USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Commissioning in Pensacola, Florida - Chapter 1
by Ted Brown

The Navy linehandlers wait at the
Port of Pensacola.

Coming up the ship channel in
Pensacola Bay
On the afternoon of August 8, 1998, the Bonhomme Richard sailed into Pensacola Bay. She was in town for a gala event; she was to be officially commissioned into the United States Navy. It had been decided that she would dock at the Port of Pensacola for a few days to get ready for her coming out and to give the folks of Pensacola the chance to see her as public tours were going to be allowed of this magnificent lady. (Ships are always ladies)

A proud day for the Port of Pensacola
Her procession up the Pensacola Port ship channel, escorted by the harbor tugs that had been gathered here from Mobile and New Orleans for the occasion (Pensacola only has one harbor tug because of the size of the Port), was truly awe-inspiring when the reality of docking an 844 foot, 40,500 ton ship at the Port of Pensacola became apparent. Pensacola gets few ships this big! The Tate High School Band played them in and everyone was glad to see them come to Pensacola.
After a weekend of tours she set sail for the Naval Air Station Pier on Tuesday morning, August 11. The harbor pilot ordered the tugs to make up on the bow and stern and smoothly eased her away from the Port dock. One tug was positioned on the bow and took a towline to his stern. This was done so the tug could tow (pull) the bow of the ship away from the dock. The other tugs were placed on the outboard side of the ship and made fast with lines to their bows so they could come astern and pull the ship out in that manner. Once the pilot was ready he gave the command to cast off lines and the tugs began to work.
Once the pilot determined that he was far enough out from the dock he commanded one of the tugs to come around to the starboard side and start pushing the ship further away from the dock. When he got far enough out then he commanded the bow tug to pull more to the southeast and the other tugs to push the stern around to the west to line up with the ship channel. Once lined up the pilot gave the ship power and she was on her way, bound for the Navy Dock, some 5 miles distant.
Two of the out of town harbor tugs
get underway for the undocking

Undocking operation

The Pilot ordered one of the tugs to
come around to the starboard side and push.

Once undocked, she was
turned to head out

Making her approach to the dock
at Naval Station Pensacola
The voyage to the Navy Pier was uneventful, taking about an hour to cover the distance from the Port of Pensacola to the Navy Base. The Navy Pier lies between the Port and the "Pass," the land cut by which ships and other vessels come and go between the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola's inland water bodies. The sun was still fairly low in the east when the tugs were called upon again to take lines and prepare to assist the Richard. A tug was placed on a towline from the bow of the ship so as to be able to maneuver the bow as necessary. The other tugs were made up on the port side, away from the pier, to control the approach speed into the dock. Finally, the word was given by the lookouts that the ship was in position, and the tugs were ordered to push the Richard up to the dock. Small "heaving" lines were thrown down with ship's lines attached to be put on the bits on the dock below by waiting Navy linehandlers. The docklines that were used, I was told, are made of Kevlar, the material that is used in bulletproof vests, and is almost unbreakable! These lines will pull the Bollards out by the "roots" from the dock before they would break!

Continued on next page.....



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