After 17 days at Canalside, the new USS Little Rock LCS-9 has set sail for warmer waters. It left Buffalo's inner harbor Wednesday on its way to the combat ship's home base of Mayport, FL.
At about 8 a.m., a team of crew members worked in unison to haul up the heavy mooring lines to the deck of the Little Rock. Readying their positions nearby to guide the ship out of the harbor were the Buffalo's fire boat Edward M. Cotter and U.S. Coast Guard tugs.
Crew and officers then stood at attention on deck to say good-bye to the small crowd that had gathered to bid them fair seas and following winds. Among the crowd was local Commissioning Committee Chair Maurice Naylon, who told WBFO he was thrilled by the outpouring of community support during the ship's visit.
"This has been such a grand adventure and we've made such great friends with the sailors and all the nice people from the city of Little Rock who came up," said Naylon. "It's really a unique and historic event wrapped in a great party."
Naylon said during the ship's visit, he took the opportunity to talk with just about every member of the LCS-9 commanding officers and crew, and will be working to foster a continuing relationship between Buffalo and the capital of Arkansas.
An estimated 8,500 people packed Canalside on Saturday for the official commissioning ceremony. For the first time in modern history, Buffalo served as the site for commissioning the U.S. Navy's newest ship. It was also the first time a ship was commissioned alongside its decommissioned namesake, the USS Little Rock (CL-92), permanently on display at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.
During its visit, LCS-9's crew were treated to City of Good Neighbors hospitality, including Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres games, catered meals from local restaurants, ice skating at Canalside, visits to Niagara Falls and night life in the Chippewa entertainment district. Crew members also visited veterans at the Buffalo and Batavia VA medical centers, Gold Star Mothers and members of the Little Rock Association.
Naylon said seeing the ship leave is "bittersweet" after more than two years of planning and preparation, but "it was a privilege and honor to play a role in this historic event, something I will always treasure.”