A Navy destroyer, dry-docked in Seattle for seven months while undergoing renovations, will leave for its home port in Everett this week.
On the northern tip of Harbor Island, just a couple of miles from downtown Seattle, about 9,500 tons of military might sits atop wood-tipped blocks.
For the past seven months, the 510-foot USS Shoup, a guided-missile destroyer, has been surrounded not by water but by concrete and steel as it undergoes improvements at Vigor Shipyards, formerly Todd Pacific Shipyards.
This week, with a freshly painted hull and upgrades of everything from its wiring to its combat systems, the ship will be waterborne again as it sails to its home port in Everett.
“I don’t think there’s any space that’s not been touched so far,” said Ensign Rhiannon Low, the ship’s electrical officer, while giving a tour.
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Once the destroyer is back in Everett, the final touches of the renovation should take about two months more.
The Shoup was built to defend against attacks from land, air and submarines, and it has a slew of impressive weapon and sensor systems, many of which are top secret. Despite its size — its steel hull displaces a whopping 9,500 tons of water — the ship’s gas turbines can propel it at a speed of more than 30 knots (about 34.5 mph).
On its last deployment, it helped fend off Somali pirates. It’s served in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and was part of a strike group with another Everett-based ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln. That aircraft carrier was the site of President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo shoot in 2003.
But the Shoup doesn’t need to serve in a group to do its job: It has enough power to defend itself on its own.
Named after Gen. David M. Shoup, the destroyer was commissioned 10 years ago in Seattle. Shoup, who died in 1983, was a recipient of the Medal of Honor, head of the Marine Corps and, after his retirement, a critic of the Vietnam War.
The USS Shoup should have a life span of about 40 years, and upgrades are common at about the 10-year mark, said the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Ray Acevedo.
By now, most of Shoup’s namesake has been put back together. Its 300-person Everett-based crew ate lunch Monday in the ship’s galley; the aroma of food traveled through the hallways, where floors covered in construction padding cast the walls in a blue hue.
Most of the crew’s younger sailors are living in barracks in Everett, Acevedo said. The majority of the ship’s crew is living nearby, though few of them really call the Seattle area home.
Low has been commuting from Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. She’s been stationed with the ship for about a year, though she’s originally from Hawaii.
Whether the ship’s on land or on sea, Low and her shipmates navigate its mazes of crawl spaces, decks and ladders impossibly fast. Some of the crew are as young as 18.
Stepping over wires and tubing at a clip, she points out a 5-inch/62-caliber gun.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said enthusiastically. “It shakes the whole ship when it goes off.”
On the other side of the ship is a close-in weapons system, or CIWS (pronounced “sea-wiz”). It’s essentially a gigantic machine gun capable of shooting large rounds at a target. Low observes that it looks like R2D2, one of the robots from “Star Wars.” Both guns face rows of missile launchers.
While docked, the ship is empty of ammunition. It will load up before it heads out on its next deployment in a couple of months, though Acevedo doesn’t know where the crew will be headed next.
Until its next deployment, the ship’s two helicopter hangars sit empty, the calls from a nearby family of bald eagles are overwhelmed by the engines of honking semi trucks and the warning blasts of passing trains. The ship’s freshly painted number 86 on the hull peeks over the edges of the dry dock toward Elliott Bay. In a matter of days, the Shoup will sail again.
Lark Turner: 206-464-2761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.