Saturday was that day, I guess.
But combo that organizing fest with hearing some of the guys at work get ready to transfer back to ships in the next few months, and I got a little nostalgic. I posted plenty of photos from my time on KISKA (and am *truly* appreciative of the crew's collective patience with having their pictures splashed across the web). But I've got lotsa pictures from the other ships I was on also. So here's my little trip down memory lane...oh the glory days -- I am *so* looking forward to Summer '14!
|Local grocery, Petropavlask-Kamchotsky, Russia|
|Geting work done despite the weather, Petropavlask-Kamchotsky, Russia|
|Lenin's statue, Petropavlask-Kamchotsky, Russia|
I don't recall how the timeline of that patrol unfolded. But we pulled into Kodiak a coupla times, Dutch Harbor at least once (on a Wednesday, of course...couldn't miss the seafood buffet at the Grand Aleutian). We boarded a bunch of fishing boats. We got a call to assist with a 6'6", 350-pound fisherman who had gone off his meds and was threatening the crew on his boat (I might be combining two or more medevac requests from that patrol, but I remember the helo crews' horrified expressions when it was suggested that they put a mentally unstable giant into their helicopter...I think we sent Doc over to see what the situation was first). And we were called to respond to the tragic loss of the F/V ARCTIC ROSE that sunk quickly in the early morning hours of 2 Apr 2001. All 15 crewmembers onboard were lost. I don't remember how long BOUTWELL searched; all we found was the bag to a survival suit.
And then we got our asses *handed to us* in a spring storm typical of the Bering Sea. I try my best not to exaggerate the conditions that night, but I know we logged 60 knot sustained winds (which means they were actually gusting up to 80 knots -- considered hurricane strength anywhere else) and 45 foot waves. I stood the mid-watch with Bos'n Rick Arsenault. I lasted a couple of hours, standing on the bridge, where the height of eye is approximately 55 feet, and looking *UP* at the crests of some of the waves as we crashed along at three knots, just trying to maintain our heading so we wouldn't turn broadside-to the seas. I was *terrified.* I finally told Rick that I was not getting anything at all out of standing the watch, other than terrorizing the crap out of myself. He was generous enough to let me go below for the remaining hour of my watch, to lie in my rack, wondering if the ship was going to bash itself apart on the water.
|Yawn...just another gorgeous u/w sunset in the Eastern Pacific|
I've spent some time lately thinking about that night. The storm was worst during the mid-watch and 4-8s. Just by the happenstance of the schedule, Bos'n and OPS (then LCDR Maury McFadden) had those two watches. And thank goodness they did. They were the most experienced shipdrivers we had onboard, other than the CAPT and XO.
One of my greatest fears when I went to be OPS on HAMILTON was spawned from that night on BOUTWELL, knowing that the crew would expect that level of competence from me...and also knowing that I had asked to lay below instead of face the fury of the sea that night. In my defense, I had been on BOUTWELL a sum total of five months, nearly to the day, at that time, and was barely able to find my way from my stateroom to the wardroom without getting lost. I was still in the throes of hating being underway.
|Green deck -- HH65 cleared for landing|
But this all goes to the discussion of "proficiency" that we've been talking a lot about in the office recently. Am I more proficient today than I was the night of that storm? Heck, yes! Am I fully proficient? No, I don't think I am. I still have lots to learn, more skills to hone (skills that have sadly atrophied over the last two and a half years), fears to overcome and experience to gain. Am I safe to sail? I think I am. I know enough about how the systems work (even if I might be hazy on some of the details -- I still think of the gyro as a magic black box), I have confidence in my crew and my ability to read them, I have a sense of my limitations.
|Static refuel -- HH65 on deck|
|Go-fast booty, BOUTWELL/HAMILTON Hitron patrol|
I did three patrols on BOUTWELL: the ALPAT described above, the 9/11 patrol which is a story in and of itself, and a joint patrol with HAMILTON which was the debut of HITRON in the Eastern Pacific.
It was an exciting patrol, replete with go fasts, gun shoots, contraband watches, port calls, swim calls, fish calls, drills, flight ops -- you know...all the good stuff.
|BOUTWELL outboard of HAMILTON, Golfito, Costa Rica|
I felt a little sorry for the poor town of Golfito. It's a peaceful place, tucked into the eastern side of Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica, and it was overrun by the crews of two 378s for three days. I think we may have drunk a couple of the bars dry that trip.
|BOUTWELL and HAMILTON, Isla del Cocos, Costa Rica|
At the tail end of the patrol, we somehow (thanks, OPS!! (then LT John Pruitt)) were able to negotiate permission to visit Isla del Coco, a nature preserve governed by Costa Rica, about 300 miles off the coast of the Panamerican isthmus. The small boats ferried crewmembers into shore. We swam with the baby nurse sharks and hiked up into the hills. And then went back to stand the anchor watch so that our shipmates could go ashore for a few hours.
When we got back to Alameda, I was off to my next assignment...XO of WASHINGTON. In Honolulu. But that's a good story for another post. To be continued...
|Shipmates at sunset|