- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet ship Grayfox might be hemmed in by ice, but plans for the boat’s improvement and certification are in motion.

The former torpedo retriever stationed in Port Huron since 1997 is being spruced up for certification by the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the Times Herald of Port Huron (http://bwne.ws/1ihlRfI ). The ship is used to train Naval Sea Cadets.

“It’s always been an informal certification,” said Jim Semerad, commanding officer for the Grayfox. “I have determined that we need to go through this formal certification process, because the ship is training cadets and we should be a model for every ship in the Great Lakes, and if we are going to be a model, we need to set a very high standard.”

Thousands of area and visiting Sea Cadets have trained on the ship, which was used to retrieve torpedoes in the Bahamas from around 1986 to 1996.

Sea Cadets are youths ages 13 to 17 who participate in leadership and seamanship training. Part of their training includes two-week trips on the Grayfox where they learn ship handling, navigation, engineering and mess duties.

The St. Clair County Sheriff Dive Team was hard at work March 9 near the Grayfox’s mooring at the south end of the Blue Water River Walk.

The team dove through the ice and under the ship’s hull to take thickness readings on the hull and clean off some zebra mussels attached to the bottom. Dive team chief Wayne Brusate said the crew used the task as training.

“They’re going to dry dock sometime in the spring, and anything we can do ahead of time, we’ll help them out,” Brusate said.

Semerad said the dry dock maintenance period in the spring will be used to bring the ship up to code.

Other recent changes have been made to the management of the Grayfox.

At the end of January, Semerad was made commanding officer of the Grayfox, a position that had remained vacant since the death of former Commanding Officer Bill Barnhardt in September.

“We can’t operate the ship without a commander,” Semerad said. “I had agreed to step in.

“I’m working on my captain’s license, because if I’m going to command the ship, I’m going to need my captain’s license.”

Sea cadets resumed training on the ship in November and will continue to do so through renovations, Semerad said.

The ship’s ownership also was changed from the Naval Sea Cadet Corps to the Grayfox Association.

Semerad said the change was necessary to keep up with the ship’s filing status as a not-for-profit organization. Some of the bylaws also have been changed, but Semerad said the mission of the ship remains the same.

“The Grayfox will continue the mission to educate and train youth in maritime operations, character, and service,” Semerad said in an email. “It will continue to support maritime and youth organizations and retain the strong relationship with the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.”

Changes also are in store for the pier where the Grayfox is moored.

“That ramp will be level and it will have a brand new deck on it, a viewing station where cadets can actually stand and be inspected,” Semerad said.

The design of the deck and pilings “will represent an artistic maritime theme,” Semerad said.

He will be meeting with Smith Group JJR to discuss plans for the area March 25.

Smith Group JJR is the same design company the Community Foundation of St. Clair County used to design the Blue Water River Walk, said Randy Maiers, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.

“We’re excited that they’re showing some new enthusiasm for the Grayfox,” Maiers said.

“Knowing that they’re using the company that designed our river walk, we’re pretty confident we’re going to like what they come up with.”

Maiers said the community foundation owns the area where the Grayfox moors, and leases the location to the Grayfox for one dollar a year.

He said any plans for the area will have to be approved by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County to ensure it meshes with the aesthetic of the river walk.

Any improvements to the area would be funded by the Grayfox, Maiers said.

Semerad said he is in the process of pursuing grants and private funding for the renovations and improvements to the Grayfox.

The Grayfox also is used for Canadian Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts, training for U.S. Navy Reserve and the Michigan Navy Recruiting District and Coast Guard operations in the area.

___

Information from: Times Herald, http://www.thetimesherald.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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