Port of Bremerton Offers Marinas and Maritime History
From the Combat Information Center of the 418-foot USS Turner Joy, eerie red lights emanate from screens and instruments. Just like in the movies, the combat systems on the former Vietnam-era destroyer radiate in an otherwise completely blacked-out room.
Jim Porter, director of the Bremerton Historic Ships Association (BHSA), explained that the red, glowing instruments had one main purpose. The red light enabled personnel to read the instruments at night or when they came in out of the sunlight. Just forward of the “red room,” we explored the pilothouse, where during the ship’s 23-year tour of duty, the captain gave the commands. In August 1964, one command led to the ship’s gunners sinking or damaging four North Vietnamese gunboats.
The USS Turner Joy was the last Forrest Sherman Class destroyer ever built. It was decommissioned in 1982 and during the past 14 years the vessel has been painstakingly restored and administered by the BHSA. The USS Turner Joy is moored adjacent to the Bremerton Marina and is open to the public year round.
As Port of Bremerton Marine Facilities Director Steve Toms noted, “A tour of the retired destroyer remains the highlight of many boaters’ visit to either Port Orchard Marina or the Bremerton Marina.”
Let us take you on a brief tour of this living, floating piece of our country’s recent, maritime history. As we go, we want to share the latest developments at two of Puget Sound’s most popular boating destinations.
Boaters Ferry Over to Bremerton and the USS Turner Joy
Late last spring, my companions, eight-year-old Reid Larson and his grandfather, Harry Lindquist, and I drove from Seattle to Port Orchard. The idea was to simulate how visiting boaters access the destroyer from the Port Orchard Marina.
Now, well fortified with cinnamon rolls, coffee and conversation, Toms walked us over to the foot ferry to Bremerton. Although, visiting boaters could power over to the Bremerton Marina, most prefer to leave their boats moored at the Port Orchard Marina. They hop on the Kitsap Transit passenger ferry Carlisle II for a fast (12 minutes), cheap ($2 adults/kids one-way) and fun ride that offers spectacular views of Sinclair Inlet and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The USS Turner Joy’s Chief Engineer Porter Cooper met us in Port Orchard. After the ferry ride he escorted us along the Bremerton Boardwalk to the ship. In the sunshine, the ship’s gray skin and black guns gleam. It looked sleek, powerful and immaculate.
Cooper explained that the ship is a work in progress. After more than a decade of mostly volunteer effort, 98 percent of the destroyer is open for self-guided walking tours. Groups of 20 or more are invited to call ahead for a personal tour guide.
Pointing at the ship’s hull, he noted that two years ago the vessel was pulled to dry dock on Lake Union in Seattle. The hull was encrusted in marine life: seaweed, barnacles and worms. “We pulled off 54 tons of stuff,” said Cooper. “It made a stinky mess for a few weeks, but it was important maintenance. We also pumped out all the oil.”
The ship continues to be upgraded, but it is all a matter of money. When enough donations have accumulated, the BHSA will finish the restroom facilities onboard the vessel. The restrooms will allow groups such as the Sea Scouts, Girls Scouts or adult groups to use the ship as an overnight retreat.
The many volunteers that have worked to restore the USS Turner Joy to mint condition, have made the vessel accessible and safe for all ages. Still, parents and grandparents need to keep a sharp eye on youngsters.
With that warning in mind, Porter gave us an hour-long tour of the vessel. While he explained a bit of the ship’s history, Larson prowled around inside one of the ship’s three gunmounts (5-inch 54).
The USS Turner Joy was the lead ship of its 18-vessel class, which was the first class of destroyer to be built after World War II. These vessels were not armored like battle cruisers, but built lighter to take the offensive with their torpedoes and guns. As a result, the Sherman Class destroyers were good at protecting fleets against surface, submarine and air attack.
By the end of the Vietnam War, the next class of destroyers deployed guided missiles. Given an estimated cost of $54 million to update the well-worn destroyer, the Navy decided to decommission the vessel in November 1982.
As we toured the ship, we could see the how the destroyer was built like a small town with services, such as a post office and a barbershop, perched on a cavernous city jammed with power-generating equipment. Porter, who served for 25 years in the Navy on similar ships in main propulsion, showed us the two engine rooms.
We looked on in awe as he described how the giant boilers worked with two, 70,000 hp steam turbines to power two football-field-long propeller shafts. He explained that the destroyer could run at a top speed at 40 mph. At that speed each of the four boilers used 800 gallons of diesel fuel per hour!
Up a level, we were amazed at the scores of bunks, called “coffin racks,” used by the enlisted men. We toured the laundry, ship’s store and visited the crew mess hall. Further forward, we took turns sitting in the captain’s chair in the Captain’s Mess. Porter showed us the phone at the captain’s chair and the silver dishes that were used every night in the formal mess.
Destroyer Welcomes Boaters
“The Turner Joy had been run hard by the time it was retired,” said Porter. “It is important to remember that the ship was awarded nine battle stars as a gunfire support vessel in Southeast Asia.”
Boaters are encouraged to visit the USS Turner Joy individually or as part of a boating association group. Those interested in volunteer work on the destroyer are invited to fill out an interest sheet at the guest shop. Added Porter, “Boaters make great tour guides.”
Statistical Data at Point of Commissioning
Displacement: 2800 tons standard; 4050 tons fully loaded
Length: 418 feet
Draft: 22 feet
Power: 70,000 hp steam turbines, two propeller shafts
Speed: 32.5 knots
Crew: 319-332 (19 officers, 300 enlisted)
Guns: (3) 5-inch 54
Antisubmarine weapons: (6) MK 32 torpedo tubes
Builder: Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Co., Seattle, WA
Keel laid: 30 September 1957
Launched: 5 May 1958
Commissioned: 3 August 1959
Decommissioned: 27 November 1982
Naval Memorial: 1990
Bremerton Historic Ships Association, (360) 792-2457; www.ussturnerjoy.org/membership.html
Port Orchard Marina and Bremerton Marina, (360) 373-1035; www.portofbremerton.org
Bremerton Chamber of Commerce: (360) 479-3579; www.bremertonchamber.org
Port of Bremerton Offers Marinas and Maritime History