SHE’S a floating fortress which thousands of US Navy sailors call home.
And all those on board USS Theodore Roosevelt were given a warm welcome to Portsmouth as the gargantuan vessel, nicknamed the ‘Big Stick’, dropped anchor in Stokes Bay yesterday.
Hundreds of onlookers cheered as the carrier pulled into the bay in the afternoon.
Earlier, the ship stunned onlookers on Southsea seafront as she dwarfed the Victorian-era Solent Forts while sailing through.
The ship is crewed by more than 5,000 sailors, many of whom will be seen around Portsmouth’s restaurants, bars and shops as they take ‘liberty’ breaks onshore in coming days.
Paul Waits, 59, of Southsea, said he was pleased the carrier had evoked so much public interest, and that her visit would mean a cash boost for the area’s economy.
He said: ‘It’s really quite a sight and it’s good to see it has brought a lot of people down here.
‘It’s definitely an economy booster for Portsmouth.’
Mark James, 50, of Southsea, said: ‘It’s an impressive war machine – can you describe an aircraft carrier any other way?’
Mr James said he was looking forward to the day when the Royal Navy’s new carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, would also seen in the Solent.
‘It looks impressive with all the planes on top,’ he said.
‘It will be good when the British can have planes on top of theirs as well.’
Kevin Pollington, 52, of Gosport, said he was awed by the scale of the ship.
‘It’s impressive seeing the number of aircraft,’ he said. ‘There’s quite a lot on there. They look like they’re all on deck showing off.’
This port visit is a great opportunity for the Sailors of Theodore Roosevelt to meet the people of Portsmouth and experience the history and rich culture of the United Kingdom.Captain Daniel Grieco
Mr Pollington said he was pleased at the welcome the carrier was getting.
‘It’s nice to see so many cars and so many people here today – especially because it was so grey and cloudy for the solar eclipse.’
Eight-year-old Reuben James, from Hedge End, was there with his parents to see the ship.
‘It’s great,’ he said. ‘You can see the planes, the helicopters and the people.’
The Nimitz-class carrier last visited Portsmouth in 2009, just before a four-year overhaul which has transformed her into the US fleet’s most technologically-advanced carrier.
She carries 90 aircraft and is powered by two nuclear reactors.
The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Daniel Grieco, said he was ‘very excited’ to have arrived in British waters. He said: ‘This port visit is a great opportunity for the sailors of Theodore Roosevelt to meet the people of Portsmouth and experience the history and rich culture of the United Kingdom.
‘Port visits like this give us a chance to work with our allies, improve interoperability and strengthen friendships as our countries work together to make Europe and the world a safer place.’
Crew member Will Trogdon of Bristol, Tennessee, said he was looking forward to going ashore.
‘Portsmouth’s a lot of fun,’ he said.
‘I’ve been there a few times and I have family near London. It’s never a disappointment.’
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the ship’s visit proved the British-American ‘special relationship’ was closer than ever.
Mr Fallon yesterday went aboard the carrier to personally greet the crew.
He said: ‘Having the Roosevelt in Portsmouth is yet another example of the world’s broadest, deepest and most enduring defence relationship at work.’
The carrier is here for a five-day visit as part of a round-the-world deployment.
She is accompanied by the guided-missile USS Winston S Churchill, which has berthed in Portsmouth Harbour. The carrier, which is more than 1,000ft long, is too big to fit inside the harbour entrance.