Military ships en route to Fleet Week venue in Florida
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Three military ships do not commonly constitute a fleet, but they will have to serve that role this year as the stars of Fleet Week 2014, which begins Monday.
The centerpiece of the annual event, which runs though May 5, will be the USS New York, scheduled to steam into Port Everglades on Monday morning around 8. Though the port will be closed to the public for security reasons, spectators can view its arrival — including sailors standing in formation along the rail — from the jetty at the inlet's north side or the beach to the south.
Also arriving Monday, after the New York, will be the Bernard C. Webber, a Miami-based Coast Guard cutter. Another Coast Guard cutter, the Dependable, stationed in Cape May, N.J., is scheduled to dock at the port on May 2.
Some 360 sailors and about 100 Marines will be aboard the New York. They will enjoy liberty ashore at beaches, bars, restaurants and shopping malls, be feted at local receptions and parties, and participate in various community service projects.
The 684-foot-long New York, based in Mayport, is an amphibious transport ship, capable of delivering a force of Marines, along with materiel and weaponry, on enemy beaches. But the vessel's real distinction is its connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Its bow stem, the most forward section of the hull, is constructed of 7.5 tons of steel from the World Tarde Center. Other memorabilia from the attacks can be found throughout the ship, and its motto is "Never Forget."
About 2,000 people have already registered to tour the ship. Those tours have all been filled.
The three military ships are a far cry from Fleet Weeks of the past. For 22 years, as many as eight military ships would dock at Port Everglades for a week each spring, disgorging thousands of liberty-hungry sailors. Last year, however, government sequestration budget cuts precluded Navy vessels from participating.
The Navy is providing ships for public visits to the nation's ports this year, but on a much smaller scale than previously.