Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My first boat, the hurricane magnet

(Click Here To Help The Victims Of Hurricane Katrina.)

Yes, I can indeed make a connection between the current hurricane walloping the Gulf Coast and submarines.

Ever get chased out of port by one?

I did. Three stinkin' times. All on USS Tucson (SSN-770).

Well, I was only there for two.

First time was before our original commissioning (more on that later)...and in another friggin' state! We took a short trip to Port Caneveral ("P-Can") for some coner weaponeer testing or somesuch, and the storm of the week ran the boat right on out (emergency reactor startup and all). Funny thing...I wasn't there. Had a few days of special liberty to run up the coast and visit my father in Starke, FL. I'd actually taken him and the familiy down for a tour the afternoon before. The boat had called me early that morning at Dad's place...but Dad's a farmer, and we were up really early (being on the boat is more restful in terms of sleeping in than my Old Man's place) and I didn't get the message until around lunch when we went back to the house from the "back 40". I called the port ops number after trying the boat, found out they were long gone, got an offer to come stay in the barracks. The guy was dense...Dad's place was no where near the hurricane (didn't even get much rain), but this clown wanted me to drive down there to sit it out in the middle of it. All for the sake of "reporting in and being nearby when your boat gets here". I knew enough to know the boat was going to stay gone until it blew over, and convinced this guy that staying at my Dad's place wasn't really UA (what was I going to do in largely deserted P-Can anyway...they'd sent a bunch of people away, ferchristsakes...?).

The second was shortly before August 19th, 1996. I remember the date well...it's not only my wife's birthday, it's the day we were supposed to get commissioned. We got chased out several days before (after several days of steaming by the pier, being told we were dead last on the list due to the commissioning), I earned my dolphins in the wee hours of the morning of the 19th ("commissioning day"...well, not anymore), and we pulled in to see all the chairs and the pavilion for the ceremony in the water on the other side of the pier.

Commissioning was held off for a month...my Dad missed it (he was in town for the original date), but it was for the best...let 'em put Norfolk back together before the big party.

Third time was near the end of PSA. We were out of drydock (had been for about 10 days), in Newport News Shipbuilding, had the engineroom torn to bits (if it was a seawater heat exchanger, it was open/hydrolanced/waiting on QA and closeup), we were cooled down, and the cone was in shambles, too. The alert went out early in the week, and once again we were dead last on the list due to how torn up we were.

Yeah, right. Thursday evening (EVENING) we get word that we'll be getting underway on Monday morning. No one believed it...least of all us engineering types who knew how ripped up we were. Can you say "shiftwork"? And Newport News impressed us that weekend...I never saw a yard work so fast and so accurate. No farkups, no botched QA, stuff went together like it was Scotty on the starship Enterprise, and the reactor startup/heatup went down Sunday after lunch. Maneuvering watch early Monday, and since we were at sea anyway the skipper figured we might as well get that pesky post-PSA fast cruise (and as much of the sea trials as possible) done.

Twas to no avail...friggin' NRRO made us fast cruise anyway (book requirements), and we had to re-do sea trials since no civilian contracter/yardbird types were there to sign off the stuff. To top it off, coming back in the weather was still pretty bad (OK, it sucked big Clydesdale weeners) and we took a small shower (something like the approximate volume of Lake Ontario) down the bridge hatch and all over the Ship's Control Panel and part of the BCP. That nice, newfangled (and newly upgraded) SCP/BCP complex that had all the fancy electronic gizmos. Burnt 'em to a crisp.

Oh, on a quick little flank bell for some throttleman quals, we also discovered the radar wasn't pinned down. Came up, bent back, antenna snapped off (taking a chunk of the new SHT tiling near the stern planes with it), and flooded out the bridge trunk. Being as it was an SK who rigged the bridge and the CHOP who did the O-gang second (both missing that little ball-lock pin), the "is a radar mast a turn-in stock item" ribbing didn't end for some time.

As luck would have it, the place I fought against coming (and now love and plan to settle in)...Hawaii...hasn't had a single hurricane since I've lived here. A few have brushed by, but no hits. And to think I wanted to stay in the south east U.S..

That all being said (to keep us on topic), click here to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. From what I read, they're gonna need it real bad.

(Crossposted at The Online Magazine formerly known as Rob's Blog)


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