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Maritime Museum fleet to grow

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SUB RAZORBACK: Soon to have company.
  • SUB RAZORBACK: Soon to have company.

Bringing the USS Hoga tug used to rescue sailors after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which North Little Rock won custody of from the U.S. Navy last year, to an Arkansas River port hadn’t been smooth sailing. Too fragile to be towed through the ocean, the tug needed to be shipped from Oakland, Calif., by a special barge, and cost estimates ranged from $900,000 to $1.2 million.

But in October, what’s called a “tow of convenience” by a barge that would otherwise have returned empty to the New Orleans port will allow North Little Rock to bring the Hoga here for $400,000. The 100-foot-long, 200-light-ton boat will be tugged from the mothball fleet at Suisun Bay to San Francisco, where it will be lifted by crane onto the barge. The boat should arrive in New Orleans the first week in January and will then make the 10-day trip up the Mississippi to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum on the Arkansas River at North Little Rock.

The historic boat will be restored to its World War II configuration. Greg Zonner, museum director, said the main deck should be open to the public by summer.

By then, the USS Razorback, which has kept the museum afloat with an estimated 30,000 visitors since its 2005 opening, will offer something new to the submarine-loving public: Overnight stays. Zonner said the overnights will have an educational component; he expects school groups or Scouts interested in history and science will sign on to sleep on the sub.

Day tours of the Razorback are now available on weekends. The sub was used in World War II and recommissioned during the Cold War; Razorback-related documents, postcards and other WWII materials can be seen in a small facility on the barge Savannah Lou adjacent to the submarine. Area submariners have been active in promoting the museum, providing both sweat equity and artifacts.

A memorial to the sub the USS Snook is at the entrance to the museum complex, which includes a gift shop on the covered barge Mary Munns moored to the west of the Razorback. A deck on the Mary Munns that offers an unimpeded view of the Little Rock skyline can be reserved for parties; an annual 4th of July fund raiser is held there for a Beacon of Peace and Hope sculpture to be installed near the museum, a project of Women’s Action for New Directions.

The museum is supported by the AIMM Foundation, a non-profit created in 2003 and headed by North Little Mayor Pat Hays. Hays hopes to establish to a separate museum facility and secure a collection of seagoing vessels. The museum facility is at least a decade out, curator Greg Stitz estimated.

For more information, call 371-8320.

— Leslie Newell Peacock

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