Where to begin………..
Just when you reach your limit, when you think that you can no longer take all the crap that comes with the navy, you go out to sea. You stand on the weather deck rocking and rolling and take in the view; ocean as far as you can see.
Day1: Monday, 1 October, 2007 – 74 Days until I return to my wife and children
Wow, this is indeed what navy life is all about. It began when we sailed down the Kennebec River. There was a ceremony near Portland for all the BIW employees and families to say goodbye to the ship as we sailed by. Well over a hundred sailors manned the rails in their dress blue uniforms. I slept through it since I had to work all night. Shortly afterwards I went topside to take one last photo shoot. I will certainly miss Maine. The photos are located here. The air temperature was about 55 degrees with a crisp 20 MPH wind. It was a very nostalgic moment.
Monday night I went outside to take a look at things. I opened the door to the Hilo hanger to walk out to the flight deck. All I could see was pitch black aside from about 10 lit cigarette butts about 10 feet in front of me. I walked up and listened to the phantoms talk and quickly and easily identified all of them. I then realized that out of say 250 people on the ship that I could just about identify every single one by voice. So we proceeded to talk and laugh and tell stories out in the dark, our own little pitch black party of 10. At some point of time our eyes began to adapt and we could make out the outlines of our faces. The moon came out and lit up the ocean. I was in awe at the new experience. One of my more pessimistic and resentful friends agreed with me that times like this make it all worth it.
Day2: Tuesday, 2 October, 2007 – 73 Days until I return to my wife and children
I awoke after sleeping for 5 hours and wandered out side. The boat was really rocking and rolling, and couldn’t help to laugh at people running into things, or even getting thrown into things in passage ways. I felt a bit delirious since my sleep schedule had been insanely inconsistent or even non-existent. I had been assigned to work from 8 PM to 8AM and I am still unable to force my body to sleep until 6 PM. I took a gander outside to see what was going on to and noticed the seas were a bit rough, at least for my nominal experience. The ship was cruising along at a good clip when all of the sudden it just stopped. One of the phone talkers on the flight deck informed me that a whale was directly in front of us. This happened a couple of more times. Once I was able to see one come up for air on the port side about 200 yards out. I attempted to video tape it but doubt that I got anything. Shortly afterwards my boss wanted to clean our swabs (mops) since they had become rancid after weeks of use. He drilled a hole in the top of the handle ran about 60 feet of rope through the hole, tied it off and tossed it overboard behind the ship. I watched as it skipped along in the massive wake of the ship. Check out the videos here.
I now have to sleep with my rack straps secured to keep from falling out. It seems that the seas are slowly increasing. We already had somebody fall out and get stitches on their forehead and nose. Apparently we are expected to endure 16 foot swells in the next few days, and from what some of the saltier sailors, it should be entertaining.
This afternoon I went to the aft gym to lift some weights. There is nothing like squatting a descent amount of weight on a platform that is rolling about 10 degrees to the left and right. I am not sure it was such a good idea.
I realized today how much my life has changed in the last 6 mos. Little, eccentric, things I took for granted. I no longer dream about anything that isn’t Navy related anymore …… ever. I am on a boat, I fall overboard, the ship catches on fire, I am swimming with friends, watching a movie with friends, whatever. It is always navy related. I did daydream today of what it would be like with Doogel walking around on the ship. I kind of snickered at the idea of her trying to keep her feet as the ship rocked and rolled.
I am still trying to convince whoever needs convincing to let me sleep out on the weather deck during the day. The weather is about perfect at 65 degrees with 30 mph gusts. If we had hammocks I would not use my rack at all.
I thought today that we aren’t too far off from where the movie the perfect storm took place. Guess what? This is the time of year it took place as well. I saw many fishing vessels off the starboard side today and wandered if any of them had been acquainted with the crew of the Andrea Gail.
Day 3: Wednesday, 3 October, 2007 – 72 Days until I return to my wife and children
I worked until 8 this morning and turned in only to be woken up at 1300 by a coworker who calmly attempted to inform me in my stupor that I was being called on the 1MC to participate in underway replenishment drills. As is typically the case, nobody whatsoever within my chain of command informed me that I was part of the underway replenishment team. Nothing like some more negative PR for me. Needless to say I was quite upset, but I got up, changed quickly and hastened outside. Once outside I realized how far south we have traveled. The air was stagnate, hovering around 80 humid degrees, a far cry from the cool weather we departed from in Bath. During our little training exercise I was fortunate enough to see a very large sea turtle swim by. The shell had to have a diameter of about 3 feet. Several times we traveled through dense, warm mid-day fog. All of us topside were looking for the Black Perl
Tonight, for dinner the movie “Knocked Up” was playing. I immediately became home/wife sick since Laura absolutely loved that movie. I found out shortly afterwards that it may be possible to call my family one of these nights using one of our satellites and an ATT calling card.
At about midnight I decided to go out to the flight deck and take in the view or lack thereof. After I while I noticed repetitive splashing noises nearby. Once my eyes were used to the darkness I looked over the side to see two dolphins swimming alongside the ship, darting under the ship, and even jumping out of the water. It was quite a site. I imagine we were moving about 10 knots, and the dolphins were easily keeping up with us, and often displayed bursts of speed. When a swell would come in I would get within 6 feet of them. That was one of the coolest experiences yet for me in the Navy. They swam with us for about 30 minutes or so and left.
Tomorrow is underway replenishment. I plan on being busy pretty much all morning and night. In fact, in the next two days I will probably get about 8 hours sleep. The good news is that we are pulling into Norfolk tomorrow for a short time. Perhaps I can use my computer or even my phone then.
Day 4: Thursday, 4 October, 2007 – 71 Days until I return to my wife and children
I awoke early to prepare for underway replenishment. I had no idea how crazy it would be. I again, saw about 15 dolphins/porpoises to my port about 200 yards out. They weren’t around for more than a few minutes. An odd thing about them was that their dorsal fins were black. Once we pulled alongside the replenishment ship, I got into a trance. Two ships, totaling well over a thousand feet in length, cruising along quickly with about 100 feet between them. The current between the ships was outright ridiculous, as whitecaps sloshed around, and seas varied 16 or so feet periodically. (I was actually measuring on the hull markers on the replenishment ship). I am guessing again that we were going about 10 knots. After riding along side and doing nothing for about 30 minutes, Ozzy Osborn’s “Crazy Train” began to blast out of the speakers on the ship. I immediately thought what the hell is going on? When I looked back over at the replenishment ship I noticed that we were pulling away from it very quickly. Apparently we were doing an emergency breakaway drill. Within seconds the ship was at 30 knots. I don’t think I have the verbal capacity to illustrate how amazing the scene was. All I can say is this; try to imagine a 600 foot long ship going about 45 mph through 8 foot swells while banking to the starboard side about as hard as imaginable. Man that was fun. Waves were rushing over the lower deck as we dug into the ocean. I could not believe how much power this ship has. I pulled away like we were in a friggin car. The replenishment itself took about 3 hours or so. My job was to hold a line that was secured to a phone. It ate up my hands pretty good, but my job is actually kind of fun. Photos soon to come.
Day 5: Friday, 5 October 2007 – 70 Days until I return to my wife and children
The day began early. I had to be in to work at 4:30. I felt extremely tired. I hadn’t slept the previous day and was only able to slip in an overnight nap before the morning shift. Though it seemed to take forever, 8:00 rolled around and I went to my rack for some much needed r&r. I woke up around noon, to call my wife and sister to catch up. We had pulled into Norfolk early in the morning, and I wanted to take advantage of the cell phone service. Doogel and Chunk were both their typical selves; Doogel being too occupied being Doogel to talk to me much, and chunk muttering a bunch of words in her native Chunk language. Of course, I interpreted them as, “Give me a milkshake, a steak, and some gummy worms”. It was nice to talk to Laura briefly. I am hoping she will be able to purchase a nice car on our behalf soon. Other than that I slept throughout the majority of the day.
I was able to take a few blurry pictures of the dock in Norfolk. They are located here.
Day 6-10: Friday-Wednesday, 5 October 2007 – 65 Days until I return to my wife and children
The last few days have tested my patience extensively. Today was the first day I received a full 7 hours of sleep since the last time I wrote. Every single day from 0900 to 1200 we ran drills, naturally, during the best hours of my sleeping pattern. My mood, motivation, and demeanor went south quickly, and I found myself living not by the day, but by the minute. I attempted to arrange to call my wife several times, but it seems as though naval technology was not extended to encompass communications with loved ones. As it stands, service is expected to be restored tomorrow. I feel much better today mostly due to being well rested. I began the most extreme fitness program I have every embarked on today. I expect to burn between 1500-2000 calories practically daily from exercise and lifting alone. Hopefully that will tone me down quickly.
Day 11: Thursday, 11 October 2007 – 64 Days until I return to my wife and children.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am getting somewhere from a personal standpoint. I can see who I want to be on the horizon. I am resonant.