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This replica is a smaller version of S-44 (SS155)
First a brief history on the real S-44:
S class submarines were built at the end of WW-I through the 1920's. The S-boats were replaced by the more modern "Fleet subs" prior and during WW-II. While attractive looking the S-boats were known as unreliable, could not dive past 250 feet and due to their lack of air conditioning were often referred to as "Pigboats". After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and war broke out we used what we had including all available S-boats. The S-boats had a poor record except for S-44 and S-39. These crews had lots of "Moxie" and S-44 was the first US Sub to sink a Japanese heavy cruiser! S-44 went on to sink a couple more Japanese ships before it was sunk near the Aleutians (where my Grandfather served) by a Japanese destroyer. Two of the crew survived and were captured by the Japanese where they were forced to work in copper mines throughout the rest of the war. Today there are no remaining S-boats afloat. For more on the history of S-44 visit: Lost boats & www.subnet.com/fleet/ss155.htm.
How did this project start?
In 1996 Lloyd Reeves (that me!) put a tourist semi-sub "SEA VIEW" into operation in Morro Bay, California. This USCG inspected vessel was a lot of fun with the underwater windows but the heavy yellow boat didn't have much in the way of History. I wanted a larger vessel that could have both interesting underwater viewing and a historical point of view. My idea was to build it from the waterline up with history in mind and from the waterline down with underwater viewing in mind. After lots of research the crew on S-44 won me over. Their final war patrol left harbor on Sept. 26th (my birthday). In 1998 I thought by moving "Sea View" to the Los Angles area I would earn enough to finance a 65' version of S-44. But the money was not as good as I had expected and "Sea View" returned to Morro Bay. In 2001 after having sold both "Sea View" and "Dos Osos" (a 32' USCG inspected charter cat that I built) I had the time and $ to start. Kurt Hughs a top catamaran designer agreed to help. Working off plans from the National Archives, the Floating Drydock's model plans and lots of old photos he was able to come up with full size line drawings of the frames. He worked his buns off and the version I'm building is version "H". That's right he did versions A thru G before getting it just right! This version is 42' with a 7' 10" beam so it is trailerable.
So after several years of talk, research and building I've finally got the scale replica of S-44 finished. The first week of September 2003 I trucked the replica from my home in Los Osos, California to Reno for the U.S. Submarine Veterans Convention.
Here in the parking lot of the Reno Hilton, David E. Gebhart (who served on the real S-44 from 1938 to 1940 before transferring to a modern fleet sub) checks out his old boat. Inside are photos of the original S-44 and some crew members.
In Reno I had close to 200 WWII vets climb through it and was treated to some pretty amazing living history from these heroes. While there the replica also passed its U.S. Power Squadron safety inspection. After the convention my daughter and I headed to Morehead City, North Carolina where Bircher Machine Shop installed the replica deck gun. We were to go in the water at that point but it seems that Hurricane Isabel had other thoughts. We trucked the replica inland about 300 miles to Mt. Airy, where we waited out the Hurricane. It seems Morehead City got hit hard with tidal surge. A week later we put the boat in the water at Hampstead, North Carolina and spent 5 days doing sea trials.
Hard to believe that just one week ago a hurricane passed through here!
We stayed in Harbor Village Marina, N.C. and continued our search for commercial grade passenger insurance coverage. This turned out to be the most difficult part of our trip. In fact after spending almost 2 months on the East Coast we never did find insurance and had to return to California where "Rays Marine" came through with coverage for Redondo Beach!
Here is a construction photo of the starboard aft quarter:
For more construction shots visit my construction site:
Video clips of S44 Replica:
You Tube #1
You Tube #2
You Tube #3
The real S-44 underway.
Feel free to email me with corrections or questions.