CLEVELAND Tours offer shipshape look at history
Having an expert on diesel submarines in the tour group made the USS Cod tour more enjoyable.
By CATHY SECKMAN
CLEVELAND -- It's no surprise to see a steamship in this Lake Erie port, especially not the 1925 William G. Mather, an iron ore and coal hauler which earned a reputation as & quot;the ship that built Cleveland. & quot;
But one doesn't really expect to see a submarine docked next to it. The 1943 USS Cod, a 312-foot World War II diesel submarine, sits grandly at the East Ninth Street Pier, with skyscrapers as a backdrop and tourists as crew.
Both ships are permanently moored at the pier as museums, and provide an interesting contrast to the glittering, space-age Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Great Lakes Science Center.
If you're looking for more laid-back and less expensive entertainment along the lakefront, these ships can provide an afternoon of enjoyment with a little history thrown in for good measure.
Added pleasure: If you happen to have with you, as our group did, a Navy veteran who spent 17 years on diesel submarines, it's that much more enjoyable.
Our friend Dick Hood of Jackson, Mich., gave our group, and all the tourists who came on board that afternoon, a personal tour and lecture that included every gauge, lever, dial and pipe on the submarine.
Extra weight and arthritis notwithstanding, Hood clambered down ladders and dove through hatchways like a 19-year-old, pointing out wardrooms, battery compartments and torpedo controls. We saw where he slept, where he worked and where the crew squeezed onto narrow benches for meals.
The Cod is arranged in pairs of compartments, starting from either end, two each for torpedoes, batteries and engines. There's also a control room, from which the sub is controlled as it dives and surfaces; and a maneuvering room, from which electricians control the generator and electric motors.
The crew of 97, we learned, slept anywhere and everywhere, sometimes & quot;"hot-bunking" & quot; or sharing a bunk with a crew mate who slept while you worked.
Narrow canvas bunks are stacked three-high in the battery and torpedo compartments, tucked under bulkheads and slung over the torpedoes themselves.
Hood said when he turned over in bed, he'd hit the man in the bunk above him with one shoulder, causing him to & quot;bump up. & quot;
Some facts: At one point near the end of World War II, the Cod was home to 153 men for three days after its crew rescued the crew of a grounded Dutch submarine.
The Cod made seven successful patrols in the South Pacific during World War II, sinking Japanese destroyers, mine sweepers, cargo ships and junks.
In 1959, the Cod was towed to Cleveland and used as a training vessel. By 1986 it had been declared a National Historic Landmark, and has had an easy retirement since then as a museum ship alongside the Mather.
About the Mather: The steamship William G. Mather Museum, operated by the nonprofit Harbor Heritage Society, provides a look at lake shipping in the steam era, when cities like Cleveland had an inexhaustible appetite for iron ore to produce steel.
A state-of-the-art ship when it was built in 1925, the Mather used a 4-cylinder, quadruple-expansion, reciprocating, coal-fired steam engine with 2,300 horsepower.
That engine was replaced with an oil-fired steam turbine with 5,000 horsepower in 1954. It could haul 13,950 tones of iron ore or 460,000 bushels of grain.
The Mather operated on the Great Lakes for 55 years, making 30 trips per season, before it was retired in 1980 and became a National Landmark of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. More than $2 million and 250,000 volunteer hours went into its restoration.
What to see: Today, visitors can tour the cargo holds, the pilot house, engine room, kitchens and guest suites. The forward cargo hold now includes a video theater, museum store and an exhibit hall that chronicles the history of Great Lakes shipping.
Tour guides are scattered around the ship to answer questions, and hard-hat guided tours are available with reservations. From the midcentury elegance of the dining rooms to the utilitarian forward spar deck, the Mather provides an intimate look at life on the Great Lakes.