Monday, January 11, 2010
We just got home last night from having been away for two weeks. It was a busy but relatively mellow patrol. Here's a few highlights:
We started out doing offshore security for the President of the United States when he was on his vacation in Kailua, HI. The weather was beyond beautiful, which definitely went a long way to making the four day period a good time. This was sunset on 2 Jan...notice the nearly calm seas.
I think I'm likely to end up one of those people who invariably talks about the weather. I check the National Weather Service Marine Forecast for Hawaiian Waters about four times a day, even when we're not underway. I cringe when the wind gusts over 15 knots when I'm ashore. I can almost calculate true wind in my head when I look at the anemometer that provides relative wind. My opinion about weather in Hawaii is that I really don't care how big the northwest swell is...18, 20 feet is fine, as long as the swell period is over about 13 seconds. This type of swell is a rolling ground swell; the ship just rides right over it, kind of like rolling hills in a car. Winds over 10 knots, though, usually makes a crappy chop. As the winds get stronger, the chop gets bigger and the ship just pounds into them, like beating into pot holes.
But we had great weather. The operations required a lot of attention by the bridge watch, but not a lot of involvement from the rest of the crew. So we fished about three to four hours a day, with three or four poles out at a time. We had no luck for the first few days. Theories abounded about why we weren't catching anything. We were going too fast; the best trolling speed is 7-9 knots; the ship doesn't clutch in until 9 kts, and we were usually going about 9.5 to 10 kts. The lines weren't put out behind the ship far enough; they were out about 150-180 feet...any longer than that and it's a ten minute work-out to reel in all the line. The area was fished out; but the weather is usually crappy on this side of the island, so there's not *that* many boats out where we were. The lures were sitting on top of the water, and they needed to be weighted down to be more attractive.
I don't know what it actually was, but on our last day out, after we had recovered an abandoned outrigger from an outrigger canoe so that no one else would hit it, we got a bite. When we fish, we just trundle along, as slow as we can. The fishermen are out on the fantail, with hand-held radio comms with the bridge. When a fish bites, the line zings out behind the ship, the fishermen jump up from their lounging positions and lunge for the rod. One of the other guys calls up to the bridge, "Fish on." As the fisherman straps on the fighting belt, the bridge pipes "Fish on" so the whole boat knows what's going on and stops the ship. Everybody piles out to the fantail from watching movies on the mess deck or reading in their rack to see all the excitement.
You can see the fish in the water in this photo...and all the guys on deck.
This was my first fish as CO, and it's been at least six years since my last fish call on a 110 (I didn't fish in the NAG...too scared we'd actually catch something). I wasn't really sure how to drive to help the fantail reel in their catch. The fantail did a good job of asking for what we needed, and I quickly realized that we just needed to keep the line tending aft, and not let the fish go under the ship...there's not quicker way to lose a fish than to have them snap it off on any of the underwater appendages.
Our fish was a fighter and jumped a few times. But EMC quickly reeled him in, and we had fresh mahimahi for dinner....fantabulous! FS2 baked some and sauted some more. I made ceviche the next day after a trip to the grocery store. It was a great afternoon.
We pulled into Honolulu the next day for a couple of days inport after being underway for four days straight. It kinda amuses me that I think four days underway is a lot now. MAUI would routinely be underway for 5 to 7 days, and on HAMILTON, we had one stint where we were underway for 42 days straight, with one brief stop for fuel and logistics...we got back underway the same day we pulled in. But, it's all a matter of perspective, and four days is good enough for now.
While we were out doing POTUS ops, I was busy writing my grad school application essays. Ok, really, I was going out of my mind and annoying everybody around me, writing my essays. My sister was a huge, grand, wonderful help. My first attempt, she told me, sounded like a high school student telling why she wanted to join the Honors Program...ouch. But she was right, and gave me some fantastic guidance on how to make it much better. (I was planning to post excerpts from it, but I'm at home and the essay is at work. Maybe later.) I'm happy with what I submitted, and now it's DONE! Whew, what a relief. Now I just have to sit back and wait for the acceptance letters to roll in :) Thanks again, Sis!
So after a couple of days inport, we got back underway for an escort, to protect national assets as they transit to/from port. I don't mind doing these escorts. I mean, yes, they require us to come to Honolulu a little more than I like, but actually doing the escorts doesn't bother me. I just got done at a unit that did something like the same thing for days and days at a time. The ones out here usually last only three to four hours. The one this past week tried me though. It was eight hours long, and we were at special sea detail for five and a half hours. In the same spot. We moved maybe three hundred yards in five hours. It's tough to keep people engaged for that long. And special sea details require nearly everybody on board. I think we had three people that weren't initially assigned jobs. After the first hour or so, we started rotating people through to get lunch and take a break. Most people just rotated positions though. And I decided that it's a good think that XO and I get along. Because it would really suck if we had to spend five and a half hours together if we annoyed each other.
We got through the escort, though, and went to moor at a mooring ball for the night. The next morning we had flight operations, training with Air Station Barber's Point. Flight ops went well, and we were off on our transit to Kauai. We fished the whole way; my only requirement was that we pull into port before it got dark, so we only had to make 9 knots to get there..."Down, down all lines; up, up all fish. Now Fish Call." But no luck.
We pulled into Nawiliwili, Kauai right at sunset. One of the other COs out here asked me why I was going to Kauai when I was so worried about bringing down my days away from homeport. I do want to bring down my days away from homeport, but not at the expense of knowing my operation area and taking advantage of being able to visit other islands. So we spent two days in Kauai.
Friday, a group of us went out to the northwest coast of the island for a hike. The Na Pali trail goes all the way to Kalalau Valley, an 11-mile hike that takes all day one way. We went out as far as Hanakapiai Beach, and then turned inland to Hanakapiai Falls. These are pictures along the trail to the beach. It was a glorious hike.
This is Hanakapiai Beach, where the trail splits to either continue on to Kalalau Valley, or goes inland to Hanakapiai falls.
And these are the falls. The pool at the base of the falls is icy cold; we figured about high 50s. Of course we all had to swim around in it. My skin burned after about 30 seconds in the water. It took me a good 20 minutes of the hike back to get warm to my bones again.
So you may be wondering, why, after all those beautiful pictures of Kauai, there's a picture of a metal grate at the end of this post. Well, the trip to Kauai ended rather morbidly than anyone expected. We were making preparations to get underway on Saturday afternoon, and one of the guys was disconnecting our potable water shore tie, underneath this grate. After he was done getting our hose back, he went to replace the grate, but it didn't sit right immediately, so he grabbed ahold to straighten it, and it fell into place with his fingers still wrapped around the edge. He lost his fingertips.
We had just done first aid training while we were underway for POTUS ops, so the first responders' actions were just about as good as they could have been. The ambulance was called, and he was whisked away to the hospital. He was in good spirits yesterday when saw him upon pulling in to Hilo.
Still, I hate it when people get hurt.
So, that's a wrap-up of the last couple of weeks. This took longer than I expected to post, so now I need to actually get myself to work.