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American Victory goes to sea

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image SS American Victory, a WWII-era Victory Class ship, was one of more than 500 built and one of only three that remain operational today. Photo Mitch Traphagen

Docked near the Florida Aquarium in the Channelside District, the ship offers a living view into an honored past.

By Mitch Traphagen
On Saturday, a Tampa Bay area museum picked up and headed out to sea. The American Victory Ship, a floating museum that offers a living view into an honored past, untied the dock lines and steamed into Tampa Bay on its annual fundraising cruise.

SS American Victory, docked near the Florida Aquarium in Tampa’s Channelside District, is a World War II era armed cargo Victory Class ship, one of more than 500 such ships built but one of only three that remain operational today. It is an icon of American ability and power that won a world war.

The ship, at 455 feet long, was built in a mere 55 days and was launched in California in 1945. It served in World War II and both the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was slated to be scrapped in 1996 but instead was brought to Tampa Bay and restored as a fully functional museum. The ship arrived in Tampa under tow in 1999. It remains a rare treasure and is completely open for public viewing and exploration.

Saturday’s annual fundraising cruise attracted a broad range of passengers ranging from veterans to children. Because the ship is no longer fully loaded with cargo, nearly half of the large single propeller is above water, limiting the speed of the ship, something that certainly did not detract from the unique experience of sailing back in time aboard an American legend.

The SS American Victory is open for tours and exploration Sundays and Mondays from 12 to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students and $5 for veterans and young children. Some museum members and children under the age of three are admitted free of charge. Annual memberships are as low as $35 per year and include discounts at other Tampa area museums.

For more information, visit www.americanvictory.org.

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