Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sea Time

It's my last night underway on KISKA. It's my last night underway on anything for a long time, at least four years. I got a little sentimental making my last radio call to Aloha Tower requesting permission to depart Honolulu Harbor, but I maintained until I went out to watch the last rays of the sun set while a sliver of the moon twinkled over Oahu.

I leaked a tear or two. I know I'll be back...or I hope I'll be back anyway. One thing I've learned from my time underway in the Coast Guard is that nothing is certain until it actually happens. Who knows where the next four years will take me...I can only hope I maintain a steady course to find my way back to sea.

I'll leave KISKA with seven years, five months and one day of sea time. I was trying to figure what that actually meant for time at sea: a very rough guess puts it somewhere around 800 days, or just over two years. The rest of the time I was stationed on a ship, but we were moored up somewhere. Just over two years. It seems much, much longer, and not quite near enough.

One question I'd like to answer for myself while I'm at grad school and have the time and opportunity to ponder such things is what I get out of being underway?...why do I do it?

I mean, describing what we do, it seems insane that anyone would willingly subject themselves to being underway...away from family and loved ones, stuck together with a bunch of people you may not even always like (though that is *definitely* not the case with KISKA's crew), stuffed into small living quarters with little choice in how you live, what you eat, when you wake up, even down to how you stand (on the bridge, always facing forward unless you're actively working at the chart table). In rough weather, getting the snot knocked out of you, feeling queasy and sometimes scared shitless because it feels like the boat is going to break up around you (BOUTWELL ALPAT, Spring 2001...70 kt sustained winds, gusting to 80 kts and 48 foot waves with the occasional 55-60 footer). Breathing diesel exhaust, getting whiffs of grey water and sewage, battered, bruised and always, always tired. Sleeping on a rock of a mattress, with weird noises waking you up throughout the night...good gawd, why on earth do I do this?!

But even with all that, I love it. I can't imagine not having done it, and not being able to do it again. When did the salt water get in my veins? I'm Just a Farm Girl, for heaven's sake!

My initial thoughts on why I love to be underway include ridiculously poetic combinations of words: sailing on the currents of destiny, being caught in the wake of history, riding the crest of possibility and the sinking into the trough of reality.

Maybe they're just ridiculous combinations of words.

I doubt I'll sleep much tonight. I'll be taking phone calls all night long...we've already passed four tugs with barges and we're not even past Molokai yet. I don't guess the phone calls are really why I won't sleep; I won't sleep because I might miss some time underway.

5 comments:

John Willis said...

I'm gonna miss reading about your Kiska adventures. It's been a real treat. Best of luck in grad school.

Azulao said...

My dear Girl, sea-water and farm soil are practically the same thing, elementally speaking. The sun, wind, and rain mold our human experiences on both these world surfaces, and we live or die depending upon how we ride those times.

You are a force of nature yourself, so it's no surprise to me that these primeval gods Sea and Earth call your name and you follow them both by seasons.

Just a Girl said...

A, what a beautiful thing to say.

Mom said...

Cap'n Jack will never get the sea water out of her veins. You'll be back, count on it.

I'm delighted that you've had the experiences you've had--the pleasant and the scary (just glad I didn't know about the scary at the time!).

tko24 said...

Congrats on your tour. I'd love to serve or even get a ride on a 110. Good luck