Torsk, Constellation will move to dry dock

Baltimore's Inner Harbor will look a little bare this week after two of its premier attractions — the submarine Torsk and the 1854 sloop of war Constellation — are towed away for a month of repairs in dry dock.

The Torsk will be the first to go as tugs move in around 9 a.m. Sunday to escort the World War II veteran down the harbor to the Sparrows Point Shipyard.

The Constellation will follow at about 9 a.m. on Monday, according to Chris Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore, part of the Living Classrooms Foundation and the ships' caretaker.

The two vessels — built for naval duty nearly a century apart — will be worked on side by side at the shipyard, now owned by Massachusetts-based Barletta Industries.

This will be the first haul-out for both ships since the late 1990s. The repairs are expected to cost about $500,000.

"In a perfect world you would pull them out every five or 10 years," Rowsom said. "We're a little bit beyond that. But it is very, very difficult to raise money for this kind of thing. This kind of maintenance work is not very sexy."

The Torsk was last dry-docked for repairs in 1997. This time it will receive an electrical cathodic protection system designed to slow corrosion. Some sections of steel will be replaced or fitted with double plates. Its torpedo tubes will be cleaned and painted.

The Constellation, which underwent extensive restoration from 1998 to 2000, will have its bottom inspected, cleaned, caulked and painted with an anti-fouling coat. The laminated hull installed during the restoration will also be examined for signs of water intrusion, as will the remaining sections of original 1854 planking near the keel.

"We've got a bunch of leaks we need to address on the original hull planking," Rowsom said.

The two ships will be towed from the Inner Harbor by tugs operated by Vane Brothers Towing and Smith Marine Towing, which are donating their services. Other services and materials are also being donated, or provided at reduced rates, by a variety of local firms.

Even so, the work won't be cheap. Only $320,000 of the half-million-dollars total has been raised so far, Rowsom said. That much has come from Baltimore City, the Baltimore National Heritage Area, the Maryland Heritage Authority and the Living Classrooms' own capital fund.

Additional funding through the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures Program has been promised, but remains held up by Congress' failure to pass a budget.

Maryland weather blog: Frank Roylance on meteorology

Sign up for FREE mobile weather alerts