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See worthy: USS Slater opens for season

On Saturday, April 4, the USS Slater opened for tours for the 12th year.

But the experience visitors enjoy aboard the destroyer escort has changed significantly over the years. That's because during the ship's off-season, volunteers spend countless hours restoring and renovating it.

There's always something new, said Rosehn Gipe, the USS Slater's business administrator.

The ship is moored in the Port of Albany and open for tours until November. It spends the rest of the year in Rensselaer, where volunteers try to tackle one or two big projects each winter, said Eric Rivet, the USS Slater's education coordinator. They've spent the past few months restoring one of the ship's engine rooms, as well as a bathroom.

Rivet said the USS Slater has five full-time employees, and there are about 120 volunteers who donate their time to the ship. Many of them served in the military, and specifically the Navy.

"This is their chance to give back," he said.

It's a chance they can't find anywhere else in the country. The USS Slater is the only World War II-era destroyer escort that remains afloat in the United States.

The ship took a long route to Albany. Launched in 1944, the USS Slater escorted convoys to England, Wales, Manila, Japan and elsewhere during the war. It was placed in reserve in 1947, and four years later, it was given as a gift to Greece to be used by the Hellenic Navy.

In 1991, Greece donated the ship to the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association, a Florida-based group. But it stayed in Greece for two more years, until destroyer escorts around the country raised $275,000 to bring it back to the States. A Russian tugboat brought the USS Slater from Crete to New York City in 1993, docking it next to the Intrepid until a permanent home could be found.

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