State #9, Rhode Island, Museum Mansions and Dead Ships

A modest summer cottage of the Gilded Age.

Newport, Rhode Island, is known for the opulent vacation mansions such as The Breakers, and the U.S. Navy. The latter took me there, and I toured the former on a crisp August day in 2004. Mr. Vanderbilt built quite a summer house. The Great Hall is 50 feet to a side. The dining room alone is 2,400 square feet, which makes it about three one-bedroom apartments. The industrial barons of the Gilded Age were not playing in their efforts to outdo the actual barons of Europe. (Although I will have to say that Hearst might be the king of all the baronical aspirations.)

In recent April 1 news, Donald Trump reportedly not just bought the Breakers to remodel as a Saddam Quatorze casino-cum-summer White House, but had snippy things to say about Anderson Cooper, whose ancestors built the house. Actually very funny!, whatever your political leanings are.

I visited Newport on a ship: the USNS Comfort. We had some funding to get underway and conduct a joint mission training some of our Canadian counterparts. (We also conducted some joint operations at numerous watering holes both in Halifax and Newport, but the evidence will be suppressed to protect the guilty.) A lot of people thought the cruise was a boondoggle –until the next year, when I watched the same Canadians come ashore in Gulfport, Miss., to help us recover from Hurricane Katrina.

It wasn’t a living ship but two dead ones that I remember most about Newport. The dead ships, USS Forrestal (CV 59) and USS Saratoga (CV 60), had been struck from the Naval Register and awaited their fate in a literal backwater of Newport Naval Station.

The silence of the two dead ships was startling, because nothing about an aircraft carrier is silent, and nothing is static. Sailors are chipping paint, moving yellow gear. working aloft and over the side. Radar twirl, supply personnel onload crates and cruise boxes. Pipes and cords umbilical the ship to the pier, and people flicker behind the square rows of bridge windows. The 1MC consistently crackles and calls.

Forrestal and Saratoga, on the other hand, had been blinded: eyes stitched over by metal sheets. Pieces of equipment rusted on the flight deck, and the hulls were scabby with flaking paint.

I did some research and found Forrestal was scrapped in 2015, at Brownsville, Texas. Saratoga was to undergo the same fate, but the company contracted to scrap her declared bankruptcy. Maybe Texas now has a ghost ship?

Photo of the two dead ships at this site.

Change is a constant: homes become museums and ships become scrap.


SelfieCorey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at or email at


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