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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

November 10, 1999
The 97-year-old Jupiter will greet the battleship when it returns to its birthplace Thursday.

Shawn Sullivan, Courier-Post
The tug Jupiter operated by the Ship Preservation Guild and owned by Penns Landing Corp. tended the USS New Jersey the day it was launched.


When the newly constructed battleship USS New Jersey slid down greased wooden ramps exactly one year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it generated a large wave as it glided into the Delaware River from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

The tugboat Jupiter, one of several workboats handling the ship at its launch that day in 1942 and preventing it from touching the New Jersey shoreline, took the first line from the mammoth ship one of the two largest battleships ever built by the United States.

That same tug will be in the river Thursday to welcome the ship back to her birthplace.

This time, the Jupiter, now 97 years old, will be ferrying passengers to witness the historic and final homecoming of the ship.

"We will be having all the banners, bells and whistles," said Karen Love, executive vice president of the Ship Preservation Guild. The nonprofit guild operates the ship, which is owned by the Penns Landing Corp.

"We are just thrilled the Jupiter can participate in this very exciting event, especially it caught the ship's first line after the launching," she said.

The all-volunteer tugboat crew also hope they will be able to give a ceremonial nudge to the battleship once it is safely berthed at the former shipyard.

Tug volunteer Walt Fitzgerald of Philadelphia said the guild is seeking Navy permission for the ceremonial maneuver, but does not yet know whether that will be possible.

Deckhand Bobby Flemming of Philadelphia, a retired banking analyst who was born in Camden and raised in Merchantville, said she is looking forward to being part of the historic event on Thursday.

``I never knew how much I was going to enjoy boats when I joined,'' Flemming said.

The tug no longer assists large commercial or naval vessels as it once did. When it ventures out into the river, it is usually to take volunteers or other groups on cruises or take part in boat parades. It also is used as a functioning tug, moving the guild's other vessels.

Most of the time, however, it is in its dock at Pier 40 along the Philadelphia Waterfront undergoing maintenance and restoration a never-ending process for an aging ship of iron.

The volunteers include tugboat professionals, retirees and other boating enthusiasts.

On the stack of the 90-foot tug, whose power has been converted from steam to diesel, is a large "M" for Meyle, the man who owned Independent Pier Co. when the tug was working on the river. Its green, red and cream coloring also mirrors the original color scheme.

Built in the Philadelphia shipyard of Neafie and Levy in 1902, the tug originally was named Sacony No. 14 and first served in New York before Independent Pier Co. brought it to Philadelphia in 1939 and renamed it Jupiter.

"This is a Delaware Valley boat (the New Jersey) that belongs in the Delaware Valley," said Navy veteran Fitzgerald, referring to the effort to keep her on the Delaware as a floating museum along the Camden Waterfront.

In addition to commercial and naval vessels, the tug towed stone was the stone on a ship, or a barge?that was used to build a support facility for the submarine cable detection system that spanned the Delaware Bay during World War II. It also towed the USS San Francisco and other vessels to the naval shipyard during wartime. Jupiter was sold in 1980 to a Boston towing company, but returned here in 1989 when the guild bought it.

"She is believed to be one of the oldest tugs still active in the region," Love said.

Thursday, Jupiter will carry Philadelphia-Camden port officials, former shipyard workers and area veterans from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to see the docking of the USS New Jersey.

"It will have one of the best waterline views of the berthing of the `Big J,'" Camden County spokesman Ken Shuttleworth said.

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