Once thought to be unmovable, the Battleship Texas heads to Galveston for repairs

Planning the ship’s journey through the Houston Ship Channel took years.

By Michael MarksAugust 30, 2022 11:33 am,

While in service, the USS Texas sailed through some of the globe’s most treacherous waters.

The Texas is one of only eight ships to serve in both world wars. Its crew supported American troops on D-Day and on Iwo Jima. After being decommissioned, the Texas became a floating museum, docked beside the old San Jacinto Battleground near Houston.

On Wednesday, the Texas will once again set out into open waters when a group of tugboats tows it to a dry dock in Galveston, where the ship will undergo extensive repairs on its hull as part of a long-term plan to preserve the vessel. The journey will be live-streamed starting about 3 a.m.

Bruce Bramlett, chief operating officer for the Battleship Texas Foundation, spoke to Texas Standard about moving the Texas and the ship’s future.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Sounds like y’all are going to get an early start Wednesday morning. What happens starting around 5:30 a.m.? 

Bruce Bramlett: Yeah, we are. You know, part of the reason is that the Houston Ship Channel is closing down for us tomorrow. And so we’re going to have a clear shot all the way to Galveston. But they would like for us to be out of the channel while it’s still daylight. So consequently, we will begin to move the ship between 5:30 and 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. Once underway, we expect she will arrive in Galveston along about 3 or 4 tomorrow afternoon.

And you are talking to us from the deck of the Texas right now, is that right?

I am. It’s a feverish pitch here; it has been now for a few weeks as we’re making sure we have everything done on our end. We actually removed the power from the ship yesterday, and then late this afternoon to early morning, we’ll remove the gangway, final disconnections on water and sewer and all that stuff. So she’ll be totally free. We really need everything disconnected and ready to go. All of the riding party – the different people that will actually be on the ship as she makes our way down – well, once we pull the gangway, they’re all on the ship. I mean, in theory, we could get them off, but nobody else will be going on, nobody else will be coming off until the ship’s in the dock.

» From Houston Public Media: Battleship Texas will soon be on the move

How perilous of a journey is this? I mean, you’re talking about repairs on the hull here.

Well, you know, it’s funny. I’ve been here 11 years, and for the first nine, everybody said, “you can’t move her, you can’t move her, you can’t move her.” And I would agree she’s not movable unless you planned it and did the proper preparations. And then if you look, you know, I think most people would slow down and go, wait a minute, this whole thing’s insured. So the insurers wouldn’t want any part of it if they weren’t convinced we could safely move it.

The towing companies, the marine surveyors, the engineers, the Coast Guard, the Houston pilots, the Galveston pilots, everybody’s all in on this. And they’re not in on it because it’s going to sink. They’re in on it because we’ve simulated it twice, and we all know and everybody’s impressed. They say “we never see anybody go to this extent.” This is going to work. It’s going to work fine.

And then obviously, the other one that always tickles me, the people go, “Hey, you’re going to sink her.” I’m like, you know they ripped the side off the Titanic and it still took it 2 hours and 45 minutes to sink. The ship is not going to be there and then be gone. If anything catastrophic happened, we’ve predetermined spots down the channel where we simply would ground her, put the divers in the water, figure out what’s going on. We’ll pump the water out and we’ll get up and get going.

Once the repairs are finished, the ship will not be returning to the San Jacinto Battleground. Where’s it off to, and why? 

Yeah, a couple of things there. The first thing I would tell your listeners is the state of Texas owns a battleship Texas. They always will. They should. It’s the right place for it to be. But they made the decision when we pulled it out of San Jacinto State Park. They’re looking for a more favorable location where it’s more visible, it gets more visitors. And I love the park – I’ve been coming in and out of here, you know, most of my life; it’s beautiful. But the ship’s history doesn’t have anything to do with San Jacinto. We’re going to take our history with us. It was made thousands of miles from here, and it’ll go wherever the ship goes.

We’ve been in long-term conversations with Beaumont, Baytown and Galveston about the new home. Those negotiations continue. And so it’s really the final piece of the puzzle. You know, you do the funding. You do the “how do we move it? Where are we going to get a dock?” Even the dock is a story. It was in the Bahamas, had to be repaired. It spent eight days being towed to Galveston. But they’re doing final prep. We’re doing final prep. And we’re going to meet up tomorrow afternoon.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.