2007-03-29 / Letters to the Editor

Codington Cove ship building memories

Your article introducing Commander Bill Kelly was missing some information concerning his U.S. Coast Guard cutter. The Seneca was built right across Narragansett Bay, in Middletown, at the Robert E. Derecktor Shipyard.

In the 1980s, Derecktor's yard in Coddington Cove was the scene of what can fairly be described as the last great shipbuilding effort in Rhode Island. Nine of these cutters were built. In its heyday the yard employed more than 800 individuals. A few of our neighbors were among that workforce.

My memories of the "WMEC," aka medium endurance class cutter construction, include watching the rather novel method of transferring the partially completed hulls from the construction shed onto the dry dock for launching. The ship was on blocks. A series of metal tracks were laid under and in front of the hull. Metal wheels were placed on the tracks. The boat was then slowly winched onto the dry dock. Imagine the dock ship we see now in the bay doing a ship-to-shore transfer of two of the 270-foot cutters simultaneously and you will have the basic idea.

Derecktor also built ferries for the City of New York, tugboats for the Army Corps of Engineers, racing yachts, and did commercial repair work. During the Coast Guard contract they trained hundreds of men and women in the trades, including welding, ship fitting, and carpentry. After 20 years it's a good feeling to know that the Seneca is still on missions.

As those who did work there can attest, there are many more stories from the 10 or so years that Bob Derecktor operated the Coddington Cove shipyard. Let me take this opportunity to exploit the power of the press to encourage anyone who might be interested in sharing those stories by attending a shipyard "reunion" to contact me at 423-9160. Karen Augeri Benson                 Jamestown

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