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Dreadnought 26-11-2011 16:40

US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Now and again, queries appear on the forum regarding US Navy floating dry docks, and not wanting to skew the threads these appear in, and also not wanting to take the established Admiralty Floating Docks thread off track, I thought it be approraite to start a new “sister” thread looking at this topic.

The first U.S. Navy floating dock appears to be a wooden one, used for the West Coast Dock at the Mare Island Naval Yard, Mare Island, California, in 1854. Interestingly, it was the only Navy yard for the Pacific Squadron and, in fact, the only repair facility on the entire PacificCoast. Other docks were apparently built at other yards, but little seems to be known of their history.

After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. Navy needed a dry dock in the western Pacific. In 1905, USS Dewey (YFD 1) was towed across the Atlantic and Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, and across the Indian Ocean, arriving at Olongapo, Philippines, 6½ months later. This dock will be covered in due course.

Dewey was built at Maryland Steel (Bethlehem Steel from 1918), Sparrow’s point Maryland, and another early dock, YFD2 was also built there, seemingly, before Dewey in 1900. Her history, and demise at Pearl Harbor, will be featured in a future post. I have found a record that Maryland Steel built a dock for the U.S. navy for service at Algiers on the Mississippi, near New Orleans. This was a four-section self-docking Clark Stansfield design at 525 feet long, and with a lifting capacity of 18,000 tons. The contract to build this dock was awarded in 1899 at a cost of $810,000. I have yet to ascertain whether this was in fact YFD2 (which apparently ended up in the Dominican Republic).

In late 1918, the Morse Dry Dock company began work on a new sectional floating dry dock. Constructed from at least three million feet of timber, and said to be a far more complex and difficult task than the building of a ship, the $1,000,000 dock was six years in the planning and took more than twelve months to build. It was constructed section by section at an ancillary yard of the company at the foot of 63rd St., Brooklyn. By March 1919, the first three sections were ready and were put to use for the first time in lifting the steamer Black Arrow out of the water, at the rate of one foot per minute.

When completed in late 1919, the six-section dock was the largest floating dry dock in the world, capable of lifting a ship 725 feet long and weighing 30,000 tons. In February 1920, all six sections of the dock were used to lift a single ship for the first time, the 30,000-ton SS Minnesota, a task that took 25 minutes.

Evidence of other docks for the U.S. Navy prior to WW2 appears a bit sketchy, and so far I can only find records of one more in service during this time, and this was the 2200 ton ARD1, which is recorded as being in active service in 1934, and taken to Pear lHarbor. Further investigation to be carried out.

In 1935, the Bureau of Yards & Docks obtained $10,000,000 for a similar one-piece mobile dock, to be capable of lifting any naval vessel afloat. Complete plans and specifications were prepared by the Bureau for this dock, which was to be 1,027 feet long, 165 feet beam, and 75 feet moulded depth. Bids received for this huge drydock, designed as ARD3, appreciably exceeded the appropriation, and the project was abandoned when the additional funds needed for its execution were refused. At the same time, plans were prepared for ARD2, an improved and enlarged model of ARD1. But it was not until November 1940, however, that funds were obtained for its construction, and the project placed under contract. More on that later.

Dry docks were generally classifed as follows (note – records of classifications vary):

ABSD - Advance Base Sectional Dock
All Steel Construction. Either ten sections of 10,000 tons lifting capacity each, or seven sections of 8,000 tons lifting capacity. For battleships, carriers, cruisers, and large auxiliaries. (Some records shown smaller capacities of 3,850 tons).

ARD - Auxiliary Repair Dock. (including ARDB and ARDM)
Steel construction with distinctive enclosed ship shaped bow. Normal lifting capacity of 3,500 tons. For destroyers, submarines, and small auxiliaries.

ARDC - Auxiliary Repair Dock, Concrete
Concrete dock with faired bow and stern. 2,800 tons lifting capacity. (Some records 8,300 tons?)

AFD - Auxiliary Floating Dock
Steel dock with faired bow and stern. 1,000 tons lifting capacity. AFDB 3,850 tons.

AFDL - Auxiliary Floating Dock, Lengthened
Steel dock similar to AFD's, but lengthened and enlarged to provide 1,900 tons lifting capacity.

YFD - Yard Floating Dock
This category included a wide variety of types, designed generally for yard or harbor use, with services supplied from shore. Among the principal types were 400-ton concrete trough docks; 1,000-ton, 3,000-ton and 5,000-ton one-piece timber trough docks; sectional timber docks ranging from 7,000 to 20,000 tons lifting capacity; and three-piece self-docking steel sectional docks of 14,000 to 18,000 tons lifting capacity.

These classifications were modified in 1946 in order to make the standard nomenclature of floating drydocks consistent and more descriptive. Four class designations were established, as follows:

AFDB - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Big
30,000 tons and larger.

AFDM - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium
10,000 to 30,000 tons.

AFDL - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Little
Less than 10,000 tons.

AFDL(C) - Auxiliary Floating Drydock Little (Concrete)

Under this re-classificaton, ABSD's were redesignated AFDB's; ARD's became AFDU's; RDC's became AFDL(C)'s; AFD's became AFDL's; and YFD's became AFDM's.

More details of the different dock specifications will feature in later posts. Some docks also carried names, which again, will be seen in ensuing posts.

During World War II, over 150 floating docks were constructed across the United States. They were included in the Navy’s Support Craft Category – “A grouping of navy-subordinated craft (including non-self-propelled) designed to provide general support to either combatant forces or shore-based establishments”.

A total of 78 docks saw service in advance areas. Commercial ship repair yards utilized 44, and continental naval activities, 21 docks. Three docks were furnished to Army ports of embarkation, two docks to the Coast Guard, and five to the United Kingdom; one was lost, and one was sunk in the Bikini tests.

Dreadnought 26-11-2011 16:47

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
4 Attachment(s)

Going to start with AFDL47 simply because of a recent enquiry in the USS Laffey thread.

AFDL47 was designed by the Bureau of Yards & Docks, U.S. Navy for the Bureau of Ships. It was built by the Dravo Neville Island Plant, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and launched on Saturday the 10th of August 1946. She was designated as ARD33, but as mentioned in post #1, the docks were re-classified in this year and the dock was known throughout her career as AFDL47.

The Auxiliary Repair Dock was the largest single group of floating drydocks built during the war, and as mentioned in post #1, were designed to accommodate destroyers, submarines, and other craft of comparable size. They were extensively used throughout combat areas and proved among the most useful, flexible, and effective facilities supporting the U.S. fleet.

Like all of the ARD’s, ARD33 (AFDL47) had a nominal lifting capacity of 3,500 tons. She was 485 feet 8 inches long and 71 feet wide overall. This gave a usable length of 413 feet, a clear width of 49 feet 4 inches. The depth over the keel blocks was 21 feet.

The hull was an integral unit structure, and was strong enough to resist safely the maximum hogging, sagging, and torsional stresses to which the dock might be subjected in heavy storms at sea, and this made the ARD docks exceptionally rigid when in normal use.

The docks were well compartmented, both for maximum safety at sea or in combat and for optimum control of ballasting during docking operations. The bottom pontoon was divided by one longitudinal and four transverse bulkheads into eight ballast tanks. Each wing wall was divided into five ballast tanks, and, in addition, two tanks were provided in the bow, forward of the head wall of the inner dock. A watertight horizontal safety deck installed in the wing walls and bow precluded immergence below the minimum designed freeboard and helped to prevent undue trim or list at deep draft. These ballast tanks were interconnected by valved piping to two pumping plants, each consisting of two vertical shaft pumps rated at 15,000 g.p.m. at 12 feet head. The flooding and pumping system permitted submerging the dock to minimum freeboard in 50 minutes, and raising the dock and pumping the basin dry in 100 minutes. The ballast tanks were equipped with water-level indicators centralized in the control house, from which all pump and valve operations were also remotely controlled.

Above the safety deck in the wing walls were two machinery decks. The lower, or C, deck accommodated the pump and valve motors, small machines, welding equipment, and storage spaces. The upper, or B, deck accommodated the main diesel generators and other heavy equipment, as well as quarters and messing facilities for the crew. In the bow, the upper deck was omitted in order to provide adequate headroom for the hull repair shop.

ARD docks were equipped with four railway-type diesel engines directly connected to electric generators. As originally designed, provision was made for the installation of low-power electric-drive propulsion machinery, but in fact none of the docks was actually equipped with this propulsion, partly because of the urgent need for such equipment for ships, and partly because of its infrequent use.

All the ARD docks (with the exception of the original ARD1) had bottom-hinged stern gates that were that were closed by an electrically driven sprocket and roller chain device at either side, and opened by gravity. Operating difficulties with this mechanism led eventually to its replacement with hydraulic gate operating gear similar to that used in the ARD1 and providing positive force and control for both closing and opening.

These docks proved to have excellent towing characteristics. Many trans-Pacific movements were made at average speeds of 6 to 8 knots, using fleet tugs and auxiliaries of moderate horsepower. The one particular advantage, was their readiness for immediate service as soon as they were moored.

The need for more auxiliary facilities than could be accommodated on board the docks led to the provision of a covered wooden barge equipped as a carpenter shop for each dock. Keel blocks, cradles, and shoring timbers needed for docking or repairs were fabricated on the shop barge, which was moored alongside the drydock and supplied with power from it.

A vast number of combat vessels damaged in action or requiring graving of the bottom or other hull work below waterline were successfully docked in ARD's in the forward areas. This service to the fleet constituted a significant factor in the success of the Navy, particularly in the later actions in the western Pacific.

AFDL47, later named Reliance, had the unique record of being the largest vessel ever constructed and launched on inland waterways. After completion, it appears she was towed to New Orleans by the 1600 hp tug National (owned by the American Barge Line Co.). I have a record of her being at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 1950 until 1952, and an ex-US Navy serviceman’s personal record still placing her there in 1958. Then I find a mention of her being handed over to Groton Electric Boat Works in 1958. Not quite sure what happened next, but it appears that at some stage the U.S. Navy put her into Maritime Administration Reserve, until the 15th of May 1991 when she was leased to Detryens Shipyard, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. After the lease expired in 2006, the U.S Government took posession of her and towed her to the Naval Weapons Station at Charleston. South Carolina. Detyens have now purchased AFDL47, and is in their yard at Charleston.

AFDL47_1: In 2006 undergoing a structural survey at Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station.
AFDL47_2: US Laffey docking/undocking at Detyens 2009
AFDL47_3: At Detyens with a barge onboard. Date unknown
AFDL47_4: Newspaper cutting announcing the launch

Original sources of photographs not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

John Odom 26-11-2011 16:52

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
This is great Clive! I've been wondering about the US docks.

Dreadnought 27-11-2011 11:37

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
10 Attachment(s)
Dewey Dock YFD1

As mentioned in post #1, after the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. Navy needed a dry dock in the western Pacific, and the Bureau of Yards & ships ordered a dock for this, and that could handle repairs of its largest ships.

The dock was 525 feet long over blocks, with a usable width of 100 feet. She had a draft of 6 feet 6 inches unflooded and empty, and the side walls were 37 feet high. She had a lifting capacity of 18,500 tons, but could accommodate a 20,000 ton battleship by using the ‘pounds’. Her hull weight was 5580 tons. The dock was named after the highly distinguished American Admiral Dewey, the only officer of the US Navy ever to hold the rank of ‘Admiral of the Navy’.

The Dewey dock was built by the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point, Baltimore. It was laid down in early 1905, and was launched on the 10th of June the same year, being christend by Miss Endicott, the daughter of U.S. Navy Chief of Yards Mordecai T. Endicott. Dewey was completed at Solomon’s Island. The dock needed deep water for its test lifts, and the Navy decided that the tidewater in the mouth of the PatuxentRiver was the best site.

Dewey carried out her first test lift on Friday the 23rd of June 1905, lifting the 13,500 ton armoured cruiser USS Colorado (ACR-7). It took 2 hours and 15 minutes to lift her 6 feet above the surface. The second lift was the battleship USS Iowa (BB4). Most records have this taking place on the 23rd as well, but I have yet to substiate this, although I have found one newspaper article that says Iowa docked the following day; this, I believe, being the case.

It is interesting to note the different methods adopted by the British and American for the shoring of ships in a floating dry dock. The British custom in the case of ironclads of the pre-Dreadnought era, and also that of Italy and Japan, was to support the armour belt on more or less vertical shores inserted under an angle-iron firmly attached to the belt. These shores are put into position as the ship is rising, and, as the water recedes, more and more shores are inserted. The Bermuda dock actually had large and heavy altars constructed for this purpose. The American custom was to strengthen the bilges of their ironclads with strong bilge docking keels, forming, with the keel proper, a level bottom. No shores were required beyond those necessary to centre the vessel, and no great care was required in adjusting the berth, and one set of bilge blocks did for all sizes of vessels. The American method afforded a great saving in weight and quantity of shores, and, what was more important, a great saving in time, not only in the preparation of the berth and centering of the ship, but also in the
actual lifting. With the American plan it would be perfectly feasible to dock a vessel completely in the time required to centre and adjust her with shores disposed according to the British method.

The Dewey dock was destined for Manilia in the Philippines. The islands had been taken during the Spanish-American War, and the Navy planned to establish a major base at Manila which they thought was essential to the US Navy in establishing a global naval presence. The plan was to tow the dock via the Suez canal, and two Navy colliers USS Caesar and USS Glacier were selected to carry out the tow. A third collier, USS Brutus and the tug Potomac were to accompany as assistants.

The convoy left Chesapeake Bay on Friday December the 28th 1905 on its 12,000 mile trip, crosing the Atlantic into the Mediterranean and then through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, and then across the Indian Ocean to her destination at Olongapo, Luizon, at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Dewey arrived on the 10th of July 1906 and remained at Olongapo for the duration of World War I and the inter-war years, serving the fleet at Subic Bay.

On the 24th of May 1910 there was a curious incident that led to Dewey sinking 70 feet to the bottom at her moorings. I can find no real detail about this other than a number of newspaper articles that mention that the dock was believed to have been deliberately sunk. The possibiliy of valves being opened deliberately, or not shut properly was investigated, but it was concluded that this could not have ben the cause. There are further repoprts that manholes were found to be left open, and even that a hole was found in the port side. In any event, the dock was successfully raised several days later.

On the 17th of July 1920 Dewey was re-classified as as YFD1 as part of the US Navy’s fleet-wide assignment of alph-numeric hull numbers.

In 1922, the Washington Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments nearly put an end to the naval base at Subic Bay. The treaty included provisions that facilities for the repair and maintenance of U.S. naval forces in the Philippine Islands would have to be reduced. Shops were dismantled, Fort Wint was reduced to caretaker status, and personnel levels were cut. In addition to the limitations imposed by the treaty, the Navy was struggling in the light of defence cuts by the Coolidge Administration. Even though the facilities at Subic Bay were reduced, some ship repair capability remained, including the Dewey dry dock.

In July 1941, Dewey, which had served at Subic Bay for 35 years, was towed to Mariveles harbour on the tip of the Bataan Peninsula, in order to afford better protection from the Japanese advance.

When Bataan fell, Japan was one step closer to controlling Manilla Bay. There was one thing that stood in Japan's way, and that was Corregidor, which had a sophisticated tunnel system all over the island, and held plenty of supplies. There was also a huge hospital. Earlier in the year, and in the May of 1942, the Japanese pounded this island with a countless number of bombs and shells. On the 4th of April, at around 6.00 p.m., Dewey was attacked by several Japanese dive bombers, but heavy anti-aircraft fire managed to stave off the attack. The continual bombardment eventually took its toll - resolve was sapped, the island’s weapon systems were wiped out, and many fortifications destroyed. The men and women of Corregidor island knew they would have to surrender.

The remaining fleet on the island set about destroying anything and everything that would be of value to Japan - weapons, books, and confidential papers were burned or destroyed. On the 8th of April 1942 the Dewey dock was scuttled by docking officer Lieutenant C. J. Weschler and Engineer Jose Otero. Captain K. M. Hoeffel, U.S.N., the senior U.S. naval officer in the forces defending Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor, acting under the orders of Lieutenant General Wainwright, U.S.A., ordered the complete destruction of the previously damaged U.S. submarine tender Canopus, the Dewey dry dock, the mine sweeper Bittern and the tug Napa in order to prevent their being of use to the enemy in the event of capture. These ships and Dewey, had been used at and near Corregidor and Bataan Peninsula by the Army, Navy, and Marine forces serving under General MacArthur, and later under Wainwright in the valiant defence of what were vital positions for controlling the entrance to Manila Bay.

After the fall of the Philippines, the japanese raised Dewey and put her back into action, but she was sunk again by Allied forces in 1944 – cannot yet find any details about this, except a CINCPAC Communique (no,182), November 1944, which reports an attack “in and arouind Manila Bay”, on November the 12th, and lists in the damage report “one floating dock hit by torpedoes”. Another report (Combat eports AG4) mentions an attack on Cavite and Manila Harbour on November the 13th 1944 by 13 Avengers loaded with 2000 lb torpedoes (from USS Bunker Hill I think?). It states …

Because the TBMs were carrying torpedoes, they had to come in low in a different approach. Davis led the group along the south shore of Manila Bay. All VT attacked the same target, a floating drydock. The dropping altitude was 400 - 500 feet at about 230 knots. At least four torpedoes were observed definitely to hit the drydock. Credit was given to Davis and Vogt for two of the hits. "It was not possible to establish credit for the other two known hits. The attack completely destroyed the 'bay side' of the drydock."

Was this Dewey?

Today, Dewey remains somewhere at the bottom of Manila bay, but again, I do not yet have any detalis.

DeweyDock_1: Being towed to Manila 1906 (US National Historical Center)

DeweyDock_2: Poor photograph of USS Iowa during the test lift June 23rd 1905.
Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

DeweyDock_3: USS Chauncey, Olongapo 1910
DeweyDock_4: USS Mohican (left) and submarines A6, A4 & A2. Olongapo circa 1912
DeweyDock_5: USS Galveston, Olongapo circa 1916
DeweyDock_6: USS Isabel, Olongapo, 1933
DeweyDock_7: USS Maryland, Olongapo, date unknown
(all above photographs US National Historical Center)

DeweyDock_8: Newspaper article regarding the test with USS Colorado
DeweyDock_9: New York Times article regarding the 1910 sinking
DeweyDock_10: The other theory about the 1910 sinking

John Odom 27-11-2011 16:15

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Somewhere in my Daddy's pictures are pictures of the Dewey dock. As I have said he served in the Asiatic fleet from 1918 until 1922. Most of the time was spent on the Yangtze, but they regularly came to Olongapo and Manila. If and when I find the picture of the Dewey, I will post it. On a tour of Manila Bay and Corregidor, about, 1949, the site of the sunken Dewey Dock was pointed out to Daddy and I my the master of the cruise boat after Daddy,s inquiry.

John Odom 29-11-2011 00:50

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
There are som more pictures of the Dewey Dock here:


Dreadnought 29-11-2011 20:24

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
15 Attachment(s)
YFD2 “Old New Orleans

This dock was ordered by the United States Government under the Act of Congress of May the 4th 1898, and the contract awarded to the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point, Baltimore. The initial design was that of Clark & Standfield, but then modified to conform to American standards.

I cannot find any record of when the dock was laid down, but it appears that work started in 1899, and completed in 1900. With a length of 525 feet, overall width of 128 feet, and walls of 55 feet, the dock was designed to have a lifting capacity of 18,000 tons. These dimensions are a bit questionable and my hunch is that they are overall dimensions. I have the impression that the clear width is just less than 100 feet, and the quoted 525 feet includes the pontoon projections. The height above the keel blocks, I cannot be sure of … yet. As far as I can gather, the dock was in three sections with the midle section being 242 fet long, and the end sections 141 feet. There were a total of 261 keel blocks.

The dock was destined for the U.S. Naval Staion, Algiers, Louisiana. The history of the Naval Repair Base dates back to February the 17th 1849, when three arpents (3.12 acres) of land fronting on the Mississippi River was purchased for a Naval reservation. For almost fifty years, however, the activity remained dormant. Not until 1893 was a Naval station with ship repair facilities established. Then, purchasing 212 more acres and spending nearly $3,000,000 on buildings and equipment, the Navy constructed the U. S. Naval Station, which was completed in 1903.

The dock (not yet classified as YFD2) arrived at Algiers in November 1901 (one record only, and I don’t know how she got there).

On the 6th of January 1902 the dock was tested by lifting the newly commissioned (16th September 1901) 11,565 ton battleship USS Illinois

In 1911 government economy forced the closing of the New Orleans station and it was not re-opened until the 7th of January 1915 for repairs and overhaul of gunboats, New Orleans class cruisers, and other vessels of the Special Service Squadron performing duty in the Gulf and Caribbean waters.

During World War I the Naval Station was operated as an Industrial Navy Yard for repair of vessels of a size able to be handled by YFD2.

In 1940 the dock was moved to Seattle, and then via the Panama Canal to Pear lHarbor to supplement the inadequate docking facilities there, and as a stop gap until ARD3 could be completed. Since the dock was wider than the Canal locks, it was necessary to disassemble it at Cristobal and to reassemble it at Balboa. There is evidence that later 3 section Yard Floating docks were taken through the Panama Canal on their beams ends because of the width problem, I can find no evidence that YFD2 was transported in this manner, so I shall leave the detalis of this method until we discuss YFD3.

YFD2 arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 23rd of August 1940, and sometimtime during November the battle ship USS Shaw arrived at the Navy Yard for repairs and docked in YFD2.

I do not want to attempt to catalogue the whole of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; it is well documented and covered on the internet, and we already have a thread HERE on this topic. However, to try and establish the context around what happened to YFD2, I will indulge in some background detail.

At 6:00 a.m. ont the 7th of December 1941 the first wave of 183 Japanese bombers and fighters were launched from aircraft carriers positioned west of Oahu, Northern Japan. The strike force achieved total surprise when they arrived and attacked the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor shortly before 8:00 a.m. The Navy air bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, the Marine airfield at Ewa, and the Army Air Corps fields at Bellows, Wheeler and Hickam were all bombed and strafed, as other elements of the attacking force began their assaults on the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. The purpose of these initial simultaneous attacks was to destroy American planes before they could rise to intercept the Japanese.

There were more than 90 ships anchored in Pearl Harbor, but the primary targets for the Japanese, were eight large battleships. Seven were moored at 1010 dock – ‘Battleship Row’, along the southeast shore of Ford Island, and USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) laying in drydock across the channel. Within the first minutes of the attack, all the battleships in ‘Battleship Row’ had suffered strikes by bombs or torpedoes. Both USS West Virginia (BB-48) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) were sunk. At about 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona (BB-39) was hit by an armour piercing bomb causing the ship's forward ammunition magazine to explode, killing 1,177 crewmen. The USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS Nevada (BB-36) also suffered varying degrees of damage.

Around 8:30 a.m., there was a short lull in the fury of the attack, and USS Nevada (BB-36), despite her damage, managed to get underway and move down the channel toward the open sea. Before she could clear the harbour, a second wave of 170 Japanese planes appeared overhead.

USS Shaw was still docked in YFD2, and berthed just ahead of her, also in the dock, the tug Sotoyomo (YT9). USS Nevada had by now, traveled the length of Ford Island and was close to Shaw in the dock. A squardon of Japanese dive bombers targetted the escaping Nevada hoping to sink her in the channel and block the narrow entrance to Pearl Harbor.

The crews of both the destroyer and the tug were ashore, as was customary for vessels undergoing overhaul in dry dock, and only a few men were on hand when the Japanese attacked and the bombs started to fall. Some of the Shaw's crew were on watch, some were lounging about, others were in the forward, below-decks mess hall chatting over coffee when the attack began.

At about 9:12, Shaw was hit by three bombs which were released by steep-diving planes from an altitude of about 1000-ft. Two 250 pound bombs hit the forecastle and penetrated the main deck, going through the forward machine gun platform and exploding in the crew’s mess hall. A third 250 pound bomb went through the port wing of the bridge and exploded in the wardroom pantr, rupturing the fuel oil tanks, and causing burnimg oil to spurt out throughout that part of the ship.

By 9:25, all of Shaw’s fire fighting facilities were exhausted, the explosions having cut off the water supply, and the order to abandon ship was given. The officer in charge, Lieutenant James H. Brown went down to the dry dock headquarters demanding that the dock be flooded so that the ship could float off its perch and fight. Brown, however, couldn't make it back to Shaw. Burning fuel oil had flowed under the dock’s wooden keel blocks setting them on fire.

Shortly after 9:30, Shaw’s forward magazines blew up, evidently exploded by the heat of the burning oil and keel blocks. The spectacular blast shredded the ship’s superstructure and ripped off part of the bow. The explosion also holed YFD2, and she started to sink.The tug Sotoyomo, also in YFD2, was badly burned by thefires and also went down.

Efforts to flood the dock and extinguish the conflagration were only partially successful. As YFD2 sank, Shaw's bow fell off to starboard and went under with the dock. Shaw then toppled off her blocks into the water, but remained afloat. As the dock submerged, flaming oil swirled around the stricken vessel. Her survivors swam through a gauntlet of patches of smoking oil to safety. USS Shaw lost 25 crewmen in the attack.

When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended, shortly before 10:00 a.m., and less than two hours after it had begun, twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been sunk or damaged, these being,

Battleships: USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS West Virginia (BB-48).

Cruisers: USS Helena (CL-50), USS Honolulu (CL-48) and USS Raleigh (CL-7); the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372), USS Downes (DD-375), USS Helm (DD-388) and USS Shaw (DD-373).

Seaplane tender USS Curtiss (AV-4); target ship (ex-battleship) USS Utah (AG-16); repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4); minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4); tug USS Sotoyomo (YT-9); and Floating Drydock YFD2.

Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before the had a chance to take off. American dead numbered 2,403, which included 68 civilians, most of them killed by improperly fused anti-aircraft shells landing in Honolulu. There were 1,178 military and civilian wounded.

USS Shaw appeared to be so badly damaged that the U.S. Navy initially wrote the ship off as a total loss. However, the Navy salvage team at Pearl Harbor thought they could resurrect the vessel and get her back into service. Temporary repairs were made, with the installation of a new bow. Shaw left Pearl Harbor on the 8th of Febraury 1942, bound for San Francisco where remaining repairs were completed at Mare Island Naval Base, enabling her to return to active duty for the remainder of World War II.

Despite also being severely damaged, YFD2 was raised and repaired. Although this task was considered a Navy Yard job, it was in fact carried out by the Base Force, and under the direct supervision of the Pacific Bridge Company, which had diverted some of its divers and equipment from work on Dry Docks 2 and 3 at the base. To start with, divers plugged or welded up over 200 holes in YFD2 in order to make her watertight. She finally pumped out and raised on the 9th of January 1942. She had been resting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor for over a month, lisiting at an angle of more than 15 degrees. Apart from the damage caused by bomb splinters, she had also suffered heat damage from the intense fire onboard Shaw, and although she was afloat, many of the repairs were of a temporary nature, and the dock was unusable.

In an attempt to effect more permanent repairs, divers from the Pacific Bridge Company installed a 40 square feet “patch” under the hull of the dock that created a chamber, 4 feet deep, which permitted repairs to the frames and bottom shell paltes. This ingenious setup prevented YFD2 from having to go into dry dock for repair.

There was, however, work to be done in clearing the floor of the dock, which was littered with the wreckage of Shaw’s bow and the burned out tug Sotoyomo. On the 17th of January, the tug was floated clear, leaving the problem of the bow wreckage to deal with.

The bow was, in fact, fairly intact forward of frame 32, between the 5–inch guns, but had been shredded aft of that point. It lay on its starboard side and the shield over gun 2 was crushed, with the deckhouse upon which it sat, twisted to port. There were dents in the starboard side from the impact of YFD2’s keel blocks, and the hull plating was badly wrinkled due to the intense heat of the fire that had raged on the dock floor. Work had began cutting the wreck into sections prior to the dock had beeing raised.

On the 10th of January several bodies of those who had gone down with the bow when it was torn away during the explosion. Recovered ordnance, including a torpedo warhead, 5-inch and 0.50 calibre rounds, plus a Thompson sub-machine gun, were taken to the Naval Ammunititon Depot. Other items salvaged included an anchor, some chains, and various bits and chocks, all lifted onto a barge on the 17th of January.

The bow was finally removed and taken to Waipo Point where it was cut up for scrap. One of the guns had been removed whilst the ship was still in the dock, the other was still attached to the bow.

YFD2 was restored to service on the 25th of January 1942, but did not yet have full buoancy due to a large hole which had not yet been repaired. She could, however operate on a limited basis, and could dock a destroyer. On the 26th of January, she docked USS Shaw - again. She was in the dock for 10 days having her new bow firmly secured for her journey to Mare Island, undocking on the afternoon of the 4th of February. She was then manoeuvered, with the assistance of two tugs, to 1010 dock for the last of the repair work.

It was not until the 15th of May that YFD2 was fully operational again, and provided an invaluable service to the salvage of other vessels damaged in the attack, as well as in support of the Pacific Fleet.

I have collated YFD2 dockings for the period 1942-1943 and have tabulated them in the attached PDF. There was an incident on December the 23rd 1943 when the Bomb Disposal Unit were called to remove four unexploded 5-inch shells, and five unexploded 38 calibre shells from one of the lower tanks of the dock, having been there since the explosion of USS Shaw on the 7th of December 1941.

It is unfortunate that I cannot find any records beyond the end of 1943, as what happened next to YFD2 is a bit of a mystery, and as yet I do not know how long she stayed at Pearl Harbor.The record from which I drew the dockings information ends with a couple of curious entries. The first one, on the 13th of November 1943, simply states “YFD-2 Docked Dry Dock #4”, and the second and final entry, on the 15th of November states that this was for “inspection of underwater body”. Was this routine, or does it indicate that there was a problem, or that the dock was being prepared for being moved? It is frustrating that the only reference to the dock after this, anywhere, is a fleeting mention (NavSource) that the dock ended up in the Dominican Republic in the year 2000. I have tried in vain to confirm this, and if it is the case, where was she in the interim period.

At the Ciramar Shipyard, which is near the Naval Base, San Domingo, Dominican Republic, is listed a floating dock (Nr.2) with a length of 155 metres (~508 feet) and width of 25 metres (82 feet), and, with a deadweight capacity of 18,000 tons. Assuming that these are the internal usable dimensions, they are extremely close to those of YFD2, and the lifting capacity is spot on, except that the whole question of displacement, long tons and deadweight tons is slightly confusing to me. Looking at the dock (well, a dock) on Google Maps is inconclusive, so I cannot be sure whether the Dominican dock is YFD2 or not. I am hoping this will all come to light in due course.

YFD2_1: Test lift with USS Illinois at Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana; 6th of January 1902. Original photograph from the Wightman family. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 68863

YFD2_2: Coloured postcard of the same event.

YFD2_3 – YFD2_6: Unknown vessel docked at Algiers, 1903. Original source of photographs not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

YFD2_7: Arriving at Pearl Harbor, 23rd August 1940. The dock still carries “YFD-2, U.S. Naval Station New Orleans La.” On her side wall.

YFD2_8: USS Shaw in YFD2, on fire before the magazine exploded. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

YFD2_9: Another shot prior to the explosion. National Historical Center photograph #80-G-32719.

YFD2_10: Iconic photogrpah of USS Shaw’s magazine exploding whils docked in YFD2. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 86118.

YFD2_11: USS Shaw and YFD2 just after the explosion. The dock is now sinking and Shaw, minus her bow, is beginning to float free. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

YFD2_12: Aftermath showing the sunken dock listing at more than 15 degrees. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 64481

YFD2_13: Another. National Historical Center photograph #80-G-19939.

YFD_14: The severed bow of USS Shaw in the botom of the dock. US National Historical Center photograph #NH 84000

As mentioned, this is not a post about Pearl Harbor, of which there are many photographs available. The last pictures shown have been selected to show how YFD2 suffered during the attack.

Dreadnought 30-11-2011 09:36

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
3 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the PM response Don (Don Boyer), and in particular for pointing out my erroneous mention of USS Iowa docking in YFD2 in November 1941 not long after the dock arrived at the Naval Base. This was in fact a typo, and should have course read USS Shaw ..!! I have corrected this.

At 45,000 tons, length 887 feet and 108 feet beam, Iowa would never have got in the dock ..!! As you rightly point out, the Yard Floating Docks were indeed designed for destroyers.

Here are a couple of aerial shots of the dry dock area at Pearl Harbor; the first, taken on December the 7th, and showing USS Shaw in YFD2 before the attack (left most dock bay - lower left of shot)

In the second photograph, taken on the 10th of December, you can see that the dock has sunk and Shaw adrift without her bow. Note how the dock looks wider - due to her dock walls leaning due to her list, as shown in the photographs in the previous post.

The Google Maps picture is of the floating dock in the Dominican Republic, and a possible candidate for being YDF2 today.

YFD2_15: US National HistoricalCenter photograph #80-G-451185
YFD2_16: US NationalHistoricalCenter photograph #80-G-387598

BB60 30-11-2011 20:52

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Interesting thread with much good information.

Dreadnought 29-12-2011 16:41

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
3 Attachment(s)
Thanks BB60.

Morse Dock

In post #1, reference was made to the Morse Dock, the six-section dock, which, upon its completion in 1919, was the largest floating dock in the World.

The Morse Dry Dock and Repair Company was a major late 19th/early 20th century ship repair and conversion facility located in Brooklyn, New York. Begun in the 1880s as a small shipsmithing business known as the Morse Iron Works, the company grew to be one of America's largest ship repair and refit facilities, eventually becomng part of United Dry Docks Inc., later bought out by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation.

In 1903, the Morse Works completed its first floating dry dock, having a lifting capacity of 15.000 tons. It was at time of completion the world's only electrically equipped floating dock, as well as being the first fitted with centrifugal pumps, the first powered by A/C induction motors and the first with an auxiliary pumping system.

Morse_1: Launch of the fifth section of the second Morse Dock, 1919. Photograph in public domain.

Morse_2: Front cover of Scientific American journal, interestingly dated 21st April 1900. The Morse Iron Works & Dry Dock Company was incorporated in January 1900, and construction of the first Morse Dock was started in the May. The Journal therefore, must show drawings of how it was planned to look. I can find no actual photos of this first dock.

Morse_3: Showing SS Eastern Cross in the 1918 dock, undergoing repairs to her rudder. Not of great quality, but worth submitting as photographs of this dock are scarce. Photograph from the February 1920 edition of ‘The Rudder’. Taken by Arthur Aldridge

Dreadnought 07-06-2013 22:47

Re: Auxiliary Repair Dock ARD-1
6 Attachment(s)
Auxiliary Repair Dock ARD-1

As briefly mentioned in post #1, the ARD (Auxiliary Repair Dock) docks were designedfor the use of destroyers, submarines, and small auxiliary craft.

ARD-1 was the first of these docks and was the first, and only one, of the ARD-1 Class of docks. It was designed by the Bureau of Yards & Docks, and was a revolutionary design at that time, being a single U-shape of welded steel construction with a distinctive ship shaped closed bow and faired stem.The stern was closed by a bottom hinged flap gate, operated by hydraulic rams, which was lowered to allow ships to enter when it was submerged, and then closed. The dock was raised by pumping water from the ballast compartments and also from the main basin.

ARD-1 had an overall lemgth of 393 feet six inches and had a lifting capacity of 2200 tons.was It was equipped with its own diesel-electric power plant, pumping plant, repair shops, and crew accommodation.

ARD-1 was laid down sometine in 1933 at the Pacific Bridge Company, Alameda in California. I haven’t ben able to establish a launch date, but it was commissioned as USS ARD-1 in the latter half of 1934, and then towed by the supply ship USS Bridge (AF1) to Pearl Harbor where it reported to have remained during the War. However, I have found records of ships being docked in it in San Diego in 1938 and 1941 (USS Aylwin and USS Avocet), and, at Keramo Retto (USS Spectacle), the staging area for the assualt on Okinawa Gunto in May 1945.

I can find no definitive reference to the fate of ARD-1, only a passing reference to it being sunk, but where or when does not appear to be documented anywhere.

ARD1_1: Launch of ARD1. Date unknown. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

ARD1_1: ARD-1 passing through a lock in the Panama Canal, under the tow of USS Bridge. 28th Octobet 1934. Going to Pearl Harbor? US Navy Photo from the US Navy Memorial (Stan Svec).

ARD1_3: ARD1 being towed by USS Bridge in Colon Harbour, Panama Canal. Also 28th October 1934. US National Archives photo 80-G-455970

ARD1_4: First Day Cover posted from ARD-1 August 4th 1939. From where?

ARD1_5: Envelope/card posted from ARD-1 October 27th 1940 (Navy Day). San Diego post mark suggests it was ther at the time.

ARD1_6: Another Envelope/card posted from ARD-1 November 11th 1940, again from San Diego.

astraltrader 07-06-2013 23:03

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Great post Clive. I hope our American friends appreciate the trouble you have taken to put this fine thread together.

Dreadnought 08-06-2013 13:30

Re: Auxiliary Repair Docks ARD-2 Class
2 Attachment(s)
Thanks Terry.

Auxiliary Repair Docks ARD-2 Class

In 1935 the Bureau of Yards obtained $10,000,000 to design and build a dock based upon ARD-1, but capable of lifting any naval vessel afloat. The dock was to be 1027 feet long, with a beam of 165 feet, and moulded depth of 65 feet. Complete plans and specifications were drawn up and invitations to tender issued. However, bids to build the dock far exceeded the budget, and the project was abandoned. This dock was to be ARD-3, and so this dock was never built.

There is somewhat of a mystery concerning ARD-4. One source refers to the order being cancelled, and another lists it as being completed by Pacific Bridge in May 1942. I can find no other reference to this dock anywhere. However, I have found a photograph purported to be of ARD-4? Hmmm …

But the ARD-2 Class did definitely comprise of eight other docks:

ARD-5 Waterford
ARD-7 West Milton

These docks were bigger than ARD-1 at 485 feet 8 inches long (usable length 413 feet) and overall width of 71 feet (clear width 49 feet 4 inches), and a depth over the blocks of 21 feet. This gave a nominal lifting capacity of 3500 tons, although I have also seen this stated at 4200 tons.

The bottom pontoon was divided by one longitudinal, and four transverse bulkheads into eight ballast tanks. Each wing wall was divided into five ballast tanks, and, in addition, two tanks were provided in the bow, forward of the head wall of the inner dock. A watertight horizontal safety deck installed in the wing walls and bow precluded immergence below the minimum designed freeboard and helped to prevent undue trim or list at deep draft.

These ballast tanks were interconnected by valved piping to two pumping plants, each consisting of two vertical shaft pumps rated at 15,000 g.p.m. at 12 feet head. The flooding and pumping system permitted submerging the dock to minimum freeboard in 50 minutes, and raising the dock and pumping the basin dry in 100 minutes. The ballast tanks were equipped with water-level indicators centralized in the control house, from which all pump and valve operations were also remotely controlled.

Above the safety deck in the wing walls were two machinery decks. The lower, or C, deck accommodated the pump and valve motors, small machines, welding equipment, and storage spaces. The upper, or B, deck accommodated the main diesel generators and other heavy equipment, as well as quarters and messing facilities for the crew. In the bow, the upper deck was omitted in order to provide adequate headroom for the hull repair shop.

The docks were equipped with four railway-type diesel engines directly connected to electric generators. As originally designed, provision was made in these docks for the installation of low-power electric drive propulsion machinery. However, none of the docks was actually equipped with propulsion, partly because of the urgent need for such equipment for ships and partly because of the infrequent use which could be made of it.

The docks had bottom-hinged stern gates that were appreciably different from the gate used for the ARD-1, being closed by an electrically driven sprocket and roller chain device at either side, and opened by gravity. Operating difficulties with this mechanism led eventually to its replacement with hydraulic gate operating gear similar to that used in the ARD-1 and providing positive force and control for both closing and opening.

There was some light armament in the form of two single 20 mm guns. The docks had a compliment of 6 Officers and 125 crew.

ARD-2 was built by the Pacific Bridge Company in Alameda, California, and was completed in April 1942. It was commissioned as USS ARD-2 in 1943.

No real operational records for the dock other than USS Tracy DD214 entering the dock for hull repairs in July 1945, San Pedro Bay, Gulf of Leyte, Philippine Islands. I think this was the base for Service Squadron Ten. It appears that the dock may previously have been based at Ulithi athol in the Caroline Islands.

On the 19th of May ARD-2 left Ulithi as part of a towing convoy transporting non-self propelled equipment to the new base at San Pedro Bay some 900 miles away. The convoy consisted of 9 towing vessels, each having 2 service vessels, towing 4 hotel barges, 3 concrete floating docks, 3 repair barges, an oil barge, 6 barges of food/stores, and ARD-2. Accompanying the convoy were 4 YTN harbour tugs, 2 refuse barges, 1 petrol barge, 1 oil barge, and 1 degaussing barge. The convoy arrived safely on the 24th of May 1945.

I am not certain about the fate of ARD-2, except there is a reference to the dock being sent to Mexico in 1963, and possibly stil being in use.

ARD_2: The only photograph of ARD_2 I can find. With USS Cubera ((SS347), Key West 1970.This does not support the reference to the dock going to Mexico in 1963? Photogaph accredited to John Hummel.

ARD4_1: This is captioned as ARD-4; unknown place/date. But is it? Navsource Online. From the Stephen Urbani Collection 1935 to 1942.

jayenn 11-06-2013 16:28

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Hi Clive,
Great to see your comprehensive and informative posts now covering US floating docks.
Some brief notes for your consideration are;
1 In the "United States Navy Reference Manual" dated 1st Sept 1945, ARD4is absent and does not appear in its sequential list of ARDs-perhaps it was cancelled.
2 The picture noted as being ARD4 is actually another picture of ARD1

3 The same picture crops up in Navsource as being YFD82, but the displacement and length parameters are much greater than those for ARD1 so its not a case where ARD1 was redesignated at some stage but just a misidentification.

Please keep up the investigations and posts , they are much appreciated

Regards John

Dreadnought 13-09-2013 22:06

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
2 Attachment(s)
Havana Dock – Construction, Launch and Tow to Cuba

This was originally a Spanish dock which became entangled in an historical conflict which resulted in it ending up belonging to the United States.

In 1762 Cuba became a Spanish Colony ruled by a Spanish Governor in Cuba. In 1895, the Cuban insurrection made it necessary for the Spanish to be able to maintain a fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, and therefore to be able to dock ships, particularly warships, for maintenance, cleaning and painting. Hull maintenance had to be frequent in the warm Cuban climate, thought at the time, because of the glare of the sun upon the wood, and condensation on the steel parts due to the humidity.

In 1896 the Spanish Government therefore, under a Royal Decree, invited British and continental shipbuilders to tender for the construction of a suitable dock for their Naval Base at Havana, and after a close competition on the part of some of the largest constructors in the world, the tender of C. S. Swan and Hunter Limited, based upon the designs specifically prepared by Clark and Standfield was accepted. The contract was signed in Madrid on the 4th of December 1896, with as cost of over $900,000.

The dock was to be the largest dock of the Clark Standfield design to be built at the time. Made of steel, it was 450 feet long, 82 feet wide within the side walls, and capable of lifting 12,000 tons. The depth over the keel blocks was 27 feet, giving a draught of 42 feet 6 inches and freeboard of 4 feet 2 inches. There were five pontoons, three rectangular central sections, each 75 feet long and the two pointed end sections at 180 feet 4 inches long. There was a 2 feet space between each pontoon. The pontoons could be detached and self docked for cleaning and painting

Each pontoon was divided into four water-tight compartments, and each wall divided below the engine deck into five watertight compartments, so that the entire structure was divided into thirty water-tight compartments, each of which could be emptied of water by electrically driven pumps. There were two electicity generating plants, one in each wall that supplied power to the whole dock. Each plant was complete with boiler, engine, and direct-coupled dynamo. There were ten electric motors, five in each wall, mounted vertically, and directly coupled to the shafts of the horizontal centrifugal pumps placed on the bottoms of the walls. The pumps were capable of lifting an ironclad of 10,000 tons weight in two and a half hours, which equated to 15,000 tons of water being pumped to complete the lifting process. All of the electrical machinery was supplied by Scott and Mountain, of Newcastle, including a complete system of electric lighting throughout the dock. In order to render the dock efficient and suitable for lifting short heavy vessels such as ironclads, a caisson was fitted at each end of the dock, which could be adjusted to various lengths of vessels, the greatest distance apart being 850 feet, and the smallest 388 feet, these lengths representing the longest and shortest armoured vessels of the Spanish Navy.

Because of the size of the dock, Swan Hunter had to increase the size of their Wallsend yard, and to do this they bought the adjoing yard that belonged to Schlesinger, Davies & Company. The enlarged yard became ready to start building the Havana dock on the 1st of January 1897. Thereafter it was used exclusively for the construction of floating docks, and the Havana dock was the first steel self-docking dock built there (Yard No.231). The Stettin Dock for the German Vulkan Shipbuilding & Engineering Company was 510 feet long and built at the yard the following year (Yard No.235).

The dock was built under the supervision of Mr. Lyonel Clark, the designer of the dock, and of Mr. Enrique Gadea of Paris, who was an engineer specially appointed by the Spanish Colonial Office.

The steel for the dock was ordered immediately upon the contract being signed, and the first plate was laid on the blocks on February the 27th. It was completed 181 days later, and launched on Satrurday the 28th of August 1897. Among the guests at the launching were the consuls and representatves of several foreign Governments, including Sir William White - Director of Naval Construction and Commander Colville USN, along with Captain Grigrovitch, Senor Santamarina and Senor Enrique Gadea, all representing the Spanish Government. At the time of launch a Newcastle newspaper, in describing the event, said that:

“it seemed before the launching, as if the immense mass of the dock would occupy the entire width of the river, and that, in anticipation of the wave which its immersion would produce, the spectators were forbidden to approach the too near the shore”.

One of the directors of the company said at the banquet which celebrated the launching that:

“the time of its building, exactly six months, established a record for that kind of work. The construction of a floating dock of similar dimensions would ordinarily be said to have occupied two years, and would have cost four times as much money as did this”.

The dock was viewed as being so big and heavy that it was doubtful whether any ship could safely tow it across the Atlantic. The shipbuilders added a false bow and stem to the dock, to make it cut its way through the water a little, and it was rigged with “jury masts representing those of a brig, having three yards on each mast, and a bluff bow”. A powerful steam windlass and steam steering gear were also fitted, and several hundred tons of coal were carried on the dock to provide fuel for them.

It was originally intended that ocean going tugs be used to tow the dock on its 4,475 mile journey to Havana, but in the event, the tow was undertaken by the New Zealand steamship Ruapehu, along with the ocean-going tug Oceana. Prior to embarking on the voyage, Ruapehu had to undergo some alterations; Her mizzen mast was unshipped, and four strong tow rails were fitted aft to provide a rest for the huge white manila tow rope, which was 22 inches in circumference, 120 fathoms long, and weighed over 5 tons. The rope, manufactured by R. Haggie & Son, was apparently the largest rope ever made in England, consisting 2,400 strands that had to be woven using specially made winding equipment. The rope was delivered on a large cart, drawn by seven horses. Two 6 inch steel ropes, each 130 fathoms long, were also used for towing.

Four tugs towed the dock down the river Tyne and out to sea around the 7th of September 1897. Ruapehu followed, under the command of Captain Thomspon (from North Shields), and with a crew of fifty. Before the massive hawsers were attached, Ruapehu swung to in order to adjust her compasses. It was found that the best use of Oceana, was for her to tow ahead of Ruapehu, and assist with steering in order to keep on course.

The dock itself was manned by a Captain, officers and crew, who were accommodated in one of the dock walls, above the engine deck.

The crossing of the Atlantic appears to have passed without problems as I cannot find any reports to the contrary.

HavanaDock_1: Fairly poor quality photograph, and no published details, but worth submitting because I think this may be the dock being prepared for towing to Havana, and showing Ruapehu, and possibly Oceana to the left of the picture. I say this because the dock appears to be rigged with its jury mast, and I have compared the steamer with photographs of Ruapehu, and they seem to match as best as can be ascertained. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

HavanaDock_8: Another poor photogrph, but rare enough to warrant posting. The dock being towed out to meet Ruapehu and Oceana. Again, the jury mast can be clearly seen. Original source of photograph not determined. Taken from The Sketch, October 13th 1897. No copyright restrictions evident.

Dreadnought 13-09-2013 22:14

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
3 Attachment(s)
Havana Dock – Spanish Service

It’s worth just pausing here to give some background as to what was going on in Cuba at this time. In 1894, the Americans introduced a tariff, putting restrictions on sugar imports into the United States. This severely hit the Cuban economy, which was predominantly base upon producing and selling sugar. Cuba was then a Spanish colony, and angry nationalist, known as the “insurectors” began a revolt against the Spanish colonial regime. Spain sent in General Valeriano "Butcher" Weyler to stabilize the situation in Cuba, and he put much of the population in concentration camps. The US, which had many businessmen with investment interests in Cuba, became concerned. American public was stirred into an anti-Spain frenzy by the yellow journalism of men like Hearst and Pulitzer. Nonetheless, President Grover Cleveland promised he would not go to war.

So in the autumn of 1897, tensions between Spain and America were heightening. A number of Spanish warships were sent to Cuban waters, said to have gone there so that they could help moor the dock when it arrived. In reality, this was part of the preparations for the war between Spain and America. In Havana, with the dock on its way, it was realised that the draught of the dock was too great for it to enter, or be used in the harbour. The Spanish General Weyler, who was charged with getting the dock into service, contacted his agent in New York, asking him to send a dredging-machine to Havana immediately. To the General's mind the whole affair was simple enough: he would get a dredging-machine, scoop out a channel, and have the dock in place in no time. He was therefore much angered to receive a reply that there were several kinds of dredging-machines, and that to send him a machine that would do the work properly it would be necessary to know the nature of the soil of the bottom of the bay. No one had ever dredged HavanaBay since the city was first founded in the sixteenth century, and there was no way of quickly determining the geology of the harbour bottom. Added to this, the New York firm informed Weyler that a special machine would have to be constructed to dredge to the depth required by the floating dock, and that it will take six months to build such a machine, and another six months to dredge the bay. This mean’t it would be a year before the dock could be of any use.

In any event, the dock arrived on November the 7th 1897, and in December, early trials began. The New York Times carries a small article dated December 23rd:

The floating dock that Spain paid England $1,000,000 for is now beneath water at Havana. It is suspected that the Cubans sank it.

As far as I can ascertain, it was sometime before December the 9th when the dock was deliberately sunk as part of the trails, but the pumps failed when trying to raise her again.

After a number of failed attempts, the dock was eventually refloated on December 29th after assistance from naval engineers and Swan Hunter.

Right at this time, America’s concern regarding the situation in Cuba was escalating, and prompted them, on January 24th 1898, to send a warship, the USS Maine, to Cuba under Captain Charles D. Sigsbee. The Maine's mission was purportedly friendly, its job to investigate the situation and provide an escape for American should things get out of hand. Without going into too much detail about William Hearst, the feud between American newspapers, and “yellow journalism”, let’s just say that the stories published in the press heightened tensions between Spain and America so that when the Maine sailed into Havana harbour on January the 25th and moored at the government anchorage. The surprised Spanish, who had only been given a few hours, notice that the Mainewas coming, were quite upset. Although the Maineclaimed to be on a friendly mission, it was a powerful warship. The Spanish authorities felt that the US was trying to intimidate them and was interfering with Spanish sovereignty by trying to affect Spanish policy toward the Cuban insurrectos.

Without turning this post into one about the beginning of the Spanish American War, let’s just say that events over the ensuing two weeks led to the USS Maine being blown up in Havana harbour on February the 15th, killing 266 of the 350 officers and men onboard. The War would follow on April the 22nd. The explosion of the Maine was apparently just 200 yards from the floating dock, but no damage to it was sustained.

On February the 25th, the Spanish warship Vizcaya sailed for Havana, having been in New York. It appears that by this time, the dock was operational and was to be finally tested by lifting Vizcaya with her bunkers full of coal. Vizcaya was subsequently sunk by US battleships on the 3rd of July 1898 at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.

On April the 2nd the dock was being prepared for raising the Spanish auxiliary armoured cruiser Cristobel Colon for cleaning. Another ship sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.

Around the 17th of April, the dock was used for work on the gunboat Neuva Espana.

Sometime between April and July the dock was used by the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII.

It appears that prior to, and during this period of use, the Spanish Government were working round the clock to finish dredging the harbour to create a final operational berth for the dock.

Hostilities between America and Spain ceased on August the 12th 1898 with the signing of the Washington Protocol of Peace. The formal Treaty of Paris was signed in Paris on the 10th of December 1898, and ratified by the US Senate on February the 6th 1899.

The US Navy had realised that the floating dock in Havana harbour would be of great value to the US Navy, and were keen that the Spanish did not remove it, although under the peace treaty, it still belonged to Spain.

There are anumber of newspaper articles of the time that announce “The Spanish Government has sold the Havana floating dock for $600,000 to a syndicate of Vera Cruz merchants. Several New York firms have been asked for terms for conveying the dock to Vera Cruz. The purchasers wish to take it away about the beginning of the month.” In the event, this purchase fell through – maybe because costs for moving the dock were found to be prohibitive

On November the 22nd 1898, the Spanish Admiralty put the floating dock up for sale or lease, insisting that all bids to be in before December the 8th. However, on February the 17th 1899, the sale was postponed as the bids received were not acceptable, and negotiations to sell it to the US government had failed. On May the 5th, the Spanish Minister of Marine, Admiral Gomez Imaz authorised the head of the Spanish Marine, Captain Poral, to sell the dock at public auction on May the 31st. This was obviously not successful as there are several newspaper articles that refer to the US Navy Department offering $285,000 for the dock in 1899; an offer that was refused by the Spaniards. Lengthy negotiations continuedm and it wasn’t until April the 18th 1900 that the purchase was completed, for $185,000 in gold.

On December the 21st 1900, the steamship Mascotte was docked for repairs, and to have a hull inspection.

Around September 1902 the dock the US authorities were self-docking the two end pontoons of the dock – I think this may have been in preparation for the tow to Pensacola, or maybe just checking the self docking operation as it hadn’t been carried out for five years. During the self-docking, it appears that in lifting the end pontoons, the valves which were provided in the bottom to enable the water to drain off as the pontoon was lifted out of the water, had become set. Knowing this, the intention was to cut out a rivet and drain off the water after the pontoons were raised. However, the extra weight of the pontoons apparently caused the dock walls to distort. There is one report that says the dock practically broke in two, and that when it was towed to Pensacola it was as two separate pieces. This from the Los Angeles Herald on the 19th of September 1902:

DRY DOCK INJURED The One at Havana Is Reported to Have Broken in Two
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18.—United States Consul Bragg at Havana has cabled the state department confirmation of the press reports of the big floating steel dry dock there, which was recently purchased by the United States from Spain. He says that the-dock broke near the center when the end sections were being suspended. Secretary Moody received the following cablegram from Lieutenant Commander Edward J. Porn, who was recently placed in charge of the naval property at Havana: "While self dock and pontoons were floating dry dock broke in two at gangways Side walls ruptured. Request naval constructor be sent at once." Naval officials are not prepared to give an estimate of the damage to the dry dock without more detailed information concerning the injury. The assumption would be that if the dock literally broke in two, it would have sunk Rear Admiral Bowles, Chief constructor of the navy, is Inclined to think the accident to the dock is very serious. Later in the day it was decided to send Naval Constructor Taylor, one of the oldest constructors in the navy, to Havana to investigate the injuries to the dock.

The fact that the dock actually split in two came as a bit of surprise to its designers, and to other notable naval architects and dock designers of the time. In 1905, the Institute of Civil Engineers held a discussion meeting about a paper written by Edwin Clark (of Clark Standfield) titled ‘Floating Docks’. The meting was attended by a number of eminent designers, including as Edwin Clarke himself, the noted naval architect Sir William White, George Banks Rennie, designer of the first iron floating dock, and others. On discussing the Havana Dock accident, Clark said:

Even with these stresses, if the dock had been in good condition, it would seem impossible, if calculations could be relied upon, for any rupture. Havana waters being most deleterious in their action on iron, it was quite possible that the walls of the dock had been considerably weakened, so that under the extra strain of the loaded pontoons they broke practically in two.

There is conflicting information regarding when the dock finally left for Pensacola. On October the 23rd 1902, the Boston Towboat Company was awarded the contract for towing the dock from Havana to Pensacola. The steamer Orion and the seagoing tugboat Underwriter were sent to Cuba to do so.

HavanaDock_2:No definitive details about this photograph. At Havana sometime between 1898 and 1901. Photograph now in the public domain. Originally published by the Detroit Publishing Company.

HavanaDock_3: USS Maine entering Havana harbour on the 25th of January 1898. Photograph now in the public domain. Original source not determined.

HavanaDock_4: Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII in the dock at Havana sometime in 1898. Photograph from the Municipal Archives of Trondheim. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence.

Dreadnought 13-09-2013 22:18

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
3 Attachment(s)
Havana Dock – American Service at Pensacola

I am pretty sure that the dock arrived in Pensacola towards the end of 1902, and became desgnated Dock No.2 Cannot find any references to the operation of the dock during its stay there, but it is presumed she was used for the repair and maintenance of the large US battleships, the previous capacity being only an old wooden dock that seems to have been installed in 1826 when the Navy Yard was first built and equipped.

It is reported that on December the 11th 1903, the dock was involved in another accident. It appears that the smaller wooden dock was being docked in Dock No.2 (Havana dock) – presumably for cleaning and maintenance, when the blocks slipped, causing the smaller dock to crash through the pontoons and cause significant damage to the larger dock. The accident occurred just as the water was being pumped from the big dock, so that all of the weight of the small dock was on the blocks. Efforts were made to pump out the water from the small dock in order to float it, but the pumps and and pipes were too badly damaged to accomplish this. A fire engine and two naval tugs were used to pump out the water, and tow the small dock into the basin. Both docks ere successfully repaired.

On Monday the 24th of September 1906 a weak hurricane stared on the tip of South America in the Caribbean Sea with winds of 75 mph. The next day, the hurricane intensifies into a Category 3, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 115 mph. By the afternoon of Thursday the 27th, the hurricane made landfall near Pascagoula, Mississippi, as a Category 2 hurricane, and eventually weakened to a tropical storm.

The impact of the storm on the Pensacola shoreline, 100 miles away was devastating. It was considered as one on of the worst cyclones ever to hit the bay, giving rise to a 7 to 12 foot storm surge that caused millions of dollars in damage and 134 fatalities, 30 in Pensacola itself. At the navy yard of Pensacola, all but three boats, the Spanish cruiser Isla Luzon and the water boats, were either sunk or thrown ashore.

The small wooden floating dock was completely destroyed, being crushed against the stone dock wall. No.2 dock (Havana) Spain was driven ashore, with just minor damage, but areas surrounding it were littered with debris. It took several attempts to re-float the dock. Three naval tugs Hercules, Uacas and Osceola tried for several weeks, at one stage Osceola, while going ahead at full stem, had her propellor smashed by floating wreckage. The dock was finally resumed to service on October the 31st, one of the first dockings was that of the two tugs Accomac and Waubun. Accomac did not suffer much damage, but was swept high up onto the beacn. Waubun had almost sunk at her moorings, six pilings having been driven through her hull.

The following telegram was received at the navy department from the commandant of the Pensacola navy yard, gives a good account of the damage suffered:

“Machias at moorings In basin; Waubun sunk at wharf; coal barge No. 1 high on beach at west end of yard; Gloucester on beach outside of yard west; Wooden dry dock destroyed; new coal pen also gone; piles standing the old coal wharf and the steel drydock, wharf and ammunition wharf damaged; also Undine sunk; barge ashore; broken up target range; house destroyed; the Isla de Luzon floating in basin but leaking; steel drydock apparently undamaged; heavy wreckage in yard; trees uprooted; wireless topgallant masts and all electrical wires wrecked; power plant damaged and not working; buildings generally damaged by wind; one house uninhabitable; water damage to machinery on ground floor, No lives lost In navy yard. BICKNELL".

The task of raising the gunboat Machias was a big one as the hull had been badly damaged and it took divers several weeks to plug the holes so that she could be pumped out and raised. She was placed in the floating dock in early January 1907, and after hull repairs, was floated out on February the 15th.

The gunboat Gloucester was blown virtually high and dry onto the beach during the hurricane, but for about 2 feet under her bow. It took several weeks for the dredger Caucus to dredge a channel, finally allowing Gloucester to be pulled into deeper water, on February the 28th 1907.

In March 1907, the Navy Department offered the old wooden dock, resting at the bottom of Pensacola harbour, for sale. Whilst the wooden structure was of little value, the dock had a copper bottom. In April 1908 there is a record of a plan by M.A. Baker to raise the dock, but I can find no further reference to the outcome, or the final fate of the dock.

On May 19th 1907 the Spanish mail and passenger steamer Alfonsa XIII was towed into Pensacola harbour to undergo repair of a broken propeller. She was docked in the early hours of May the 22nd, and was the first Spanish ship to enter the dock since it was moved from Havana. Pumping out of the dock has to be ceased after several hours after the two or three of the pump motors overheated, and some burned out. Pumping was resumed some five or six hours later after repairs had been carried out. With her propeller repaired, Alfonsa XIII floated clear of the dock at 1.04 pm on Monday the 27th of May, to resume her interrupted voyage to Vera Cruz.

In July 1907, the light house tender Laurel was docked for hull scraping and painting, and other maintenance work. She left the dock on September the 5th.

On September the 9th, the dredger Caucus was in the dock having a new propeller fitted, after it hit an obstruction whilst dredging in the harbour, breaking thre of the four propeller blades.

On the 22nd of January 1908, the last of the vessels beached in the hurricane, the gunboat Vixen was floated out of the dock after several weeks of repairs.

In March 1908 the mexican cargo steamer Olympia was docked for hull scraping and painting.

On April the 3rd 1908, the torpedo boat Blakely was floated out of the dock after repairs to damage from being hit by a Whitehead torpedo during target practice.

By 1912, the US Navy declared that the old Spanish floating dock at Pensacola had deteriorated through age to such an extent as to be rendered on long fit for naval purposes. It was therefore sold. To James Shewan & Sons of Brooklyn. On the 4th of May 1912 the tugs Mary E. Scully and M.E. Luckenmach of the Scully Towing & Transportation line, left Pensacola with the dock in tow. The voyage was estimated to taKe 20 to 25 days to reach New York if the weather was fine.

I can find no further information about the dock or its final fate.

HavanaDock_5: Dock at Pensacola in 1905. Published by the Detroit Publishing Company. Believed to now be in the public domain. No copyright restrictions evident.

HavanaDock_6: Postcard showing ship docked whilst dock at Pensacola, probably around 1905 again?

HavanaDock_7: Just for interest, I think this is the old wooden dock at Pensacola. Date unknown. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.

Dreadnought 05-11-2013 13:56

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
13 Attachment(s)
Auxilliary Repair Dock ARD-5

Carrying on with the ARD-1 Class of docks, ARD-5 was laid down at the Pacific Bridge Company, Almeda in California on the 22nd of September 1941, and launched on the 12th of March 1942.

She measured 482 feet 7 inches overall length with the stern gate closed, and an internal basin length of 412 feet 8 inches. Her maximum beam was 76 feet, with a clearance of 48 feet 7 inches bewteen the wing walls. She had a lifting capacity of 4200 tons, later increased to 4500 tons. She carried to 10 ton cranes, and accommodated 125 officers and crew.

She was commissioned as USS ARD-5 on the 3rd of July 1942 and assigned to the Western Pacific for tending submarines and destroyers. It appears that she spent brief service in San Francisco and then to Pearl Harbor around December 1942. Here she remained briefly before being towed to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, by the tug Pawnee ATF74, arriving on the 7th of February 1943. She returned to Pearl Harbor on the 24th of November 1944, where it appears she remained until late 1945, when she was moved to the Submarine Based New London, Groton, Conneticut. She arrived here on the 26th of February 1946, and was assigned to New London Group Sixteenth Fleet which comprised of submarines in reserve commission.

On the 30th of August 1946 ADR-5 was placed ‘out of commission/ in service’, and she remained at Groton.

The name "WATERFORD" was adopted in 1976 to conform with the newly established practice of naming all Navy floating drydocks after cities having nuclear powered generators or research facilities. Waterford, a neighboring city to the Naval Submarine Base New London, is the site of the Millstone Nuclear Power Generating Facility. As a result of the close proximity, ARD-5 was officially named Waterford (ARD-5).

In 1990 she was modernised and in July 1997 she was strengthened to increaes her lifting capacity to 4500 tons. However, ARD-5 was de-commissioned on the 9th of September 1997, and struck from the Naval Register on the 1st of October. When operational, she was the Navy's oldest and narrowest drydock in service.

The 105th Congress Senate Report 105-333 authorised the sale of Waterford (ARD-5). It stes the “This 53 year-old vessel has exceeded its original design service by 26 years, and will be sold for $1,2220,000. The Chilean Navy has a need for a medium floating dry dock in order to perform repairs on its Newport Class LST as well as other medium sized and smaller ships.” The dock was sold on the 10th of March 1999 under the Security Assistance Program.

It appears that the dock was moved to NorfolkVirginia at some stage after de-commissioning, as on the 12th of May 1999, under the tow of the tug Ocean Wrestler, it left for Talcahuano, Chile, arriving there on the 18th of June.

On the 30th of August 1999, the dock, now designated Y-133 was re-comissioned as Talcahuano.

As far as I know, the dock is still in service.

ARD5_1: Aerial view of the Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Conneticut, showing ARD-5 on the right, and ARD_7 on the left. Taken late 1950’s. Navsource photograpah contributed by CW04 Stanley J. Brice USN. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_2: Probably taken in the 1960’s, again at Groton, showing ARD-5 in the foreground, and ARD-7 behind. Photograph in the public domain.

ARD5_3: 9th of September 1997 at the de-commissioning ceremony. Navsource photograpah contributed byTom Kilkenny

ARD5_4: Suspect an unofficial badge. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_5: As above

ARD5_6: As above

ARD5_7: Commemorative envelope April 15th. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_8: Inside of dock, probably at Groton in the 1960s or 1970s. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_9: In the same sequence as above showing submarine docking. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_10: And the dock pumped out. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_11: Taken at the ASMAR Shipyard, Talchuano, Chile. The “Shed” has a sliding roof apparently – how odd. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_12: Aerial view of ‘Talchuano’ at the ASMAR yard. Distinctive bow visible. Original source of image not determined. No copyright restrictons evident.

ARD5_13: Image from Google Maps showing the same.

WGVSr 07-11-2013 04:09

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Re: the controversy over ARD 4, my research indicates that ARDs 3 & 4 were never built. ARD 2 is still in Mexican service as ADI-1 as is ARD 5 as Talcahuano and ARD 11 as ADI-2. I believe the ARDs were "Camel" docks.

As an aside, the official designation AFDL is Small Auxiliary Floating Drydock [non self propelled]. They were, before 1946, classified as AFD - Mobile Floating Drydocks. For all of its purported logical basis, USN classification sometimes takes off for left field.

Dreadnought 07-11-2013 20:14

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Thanks for that Bill. I am now of the same opinion, and that where I have found records relating to ARD-4, that they are incorrect. I think the Navsource photograph I found, as mentioned in a previous post, is mis-captioned, and as John (Jayenn) says, is actually of ARD-1

Additional Info:

Just found some documentary evidence. In the book The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, by Norman Pomar, it lists ARD-3 and ARD-4 as 'cancelled'.

Thats good enough for me ...!

drydockjoe 19-01-2017 20:23

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Clive, et al.

Excellent forum!

I wish to inform the readership on U.S.S. RELIANCE (AFDL-47) which was stationed at Detyens Shipyard in N. Charleston, SC.

She sank 260 miles SE of Jacksonville, FL in October while under tow for Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. She was self-insured by her new Owner, as no underwriter would bind coverage.

Feel free to contact me if further info is needed.

Best regards,


jbryce1437 19-01-2017 21:52

Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Hello Joe and many thanks for the update on U.S.S. RELIANCE (AFDL-47). Feel free to contribute anything else of interest here.


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