunteer recorded the entire process in time lapse on 16mm movie film. Upon inspection the boat appears to be in great shape, although much of the underwater hull is obscured my zebra mussels.
I got permission to remove the doghouse over the crews mess hatch but the flag poles on the main deck to achieve Cobia's WW II profile. I am way too tired to write now as I have had no more than five hours sleep each night for about a week. Last night I got only three. No work tomorrow, good I need the sleep.
September 7, 1996
We cut off the flagpoles and memorial stands along the after main deck. Surveyed underwater hull carefully for any problem areas. Aside form doubler plates needed in the way of the dolphins where the hull is chaffing and the replacement of the section of crushed superstructure amidships the is no structural work. There are some small wasted sections around the forward tubes that will be inserted with new steel. Further inspections will be conducted when the hull has been cleaned.
September 8, 1996
Jim and I began to unravel the mysteries of the sanitary system with the goal of putting the two heads in the after battery on line for use in a planned overnight program. The sanitary system is very different than Pampanito. It has a small sanitary tank (344 gallons) and four through hull fittings instead of two. The heads could be flushed directly overboard when on the surface or dumped into the tank at depth or in port. The plan is to clean and coat the tank, flush it with river water and repipe the discharge topside so that the tank can be blown into the sewer system alongside the pier at the Museum. We also discovered two reserve lube oil tanks that are full. One on each side of the sanitary tank which is why the sanitary tank has such a small capacity.
Later in the afternoon I was interviewed by the local paper for a possible feature story. Public relations is a very important aspect of this project. I met with Isacco Valli to discuss the meeting tomorrow with the shipyard about revising the scope of work. The priorities have shifted, as I anticipated, now that we have had a chance to get our first close look at the underwater hull.
September 9, 1996
Met with the shipyard to discuss the modifications to the bid items. We decided not to repair the bilge keel, bow buoyancy tank, and to open the forward engine room sea chest (rather than blank the after one), and no work is required on the shafts. In addition we want to add the following items; doubler plates in the way of the chaffing points caused by the mooring dolphins, the above mentioned sanitary tank work, sand sweep and paint topsides and blank various hull openings. An additional item under discussion are to replace the tented tourist accesses with steel doghouses.
They began scraping and cleaning the hull on the second shift until 2400.
September 10, 1996
Work began on power washing the zebra mussels off the underwater hull. There are lots of them and they are starting to stink. They are packed in all the void spaces around the torpedo tubes and chain locker. The chain was removed from the boat and placed in a large steel cage for shipping back to Manitowoc. Removal of the crushed section of superstructure on the port side began. This allowed better access to the areas around the mufflers and I inspected the waterways and the problem with the vent risers. The problem is that they rise up out of the waterways and over the years the bottom has rusted through. When the waterways fill up with rain water and fills up the tanks. Over the years the boat has settled over two feet. Tanks I inspected six years ago that were dry are now flooded from rain. Initially I thought we could just lift the riser and blank it off but there are problems with access and getting the risers out of the way. I am still thinking about this problem and plan to make sure all of the flapper valves inside the risers are tightly closed.
I went down in the dock last night at the end of the second shift at 2400 and talked to the night foreman about the work and procedures on the second shift.
September 11, 1996
The forward torpedo tube shutter doors on the port side were removed today. It proved to be easier than I had anticipated because the pins that attach the doors to the muzzle doors were gone and the access to the tracks that the doors slide on have built in notches. The problem was the mussels gumming everything up. The area behind the doors is packed and the bottom area is full of mud. It appears that the original location of the submarine at the old Museum was not deep enough and the boat sat in the mud. Not only is there a lot of mud in the free flood but the coatings along the keel are worn away.
I pumped the chain locker water out to try and find out why it not free flooding. Still no answers because the bottom of the locker is full of mud.
I traced out the sanitary tank #3 discharge line to see what was involved in repiping it above the waterline so that it could be blown or pumped. It is a small tank, only 344 gallons, that has a full lube oil on either side. Paul Rutherford and I opened the tank through which it passes and found it to be half full of water so we have to wait to inspect it after it is pumped.
The work is continuing on the crushed section of superstructure on the port side. Most of the damaged material has been removed and they began to make templates to fabricate the new frames and shell plate. They are doing an excellent job.
They finished water blasting the underwater hull and on the second shift most of the mussels were removed from the dock. Now that I can see the obscured areas of the hull I can see that there is some pitting and a few feet of wasted seams. It looks like electrolysis. There are also a lot of deep pits around the area below the section of crushed superstructure which I am sure is related. Once the coatings were removed by hitting the pier these areas were no longer protected. The protective covers for the shafts and taper have some bad spots that went through when they were blasted.
September 12, 1996
Very windy and cold today. The drydock is bouncing around a bit.
They set in the first piece of the new superstructure today and it looks really good, they matched the old pieces exactly. They were very careful to get all the details right. They also removed all three shutter doors forward on the starboard side and began removing the access plates into the forward void space. Work continued on setting up the enclosure for the removal of the lead paint. I found many more pits around the hull but the worst place is still amidships on the port side.
September 13, 1996
There was a mix-up with the pumping schedule, Javco showed up but only to pump the yard tanks - not the boat. Burt Logan, former director of the WMM, stopped by to see the boat. He was very happy about the progress.
Charlie Wedel, the former president of the Submarine Veterans of WW II stopped by. He was very happy to see the boat on the blocks. I arranged for two laid off shipyard workers to work on the weekends to get some things done that are not in the scope of the shipyard work. Mostly we will be working on restoring the submarine to her WW II configuration.
September 14, 1996
Rain today. The two guys I hired, Pete Goudreu and Mike Hansen, arrived and I decided to work below today. I started by familiarizing them with the sub and gave them an overview of the work and the project. We began looking for the pieces to put the bunk supports in the after battery back together. We found the stanchions but not the wall hangers. Then we worked on the wardroom table, we found all the folding sections but not the extensions.
September 15, 1996
Mike and Pete started on the topside work. They are very good and nice guys to boot. They started cutting off the remnants of the flagpoles and all the other superfluous stuff on the after deck. They also began filling in all the round holes on the starboard side by inserting new steel, the flag poles have caused some damage to the deck over the years. It looks better already. I cleaned the area around the after tourist access. There was rotting wood, dirt, junk and several pockets of deep scale and rust. I chipped them all off and cleaned up most of the area. Once the area was cleaned scuppers were revealed that, if they were cleaned all this time, this area would have probably been OK.
September 16, 1996
Work continues on repairing the superstructure. All of the access plates forward have been removed and two additional holes cut on each side. I met with Pat O'Hearn to discuss the additional work items, disposal of the lead paint, blasting and painting topside, replacing some damaged superstructure forward at the waterline, and installing doubler plates in the way of the mooring dolphins. I then rented a car to drive the Board meeting of the Museum. I met with Isacco to discuss the financial aspect of the work - we are on track and the additional items were approved. I also asked approval to get prices for installing steel doghouses for tourist access. I should have bids for them soon. The meeting went very well and the board is very supportive of the project and seem to be very glad that I am here to help out. For my part, I am enjoying this project very much.
September 17, 1996
Paul Rutherford came up today and we did some work around the boat. Closed up the sanitary tank for now and sealed the lube oil tank. We dragged the bunk up from the forward battery so that we could drag it up and have it repaired, it had been cut in half to get it below sometime before the tourist hatches were installed. I went over with him the changes I plan to make to get the boat back to her WW II configuration, remove the ammo rack from the 40mm, remove the splinter shields from the 20mm, remove the after marker buoy, (the forward one sits flush with the deck and can stay for now,) remove all four radio insulators that were installed sometime in the 50s (as well as the stanchions,) remove the stanchions and the handrails from the forward deck and the handrails from the after deck, remove the flag pole from the side of the conning tower and the one from the stern, remove the awning forward of the 3" gun, and the stanchions for the string of lights. This will clean up the boat a lot and make her look more like the lean fighting machine she once was.
September 18, 1996
Today Paul and I worked most of the day on the after section below the superstructure. We made a lot of progress and have the area nearly done. Hard work. The marker buoy was removed and set ashore. This gave us access to probably the worst area I have seen on the boat, up until the buoy was removed it has inaccessible. The area is clogged up with rust, sand and dirt. We started working on it, but there is still a lot more to do.
September 19, 1996
The forward doubler plate is finished and the work on the superstructure is almost done. The test blast section to the superstructure doesn't look good. I had hoped that a light sweep would knock off the loose stuff but it looks bad, bumpy and scarred looking. The paint left is a pattern of different levels and should all come off. This makes me worry about what will happen in an SP-10 blast. I am sure the superstructure will go through in several places and will require repair. No problem if we had lots of money, but we don't. There is a lot of work to do before we go back to Manitowoc.
September 20, 1996
Isacco stopped by for the meeting with the DOT folks, which went well. They seemed impressed with the work. The superstructure is almost done, only a couple of welds left to do. It looks very good - excellent. We were unable to replace the rivets because of problems with backing them up. The whole section would have to be removed, set ashore and then lifted back in place, which is cost prohibitive. I decided to use carriage bolts that match the original rivets.
September 21, 1996
Isacco came up went into detail about the proposed changes to achieve the WW II configuration. As a professional curator he understood the logic very well and gave the go ahead to do it. I can't wait, we can accomplish this wok in a few weeks here at the shipyard and it took me years on Pampanito with a small crew and tourists everywhere.
Pete and Mike finished the Swiss cheese portions of the deck where the flagpoles once stood and it looks good. Pete duplicated the missing section of the SD antenna and it is perfect. They began working on the main deck problems. Broken hinges, and loose plates - faulty repairs over the years. They began manufacturing hinges that match the originals and repairing the thin sections. A lot of spiderweb cracks in the welds from the plates being walked on for so many years. I am going to recommend that the stanchions be moved to limit the amount of deck that the visitors are allowed to walk on. Then a plywood walk way can be added and the deck protected. The main deck was not designed to have that much foot traffic. Mike and Pete have quickly gotten with the program and have done some reading on WW II submarines. They are now pointing out all kinds of things that need to be done.
Paul Farace from USS Cod in Cleveland and Scott Klienschnitz from USS Requin in Pittsburgh drove up to check things out and were impressed. Neither had seen a WW II submarine up on the blocks.
September 22, 1996
I assisted with the Navy inspection of the submarine which are normally conducted by the Navy's Superintendent of Shipbuilding. The local office of SupShip had recently closed and NavSea (Naval Sea Systems Command) asked a Naval Reserve Commander to conduct the inspection, which went well. Some things were noted such as the lack of proper house keeping, oil in the bilges, etc. but they are easily remedied. The good news is that Jim Becka, the reserve Cdr. doing the inspection, is the CO of a reserve unit in Milwaukee, is interested in sending in reservists to do some work on the boat. This could be a landmark for Cobia and really make a difference. They have technical expertise and people who want to work on the vessel. If he can get it going and the Museum is receptive the boat be the recipient of a lot of good work. I hope this works out.
September 23, 1996
The containment tent is almost finished and the blasting will begin soon. The second shift continued the assembly. The forward doubler plate is done and they finished the superstructure. The blanking plate came off the forward engine room sea chest and the screen is intact.
I talked to Pat O'Hearn about the possibility of removing the non-submarine chain from the storage locker forward and perhaps trading it and the post war junction box and shore power wire for a section of copper wire to replace the aluminum wire used in the main shore power feeder. The aluminum wire is not suitable for marine use. One of the lugs in the main box had fused and it was just a question of time until the circuits failed.
September 24, 1996
They finished the lead paint enclosure during the day shift, they enclosed only the section behind the conning tower. The blasting began on the second shift. They got the rudder, the stern planes and some of the underwater body. It is hard to inspect as they go because of the airborne lead paint and I have to wait until they go to lunch or look the next morning. The steel looks good and only minor repairs are needed.
Stu Fett, the electrical foreman, meggered the boat today and got a dead zero reading, which means that there are grounds, probably several, to the hull. Along with the aluminum wire, the non-marine wiring topside the electrical system on the boat needs to almost be completely redone. The boat's original wiring is pretty good, it is the things that have been added are the problem. The grounds should be located and fixed as soon as possible, by a marine electrician. I developed a plan to replace the aluminum wire with copper and add to the load limit of the shore power feeder.
September 25, 1996
The blasting continued throughout the day and swing shifts. I will have to wait until morning to get a good look. I discussed the paint scheme with Jack Schmidt, the paint foreman, and chose the topside colors. I started work on the 40mm gun yesterday and found it had been painted with a rubber based paint which is very difficult to remove. The best thing would be to remove the gun and set it in a workshop so that it can be disassembled and properly treated. I did some chipping on the conning tower prep job, I don't want the conning tower to be sand blasted because the sand will get into everything, like the periscope bearings, etc. The conning tower will have to be prepped by hand. The boat must look good upon return and there is not a lot of time so the days have become very long in an attempt to get the job done.
September 26, 1996
Rain. The work done on the after section of the underwater hull and the superstructure will have to be partially redone because there was not enough time to get paint on it before the rain came and the tent leaks a bit. They set up to begin on the waterways. Discussed with Jim Brauer about the best way to treat the free floods around the torpedo tube muzzle doors. I decided to allow some access holes to be cut and they do not need to be patched up because the top plate is an inch thick. There is no other way to gain access to the enclosed shelf between the tubes. It will allow the interior space to be blasted and coated. This is what we did on Pampanito and it works well. Two access openings on the stern that had been removed in the past were cut out.
The steel and the welds on the hull look good. Some pitting, but overall it is very good. The superstructure went through in a couple of places when blasted and some minor repairs will be required, . The worst place is back on the turtle back at the end of the superstructure which will require some inserted steel.
September 27, 1996
The work on the waterways continued through both shifts. Isacco came up and we met with the shipyard to go over the final change orders and the costs to date. All is going well and it looks we will stay within the budget. This is very good news. We authorized the steel dog houses to replace the canvas enclosures and lifting doors. The new enclosures will have weather tight doors and will look a lot better. This will also solve the problem of rain continually entering the after room. The after one will stick up a bit, but the forward one will be set down on the pressure hull, recessed into the deck. The handrails will stop there and the entire forward deck will be open after the stanchions are removed. This will be a large part of regaining the sleek WW II profile. The submarine already looks much younger as she returns to the days of her youth. Too bad this does not work for people.
September 28, 1996
Continued the process of removing things from the boat that don't fit the mid 1945 time frame. No work could be done on the after section of the boat because of the blasting, they are working on the waterways. The 50s radio insulators and stanchions were removed. A rotted section of channel was cut off, it will be replaced. Traced out the added wiring that led to the bridge, all of which is non-code. Removed the fuses and made plans to remove it all. The splinter shields on the 20mm gun were removed and set on deck.
September 29, 1996
Continued the removal of things from the conning tower. All of the non historic wiring was removed along with plywood, the junction boxes, remnants of a jury setup to the whip antenna and the photo cell that turned on the lights. The light over the hull numbers was removed because they will no longer be there. The boat hook brackets and two more of the 50s radio wire stanchions were removed (only one to go.) The deck of the bridge was loose and rotting so we pulled it back into line and welded it down so it would be solid. It is still in need of a more permanent repair and replacement of the supports, but it is OK for now. The masthead light had had a large plate and reflector added to it sometime after the war and the base plate under it and the support brackets had rotted off. The entire assembly was removed and what was left of the original base plate was saved so that a new one could be made next week. A rotted piece of angle support on the side of the conning tower was cut off to reveal the side of the conning tower where it was attached was gone as well. The side was repaired and a new support added.
Painting began today, a break in the rain. The superstructure was primed with an epoxy flat primer. Went over the repairs to the sections that blasted through with Jim. I found a place on the bottom of the port stern plane that had blasted through. I repaired it and several small holes on the housing that had been installed on the shafts and the dunce cap over the taper with Splash Zone, a very tough underwater epoxy putty. They are not structural areas and the putty will seal them up. Turned the rudder 30 degrees to starboard to allow access to the bottom of the free flood. There is a small bolted plate there and will allow for the sand to be removed. Removed a large towing rusted cable that had been stored in #10 torpedo tube. It left rust inside the tube which will have to be cleaned out.
October 1, 1996
Removed the whip antenna behind the SD radar mast. The bracket was cut because the bolts were frozen, and then the remains of the bracket mounted to the mast were washed off with a torch. Although whip antennas were in use during the last months of the war they were rare and came into use more often during the war. In looking at photos taken during the war it was definitely an added item not originally installed. The conning tower now has her clean WW II lines back. I also cleaned the rust off the #1 periscope from a box hung from the crane with fine emery cloth soaked in hydraulic fluid and rags. It had a lot of surface rust and some pitting. It is not good for the scope to remain extended year after year like this. It looks like it is tilted very slightly to starboard probably because of wear to the bearings inside the mast.
Went over all the hull blanks with Jim Brauer. The forward sea chest has been opened already. The cooling water suction and discharge for the high pressure air compressors will remain open. The flushing water for the heads amidships will be opened and all the other through hull fittings will be closed. The discharge for #3 sanitary tank has a bolted flange and it will be seal welded so that at some time in the future it can be piped topside from inside the tank at some point in the future if desired.
Began knocking all the rust and loose paint from the conning tower starting at the top and working down. A needle gun was used. Most of the cracks in the paint held rust pockets. At some point in the near future all of the paint on the conning tower should be removed by hand (so as not to get sand in the bearings,) but the goal of this job is to get rid of all the rust pockets and loose paint so that it can be repainted. Some small cracks around the UHF stub antenna were sealed with Splash Zone.
October 2, 1996
Cold and very windy today, howling in fact. The tent is blowing to shreds and waving in the wind, but it is dry so they were able to get the third coat of paint on the boat. The only thing left to do on the stern section of the underwater hull is to finish the free flood, which they are working on tonight. They are also cleaning out the waterways forward and getting ready to blast. The welders closed up the designated through hull fittings forward. I am going to have the main engine sea chest valves checked out to make sure they are OK.
Paul and went after the rust and loose paint on the conning tower but it was very difficult because of the wind, I have paint chips in my ears. A lot of bad rust pockets and wasted metal on the bridge and the deck behind. The painting that has been done for at least the last twenty years has been to make the boat look better and not for the primary reason that metal is painted, to protect it from rust. A lot of repairs are needed all over the superstructure and regular maintenance is mandatory. A portion of historic fabric has been lost or compromised. We got primer on what we could but the wind made it very difficult. Hopefully it will die down tomorrow and we can get to it tomorrow.
October 3, 1996
Cold and very clear. Met with Jack Schmidt to discuss the waterway blasting. A section of the superstructure will have to be cut away on both sides to allow access under the after engine room exhaust valve about two frames wide. The coal tar used on some of these areas is about six inches thick and must be removed to allow for the water to flow all the way aft as it collects in the waterways so that it can be pumped over instead of being allowed to sit. They removed what was left of the tent and are continuing on the blasting on the aft free flood and the waterways. Jack noted a leak on the blanking plate on the flood port under the forward engine room sea chest. It will have to be rewelded after the boat is fleeted because it is obscured by the blocking. Now that the paint has been blasted off the superstructure a lot of little problems have revealed themselves, such as small cracks in the welds around some hinges and badly done repairs. The layers of paint had been hiding them. This is the same problem I found on the bridge area.
Large wire rope towing cable (very rusted) was removed from the #10 torpedo tube and put ashore for disposal. It had rusted inside the tube but caused no permanent damage.
Decided today to blank off both water supply lines to the crew's head amidships. They are located just below the waterline and are subject to freezing. The tank is flooded up to the approximate level of the intakes and I suspect that when we pump the tank we will find that they have frozen and burst. Even if that is not the case it will always be a potential danger. The best way for them to go is to either place a head on shoreside to use for the overnight program, or if they want to activate the heads they can supply the flushing line with a water line from shore. That way if it bursts they can replace it without flooding the tank.
Work is almost complete on the after section and they took the tent off today. The tent forward is complete and blasting will begin Monday. On the evening shift they cleaned out the after free flood. They cut a small section of the superstructure out by the engine exhaust to allow access to the waterways under the mufflers. The waterways are almost complete and are coated with the zinc primer.
October 5, 1996
Today we repaired the holes in the deck on the forward section under the tent so that they could be blasted. A large cement filled box was removed from the 3" gun to allow access to the yoke across the top of the gun, it was pretty badly rusted. The rust swollen seam across the forward gun deck was cleaned of rust and flattened back down and sealed with epoxy. The masthead light base was fabricated and installed. Several pairs of original type deck hinges were also fabricated.
October 6, 1996
Removed the upper lookout platform. I had hoped to salvage the ring and just replace the platform itself but the whole thing was rotten. There was heavy scale underneath which was cleaned off. Fabricated an entire new unit out of thicker steel which will be painted and replaced next week end. Continued the work on the after main deck - replacing bad or broken hinges and patching holes in the deck. The forward periscope well was sealed with a 1/8" piece of neoprene gasket material applied with silicone gasket sealer to prevent rain water from entering the well.
October 7, 1996
Began preparing the cutout for the after steel doghouse. It needs to be enlarged somewhat and new supports for the deck installed. Inspected the blanks on the hull - all are finished except three. Blasting on the after free flood was completed and the first coat of paint was applied. The blasting on the underwater hull forward was begun.
October 8, 1996
Inspected the waterway work. One more cutout is required so that access can be gained and the water will flow all the way aft when the job is done. Additionally, the supports for the mufflers must be cut back in the center of the section to allow what appears to be solid coal tar to be removed. This should be the final block so that when finished the water that accumulates in the waterways will flow aft where it can be pumped out.
Went over the remaining steel work on the after section with Jim Brauer. There is not much left to do - small patches where it blasted through on the turtleback need to have new steel inserted, the cutouts on the side of the superstructure, eight small oval shaped cutouts on the new section of superstructure to match the ones on the starboard side, a small plate added to the main deck needs to be bent so that it can be put back on with original type hinges. Blasting on the forward section and work on the cutout for the after doghouse continue. I decided to have a 24" square door cut into the new plate that is being made to cover the after marker buoy to allow access in the future. This is where the junction box for the shore power feed will be relocated. Once the new doghouse is installed it can no longer be placed where it was as there will no longer be access.
I finished applying the camouflage black to the 40mm gun. The new upper lookout platform and the new mounting plate for the masthead light were primed and painted. The top of the platform was coated with non-skid. Originally the platform was a cylindrical piece of flat stock with the plate welded at the bottom so there was a toe plate around it. This caused water to be trapped underneath and is why it rotted away. The new design was inverted so that the plate sits on top, thus the non-skid. Small deviations from the original specs can be tolerated if they are documented. More work was done on priming the areas where rust and loose paint were removed with a needle gun.
October 9, 1996
The section of the turtleback that went away in sandblasting was cropped out and replaced today, all that remains is to finish the welds and grind them flush. The two deck plates that had been added with house hinges were cleaned up and the hole pattern that matches the deck were added. One more small plate remains and we can hopefully finish off the main deck this weekend. The blasting is almost complete, both forward and in the waterways aft. The afternoon brought rain and some reblasting will be required. Not much could be done on the conning tower because of the dust leaking out of the containment forward. A large part of the day was spent catching up on paper work.
October 10, 1996
Cold and clear. Blasting continued on the forward section, they worked two shifts and got a lot of it done. The hole for the after doghouse was finished and we opened the trap door to remove the angle bar frame around the seat. The grinding around the cut out and the opening for the trap door were cleaned up and it is ready for the door.
October 11, 1996
The blasting on the hull and superstructure was finished on the day shift and they blew it down with air on the swing shift. The coat of 238 was applied around the waterline and the superstructure was coated with primer. The after doghouse was lowered into place, fit and tacked into place. Met with Pat O'Hearn and Isacco to discuss the progress and finances.
October 12, 1996
Burned off the last of the 50s radio wire stanchions and continued repairing the holes in the main deck. The stanchions behind the wooden deck were removed and the holes underneath were repaired. We are going to move them in about a foot so that they are further away from the edge. Several new hinges were installed, fifteen more are required to complete the after deck. Several loose plates were tacked down and one of the new plates was installed. The priming was finished on the conning tower after deck and the holes were repaired with Splash Zone. The swollen seam that had been repaired on the forward gun deck was sealed with Splash Zone and primed. The swollen seam around the forward gun deck was partially repaired until the paint fumes got too bad. They are applying coats of the 235 on the underwater hull.
Welded down new upper lookout platform. Removed two bottom plates where radio wire stanchions amidships had been removed. In both cases the steel shell of the sub has severely deteriorated underneath and both required full size inserts. The plate had to be rolled by hand by heating and rolling the plate between a set of wooden wedges. This worked very well. The last 50s radio insulator on the after section of the conning tower was removed. This is the last of the big items to be removed from the boat to achieve the 1945 profile. The swollen seam around the edge of the forward gun deck and the mounting holes for the brass plaques were completed by sealing them with Splash Zone. After it cured it was smoothed and feathered. Began removing the main deck stanchions on the starboard side and welding the small pads about a foot inboard to get them off of the curved portion of the shell and to make the tour route safer. Under each one was a hole that had to be patched with a welded insert. A rotted kicker pipe on one stanchion was replaced. Began removing all the loose paint on the after section of the main deck with a needle gun. The goal is to leave all the paint that is bonded and repaint for cosmetic purposes. The plates should be completely cleaned and recoated next season. Cleaned up the after deck as much as possible. All the hoses and wires were coiled up and scrap metal piled up. This not only eliminated most of the tripping hazards but allowed access to more of the deck for prep work.
October 14, 1996
The waterways forward were cleaned out and blasting begun. The inserted sections on the turtleback were welded up and the deck section in front of the after doghouse was cut to fit into the deck. Continued removing all the loose paint from the main deck with a needle gun. The intent is to prepare the surface just enough for an acceptable cosmetic paint job. Began welding back the sections removed for sand removal and access from the stern free flood. Both engine room sea chests were coated with a zinc paint to minimize the return of the zebra mussels. Feathered out the areas where the radio insulator was removed on the starboard side.
October 15, 1996
They ground smooth the inserts on the turtleback and started seal welding the after doghouse. The replacement of the sections removed from the stern free flood continued. Sandblasting continued on the forward waterways. I asked Jim Brauer if he could make some hinge parts to expedite the weekend work and he is having enough for twelve pairs cut. Continued on the needle gun work on the after deck, about 2/3 done. The plate for the after marker buoy was installed. The only modification to what the original looked like is that a two foot access was cut into it which will be mounted with the original type deck hinges. This marker buoy is a post war type that is oval shaped, the original would have been round. The weep holes in the frames in the after sections of the waterways were enlarged to allow for the water to flow to the stern as it collects.
October 16, 1996
Paul and I put in a long day working on the after deck. The loose paint is removed with the needle gun and then feathered with a wire wheel. Most of the deck is done, about another full day's work. The brass plates on the deck were cleaned of paint and polished with the wire wheel. Several mounting screws are missing. They continued on the after doghouse and got it completely seal welded. They started on the steel work forward. The blasting was completed on the waterways forward and the cathacoat paint was applied to hold it as it is going to rain tomorrow.
October 17, 1996
The stairs and the platform were installed in the after doghouse. We decided to remove the railing on the lower part of the ladder and install a new continuous railing from top to bottom. It would have been unsafe to have visitors shift their grip halfway up the ladder.
The steel work is progressing forward and all of the new pieces have been installed. Several new pieces had to be inserted on the starboard side at the bottom of the bow buoyancy tank. They made a new 5 & 6 on each side for draft marks. They also began bolting back the removable plates and got all the ones on the starboard side installed. The screws were coated with an anti-seizing compound. They began cleaning up the sand and continued through both shifts. The forward section of the boat was hosed down to remove the sand and dust. Sand and water came into the control room in two places, the fittings needed to be plugged.
October 18, 1996
The door was installed in the after doghouse and tacked into place. The platform inside the door was made from diamond plate and set into place. Went over the remaining steel work with Jim and gave him a drawing of the two radio "wings" that mount on the side of the conning tower, they will be ready next week. Also pointed out three sections on the forward superstructure that blasted through that require inserted steel. Painting on the light gray section of the superstructure was started on the port side. The new steel inserted in the bow sections was welded into place and plates on the port side were bolted back into place. Work continued on removing the sand from under the superstructure through both shifts.
Worked on the stanchions on the after deck. They were all moved in about one foot to get them in from the curves section of the superstructure. A few of them were rotted away and had been repaired by bolting a pole up from the under side to stop them from wiggling. The rot was because when they were installed they were not completely welded and moisture and oxygen got inside the pipes. The after two were completely wasted away at the base with almost and inch of weld repairs. The wire between the stanchions was put back and drawn tight. In all three new stanchions were added. Small pads were attached to the doghouse and chains were hung from the last stanchion to the doghouse. The feathering on the chipped areas of the main deck was completed. Two more patches were inserted in holes in the deck and ground flush.
October 20, 1996
Continued on the main deck. The new arrangement for the stanchions was worked out in which the stanchions on the port side are moved all the way to the starboard side to make a four foot wide walkway. The after two stanchions were removed, one of them completely rotted off at the base and a pole inserted inside with tin wrapped around the base to conceal the rot. Several new sets of hinges were fabricated and installed. All of them except two (for a plate that was added and needs to be flattened and bent again to fit into the opening) were installed. Four broken hinges were repaired. The added pad eyes on the after fair lead were removed as was the added hand grab at the after escape hatch. The remains of several welds were removed from the deck behind the doghouse. A torn section of the superstructure was repaired. The after deck is now almost complete except for one plate and the stanchions on the inboard side. The welds on the last of the 50s radio insulators were ground flush and a short piece of railing that had been added under the 40mm gun was removed.
The entire conning tower was still covered with dust and debris from sand blasting, which was not apparent until it had dried out. It was all scrubbed with brush and fire hose twice. It is still not clean and will require more work this week before paint can be applied. Years of accumulated dirt was removed from the base of the conning tower. It was so packed in it had to be removed with a hammer and screwdriver. It was then washed down. The guard shack was prepared for removal. All of the glass was removed. The bottom panels, insulation and flooring were also removed. Dirt and crud were cleaned out.
October 21, 1996
All six of the forward torpedo tube shutter doors were installed. In the past they were held in place with 4" X 6" steel plates welded over the edges at each end. I decided to have them inset four pieces of round stock four inches long in the cracks at the top and bottom of each door and weld them in place. Normally they are held in place by the bolt on the outside of the muzzle door, but they were all missing. The new method will be less obtrusive visually and still do the job. The welds from the old pads were ground off.
Most of the steel work forward is done. The holes that blasted through in the forward superstructure have been cut out and new steel inserted which remains to be welded. The replacement steel at the waterline forward of the dive planes around the base of the bow buoyancy tank is finished and ground flush. The starboard section of superstructure by the engine room that was cut out for access is welded back into place and the port side section in tacked in. It was finished on the second shift. Jim Brauer took the plate from the after deck and sent it to the shop to be flattened and bent with an inch taken off each side so that it will fit into the opening.
Most of the light gray on the forward superstructure has been painted, except for the bow section where they are welding, and they went along and put black in all the limber holes and under the superstructure to cover the gray primer over spray. They continued to remove sand from under the superstructure and it is starting to look pretty good.
I filled several small rust spots and holes with epoxy putty. I also repaired the rotted section at the top of the three inch gun with putty and then went over all the patches with a grinder to fair them out. The section of sheet metal that had been installed around the after battery hatch was removed and the area behind it was cleaned out.
The bottom of the bow buoyancy tank has some serious rust problems. Under the paint are large bubbles that look like painted over rivets. I chipped a few away with a hammer to see what was going on and found them to be black crystalline rust, some of which were " deep. Using an air chisel I removed all of them which took about three hours, hard work indeed. Jack said that he would paint in there to cover the over spray so I wanted to get the rust out before he did. Surprisingly it only went through the bottom plate in one place, although it went through the frames in several places.
October 22, 1996
Things are starting to come together. The steel work is finished up forward, they welded back the cutouts at the bottom of the free flood. The forward torpedo loading hatch that was under the main deck was removed (very tight fit ) without having to remove any of the support brackets. It was rigged up to the hatch with chain jacks and lifted out by crane. The coil of rotting rope that was on the main deck forward was disposed of. The tent was removed as well as the steel strongback that supported it. They began to tear down the staging and supports for the tent. The guard shack that was located over the crew's mess hatch was removed, something I have been looking forward to throughout this whole project. It was attached to the deck with only ten nails and came off cleanly. The submarine now has a much cleaner look and you can see the entire conning tower from the after deck. More than anything we removed from the submarine that was the main thing that spoiled her lines, Cobia looks like a submarine again. I mounted the searchlight so that it could be painted with the conning tower.
The prediction this morning was for a 100% chance of rain, but the dry weather held and we were able to do some painting. The light gray was almost finished and they started on the measure 32 camouflage scheme. The darker gray was cut in and the stern was painted black. Jack Schmidt wasn't happy with the way the blending was done so he did it himself and it looks very good. They started to paint the topcoat on the waterways and continued through the second shift, they are about half done.
The items removed from the submarine that are sitting in the yard that need to be saved and shipped back to the Museum are: the whip antenna, the marker buoy, the ammo rack for the 40mm gun, the splinter shields for the 20mm gun, and the anchor chain. I think the guard shack can be left here for disposal.
October 23, 1996
Rain most of the day. They continued to remove staging and clean the dock. They also continued to work on the forward doghouse cut out and lifted it into place in the afternoon. The after doghouse was finished with the addition of the hand rails and the flashing around the outside. Two small leaks were welded. Worked on preparing the forward deck, the bottom section of the conning tower and the forward gun deck for painting, chipping loose paint and feathering. It was then washed off with a fire hose.
October 24, 1996
Work continued on the forward doghouse and cleaning of the drydock. The bare metal places from recent work on the deck and conning tower were primed and work began on preparing the wooded deck for painting. A swollen seam on the starboard side of the conning tower was prepared for sealing by hammering out the rust and bending it back into shape. It will be puttied tomorrow. The wire from the stanchions on the forward deck was removed, these stanchions are all going to be removed. A bad place in the wire where two pieces were clamped together was fixed by adding a shackle, lengthening the turnbuckle and attaching it one stanchion shorter. Two bent brackets that had been added to the conning tower were removed. The radio stanchions that had been removed and the last insulator were stowed below and the davit removed from the forward deck was installed over the after battery hatch. The doubled wire on the port side by the gangway landing was untangled and the rotted twine serving was removed.
October 25, 1996
Work continued on the forward doghouse. The door was tacked in and the cutout enlarged to accommodate hand railings. Preparations were made to fleet the boat on Monday or Tuesday, moorings were connected and a centerline was established. A wire rope was rigged through the rising blocks forward to shift them and work continued on cleaning the sand out of the dock.
The stanchions that had been added to the forward deck were all removed and the welds ground flush. The stanchions and the wire will be used on the after deck for the inboard side of the walkway. Work continued on preparing the main deck and the forward gun deck for painting and all of the bare metal from the hot work and the scaled parts of the 3" gun were coated with primer. Loose paint on the wooded deck was scrapped and all of the dirt and loose paint was removed from in between the slats. Several problems around the base of the conning tower were fixed. All of dirt and rust scale was removed. It was so packed in that a hammer and screw driver had to be used. On the port side along the 40mm gun the rust scale was very thick and was scaled back. Work began on sealing around the edge of the after gun deck with epoxy putty.
October 26, 1996
The deck plate that had been modified to fit in its cut out was further fitted into place and a attached with a new set of hinges. All of the stanchions on the inboard side of the walkway on the after deck and two larger stanchions on each side of the gangway landing were welded to the deck and the wire was fit into place. A new fitting will have to be added at the after end. Several items were fixed on the after deck - the three last loose plates were welded down. The new supports for the original long wire radio antennas were welded in to place on the conning tower. The rotted support under the 50mm gun mount on the port side of the conning tower was replaced. Work sealing the edge of the gun decks was finished. The base of the conning tower on the starboard side, forward of the after gun mound had severe swelling from rust. The rust was chipped out which revealed deterioration of the steel, several holes and four of the rivets had been pushed loose. The swollen seam was then hammered back into place as much as possible and filled with epoxy putty. The prep work on the forward deck was finished. The dogs for the door between the bridge and the forward gun deck were unfrozen, they had apparently never been greased. The top one works well but the bottom one is still very stiff. Arrangements were made to have Karen Hansen, Mike's wife who is a shipyard painter and steel worker, come in tomorrow to paint. Two paint spray pots were left on deck with the colors needed, light gray and black. Supplies of both colors were located in the paint shack. All that is needed is dry weather tomorrow and we can begin painting the main deck and the 3" gun.
October 27, 1996
It was indeed clear and dry today but the wind was terrible. The 3" gun was sprayed gray but so was a lot of other stuff. It looks a lot better and the over spray damage to anything that was not going to be painted anyway was minimal. I will apply the black camouflage when the gray paint has dried. As a result of the wind we brushed and used a roller on the after main deck and completed the deck behind the doghouse and the area outside the walkway up to the gangway landing. It looks better than I thought it would although there is some retouching to do.
The rest of the railing wire was installed except the inboard side of the walkway which will have to have a fitting installed on it to connect it. It can't be hooked up until the shipyard gangway is removed. The last section of the railing on the port side to the forward gangway stanchion was completed.
The original radio long wire mountings were installed. The supports on the side of the conning tower which had been installed yesterday were completed with angled braces below each one. The tall stanchion on the after deck was fabricated and installed. The only thing needed to complete the original setup is the wire back stay, which is fabricated but cannot be installed until the shipyard gangway is removed, and the wire and insulators, which I have aboard Pampanito and will send when needed.
Several small repairs were finished on the main deck - a cover was made for a 4" valve hole in the walkway, a small patch was installed on the starboard side, and the stanchions were all completed. There are still two of the curved mounting plates for the 50s radio stanchions remaining but there was no time to remove them and patch the holes underneath. We also wanted to remove the 40mm pedestal that the 20mm gun is mounted to and put it back in its original position directly on the main deck, but there was no time and no crane service available.
Except for these few items, the removal of the 3" gun, the installation of a 5" gun and the rest of the painting, the submarine is now very near her 1945 appearance.
October 28, 1996
Work continued on the forward doghouse. The stairs were installed and the handrails were fabricated. Angle bar supports were added around the cutout and the door was seal welded. Four of the ends of the topside railings had eye splices swaged in copper at the ends. The final prep work was done to the conning tower and it was blown down. All of the masking was done to protect the items not to be painted. It was entirely painted gray on the second shift. The after deck was cleared and more prep work was done. The base of conning tower was cleared of debris and coated with primer. There were eight bays in the waterways that had not been painted so I arranged to have them finished on the second shift tonight.
October 29, 1996
The submarine was fleeted today. The dock was flooded and the boat was shifted back 2.5 feet so that the portions of the hull obscured by blocks could be sandblasted and coated. The operation was a success and the boat was back on the blocks by 1400.
The camouflage paint scheme was worked on until rain began around 1300. The 3" gun and the ammo lockers were done and the fogged edge on the starboard side was finished. The bow section on the port side was done before the rain. Additionally some cutting in was done on the forward deck to make painting with a roller easier.
Work continued on the forward doghouse. One set of railings was fabricated and expended metal was tacked in around the sides of the cutout.
October 30, 1996
Tied up a lot of loose ends today and presented the shipyard with a final list of things to do. The cover was replaced on the after free flood. The masthead light was welded back together. The after inboard railings were finished. The back stay for the radio long wire stanchion was installed.
The forward deck was cut in so all that need be done is roller the deck. The camouflage scheme was very nearly completed. The 40mm gun was repainted. The door to the forward doghouse was fit better so it closes easily. Two broken welds on the MBT flood port blanks were repaired (another one was located once we fleeted the boat.) The sandblasting on the obscured portions of the underwater hull was finished and they were painted. The fogging of the black on the port side of the main deck was completed as well as the top deck of the conning tower, the forward edge of the conning tower and the searchlight. All of the topside tools and supplies were stowed. Arrangements were made for the copper shore power line and to apply black paint to the tank tops (if time and weather permit.) The weather did not permit everything that needed to be done to actually be done, some things (finish the main deck painting, paint the stanchions, etc.) will have to be done later in Manitowoc.
October 31, 1996
We had hoped to undock the boat today but high winds prevented that. Hopefully tomorrow will allow that to happen and we will tow the submarine back to Manitowoc on Saturday if weather permits.
The tank tops were painted with black enamel from the waterline up to hide the streaks created by sandblasting the waterways. The old shore power box and cable were removed from the after room and donated to the shipyard in exchange for a new copper shore power line to replace the aluminum wire. The new wire was strung and is ready to hook up.
The forward doghouse was finished and painted.
November 1, 1996
The wind slacked off enough today to move the boat out of the drydock and she was tied up along the seawall at 1100. Two tugs from Selvig and the yard tug moved her. The boat was inspected several times during the refloating and no leaks were found. After lunch shore power was restored, but there will be no phone line for the remainder of the stay at the yard. We are now tied up at the same location we were the first night we arrived at the yard. That seems like a long time ago, it was summer. The leaves were green and it was hot. Now, two months later it is winter and the leaves are gone. It is cold and the wind bites through you. The submarine has changed a lot as well. Her clock has been turned back and she looks tough and mean again.
The bad news is that Javco cannot come and pump and the tug cannot leave Milwaukee. This means that we won't tow the boat until Sunday. I have to be back in San Francisco on Monday morning for Pampanito's WW II crew reunion and must leave Sunday to fly home. I have enjoyed working on this project and regret having to leave one day before completion. I really wanted to see the boat tied up behind the Museum again before I left.
Because the starboard list is being caused by clear rainwater in a tank I borrowed a pump from the yard and pumped it overboard to correct the list, she is now on an even keel. We began sealing up the ballast tank covers which was made more difficult because of the paint that had gotten on the studs during the waterway project. Each stud has to be cleaned with a die nut before it can be tightened down. All of the final arrangements were made for departure from the yard.
The painting of the tank tops with black enamel was completed along the port side. The only thing that remains to do topside is paint the rest of the main deck, the gun decks and the stanchions.
A small leak in a sheer valve that comes out through the waterways leaked water into the control room was located. The pipe had rotted and opened up during blasting. It was repaired with epoxy putty, as was a small hole in one of the after gun deck stanchions.
November 2, 1996
Today was spent getting her ready for the tow. The gangway was removed and boards that can be easily removed put in its place. Arrangements were made to disconnect the electrical power. The tanks that were opened for pumping and inspection during hot work were closed and bolted down. We pumped all of the bilges. The engine rooms and the after torpedo room bilges were pumped into the after WRT which is now full. There is a small amount remaining in the after room which would not fit into the tank. The pump room and the remainder of the forward room bilges were pumped into the forward WRT. There are still a few things remaining to be tied down for the tow which Paul will take care of later this evening.
This is my final log entry written aboard Cobia. I leave for Manitowoc in about an hour and fly back to California early tomorrow morning. I have enjoyed working on this project and regret missing the final day of the project. I have been living aboard about the length of a war patrol - two months. I feel a sense of accomplishment at having played a role in her preservation and returning her to her wartime configuration.
NOTE: It was several days before the weather allowed for Cobia to return home, but she made it safely and now has resumed her role as a National Historic Landmark.
Summary of the Project
The overall goal of the project, simply stated, was to protect a National Historic Landmark in the most responsible manner possible. USS Cobia had not been drydocked in over thirty years, and at that time the goal was to extend her service by only a few years. The Navy knew that the submarine would soon be removed from service. Cobia had never been drydocked under Museum standards where the goal is to establish a plan to preserve the artifact indefinitely. The key issues were reinforcing the watertight integrity of the submarine, protecting as much of the historic material as possible, removal and disposal of lead based paint and repairing damaged areas. Once in drydock the submarine was completely accessible and a detailed evaluation of the sections of the vessel that had been previously inaccessible could be conducted.
The underwater hull was completely sand blasted (Steel Structures Painting Counsel SP-10) to remove all coatings and wasted material and to assure a good bond to the new coatings. Three coats of high build epoxy coatings were applied following any needed repairs to the underwater hull. A band of extremely tough epoxy along the entire waterline was applied under the new coatings to protect that area during the winter months from the abrasion caused by ice that forms there. All of the submerged free flooding areas were opened up and were also blasted and coated in the same manner. The submarine was then refloated, shifted and drydocked a second time so that the portions of the underwater hull that had been obscured by the blocks used to support the vessel could be similarly treated. It should be noted that sandblasting to white metal not only removes coatings but also removes historic fabric and should not be done any more than necessary. The goal in choosing the coatings used in this project was to minimize the need for complete blasting and use coating that are repairable with only spot blasting.
In order to remove the lead based coatings on the underwater hull and the sides of the superstructure a containment structure had to be installed around the submarine from the keel to the top of the main deck. A tent made of wood framing covered with plastic sheeting and wood paneling was constructed in two sections, with the after section done first. Once that section was completed and the lead paint was removed, the containment structure was removed and a new one constructed on the forward half of the submarine.
All of the blanking plates that had been installed to cover through hull fittings and the flood ports to the ballast tanks were inspected for soundness. Two of the ballast tank flood port blanks at the keel of the submarine that had developed cracked welds allowing water to enter the tanks were repaired by rewelding. Doubler plates to protect the hull were welded into place in two places where the hull was chaffing against the clusters of piles, or dolphins, used to moor the submarine. Several small steel plates were welded to the hull to blank off unnecessary through hull fittings.
A fifty foot section of the superstructure amidships on the port side that had been crushed when the submarine was forced against a pier during a storm during the 1960s was repaired. The damaged section was removed and all of the damaged frames were replaced. Sections of shell plate were rolled to match the originals and installed. It was not possible to rivet the sections as original because of access problems so they were installed with carriage bolts that matched the original rivets. The appearance of this section upon completion matched the original section.
Several wasted sections of the superstructure, mostly along the waterline in the bow and stern, were cropped out and new steel was inserted. The steel section of the main deck aft of the conning tower underwent extensive repair. The damage had been caused by the thousands of visitors walking on the deck which was not designed to accommodate such a high volume of constant traffic. Damage, mostly broken welds and hairline cracks in the steel plates, was also caused by the forces exerted by a set of ceremonial flagpoles installed on the deck. The cracks were repaired and some small sections were cropped out and new steel inserted. Several of the stanchions along the tour route on the after deck that support the wire hand rails had rotted and were replaced. The stanchions were relocated so that visitors were confined to a smaller section to the deck which could be protected by installing a plywood walkway that will be covered with non-skid material.
A section of the bridge deck on the conning tower had broken away from its supports and was unstable. The deck was pulled back into position and welded into place. Further repairs are required to complete this project, but the deck is now stable.
The secondary goal of the project was to restore the submarine to her mid 1945 configuration and appearance. Cobia was to look as she did during the most significant point in her history; as though she was ready to head back out on a war patrol. In many cases it is not possible to return a National Historic Landmark to the original historic configuration because irreversible changes had been made over the years. Although Cobia had been modified in the years following WW II, the changes were slight and easily reversed. All of the changes made in this project were documented in writing and photographs so that the changes made to Cobia following the war and her return to her WW II configuration are recorded.
Items that had been added by the Navy following WW II were removed and missing items were fabricated and installed. The remnants of a radio antenna wire system installed in the 1950s was removed. This system consisted of four ceramic insulators mounted to the conning tower and support stanchions mounted along the main deck. A thirty foot whip antenna mounted to the SD radar mast was also removed. The 1945 era supports for the long wire radio antenna were fabricated to match the originals and were mounted on the side of the conning tower in their original position. The stanchion that held the ends of the antenna wires was also fabricated to match the original and installed in position on the after section of the main deck.
The topmost lookout platform was severely rotted away and was removed to reveal corrosion problems underneath. The rust scale was removed and the area was treated and coated. A new lookout platform was constructed and welded into place. The masthead light had been altered from its original configuration with a large base plate and reflector added to it and the supports had broken welds. Once the plate and reflector were removed the remnants of the original mounting plate was located and used as a pattern to fabricate a new plate. The supports were repaired and the light installed on the new plate. The SD radar antenna was broken and half missing. A new section was fabricated and installed. The stanchions around the forward most deck were removed as was the large awning forward of the main deck gun. The combined effect of these measures was to return Cobia to her low, sleek WW II profile.
The twenty millimeter and forty millimeter deck guns were modified slightly to reflect how they were commonly configured aboard WW II submarines. The splinter shields on the 20mm gun were removed and an ammunition rack behind the 40mm gun was removed. The three-inch main deck gun had minor repairs made to it and loose paint and rust scale were removed before repainting the weapon. It should be noted that Cobia never carried a three-inch gun during her wartime career. She was commissioned with a four-inch fifty-caliber gun which was replaced later in the war with a five-inch 25-caliber gun. Efforts are under way to locate a five inch-gun.
Historically inaccurate repairs that had been made over the years were corrected. Hinged deck plates, mostly on the after deck, had been repaired with box hinges designed for residential use. The inappropriate hinges were removed and the original strap type hinges were fabricated and installed. Four of the hinged plates on the main deck were missing and covered with sheet metal so new plates were fabricated to match and were installed.
The topsides were repainted with a measure 32(SS) camouflage scheme. The vertical surfaces of the superstructure were painted with a haze gray on the forward section fading into a medium gray aft which faded into black on the stern. The horizontal surfaces, the main deck and gun decks, were painted black which was gently fogged over the edge to meet the gray. Many smaller details, such as the tops of the ammunition lockers, the searchlight, the lookout deck and the fairwater forward of the bridge, were fogged with black. The hull numbers, which were never carried while on patrol, were removed. The overall effect is that Cobia now looks very much like she did while patrolling the waters of the Pacific during WW II.
The project was a success. We were able to implement the preservation plan which helped to stabilize the historic fabric and the watertight integrity of the submarine. We were also able to thoroughly survey the entire submarine and get a more complete evaluation of her condition. The preservation work combined with the information gathered while the submarine was in drydock, forms a baseline to evaluate the condition of the submarine and to guide future preservation planning. The work, ongoing maintenance and long-range planning ensures that USS Cobia will survive intact well into the next century.
Preservation Goals for the Future
Any floating vessel needs to be drydocked on a regular basis. The interval between haulouts is dictated by the conditions to which the vessel is subjected and the level of ongoing maintenance applied. USS Cobia is fortunate that the conditions in her environment are fairly mild. The submarine is in relatively calm, fresh water. She has recently been the recipient intensive preservation work and new high tech coatings have been applied to her entire underwater body. Whereas USS Pampanito in San Francisco is subjected to a harsh marine environment and must be drydocked every five years to assure the preservation of the submarine and maintain the underwater coatings. Cobia, on the other hand, requires a much longer time between drydock periods and the underwater coatings will last much longer and require less maintenance. That interval between haulouts has yet to be determined.
Barring any unforeseen damage to the coatings they should last between thirty and fifty years. At that time the condition of the coating should be still very good and only minor repairs required which means that the cost and the time required to do the work will be much less than this initial haulout. That is not to say that localized problems will not occur or that the condition of the submarine should not be regularly monitored. The submarine will have to be drydocked again at some point in the future and it is my feeling that even though that point will not be reached for quite some time, that eventuality should be planned for now. Shipyard periods are expensive and prices of materials and labor continue to climb. The long-range planning that went into successfully executing this phase of Cobia's preservation can now become much longer range in scope. Knowing that the submarine will again be drydocked in the future will make funding the project a matter of establishing a savings plan. A small portion of the income generated by Cobia can be set aside and allowed to accrue interest with the intent of preparing for the future needs of the submarine. In the case of USS Pampanito, even with the five year drydock schedule, this amounts to only four cents on the dollar.
Regular ongoing maintenance is essential to preserving a large steel structure, especially one as complex as a submarine. All of the machinery aboard is an integral part of the historic fabric. While the underwater body of the submarine can only be maintained in a shipyard, the topside areas and the equipment below decks must be preserved and repaired on a regular basis while submarine sits at her berth. This is not only less expensive than repairing things that have been neglected and have gone to a critical stage, but also assures that as much as possible of the historic fabric remains intact for future generations. The WWM has identified this need and I want to underscore the importance of such a program.
This ongoing work falls into several general categories: electrical work, topside work, work under the superstructure, below decks work, restoration work and the preservation of the onboard machinery. The list of things that need to be done is extensive and many things will not be apparent until the work is underway. We have been working on Pampanito with a staff of eight and many more volunteers for fifteen years twenty-four hours a day. We have accomplished a lot, however new problems arise frequently and the work is ongoing. The goal of preservation is to continually move forward and not loose any ground in the process.
As mentioned, submarines are extremely complex and, at the time they were built, represented the state of the art in technology. For this reason, expertise from outside the Museum are sometimes required to accomplish goals and evaluate problems. Submarine qualified personnel, for example, are trained in these areas and can be accessed through the Submarine Veterans of WW II or within local Naval Reserve units, for example. Welders and electricians can be brought in as volunteers or as short term employees or contractors. Similarly, experienced machinists or mechanics can make projects that seem overwhelming become simple and routine. The important thing to remember in working with people with specialized skills outside is that they are usually not trained in Museum principles and must be supervised closely.
Documentation is a very important aspect of preservation and restoration work, both in written form and with photographs. Written documentation should contain descriptions of the work that is accomplished and the methods and materials used. An explanation of the reason the work was done should also be included. A work log should be maintained on a regular basis that contains all of the above mentioned information as well as routine information such as the weather, draft marks and the personnel involved in the work. Photographic documentation should also be done regularly to accompany the written information.
The following section contains general recommendations, but is by no means complete. The evaluation of all of the submarine's systems and localized problems in the structures of the boat is the subject of further study, as mentioned in my initial report. The most effective way to face these problems is to establish a methodology by which problems can be identified and solutions implemented.
Electrical work - This is perhaps the most perplexing aspect of WW II submarines. The systems aboard are extremely complex and they have been modified over the years and the changes are usually undocumented. Changes were made by each group of people responsible for the submarine for a wide variety of reasons. During WW II changes were made to accommodate new equipment or to make repairs. Further changes were made when Cobia was taken out of service and when she was put back into service, by the Naval Reserves, and by Museum personnel. There is also the effect of age on the systems to consider.
Electrical work can be very dangerous, both to the people doing the work and to the submarine itself. Qualified electricians who are familiar with the submarine's systems, marine wiring standards and the potential dangers involved should oversee all work. Based on tests performed at the shipyard Cobia's electrical systems contains grounds to the hull. This not only poses a danger to personnel doing work on the submarine but can cause electrolysis on the underwater hull of the submarine. Simply stated, this means that electrical discharges through the hull into the surrounding water, even very small ones, can take steel from the vessel. This can result in wasted weld seams and can adversely effect the bonding of underwater coatings to the hull. The electrical systems must be completely isolated from the hull and every effort should be made to locate and eliminate grounds. This can be a time consuming task and should be done systematically throughout the submarine, both to original circuits and ones that have been added.
There is a series of 115 alternating current (AC) circuits that have been added to Cobia, probably during the Naval Reserve period. The circuits consist of armor cable led throughout the submarine that is connected to common two pronged residential type outlets. Some of the circuits are hot and some are inactive. The entire system should be removed and the armor cable retained for future repairs, if it proves to be in acceptable condition.
The submarine is currently fed with single phase 220 AC which is divided into two legs of 115 AC, one of which feeds the lighting circuits aboard the submarine and the other feeds the heating system. Both of the onboard circuits should be checked to make sure they are isolated from the hull.
Most of the electrical equipment aboard the submarine is powered by direct current (DC.) In order to operate any of this equipment, such as compressors, pumps or periscope motors, a source of DC power must be established. This can best be done by feeding the battery buss aboard with DC power supplied by a rectifier which is placed in the battery tank or ashore. In that way the submarine is fed with DC through the circuits aboard without adding additional wiring. The original wiring, of course, should all be evaluated and repaired as needed before powering up any DC circuits. Great care must be exercised so that there is no danger to visitors from electrical shock and that all equipment is inoperable by the visiting public.
Topside work - All topside surfaces should be free of rust scale, properly coated and structural integrity should be maintained. Although many repairs were made in the shipyard there is still much that needs to be accomplished. The support structure under the bridge, for example, had broken loose and temporary repairs were made to support the deck but the area is still in need of permanent repairs. A list all of the projects that need to be done topside would undoubtedly be incomplete because a thorough survey has not been conducted. The key to solving problems is the development of a methodology which serves to identify problems before they occur. The goal is to achieve a state of preventative maintenance. This methodology is applicable to all preservation work.
Under the superstructure - There is much work that needs to be done in the area below the main deck. Rust scale and loose coatings can be found in localized pockets from bow to stern. Some of the foundations for equipment installed in this area, the supports for the forward torpedo impulse flasks for example, have deteriorated and are in need of repair and treatment. When the floor in the area used by the heating boiler was replaced, the old floor, which is mostly rust scale, was not completely removed and is sitting on top of the pressure hull. This section, as well as all of the remaining debris below the main deck, should be removed. Some steel replacement will be required.
A good way to approach this work is to systematically do a section at a time completely and move on to the next section.
Restoration work - This is a very broad topic and incorporates a variety of tasks and a fair amount of detective work. The work is guided by the goal of returning the boat to her mid 1945 appearance. Cobia is very complete and the amount of missing equipment is minimal. There are a few items to replace, such as bunks, but for the most part, the submarine is almost as she was during the war. Detailing the interior of the submarine so that it looks as it did during the war requires the same meticulous attention to detail and research that is apparent in the exhibits in the Museum.
A paint history of the submarine should be developed because many items below decks are painted the wrong color. Sample paint chips can be glued to a hard surface so that they can be sanded back at an extremely oblique angle to reveal all of the colors of paint used over the years until the original color is revealed. Keep in mind that most of the surfaces inside the submarine are coated with lead based coatings and all precautions should be taken. Only oil based paints should be used, preferably with corrosion inhibitors.
The WMM is in possession of a large number of blueprints that are invaluable in finding information about original installations. The Submarine Veterans of WW II can also be a great resource in solving question about how internal spaces looked during the war and what items are missing or not properly located.
Some general comments about operational machinery - Cobia is a technological landmark, as well as a historical landmark. The submarine is a time capsule of the technological state of the art in 1945, and a monument to the men and women who designed and built her. Cobia is a very complex machine with many interrelated systems. The technological advantage she offered her officers and crew is essential to understanding the role of US submarines in WW II. As time goes on her technology will increasingly be of interest to future generations. It is equally important to preserve the equipment aboard the submarine in wartime condition as it is to restore her appearance.
The best way to preserve a piece of machinery is to operate it periodically. Even if the onboard machinery is not actually operated, the equipment benefits from maintaining it as though it were going to be operated. If the exterior surfaces of equipment are the only aspect of preservation efforts, the internal components continue to deteriorate. Many problems are not revealed until the efforts to restore a piece of equipment to operational condition is attempted. Engines will seize up if not lubricated and moved regularly, moisture will collect in electrical equipment and motors if not periodically operated and mechanical linkages and bearings will freeze up.
Restoring and preserving this equipment requires expertise. Good intentions and a tech manual are not enough and can be dangerous. While tech manuals can provide a wealth of information and often define preventative maintenance procedures, there is no substitute for experience. Great care and caution must be taken when preserving machinery.
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum displayed a great deal of foresight by pursuing a preservation program for the submarine before it was mandated by a crisis situation. All too often this is not the case. Many historic ships develop life threatening problems before preservation issues are placed at the forefront. By identifying the long-term preservation of Cobia as a high priority, the Museum was able to define the specific needs of the submarine and develop a plan to meet those needs. This allowed the Museum to quantify and secure the funding needed, and then to implement the plan.
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum has set a high standard for the future preservation of USS Cobia. From accessing and defining the needs of the vessel, to planning and funding the drydocking of USS Cobia, the project serves as a model project for everyone who is working to save historic ships.
Appendix 1 - Drydocking of USS Cobia - Statement of Need
Appendix 2 - Shipyard Specifications
Appendix 3 - Minutes of Cobia Drydocking Meeting - 10/19/94
Appendix 4 - Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects
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