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USS Pontiac on 19 October 1917
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Design Wrecking tug, 1891
Displacement (tons): 238 gross, 401 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 124.3' pp x 27.0' x 9.5' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr 1-1pdr (1898)
Later armaments: none (1899);
Complement 13 (1919)
Speed (kts.): 10.5
Propulsion (HP): 425
Machinery: Vert. compound, 1 screw
||23 Apr 98
||2 Apr 98
||22 Mar 22
The wooden-hulled wrecking tug RIGHT ARM was built in 1891 by Peter McGiehan of Athens, N.Y. for the Chapman Derrick & Wrecking Co. of New York, which soon became the Merritt & Chapman Derrick & Wrecking Co. Her salvage equipment included a tall derrick with a boom aft of the bridge. During the 1890s she conducted salvage operations along the East Coast and in the Caribbean, her activities during 1897 including the salvage of the Hamburg-American Line steamer THURINGIA at Curacao in February and the steamer THOMAS S. BRENNAN near New York in November. After the battleship MAINE blew up on 15 Feb 98 RIGHT ARM, then at Key West, was ordered on 22 Feb 98 to suspend her private work there and proceed at once to Havana. She was the first salvage ship to arrive alongside the wreck and engaged in the recovery of bodies and the removal of pieces of the wreck pending the arrival of stronger tugs from the north. She returned to Key West on 8 Mar 98.
On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers, but on 25 Mar 98 the press reported that the Board had been ordered to secure at once a dozen tugs and yachts to be equipped for active service as torpedo craft at Key West. The Navy had already inspected RIGHT ARM on 21 Mar 98, and it purchased her in April from Merritt & Chapman for $30,000 and renamed her PONTIAC. The purchase date was recorded as 23 Apr 98, but she was also recorded as commissioned on 2 Apr 98 which may have been the date of her actual acquisition.
PONTIAC was at New York in July 1898 and by the end of the year was at the Boston Navy Yard. She returned to the New York Navy Yard during the first half of 1900 and remained assigned there until the end of her naval career, although she reportedly also served as navy yard and district tug at Boston, New York, New London, and Charleston, S.C. She was renamed PASSAIC on 11 Apr 1918. She was designated YT-20 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. She was placed on the sale list in 1921 and sold in 1922.
||Ex merc. RIGHT ARM. Renamed PASSAIC 11 Apr 18. Designated YT-20 17 Jul 20. Merc. RIGHT ARM 1922, wrecked 22 Apr 23.
Compiled: 25 Feb 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013