Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I'm coming to appreciate the importance of checklists...I mean truly appreciate them. We got recalled on Friday morning, and were underway in just over 2 hours. We gotta work on that time and get it a little faster, but even as the person initiating the recall, I didn't have all my stuff together. I forgot my watch, my knife and my cell phone chargers, all three pretty aggravating things not to have with me.

And never mind all the crap I forgot to do at the house. At least I fortuitously remembered to take out the trash. But, did I shut the windows? I hope so, 'cause the Big Island got some heavy storms since we've been gone. And all the stuff I forgot in the fridge? Don't know how those starfruit are going to look after sitting around for another 10 days.

I'm thinking I should have a recall checklist for myself to make sure I get done everything I need to before heading out for an undetermined amount of time. Then I think that might be going a little too far, even for me.

The cutters I've been on have had checklists for everything...entering port, leaving port, emergency scenarios, routine situations, oddball occurrences. The Command Center had Quick Response Cards, a fancy name for checklists. We live and breath checklists.

The benefit of using a checklist was hammered home on Monday morning when we tried to get underway. We were diligently using our "Getting Underway" Checklist...time tick, away all trash, removing chafing gear, testing the capstan, manning all stations, and all. We were getting down to the end of the list, having taken the slack out of all lines, and were set up for conducting shaft tests.

I learned a helpful little habit when I was temporarily on AQUIDNECK this past spring. When conducting shaft tests, the Conning Officer would have his thumb on the stop button for the engine, so that just in case something went wrong, he could quickly punch out the main (main = main diesel engine = MDE). Don't know exactly why I thought that was so cool, but I adopted the habit.

Anyway, I was driving out that morning, and was ready to do shaft tests. The Bridge had piped, "Stand clear of all mooring lines while the OOD rocks the shafts." Everybody, including the line handlers on the pier, had cleared away from the lines. So I clutched ahead on port, counted one-one thousand, two-one thousand after the neutral light went out, and got a small shot ahead on the port MDE. Port ahead sat. Port astern, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, declutch, small shot...that didn't stop. I kept going in reverse. Uuuhh, crap. Holy crap!

But my thumb was on the stop button and I punched out the main quickly enough to not do any permanent damage to our lines, deck fittings, or fittings on the pier, though the lines creaked pretty ominously. MKC did tell me he thought it was operator error initially...that I was just going a little heavy on the shots. He figured it out after the second time.

It was a pretty exciting couple of minutes. We tried restarting the engine again, and as soon as it was energized, it clutched in astern. When 110s clutch in, it's no joke either. They clutch in with enough power to go 9 knots.

Well, the engineers (or my new name for them...Ninjaneers -- Anne, that one's for you) troubleshot, and found some loose wires in the throttle system. They fixed it all up, we conducted shaft test a little nervously but fully satisfactorily, and safely got underway.

And I got a good reminder of why we follow checklists and do all the important little safety things that we do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Unexpected

I got an unexpected phone call today. LCDR Camilla Bosanquet called me. She was CO of KISKA back in 2003-2004. She had sent me an email a while ago, after having seen our press release on our return to homeport post drydock, congratulating me on command and sharing some of her memories of being onboard. I don't think she remembered that we had met when we were both stationed out here. I finally responded to her by email yesterday, and she called me this evening.

She was LT Messing when she was on KISKA, and she was definitely someone I looked up to. She was always positive, cheerful, gracious, more than competent and her crew loved her. I knew I had monstrous shoes to fill, coming to KISKA as the next female CO after Camilla. Thinking of Camilla reminds me of an old post on mentors from last year...I'll probably repost it shortly. She had some good advice for me and some wonderful words of kindness.

The advice was to enjoy and savor every moment of my time onboard. The ship is a good ship, the crew is outstanding, the area of responsibility beautifully daunting, and the community welcoming and supportive. It really doesn't get any better than being a CO of a 110 in Hawaii. She said, she didn't remember many of the details of her own drydock on KISKA, she mostly remembered the people. I think I've been doing ok with this one. I know my time onboard is short; I'm only here for about 14 months, due to my own choice. Camilla didn't have the luxury of an easy choice, unfortunately. Her knees went bad on her, and if there's one body part that takes a true beating on a 110, it's the knees. It's a rough ride. So she had to leave early. I know she's right, though, and it does go fast.

The words of kindness were that I've done good things, and that I'm an amazing person for my accomplishments...I'm paraphrasing, because I'm horrible at remembering conversations, so this is what I took away from the exchange. I don't know about all that, really. It's everyday, common-place to me. It's just what I do. I forget that it is an exclusive group to which I belong, that most people view commanding a ship through the lens of news stories, tales of adventures, and movies. I think Camilla was also expressing some regret for her own loss, having to give up command, in a no-win situation. It got me thinking a little about what I would do if I couldn't do this anymore. I bitch about some of the more aggravating aspects of the job (middle of the night phone calls, holding members accountable for their actions, rough weather), but I love what I do. The camaraderie with such a professional and capable crew, the power and versatility of the platform, the wondrous blue ocean, the sense of destiny standing on the open bridge staring out at the horizon...I will sorely miss all of it when my tour is over.

Camilla, thanks for getting me thinking about and attempting to articulate what I get out of this.

Another unexpected thing: we rocked our ready for operations (RFO) inspection. The crew put a lot of hard work into getting ready for it, so it's not entirely unexpected. But the RFO team was very complimentary, saying the effort really showed.

And the other unexpected thing is the weather right now. I knew there was a storm on the way, but I guess I've been gone from Hawaii for long enough to have forgotten that winter storms here are no joke. There's a crazy northeast swell right now that has pretty much shut down the cut into Radio Bay. Translation: it's really dangerous to transit out of the harbor right now. There's white water breaking over the breakwall about every 30 seconds to a minute. I meant to get some pictures, but ran out of daylight. I'm hoping the swell shifts around to the east a little like it's supposed to by tomorrow. With all the rain associated with the storm, we may have snow on Mauna Kea tonight. I'll definitely get pictures of that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hilo Veteran's Day Parade

I have *no idea* why the text is underlined today.

KISKA participated in Hilo's Veteran's Day Parade yesterday. We didn't have a float really, just the small boat with two guys dressed in rescue swimmer gear and two in cox'n/boat crew gear. Many thanks to SN Brian "Monty" Montero for taking all the great pictures.

This first picture is, from left to right, EM1 Jamie Peltier, BM3 Brian Goracke, SN Mike McKinstry (in orange wet suit), ET2 Chris Konyha, MK2 Moises "Rev" Arevalo, GM2 JR Stenzel, FN Ryan O'Connor, and SN Ryan Andres (also in orange wet suit). We got to the staging area pretty early, and then had to hang around for a while as the parade got going. We were maybe about 2/3 of the way through.

Close up of SN McKinstry and SN Andres, dressed as rescue swimmers. They were a great hit with the crowds.
MK3 Allen Edwards (in the truck), and XO, LTJG Frank Reed threw shakas and smiles all morning long.
The crowds were friendly, waving and clapping.
FN O'Connor and MKC Greg Tarker stroll along on the starboard side.
EM1 Peltier and MK2 Arevalo enjoyed the ride in the small boat. While neither of them are cox'ns, they played pretty convincing roles during the parade.
The Kea'au Middle School group was right behind us. They chanted and whooped and hollered nice and loud for the whole two miles.
My cheeks hurt from smiling so big for the entire parade.

I like this shot of FN O'Connor with the big huge flag in the background. The City had big cherry-picker trucks on either side of the road, with a line strung between them, and the flag suspended over the parade route.
SN McKinstry, wishing he was surfing.

I think this was the VFW Float. They had lots and lots of American flags flying.More flags.

The parade was a lot of fun. It was nice to get out in town and see all the support we, the military in general, and veterans have from the community.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grandpa's Ties

One of my personal goals, especially now that I have all my stuff in one place, is to restore my loom to functionality and start weaving again. I learned to weave when I was at Berea College, and was assigned to the college Weaving Studio as my first student job there. Bill Roberts was a great teacher, and I was soon given the privilege of weaving rag rugs. When I graduated from Berea, my Aunt Linda gave me a simple two pedal loom that she didn't use much to keep up my skills. I had it set up in my mobile home while I was in grad school and made about a dozen rugs before I graduated, and the loom went in to storage in my mother's basement.

That was, jeez, twelve years ago.

So it's long past time for me to get the loom going again. My cute little house in Hilo has a great underneath-space for the loom and I spent some of last night putting bits and pieces together. It's almost all set up...I've just got those one or two pieces that I can't quite figure out exactly where they go. Looking at the pictures I've got from when the loom was still set up, I'm realizing that the last piece should have been put in before it was all framed up and tightened down. Gotta tear it back down almost to the starting point to get the last piece in. Grrr.

Anyway, while I was organizing all the supplies, I came across my bags of goodies that I had planned to use in rugs. There's a tangle of wool strips that might make one or two rugs, that I still want to use up. And there was a box full of my Grandpa's ties.

Grandpa (my Dad's dad) passed away while I was in grad school at North Carolina State University in (and I'm gonna feel bad when I get the year wrong) 1996 or 1997. My sister flew in from Nebraska and rode with me to Virginia for his funeral. I had missed my Grandma's funeral a year or two before because I was in Guatemala for the month with a school trip, and I didn't want to make that drive by myself. I was so glad my sister was there. I remember thinking at the memorial service that the plots were in a beautiful spot, with a soul-restoring view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My Dad and Aunt Nancy spent the next few days cleaning out 50+ years of accumulated goods from their parents' house. I asked for Grandpa's ties, thinking that I could weave something from them. My sister asked for the linens (really high quality, and amazingly soft after so many years of use and washing) and some of Grandma's mixing bowls. She also got Grandpa's marbles, which she gave to me for Christmas a few years back. She told me now I never have an excuse to lose my marbles.
Last night, I went through the ties. There must be about 50 or 60 of them. All kinds and colors. I remember Grandpa as being fairly dapper, but the breadth of his tie collection is really quite astounding. There's even about a dozen bow ties. The ties are from a variety of stores, including a who's who of good quality clothiers in Southwestern Virginia. Here are some of my favorites:

I'm not sure where this blue and brown paisley one came from, but it's hand stitched on the back, and looks from the wear on it that it was one of Grandpa's go-to ties.

This blue and yellow and white striped one is one of the bow-ties. I remember Grandpa wearing them on occasion, especially when he was being whimsical.

The green-striped and orange flowered tie is amazing...almost five inches wide at the widest point, it's lined on the inside with purple cloth. Love it!
I don't know which of his granddaughters (he had four) gave him this bit of pastel luminosity...I can't quite imagine him buying it for himself. But I am sure he wore it, full of pride and love.

The yellow, white and brown striped tie is 100% silk, or "All Silk" as the label says, from Pride of England. It too, is monstrously wide. It was "Made Expressly for Norman Stockton, Winston Salem, N.C."

And my favorite of all, are these two, dark plaid and striped. The labels on them say, "Hand Made by Nancy Buzby." She was quite the seamstress, that Nancy...first the pin cushion when she was four, then these beautiful hand-stitched ties.

I teared up a little last night as I was going through these ties. So many memories of good people who helped make me who I am today.