JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Justin Weakland is ecstatic because the one-of-a-kind Jacksonville Naval Museum could be off the St. Johns River before the end of the year.
Weakland, the current vice president of the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association, said the centerpiece of the museum will be the USS Orleck.
“The ordinances were already approved, so now the next big step is getting her to dry dock in Texas and inspecting her, make sure she’s good to go for the next 10 years as a museum ship,” said Weakland. “The Orleck is a historic bold ship for the Bold City.”
The Orleck museum ship will be dry-docked at Port Arthur, Texas, where its hull will be inspected to make sure it can make the trip to Florida and continue to serve as a museum ship. According to a news release, the drydocking of the ship is planned for Nov. 1.
Inspection of the ship is expected to be completed by Nov. 3 or 4. If found fit for use as a museum ship, it will then embark on a 10-day tow from Texas to Florida.
“It was built in World War II, served in Korea, served in Vietnam, then it went on to serve in Desert Storm with the Turkish Navy,” said Weakland. “It is the most decorated Navy ship after World War II. It’s amazing. People just don’t know it because it’s in a tiny town. Now we are going to bring it to this great big city that has a huge Navy presence so it will be great.”
The Orleck was awarded 18 battle stars. After the Orleck’s US Naval service, she was transferred to the Turkish Navy and renamed the Yüctepe. It was transferred back to the U.S. in August 2000 to become a museum ship.
When the ship arrives in Jacksonville, it will be moored stern in, starboard side to “Pier 1,″ which is adjacent to the Berkman Marina along East Bay Street in the old Shipyards area in Downtown Jacksonville. The exact date of arrival still remains unclear.
Preparation work of the museum once it’s docked at the pier is expected to take two to four weeks, but it could be extended.
To fund the only U.S. Naval warship museum in Florida, the group has $2.5 million: $1 million from the state of Florida and another $1.5 million from loans and creditors.
The museum will serve as a gathering place for Naval associations, crew reunions and military conventions. It will support veterans as a local resource and networking center.
People could be on board as early as January.