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USS Nimitz aircraft carrier stops off Santa Cruz coast

SANTA CRUZ -- The USS Nimitz stopped by Santa Cruz waters on Friday, offering a rare glimpse of one of the largest war ships in the world.

The 1,092-foot aircraft carrier was on its way from San Diego to its home port of Everett, Washington, Friday morning. It originally was expected to stop off Monterey, said Kim Bui-Burton, a spokeswoman for the Monterey Harbor.

Boat traffic and concerns about water depth in Monterey convinced the Nimitz's leaders to stop south of Santa Cruz instead, Bui-Burton said Friday.

The nuclear powered vessel stopped about 2.5 nautical miles southwest of the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor and was visible through lifting fog about 2 p.m.

"It's pretty cool. To get a big boat like that in here is a pretty rare treat," said Niki Rothwell, a customer service worker at the Santa Cruz harbor office.

The Nimitz crew performed anchoring exercises Friday afternoon then headed north, Monterey harbor leaders said.

The $8.5 billion boat can carry a crew of more than 3,000 sailors and 60 aircraft, according to the U.S. Navy. It was first deployed in 1975 and can go 34.5 mph.

Aircraft carriers like the Nimitz have deterred potential adversaries from striking U.S. interests simply with their presence, according to the Navy.

Navy crews on carriers typically support aircraft and have assisted in disaster response and humanitarian work. The USS Nimitz is named after Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who commanded the Pacific fleet during World War II.

The Nimitz also has been in the movies.

In 1980, actors Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen starred in the "The Final Countdown" aboard the USS Nimitz with full cooperation of the Navy. The sci-fi cult classic has the Nimitz disappearing through a time warp from 1980 to the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The film was a modest box office success, but it lives on among military and science fiction buffs, according to the Internet Movie Database.

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