Do you like to hunt for treasures, take things apart, and make a mess? Then you would have loved being a cadet on Sea Term 1959. Yes, sixty-two years ago cadets were not only allowed to do all of the above, they were ordered to.
This year bringing home souvenirs is not possible. On a typical Sea Term, however, it is not unusual for cadets to spend an hour or two shopping while in port. Some grab items that they wish they had brought from home, while others hunt for the perfect souvenirs for parents, siblings, girlfriends, or boyfriends. During Sea Term 1959, however, cadets went on a very different kind of shopping spree - one that was scheduled to last ten days.
Cadets aboard the TS Bay State II cruised to Olympia, Washington to what some might call a “ship junkyard”. Their mission was to shop for spare parts for their training ship. They didn’t quickly grab parts from just any abandoned ship. Their sights that were set on the USS Feland, the sister ship to the TS Bay State II.
All In The Family
If you’re scratching your head at the term sister ship, let me explain. A sister ship is a ship of the same class and with an almost identical design of another ship. Sister ships are the same size and have compatible features and equipment. You might think of them as twins. And similar to twin sisters who share clothing, sister ships are able to share their parts.
The 414-foot TS Bay State II had been formerly called the USS Doyen. Like her sister ship the USS Feland, the USS Doyen served the US Navy during World War II. The two ships were responsible for transporting troops and cargo around the world.
During the mid-1950s, there were as many as 185 cargo ships, troop carriers, and fuel carriers tied up at Budd Inlet in Olympia Washington. Many of the ships in this National Defense Reserve Fleet were still in great condition. If needed by the government, they could be ready for service within three weeks. Some rusty ships had seen better days and were used primarily for spare parts.
Captain Campbell explained that for many older ships, salvaging is the only way that spare parts can be located. As ships age, many of their parts are no longer manufactured.
Let’s Go Shopping
In their 1959 yearbook, cadets recalled this unusual shopping trip.
One cadet wrote, “After leaving Long Beach, we made our way up the N.W. coast, leaving warmth and sunshine of California behind us. Soon Cape Flaherty was in sight. We made our way through the straits and steamed through Puget Sound into the boneyard of World War II shipping, the Reserve Fleet Area of Olympia, Washington.
We were here to strip the last life from the Bay State’s sister, the USS Feland. We had tons of equipment to transfer from the Feland to the Bay State, which would have caused many a salvage engineer to look a second time. Since there is no substitute for middie labor, the task was accomplished well ahead of schedule.”
Another cadet described the experience like this. “At the foot of the Puget sound, in Budd Inlet, lies a monument to America’s seagoing war effort. Tired old hulks, long since weary of transporting men and machines, lay at anchor, rusting away as they wait for the inevitable shipbreakers torch. Among them was the former USS Feland, sister ship to our own Bay State. Our mission was to salvage as much useful material and parts as possible in ten days.
The Middies started in on their task by seizing such valuable items as two hundred AC fans, four portable telephones, a non-functioning radar set, and sundry fittings. The engineers went right to town, removing everything that would fit through the engine room door. Thanks must go to the deckmen, for through their careful handling of the gear from the Feland to the Bay State, the engineering department now has enough gadgets for the next twenty years.”
Plenty Of Memories & Spare Parts
This unusual shopping adventure left cadets involved with interesting stories to tell throughout their seagoing careers.
It also provided the TS Bay State II with all of the spare parts that she needed while serving the Academy until 1973. I guess that’s what sisters do for each other.