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A Gray Winter's Night

Reveille comes at 0630, followed by the announcement that "morning chow will be served promptly at 0700 hours." Most campers seem to heed Jaskel's advice that they roll out of their bunks, instead of sitting up, and thereby avoid head-cracking. They then make their way down the narrow corridor to the head. Breakfast is cereal, a lukewarm egg-and-bacon bagel and a tasteless Danish, but the coffee is good and hot.

At 0800 it's all hands back on deck for morning colors (flag raising) and the awarding of souvenir encampment patches. For the next hour, the campers are free to wander the public parts of the ship, but most of them head straight for the forecastle (forward deck) for group photos in front of the guns.

Visitors pose under the guns of the USS New Jersey in Camden. (Marshall S. Berdan)

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But soon, 0900 becomes plain old 9 o'clock again. Civilian time -- and time to go ashore. Most of the campers take time to mill around the visitor center, shopping for souvenirs of their night in the Navy.

Escape Keys

GETTING THERE: The Battleship New Jersey is berthed at the Camden, N.J., waterfront, next to the New Jersey State Aquarium and directly across from Philadelphia, about a three-hour drive north from the Capital Beltway. To avoid the Philly traffic and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, however, consider taking I-295 over the Delaware Memorial Bridge at Wilmington, then I-295 north to I-676. (Detailed directions are provided in the pre-boarding package.)

If you take Amtrak, buses and cabs are available from Philadelphia's 34th Street Station. Round-trip fares start around $90.

THE BATTLESHIP NEW JERSEY: Through February, the New Jersey is open Friday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In March, a daily schedule resumes. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $8 for children 6 to 11, veterans and senior citizens, and free for children under 6 and members of the military in uniform. A self-guided tour is included; an expanded tour is available at extra cost (856-966-1652, www.battleshipnewjersey.org).

SLEEPING ABOARD: Any family or ad hoc group can sign up for the Overnight Encampment program, provided it includes at least one child 7 or older (no children younger than 7 are allowed on the overnight program). Encampments are available every Friday and Saturday night throughout the year (Scout troops and other youth groups are heavy attendees during the school year). The cost is $45 per camper (regardless of age) and includes dinner, breakfast and tour.

Secure overnight parking is available at the Camden City Parking Authority garage for $10 per vehicle. The pre-boarding package lists what to bring (e.g., sheets or sleeping bags) and what not to bring (e.g., alcohol, personal audio devices).

INFO: Delaware River Region Tourism Council, 856-757-9400, www.visitsouthjersey.com.

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