The Yard: Building a Destroyer at the Bath Iron Works

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9780060929633: The Yard: Building a Destroyer at the Bath Iron Works

For a century, the Bath Iron Works has been building some of the finest, dealiest ships in the U.S. Navy. But now the Maine shipyard is facing mounting competition and a pressing need to modernize, especially in the way it launches ships. No more will the great gray leviathans roar down the "ways" -- the traditional inclined ramp -- into the Kennebec River; this ancient technology will give way to the modern dry dock.

The Yard captures this moment of change and the end of an era, as old ways give way to new, through the eyes of the workers as they build and launch a U.S. Navy destroyer. From the first cutting of steel to the destroyer's triumphant commisioning, Michael Sanders chronicles the complex evolution of a ship coming into being -- and the incredible world in which it happens. It is a world rich in danger, humor, and lore, one filled with uncertainty, hope, and not a little fear of change as this venerable company fights against steep odds to find its place in a new world.

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Review:

Michael S. Sanders describes the birth of a ship with the love of a parent, relating how the naval destroyer USS Donald Cook was "assembled over four years piece by piece, steel plate by steel plate, from the first half-moon slices of keel to topmost radar mast, almost by hand." The Yard is a land-based tale focusing on the thousands of men and women in Bath, Maine, who practice the old craft of shipbuilding. Their business has adapted itself to modern ways, but Sanders intriguingly shows how ancient Phoenicians would nevertheless recognize important parts of today's construction process. Sanders spends plenty of time explaining what goes into making a ship: the engineering, the materials, and the labor. He also tells of an industry in peril, as American shipyards compete against foreign builders whose governments subsidize their work. Yet The Yard is ultimately about ordinary people who build: "electricians, pipefitters, welders, braziers, tinknockers, riggers, anglesmiths, straighteners, blasters, and shipfitters" plus "legions of naval architects, draftsmen, and marine engineers." The Yard may lack the dazzle of Blind Man's Bluff and its stories of submarine espionage, but it will hold a similarly strong attraction for readers drawn to human endeavor on the open sea and what makes it possible. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Michael S. Sanders, a former book editor and author of The Yard, lives in midcoast Maine with his wife and daughter.

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