After more than a month in drydock, the Battleship NJ sets date for Camden return

With new reinforcement plates and a fresh coat of paint, the Big NJ will soon return to its Camden home.

Battleship New Jersey

File - Battleship New Jersey dry docked.(Courtesy of Battleship New Jersey)

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Work is almost complete on a project to extend the life of the Battleship New Jersey, and a date has been set for the massive ship to return to its home berth in Camden.

The legendary ship was due for refurbishment after decades of sitting in the Delaware River. The work included a new paint job and other repairs at the Navy Yard, where there was a crew and a big enough drydock to hold the ship.

Before returning to service as a museum, the ship will need to be refloated and moved a few feet to expose the metal covered by supports during the initial painting to complete the work.

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After that small move, the drydock will again be drained and another round of tours will be offered as the painting wraps up.

Battleship CEO Marshall Spevak said the drydock tours have been wildly popular — and profitable. More than 6,000 people have paid the $225 ticket to get a rare glimpse at the massive ship out of the water.

“There are a few tickets left. Not many if anyone wants to get in the last minute opportunity this once-in-a-generation opportunity to walk underneath of the Battleship,  touch the hull,” Spevak said.

“We’ll be leaving the Philadelphia Navy Yard on June 14. We’ll be heading to Paulsboro for a quick pit stop as we did on the way down here. And then on June 20, we’ll be leaving Paulsboro and traveling the six miles upriver underneath the Walt Whitman Bridge again and back to our home court in Camden.”

The trip to Paulsboro is needed to remove water in the holding tanks on the boat.

“When we stopped there on the way on the way down to the dry dock, we actually put about almost 500,000 gallons of water in the forward tanks in order to even out the ship,” Spevak said. “What we’ll be doing when we return is taking that water off. So we’ll de-water about 500,000 gallons from the forward tanks at Paulsboro. And then after that, that’s when we’ll be ready to return back to Camden.”

The original plan for the refurbishment work included three jobs: painting the hull, patching holes and repairing the ship’s cathodic protection system to detect rusting.

Spevak said they did more work once they could see the bottom of the ship, including welding on some extra plates in places where the hull was thinner than they wanted to see. They then found a special epoxy caulk, some 18,000 feet of it, on the ship. After several weeks of research, they were able to figure out what the caulk was and replaced it to keep water from seeping into the battleship.

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Once the ship returns to dock in Camden on June 22, connections will still need to be made before it’s ready for public boarding. Organizers expect at least the top deck will be reopened on June 29 to welcome guests aboard to view fireworks displays over the Delaware River for the Fourth of July weekend.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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