Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Day in the Life

SK1 Bismarck Miranda, MK2 Matthew Bowman and ME2 Craig Miller on the disabled vessel.
BM2 Cody Paschal, MK2 Andrew Frazier and MK2 Aaron Curtis in the OTH
Disabled vessel in tow, in the squall
I'm going to try this, see how it works. Starting tomorrow, Friday, I'm going to try to give an in-depth accounting of my day. We have a full day of training and flight ops planned, but I should be able to steal a few moments here and there to jot down what's going on.


It's well before reveille, which we don't pipe but I couldn't sleep any more since we're completely in the trough. We're rolling gracefully from side to side, sometimes more deeply than others. And there's something metal outboard of my rack that randomly clangs against something else metal, not every roll, but frequently enough to be an effective alarm clock. I spent a few moments once I got up picking all the stuff that had slid off my desk onto the deck during the night. It's weird what held on and what came off. Papers, gone. Pens stayed.

I planned to make good use of my time by making a call back to shoreside about a delicate personnel matter, but we don't have internet right now so voice over internet protocol (VOIP) isn't working. I'll call later. Maybe I should spend 30 minutes on the elliptical instead.


It is humid out there! And grey. The ocean is a deep slate grey, reflecting the clouded sky overhead. Off the stern are some low-hanging dark grey storm clouds while off to port the sky lightens to a silver grey. Now I get why we're rolling so much though...we're taking 6 to 8 footers off the quarter, with the occasional set of 8 to 10 footers barreling through. While I was on the elliptical, sometimes I looked out at the horizon, sometimes we rolled and I looked at the sky, and sometimes we rolled and I looked at nothing but the unfathomable deep grey sea.

I wasn't alone out on the fantail. We have a group of hard core fitness hounds onboard. SN Phil Cook was cranking out reps with dumbbells when I first got out there. He was quickly joined by BM3 Jake Rorabeck, BM3 Anthony Sanabria and SN Mike McCabe. BM3 Rorabeck had to be creative (and powerful) with his squat jumps as we took some nice rolls; he pivoted during his jumps to make sure when he landed there was still a deck underneath him.

And as I passed through the messdeck on my way to the fantail this morning, I heard BM1 Al Albert talking to one of the engineers who I soon saw had a thick wad of rag and duct tape wrapped around one of his fingers. He reluctantly let me call the bridge to have the BMOW (Boatswain's Mate of the Watch), YN1 Linton Holmes go wake up Doc, HS2 Todd Wilson to have it checked out. When I asked what happened he said he was going through a quick-acting watertight door (QAWTD), took a roll and scraped off a bit of skin. Doc came out about 15 minutes later and said he was ok, just needed it cleaned out and bandaged up.


Breakfast is in full swing now. And my POD (plan of the day) is completely wrecked as of about 0130 this morning. We got diverted from where we patrolling for a SAR (search and rescue) case for a disabled vessel about 150 miles away. We should be there by early afternoon. But there goes the carefully scripted day of drills, flight ops, meetings and other training. Ppoofff -- out the window. I figure it's pure karma for all the times I wrecked XO's schedule with "hot intel" when I was OPS.

And passing MPA, ENG4 Andy Molnar in the passageway on my way to the galley for a second bit of breakfast on a break for admin/computer time, he says, "So much for the ATF 2000 -- we really got that f'er dialed in now," as we took a 15 degree roll to port.

(ATF = Automatic Trough Finder; not a real thing, just something to hassle the bridge about when the ship is on a course that gives a crappy ride)


We picked up the boat in tow. Their engine was completed blown, salt water intrusion, crankshaft freewheeling. ME2 Craig Miller, MK2 Matt Bowman, MK2 Andrew Frazier and SK1 Bismarck Miranda (our translator) quickly made the assessment that there was not anything we could do for them mechanically. Luckily we're not that far from a safe haven for them, but it will still end up being a probably 12-15 hour evolution from start to finish. We had to make two approaches for getting the tow line rigged up because the winds were coming from the opposite direction as the current. We were being moved mostly by the current but the disabled vessel was being moved mostly by the wind, which we didn't fully realize until we already made the first pass. The deckies on the fantail, including BMC Rob Vanlandingham, BM1 Al Albert, BM3 Jake Rorabeck, SN Mike Patti, SN Chris Kingsley, SN Vince Deegan, SN Josh Shawler, SA Tyler Fields, SA Ronnie Liles, SA Rob Morse, SA Avery Trombley and SA Nate Emborski (pretty much all of Deck Force) had to fake out 450 feet of line twice. They made quick work of it. The small boat with cox'n BM2 Cody Paschal and engineer MK2 Aaron Curtis helped with getting the tow bridle over, ferrying the line and chafing gear from the fantail to the vessel.

We finally did get them in tow, 450 feet of towline at the taffrail, and came up to our towing speed. It's been kinda tough to get in step because the swells and the seas are pretty confused right now. We can get in step with the seas ok, but then these big ground rollers come sweeping through and cause them to surf forward, releasing tension on the towline until they're on the backside of the swell, when the line then gets pulled taut. We're keeping an eye on it, adjusting our speed to keep it from being dangerous. SN Mike Patti has the first tow watch.

With a touch of Murphyism, we drove through a decent squall as we were recovering the small boat. Everyone in the small boat, likely everyone on the boat deck, and about three people on the bridge got completely soaked through.

Lunch was Halibut Olympia, garlic chicken strips, mac & cheese and peas. Dessert was chocolate chip oreo cookies, which absolutely are as decadent as they sound. I did partake of most of one, but did not eat the actual oreo in the center. CO and I have a, not really a bet, more of a challenge to see who caves first on eating an oreo this patrol. It's only about oreos, no other dessert (thank goodness!). They're a staple at Evening Reports, where we all (CO, XO, Dept Heads, Command Chief and MAA (Master at Arms)) usually sit down and have been known to devour about half a box in one sitting. This patrol, though, I *will* stay strong and not eat one until the CO does first! Even if it damn near kills me each night. At lunch today, I cut the chocolate chip cookie goodness off of every edge of the oreo, making carefully sure that I didn't get one crumb of oreo, and then gave the oreo to ENS John Benedict who was looking at the oreo with such longing there was no way I could just throw it away.


Time on deck is 0112. We've just wrapped up the Navigation and Anchor Detail from dropping the disabled vessel off at its safe haven. We used the CB-L (cutter boat-large) to tow the boat the last few miles to the pier, and put the OTH (over-the-horizon boat) in the water just in case the CB-L needed help getting the boat actually moored to the pier. We had a little bit of a kerfuffle trying to get the boat safely moored. The local constabulary didn't want to let us moor it where we originally took it because we were taking it to the deep draft pier, and there was an inbound deep draft coming in. We finally made a deal with them to put the boat at anchor and take the people off for customs and immigration processing.

When the CO asked the CB-L cox'n, BM2 Christopher Jozan how the boat towed, he said, like a dream. The OTH never even touched the disabled vessel, except to put ME2 Miller, SK1 Miranda and ENS Benedict onboard to help release the tow bridle from the boat's foc'sle so we could recover our tow line.

There was also lots of junior officer (JO) training happening on the bridge. We covered driving with a tow, casting off a tow, discussions on aspect changes of other vessels and bearing drift, weight capacities and how they are diminished if the line is bent -- a straight line pull provides the most strength, radio comms with passing traffic, pilot vessels and the locals, watch personnel management for trying to get them all fed in shifts, and depth sounder alarm adjustment.

Somewhere in there we had dinner. The cooks made a game meat sampler, including ostrich meatballs, alligator bites, rattlesnake chili and a couple kinds of venison sausage. And fresh donuts. I need to find out whose idea it was, because it was a wonderfully creative meal. The crew was mostly game (haha) for trying the new stuff, but apparently blueberries and venison do not go together well in sausage.

Bad puns probably mean I'm tired. But it's been a good day, even if my POD got blown up before it even started. There's always tomorrow to fit in flight ops, a field day, evening reports, and more great meals.