Saturday, December 1, 2007

I miss winter.

Will wonders never cease? It actually looks like we're going to make it into drydock "on schedule" on Tuesday (4 December). I say "on schedule" because it has been postponed a few times. We were originally supposed to go into drydock on 27 September. The first problem was that the submarine already in the drydock was behind schedule and didn't get out of the drydock until a couple of weeks ago. Then the shipyard had to do repairs to the caisson, but they couldn't do it until Congress approved the budget. I was not holding my breath that this would go down on schedule. Luckily, the SY commander found another source of funds to pay for the caisson repairs without waiting for congress to approve the budget.

I hope by writing this, I'm not jinxing us or counting our chicks before they're hatched. Every time I have gone into drydock on each of my previous boats, I have always ended up saying to myself, "Self, you'd think this is the FIRST time a 688-Class submarine has EVER gone into drydock before." It just boggles my mind how many things come up last minute that you would THINK someone would realize, hey, they're going into the drydock in 3 (or 2, or 1) day(s), maybe we should _____________. There's always something. (Aside: That brings to mind stories from the last week in port before deployment, but I'll save that for another blog post).

We did have a Hawaiian priest come down with the CO and Project Sup and say a blessing on the bow of the submarine though. I was glad he said the prayer both in Hawaiian and in English so we could tell what he was saying. I thought that was cool though. It was something new I hadn't seen on previous drydocking availabilities.

So I was cleaning my stuff out of my stateroom on the boat, and came upon all my cold weather gear in the hang-up locker. I love my cold weather gear. You see, growing up in San Diego, I was accustomed to a summer-time-year-round climate. When I joined the Navy, I knew I would be moving around every couple of years, and I wanted to experience life in other parts of the country (and the world). So I volunteered for a boat out of Groton for my JO tour, and the detailer was only oh-so-happy to oblige me (nobody asks for "Rotten Groton"). I loved living in the historic district of Mystic, CT and the changing seasons in New England.
Reminiscing of winter as I cleaned out my hang-up locker on the boat.

When I reported aboard my first boat, all the other officers told me I had to go to the mall and buy a headsok. I did, and I love it. I've used it ever since. When we moved to the DC suburbs for my last shore duty, I upgraded and got a new headsok with the Polartec. By the end of my JO tour, I had the headsok, the UVEX goggles, the polar snow boots (I got them on sale at EMS in the spring! I love EMS!). I even found a pristine pumpkin suit for sale on eBay for 20 bucks.

Me and ES hiking in Northern Virginia, January 2006.

I was very proud of ES that day. We hiked 4 1/2 miles and it was 17 degrees out!

That brought to mind a sea story... Wait, how do sea stories start again? "Once upon a time..." No, that's not it. Oh, I got it. "So there I was..."

Being on a boat out of San Diego, I rarely had the occasion to use my cold weather gear, but I always kept it in my hang-up locker just in case. There were a couple of times when I was really glad I had it, like the time we had to surface near the Aleutian Islands during a transit to Westpac and I was tasked to man the bridge. (The great circle route from San Diego to Yokosuka takes you way up along the Aleutian Island chain).

We pulled into Esquimalt, British Columbia for a port call (it's the Canadian Naval Base right next to Victoria). On our way inbound, it was miserable, cold, and rainy up on the bridge, and I was very glad I was warm and cozy in the Control Room for the maneuvering watch. When the Captain came down from the bridge all cold, rosy-cheeked, and wet, I made the mistake of laughing and commenting on how nice it was in the Control Room. The Captain said, "Congratulations, you just volunteered to be OOD when we drive outta here."

Fast forward to the end of the port call and the morning of the underway. All the JOs (whose only experience had been on this boat out of San Diego) were laughing at me as I "suited-up" for the maneuvering watch. I went to the bridge fully decked-out in my cold weather gear. It was cold and drizzling wet as we got underway, but it... was... AWESOME! I had a BLAST! I love driving the ship. Even better, I love the winter and being suited-up against the cold. I was nice and cozy warm and comfortable. The other guys on the bridge had very lightweight gloves and jackets on and were freezing their butts off and complaining their hands and faces were numb.

I had to laugh a short while later when we were getting ready to go up the Behm Canal into Ketchikan, Alaska, and the guys who were going to man the bridge came and asked me if they could borrow my cold weather gear.

Quick aside: Don't get me wrong when I talk about how cold it was during our port call there. Esquimalt was one of my favorite port calls in my Navy career. LW and ES flew up to Oregon and then drove up to Victoria with my wonderful step-mother. We had a great visit. I could write a whole 'nother blog post about that, but I've kept you staring at your computer screen long enough. I'll save it for another post.


Sagey said...

I do NOT miss winter. I admit it is hard to get into the Christmas Spirit when it is 80+ degrees out but I do not miss being bundled up. I know I have experienced more than you miserable winters than you, so maybe by the time you hit 25+ miserable winters, you will also stop enjoying it.

I am, of course, glad you asked for Groton so I could meet you, but please don't ask for it again. I know my Mom wants you to, but she won't be the one left shoveling the snow while you are deployed. :-) Maybe when the boys are old enough to actually be efficient when the shovel...

Anonymous said...

Am I REALLY reading this? I forced myself to crank out 9 miles mid afternoon in 23 (felt like 15) weather before the nastiness set in. The elder and I left at 5pm for the mall to play, then run errands. It was cold. Walked OUT of the mall at 6:30pm and there was almost an inch on the ground already. Add a trip to the store for baking supplies and by the time we left at 7:15 for home the roads were horrendous. Took us 15 mins to go 3.5 miles.

WANNA TRADE?!?! Since your lovely wife isn't a winter fan either, maybe her and I could sip fruity drinks while you and Andy shovel sidewalks and have snowball fights.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Every time I have gone into drydock on each of my previous boats, I have always ended up saying to myself, "Self, you'd think this is the FIRST time a 688-Class submarine has EVER gone into drydock before."

Hey, I spent a year on PCU Olympia walking around NNSB&DDCo saying, "Y'know, as many of these things as they've built, you'd think by now they'd know how to do it...."

C said...

I like winter... for about a month. I HATED winters in Massachusetts. Freezing temperatures from October to April... Eww.

That said, I love having seasons. I'm not sure Hawaii and I would agree that way.