Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When I Make a Mistake...

...(please fill in the blank for yourself before you read further)

...I try not to blame other people for my mistake, but instead look for where I went wrong so I don't do the same thing again. And not just where I went wrong, but really, what is the root cause of the mistake? Am I spread too thin? Am I not paying enough attention? Am I giving someone too much leeway? Do I know enough about the surrounding issues, or do I need to educate myself more?

...I try not to blame myself, which is infinitely harder than not blaming someone else. I'm supposed to be better than mistakes. I pride myself on doing my job exceptionally well, so when I make mistakes, I have a desperately hard time not taking them personally.

...I try to make sure the solution doesn't just pawn the problem off on someone else, but instead, I try to fix my own mistakes. Maybe it's penance for making the mistake in the first place.

...when appropriate, I try to put things in perspective. I ask myself, is someone going to die from this mistake? If the answer is no, I try to not let it get me down as bad.

When others make mistakes around me, I like to remind them of the lessons from the book, "The Up Side of Down" by Megan McArdle and the TED talk "On Being Wrong" by Kathryn Schulz that I've linked to before, both about the value of failure, and how we learn from our mistakes more than we learn from our successes. 

When I make a mistake, all that goes totally out the window, and I beat myself liberally about the head and shoulders. There's lots of "I try"s in those statements above, because the truth of the matter is that I rant and throw temper tantrums laced liberally with foul-languaged invectives against the system, myself and the world around me when I make mistakes. And then I try to find solutions. Maybe one day I'll get over ranting before fixing, but I'm not there yet.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Decisions

My sister suggested I write about how decisions get made onboard. She said, "A good theme to think about is, how do decisions get made, what information goes into each one? Since you must make a million decisions a day, that's a lot of posts." 

I can't really talk about specific decisions, though. The interesting ones are too operational or too personal to individuals. But there are a kadjillion decisions made every day onboard; some are easy, some require art, some require science, and some are just plain hard.

The Conning Officer has to decide on a boat launch course. Mostly environmental conditions factor into that decision -- where are the winds from? Where are the seas from? What course best shields the boat from both those things? Are the seas high enough to worry about shock-loading the lines as the boat initially goes into the water, or comes out of the water? Are we within launch parameters? How fast should we be going? Do we need a little more speed on to keep up with the movement of the water from the seas and swells, or should we slow down more to give the boat a better ride? If we go slower, we'll need to use more rudder to turn -- who is on the helm? How are they steering? Do they need to shift from auto mode to hand mode?

The Deck Officer has to decide when we're ready to launch the boat. Is the boat deck manned and ready? Has the coxswain briefed the CO about what the plan is for why we're launching the boat? Who is on the davit controls? Is it the right person for the conditions? How many new line handlers do we have? Has CIC done radio checks with the small boat? Do they all have their correct PPE (personal protective equipment) on? Are line handlers wearing watches, rings or other shiny things that might get caught in a runaway line and rip skin or digits off their hands?

The Deck and the Conn then have to work together to make sure the boat is safely put into the water. Communications, communications, communications. I don't know that anyone of the watchstanders break it down into such distinct and obvious pieces -- it's probably much more of the art for finding a boat launch course and actually getting the boat in the water.

Easy decision -- we authorize football jerseys on Sundays underway (but not at watchstations) so people can show a little team pride. Someone asked me today, what if my team is playing Monday Night Football? Can I wear my jersey then? Easy answer -- no. Why? Because I said so. We're already bending the rules a little about letting folks wear jerseys at all. 

Hard decision -- when and how is the right time to tell someone their performance or behavior is not up to standards? Do I have my information in order? Can I give them specific examples of what needs to change? Do I understand the situation well enough to even be able to judge if their actions are not good enough? What pieces am I missing that would help me understand what is keeping them from better performance? Do I have the time right now to get into it with them? Is it important enough to confront them with? What are the consequences if I don't? Is there a better person to do this?

I'm re-reading The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership, by Steven B. Sample. It's been a while since I read it, and I'm just finished the part about thinking grey. Suspending judgment on something until a decision has to be made, or maybe never making a judgment on something if you don't have to. His point is to take time to make decisions where time can be taken, which takes practice because we're schooled to think that making decisions quickly and decisively is the only way to succeed as leaders. It's a very yogic way of looking at things -- suspending judgment. I've had the opportunity to try it recently. I think I did ok. I could have done better.

There will be another decision tomorrow I can practice on.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**



Monday, September 28, 2015

Disruption



Picture this:
We're in the middle of nowhere, deep blue sea all around. Deep blue, angry seas all around. Winds are steady at 24 knots; swells are rolling through at about six feet with a three foot wind chop on top. The water is covered with white caps as far as the eye can see in all directions.

An aircraft overhead reports a suspected narco-trafficker (aka, drug smuggler) in our vicinity in a profile go-fast vessel. We launch our small boat, and send them off to chase down the suspect vessel. They pound into the seas for nearly an hour. Amazingly, they spot the go-fast 500 yards off their bow.

They close the go-fast vessel, who has been DIW (dead in the water, pronounced dee-eye-double u) hoping to avoid detection. The go-fast takes off downswell trying to get away. Our small boat chases them.

The go-fast crew starts throwing stuff overboard. Our crew slows just enough to snag one package of what has been jettisoned for potential evidence, and then quickly cranks the speed back up to insane levels. They crash along closing the go-fast for about 15 minutes. The go-fast jettisons more packages, and lightens their load just enough to start edging away from our crew.

Our small boat finally breaks pursuit after sliding further and further astern of the go-fast. The go-fast screams off into the horizon, quickly disappearing from sight. Our small boat creeps back to the ship slowly upswell, trying for the best ride after being jolted crash after wave crash for nearly two hours. We recover the small boat; the team onboard is tired, wet, sore and hungry. The bale of suspected contraband sits imperiously on the wardroom table like a prized trophy.

Later that night, our sister ship comes along, sees the same go-fast, shoots out their engines from their helicopter and stops the go-fast.

We got the drugs; they got the people.

Just another day in paradise.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunset Colors

We delayed Evening Reports by about 35 minutes tonight, which meant I actually got up to the bridge for sunset. It's been a while since I made the time to watch a sunset, and it was an amazing one. 

The water was flat calm, with barely a ripple from the light wind. We were sending up a small wake to either side, but directly behind us, the water was smooth as glass. It reflected the lights and colors from the sky, even the muted white of the nearly full moon shone a subtle, sparkly pathway to the horizon.

The sun was bright orange as it moved beyond the curve of the earth. There were a few different types of clouds in the sky that mirrored its color. I have one more swallow tattoo to get, and I want it in sunset colors. The brilliant orangy-peach with magenta and pink streaks that luminesces from within, and the dark, shadowed purple that is the same family, but with all the yellow from the sun stripped out by the onset of night. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**


Saturday, September 26, 2015

No Sugar Days

I added a new goal to my patrol goal tracker. "No Sugar Days" during which I try to not eat any processed sugar. Honey and stevia don't count; I can eat those.

I started with this one pretty late in the patrol, and have five "sugar" days that I can sprinkle throughout the remainder of the patrol if I want to keep equal numbers of "sugar" and "no sugar" days. I'm on a six day "no sugar" streak right now. 

It's hard to do. The cooks make tasty looking desserts. I caved early on in trying to do this because of cannolis. I mean, it's almost inhuman to be asked to give up homemade cannolis. 

And candy is ubiquitous in the wardroom. The Wardroom Mess Treasurer, ENS J.B. says he budgets $300 per patrol for snacks. He tries to make some of them healthy snacks, like pretzels and nut mixes. But he also caves to popular pressure and buys candy. I didn't help my own cause any when we last stopped in GTMO. They had Halloween candy on display and I stocked up for the wardroom. I couldn't pass up the candy corn, hot tamales, and chocolate body parts (peanut butter ears, crunchy chocolate toes).

EO thinks it's bad for me. He says I'm a nicer person if I eat sugar. I think he may be mistaking eating sugar for just eating anything -- I admit to being hangry sometimes.

And part of me just laughs at the distractions I use to keep my mind busy while we're underway. 
 
LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Friday, September 25, 2015

Shiphandling 101

It occurred to me this morning that I have a set of very basic shiphandling guidelines that I fall back on when I'm driving the ship in tight spots, or coaching someone who is driving the ship. While this post is titled "Shiphandling 101," it's really more like Shiphandling 101 Prep -- very basic concepts.

First, stand in one place. Make it the right place, but stand in one place as you make your approach to the pier. I rely heavily on what impromptu terrestrial ranges tell me about my forward momentum and lateral movement, and the only way that those ranges won't lie to you is if you stay in one place. Terrestrial ranges are fixed things on land that change position relative to each other as the ship moves through the water. Two flag poles, light posts, windmills, windows or antennas on buildings, trees, whatever -- as long as they're offset distance from one another to show how things are changing for me, they work. You can move as you need to, but you have to reset the ranges each time you do. So for me, it's easier just to stay mostly in one place.

Second, use your command voice. Especially if you're staying in one place. You can't walk into the bridge to give commands to the lee helm for the throttles or the helmsman for the rudder. It's ok to turn your head towards them, but even taking a step towards them can change the effectiveness of those terrestrial ranges. There also tends to be a lot of noise and other commotion on the bridge. The Conning Officer's voice is the one that counts for maneuvering the ship, and since maneuvering the ship safely is everyone's goal onboard, the Conning Officer must be heard above anyone and everyone else. A command voice is not yelling for the sake of yelling; it's loud and articulate. Standard commands help. 

Third, drive the stern of the ship. The bow is easier to pay more attention to because that's what will likely hit something first as you approach the pier, but the stern has a lot more weight behind it and that's where the power is. Even as I write this, it's hard for me to say I use this one all the time. I think I picked it up when I was on my first 378' which had a bow prop. So if you could put the stern where you wanted it, the bow prop would move the bow where it needed to go. But it's stuck with me, I think because so many new shipdrivers forget about the stern and only drive the bow.

Fourth, at slow speeds, use a lot of rudder or don't bother. I think this is a holdover from being on 110's, where the rudder is a little bitty thing. It was either all the way over, or rudder amidship. Anything in between was just a waste of effort. That's still pretty much how I drive when I'm maneuvering at slow speeds. Right full, left full or rudder amidship. I roll my eyes a little when new Conning Officers use five or ten degrees of rudder when they're going less than five knots.

Not really fifth because it's not a guideline, but it's a technique I use to remind myself how to use both engines. I dance a little. When I twist my right hip forward, I know I need to use starboard ahead, port back to twist the ship to the left. When I twist my left hip forward, I know I need to use port ahead, starboard back to twist the ship to the right. Silly, but it works for me. And it reminds me I have a stern. Which is important, because when you twist your bow one way, the stern moves in the other direction -- the ship is a rigid thing that way. 

I know there are more and more nuanced concepts. Forces acting on ships, use of lines, making environmental factors work for you, using all your tools, communications with the foc'sle and fantail...those are the Shiphandling 101. But I still fall back to these fundamentals each time I conn the ship. And driving a ship -- that's damn fun stuff!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Thursday, September 24, 2015

SUBJ: DUTY TO PEOPLE - PY16 ADPL COMMANDER SELECTION BOARD RESULTS

Congratulations to each of the LCDRs selected by the subject board! Competition was likely very fierce, and you each undoubtedly earned your selection. Those of you who weren't selected still work incredibly hard at difficult jobs. My sincerest hope is that you compete successfully for promotion next year. I feel blessed that I was among the 176 LCDRs selected to make O5.

I received a number of great emails about this message today, including "They know not what they do" and "Brace yourselves...detailers are coming." And I got emails from a slew of folks that I was delighted, if a little surprised, to hear from. Surprised because we had either limited interactions, or interactions a long, long time ago. I think that's part of the beauty of the smallness of the Coast Guard, though -- people remember and reach out.

It would be great for me to go into some full blown discussion of zones and opportunities for selection and above zone and reordering and promotion years and how long I think it'll take to actually pin on CDR based on my ranking and...whoosh, I'm tired just saying all that stuff. And CG-12A does a much better job of explaining the technicalities anyway. Just read their Officer Corps Management Plan on their Officer Management Sharepoint site if you want the details.

One of the great things about all the congratulatory emails is getting the ones from people who mentored me along the way. I've gotten emails from former COs and mentors who knew me as a brand new LTJG and young LT. It's given me a chance to thank them for their guidance and leadership. And as I said to my family when I emailed them the news, "Thank you all so very much for the love and encouragement over the years. It's only with your support that I've been able to do this and that it means much of anything at all."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Quarters

We hold Quarters every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday underway. Since we're sailors, it's nice to be able to have Quarters on the flight deck, out under the blue sky, blazing sun and in the ocean breeze (if we're lucky and not sailing with the wind. When that happens, Quarters can be a trifle stifling).

Each department lines up in ranks; Engineering is port side forward, Support is port side aft, Deck is starboard side aft and Operations is starboard side forward. The four Department Heads line up athwartship facing aft on the VERTREP line (little "t"s painted on the flight deck to tell the helo where to hover to vertically replenish (VERTREP), or drop off/pick up things from the flight deck). I stand just a little further aft and face forward to receive their reports of accountability. Once they've each saluted and told me their department is all present or accounted for, I turn around (it's supposed to be an about-face, but an about-face on the non-skid while underway exceeds my grace by about a thousand-fold), salute the CO and tell him "DILIGENCE is all present or accounted for, sir." He says "Very well" and salutes back. I turn around and have the crew "Fall out and gather 'round."

Today at Quarters, we went through the usual announcements: morale events planned over the next few days; reiterating the need to document insulation that needs repairs so it can go into our request to our Product Line; the WQSB (Watch, Quarter, Station Bill) has been updated -- make sure you check it so you know where to go for different evolutions; DC (damage control) training planned for tomorrow, which is mandatory if you're not DC qualified; and the duty schedule for the upcoming inport will be posted by tonight (it's been much anticipated for a few weeks now).

And then came the special stuff. We have three non-rated personnel that are headed off to A schools to get their "rate" or specialty training. FN A.H. is going to MK A school after being trained by some of the best damn engineers in the fleet. He helped rebuild one of the main diesel engines two inports ago and found his inner engineer. He's been onboard for about 10 months and received a page 7 documenting his many contributions to the ship.

SN N.D. and SN R. M. are both going to AMT A school. They were called up separately and received departing awards for the work they had done onboard. The CO called the ship's company to attention while he read the awards. I couldn't help but smile at the forest of dark blue-trousered legs and their synchronized leaning from one side to another as the ship rolled. Everyone stood at exactly the same angle, and it wasn't 90 degrees to the deck -- more like 80 degrees to the deck. And then the ship rolled the other way, and so did the forest sway.

It also made me grin when I saw a few of the Deckies at the front of the crowd. They hadn't been onboard when "Attention to citation" is called before. They were still lounging at ease. It didn't take more than 30 seconds for their petty officers behind them to nudge them to attention. They were quick studies -- they came right to attention for the second award.

SN N.D. received a Commandant's Letter of Commendation for his efforts as our Aviation Petty Officer, Boat Davit Operator, and Boatswain's Mate of the Watch -- all positions normally held by petty officers. He assisted with the qualification of 35 Gangway Petty Officers of the Watch, 24 Helm and Lookouts, three dual point davit operators; two single point davit operators, two cutter surface swimmers and eight helicopter tie down personnel. And he was a great barber for the crew. He has been onboard for just over 18 months.

SN R.M., aka Ricky Bobby, is the senior statesman of non-rated personnel onboard. He's been on DILIGENCE for three years and eight months. During his departing remarks, he kicked all the other non-rates in the ass and said, "Get your name on an A school list and go to school; 4 years is too long to be a non-rate." His accomplishments were documented in a Coast Guard Achievement Medal. He deployed with a Dutch ship to be a helicopter tie-down when they took a Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) helo on patrol in support of the CG's counternarcotics mission. He worked for the Navigation division for the better part of a year, and filled in all the gaps while the division was without a Third Class Petty Officer for about three months. He stood over 56 hours of security watch during a recent 150-hour boarding, looking for drugs. He qualified as Gangway Petty Officer of the Watch, Sounding and Security Watch Stander, Helm/Lookout, Helicopter Tie Down Crew, Davit Operator, Boatswain's Mate of the Watch, and Quarter Master of the Watch, a position normally held by petty officers, while also helping his shipmates earn more than 180 (!!!) qualifications. And he save the CG over $7000 in labor costs when he replaced a bunch of insulation in living spaces during last summer's drydock.

I wish the best for these three young men. They have untold adventures waiting for them! They worked so hard for this ship and their shipmates while they were onboard, and I don't expect that will change for any of them as they go off to school and their next units. And while I'd like to think that each of our departing members' achievements are worth documenting here, I know I'll get lazy and not do it. These three are good choices to highlight. They each came from very different backgrounds, spent some time together, lived in tough conditions, did a dangerous job and survived, even thrived, to tell the stories. Fair winds and following seas, shipmates. See ya' round the fleet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ninjaneers Have a Busy Day

Our engineers have had an exciting day. Some of it was intentional -- like training. Some of it was not so intentional.

We started the day with BECCEs, Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercises, where the engineers practice responding to all kinds of mechanical and electrical casualties while on watch in the engine room. I don't think we were supposed to lose power during this morning's BECCEs, but sometimes that happens if the watchstanders get a little too aggressive in responding to the scenarios presented by ECTT (Engineering Casualty Training Team).

Then we rolled into a ship-wide Damage Control drill, where we practiced responding to a major fuel oil leak in the engine room that flashed off to an out of control class Bravo fire. Heat stress stay time in the engine room was only 45 minutes in an FPG (fire protective garment -- the fireman's suit worn by the people who go into the space to actively fight the fire), so the training team "extinguished the fire" as soon as the first attack team demonstrated proper fire fighting techniques -- three people on the hose, good communications, staying low, proper spray pattern, etc.).

We had just finished up our Training Team debrief after the drill, and much of the crew was sitting down to a well-deserved lunch when we heard ringingingringinging... once again it took me a minute to figure out that we had an actual emergency. This time it was flooding in MAA (pronounced "em-ay-ay") Stores, which definitely made me scratch my head, because MAA Stores is above the water line, and shouldn't have any water coming in to it. Turns out the fire main valve that goes into the Fore Peak tank just below MAA Stores had been left open while we energized the fire main for the aforementioned drill, and pumped about 250 gallons of salt water per minute into the Fore Peak tank, which pressed the water level all the way up to the top of the tank, and out the overflow openings into MAA stores. We had about six inches of water on the deck when ENS E.H. discovered it on his pre-watch round before going up to the bridge to stand break-in OOD. Definitely demonstrated the importance of thorough rounds to an impressionable young Ensign!

That emergency was quickly resolved and we stood down from General Emergency and stowed all gear. The really good news was that our MAA and Assistant MAAs had done such a great job organizing MAA Stores before we got underway that there was not a bunch of paper products (paper towels and napkins) stored on the deck, so we may have just lost a bag of coffee filters to the flooding.

Later in the afternoon, while preparing for small boat training, we lost power. Something about a power relay being faulty and tripping which shut down the generator. The EDG (emergency diesel generator) kicked on like it was supposed to, and provided power to vital circuits throughout the ship. But the engineers had another exciting couple of hours troubleshooting and fixing the mayhem from that gremlin's appearance.

And then, one of the air conditioners kicked off line for a while. Like 2 hours. And it was **HOT!** onboard. Mostly it was in the aft part of the ship, so berthing areas mostly stayed cool. But the messdeck, Chiefs Mess and wardroom all got pretty unbearable for a while. Once again, the engineers troubleshot and repaired the problem as quickly as they could.

It's days like this that make me appreciate the very hard job that Coast Guard engineers onboard cutters face every day. They do it generally with a smile, maybe a little cheerful bitching, but they do it. Day in. Day out. And as a whole, they come up with creative ways to troubleshoot and repair troublesome problems, mostly just with what we carry around with us. The repairs may not be permanent, or pretty, but they're good enough to get us through the operation and to our next logistics stop where parts should be waiting for us for more long-term fixes. And then they work through the port calls to get stuff fixed so we're ready to go again when the port call is over. I've seen it time and time again. And I'm impressed with it. Every.Single.Time.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Writing Time

I need to start these posts earlier in the day. If I wait to start them after Evening Reports, I don't have a lot of energy left to write them, they end up short and about whatever random topic I think I can squeeze a few sentences out of. I know what my goal is -- one post per day. If I start them earlier in the day, maybe I'll get better quality writing out of them.

I have time throughout the day; before the workday starts, a few minutes around lunch, and then between dinner and the OPS brief.

And if any of you readers have ideas for topics -- questions about being underway, something you've pondered on mission accomplishment, thoughts on leadership, whatever! -- send 'em my way. It's like trying to make dinner; more than half the battle is figuring out what to cook.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Warning: Whining Post

I have a toothache tonight. The whole lower left side of my face is throbbing like someone bashed it with a brick. I can't touch the skin because it hurts. Tylenol didn't help and ice didn't help. 

It's making me grouchy and lethargic. I need to get through Evening Reports, publish the POD, and then will likely shut my door and be pathetically hermit-like for the rest of the night. I don't want to inflict myself on anyone when I'm like this. 

Toothaches aren't normal for me. They just started happening within the last six months. I don't deal with the pain very well. Thankfully it usually fades within a few hours, so by tomorrow morning, I should be in better shape. I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's Funny

It's funny what you get used to underway. Like not being able to walk in a straight line down a passageway. Calling it a passageway instead of a hall. Bouncing gently off the bulkheads as the ship rolls in the swells. Knocking on every QAWTD (quick acting watertight door) before you open it. Calling out "female on deck" every time I want to go up to do laundry. Holding on with a death grip to the handrails when walking up or down a ladder. Calling it a ladder instead of stairs. The incessant hum of ventilation that fills the air. Having black out curtains that get put up right at sunset, whether I'm in my room or not. Seeing a sign on posted on the messdeck that says "We're out of white napkins. Sorry for the inconvenience." Having absolutely no control over internet connectivity. Turning sideways in the passageway so two people can pass in different directions. Not having any teaspoons, but having the table set with soup spoons every lunch and dinner. Wearing my sweatshirt for most of the day when I'm at my desk because the a/c unit is right behind me and blows right down my neck. Most times, I wear the hood up even when it's 95 degrees outside (it's so nice to have a/c that kicks ass down here!). Feeling guilty for skipping steps on the ladder (it's a major safety violation during our training cycle). The smell of flash gear that's been worn about half a dozen times and put away slightly damp from sweat each time. Folding someone else's laundry because I need the dryer and their stuff is done but they haven't come to retrieve it yet. Finding a fork in my pants pocket that I forgot I put there when I was in the chow line for breakfast. Water that comes out of the cold tap at 90 degrees because that's its temp in the storage tank. The harsh glare of blue lights after coming off the bridge from a night watch with no moon. Working out on the flight deck with the wind off the bow blowing stack gas (engine exhaust) all around. That glorious feeling at 1600 of putting on deck shoes after having worn safety-toed boots all day. The starboard landfill. Ducking underneath the small boats to get back to the fantail. The gymnastics required to make a round of all of the spaces onboard. The sign-up sheets that sprout on the messdeck juice, water and milk machines for various morale events. The comments on said sign-up sheets. How my glasses fog up Every.Single.Time. I leave my stateroom. That endless blue or grey or silver or slate expanse of water that surrounds us that is bigger than any thought or ideal.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Batteries Released!

We planned to do a gunshoot earlier in the week, but got side tracked with getting somewhere. We finally got back around to it today. 12 people shot the .50 cals, and five people shot the 25 mm gun.

Our target was a pumpkin. No, really, a pumpkin -- or at least a big orange foam mooring ball that we got from a buoy grave yard in Little Creek before I got to the ship that SN RM painted a great pumpkin face on just before Halloween last year. We suspended it from the single point davit when we moored on 30 Oct and left it up for the trick-or-treaters.

The pumpkin is a great target -- bright orange is highly visible from quite a ways away. It's big enough, and it's damn near indestructible -- though it is starting to show some wear from the chunks that have been shot out of it, and the side-swipes that have left foam tatters springing out randomly.

Gunshoots are pretty awesome, usually. Though I do have some sea stories of gun shoots that were less than enjoyable. On my first 110 patrol boat, we went way offshore to do a shoot; on the way back in, our air conditioners and our sewage system both broke down. Eeew.

For the GUNEX (gunnery exercise) today, we shot the .50 cals at the same time we shot the 25 mm. The reverberations shook everything! The concussive force was something to be reckoned with, and I was very happy to have my full ear muffs for hearing protection. I've tried using just foamies before, and always had to cover my ears with my hands.

Our Weapons Officer (WEPS), ENS JW, did a great job as the Weapons Control Officer (WCO), directing each mount individually. The Officer of the Deck, BMC RV, handled all the other stuff going on about the ship during the shoot. And 1LT, ENS JB, first conned the ship around the target, then coached other/newer Conning Officers, and then took over for WEPS as WCO while WEPS took his turn on the trigger of the .50 cal.

Shooting 12 gunners through the .50 cals didn't take as long as you might think. We finished up in about 90 minutes. The guys kept things moving along on the mounts, switching out as gunners, loaders and phone talkers.

And at the end, SK2 KH, SN AT and SN NE did the *entire* bridge team a massive favor by washing, drying and folding the sweaty, nasty, fuggy flash gear.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

GTMO

We spent a few days in GTMO recently. For the uninitiated, we moored at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, lovingly shortened to GTMO, pronounced "git-mo," colloquially used as "It don't GTMO betta than this."

I have heard about GTMO my whole career, but visited for the first time last year about this time. Lots and lots and lots of Coast Guard ships have gone there, and will likely to continue to go there. It's convenient in the Caribbean, it has great logistical support, it's safe, it's cheap, it's American, phone cards home are cheap. And it gets a little boring after about the fifth time you've been there. 

A couple rules about GTMO I've picked up over the course of a few port calls there:
-- Don't mess with the iguanas. They're endangered and the Base personnel have the authority to mess with *you* if you mess with the iguanas. They're awesome creatures, though. I've seen ten cars stack up in each direction of traffic as a five-foot iguana takes his sweet time to cross the road. And they're fast! And they like Doritos.
-- Banana rats are not named after what they eat; they're named after the shape of their poop. They're largish rodents, about the size of a small possum, that have buck teeth, are nocturnal, and damn smelly. They travel in packs. I've ridden my bike through wooded areas that are skunky with their musky smell. There may have been a few treks out late at night to find banana rats in their natural habitat just so say we've seen some.
-- It is so freaking *HOT* in GTMO. I've never seen it rain there, though anvil clouds will billow up in the sky almost to the moon. You sweat just walking outside. They have these beautiful football, soccer, baseball, volleyball fields and courts that are completely deserted during the day, but come completely alive at night once the temperature drops below 95 degrees. Seriously, I was out and about one morning at 10 am, and the temperature on the "Welcome to NAVSTA GTMO" sign said 97 degrees.
-- Do not expect creative food. They have a handful of restaurants including McDonalds, Taco Bell, A&W, Pizza Hut, O'Kelley's - an "Irish" pub, The Jerk Shack - a Caribbean food place, and maybe a few others. But they all serve food straight off the supply barge. It's nice to be able to chose what to eat, sure, but it's lots of choices of not great food.
-- Don't take pictures where they tell you not to take pictures. 'Nuff said.

There are a few things I enjoy about GTMO:
-- The exchange and commissary are pretty robust. They have a good (not great) selection of what you might need to survive another 30 days on patrol. Surprisingly, their beer selection is satisfactory for my beer snob tastes...or at least good enough to find a cold sixer to share on the beach with some shipmates.
-- The beaches are accommodable. They're not particularly picturesque, but they have nice amenities, like lots of picnic tables under shade, volleyball courts, lounging chairs, clean water, blue skies, interesting rocks and coral bits, sea breezes and at least porta potties. Just watch out for the ankle breakers (aka shifty rocks and coral) on the way to and from taking a dip in the water.
-- Unlike foreign port calls, we don't have a buddy system when we go there. I can ride off on my bicycle by myself and enjoy some time away from folks on the ship -- who I like very well, but just need a little separation from every now and again.
-- The gym is great! Open 24 hours a day during the week, it's a/c'd and I've never had to wait for equipment. Not that I use a lot of equipment at the gym -- mostly just the treadmill, but it's there if I ever want it.

Delightfully, the wi-fi has improved significantly since the first time I visited. They upgraded recently, or so I've heard, and there's definitely a difference. Makes it much easier to check email and get some personal business done in the few days we're there. 

I went paintballing there once. I forgot to wear long pants and tore the crap out of my legs on the pebbly ground. Still had fun. Except when SN VD took me out with a head shot -- thank goodness for the helmets.

GTMO's not the best place for a port call, and it's certainly not the worst. And I'm sure, over the course of the next 10 months or so, we'll git mo' GTMO.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**



Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda...Didn't

I coulda written a post the CO and I talked about this morning at breakfast, about all the noise around the ship. And how Coast Guard ships all seem to smell the same. Maybe I'll get to that one soon.

I shoulda written a post that is insightful, entertaining and thought provoking, but some days I'm just not that smart or good.

I woulda written a post about GTMO port calls, but I should have started that about six hours ago. I'll get to that one soon too.

I didn't write any of those posts. Instead, I drafted an email about some lingering FY15 purchase requests. I finished, printed and signed the POD for tomorrow. I entered discrepancy correction action plans into HSWL's (Health, Safety, Work Life) database for our sanitation certificate so we can enter foreign ports. I helped our Command Chief figure out how to format changes to our COM (Cutter Organization Manual) Section for Enlisted Evaluations, specifically mid-period counseling procedures. I gossiped with fellow XOs via email. I read the CO's night orders. And that was all in the last 90 minutes.

Days are never the same.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Little Help From My Friends

We've been having internet issues this patrol. We have internet connectivity, but sometimes it's just too slow to run some of the administrative applications that we use to get non-operational stuff done.

I will refrain in this post from going off on a tangential soap box about the blessings and curses of having underway connectivity in the first place. I'll instead direct readers to the article "The U.S. Navy's Leading Edge," by LT Kermit E Jones, in the September 2012 issue of US Naval Institute's Proceedings. Interesting discussion points abound.

Nope, today's post is all about making things work when things don't work. We're getting close to end of fiscal year closeout. It's a pretty internet heavy time for us -- all our purchases are tracked by an online program, and we have to use this program to submit, approve and reconcile all purchases. Having a slow internet connection has made that nearly impossible for us.

I was nearing despair when I got an email today that ratcheted up the pressure. We did our best to mitigate against this very situation including emphasizing spend down during our last inport, keeping close track of the status of purchases, and developing a plan in advance to spend any contingency money we kept in reserve that we didn't end up needing for contingencies. But, despite our best efforts, we missed some deadlines because of internet connectivity issues, and while no one was going to die from the consequences, it definitely put the ship at a disadvantage.

I got my ducks in a row, and communicated clearly to the holder of our purse strings what our issues were and the bare minimum of what I thought I needed to finish out the fiscal year. I sent the email and followed up with a phone call. It was that important.

While I was fighting with the Iridium phone, I got an email response back that said, no worries, let us know what you need. Which was great. But what was greater was the phone conversation. LT AP said she understood the issues and would help us anyway she could, including going into our accounts in the finance program from shore to get our purchases moved along. I didn't even know this was possible! She also emphasized why our spenddown was so important, painting the bigger picture for me in crystal clear detail. She made my problem relevant and then helped me solve it.

So, thank you, LT AP and assistant staff, for understanding the challenges of being underway and doing everything you can to help us work through some frustrating circumstances beyond our immediate control. You have given me hope that we can get through close-out without tearing all our hair out, and also put the support back into support function!

Sometimes you get what you ask for; sometimes you get what you need.

Evening Reports

"Now, 1845 on deck. Lay before the mast all evening reports. Department representatives muster in the wardroom."

Every evening, though not always at 1845 if we have something else going on, each Department Head that isn't on watch, and the next senior individual if they are, the Command Chief, Chief Master at Arms (CMAA), CO and I all gather in the wardroom for Evening Reports.

I start by asking each Department Head if all their members are present -- accountability checks are important to make sure we haven't lost someone overboard in the dark of the night and don't know about it for days on end. Once or twice we've had to make an extra phone call to track down someone who was in hibernation for whatever reason. And when I stop to think about what I'm doing when I ask if everyone is here, I get the shivers pondering what would happen if the answer was ever "no."

Then we go through the next day's POD (Plan of the Day). I got smart last patrol and put together a weekly template: Mon/Wed/Fri mornings are BECCEs, Tues/Thurs mornings are professional development time, etc. We have a ton of things going on each day, it's hard for me to keep them all straight -- especially when I'm barely aware of what day of the week it is from day to day. Days blend and blur together underway. It's very helpful to go through the next day with all of the Department Heads present because invariably we find something that gets deconflicted during the discussion. BECCEs will start 15 minutes later so we can get the small boat launched for small boat training. Or OPS needs to do gun mount PQS, and can we move Divine Services (on Sunday) to later in the day? And there are the occasional drop-ins...a Morale meeting, Suicide Prevention Awareness training, AVSTAN training, and FY16 goal planning are all on this week's sticky note in my calendar.

After the POD is finalized for the next day, I refer to a little sticky note (I live and die by sticky notes in my calendar book) that has miniscule sections for each of the Department Heads, Command Chief and CMAA -- things that I remember throughout the day that I need to ask them about, remind them about, nag them about, or need updates for. And at the bottom of the sticky note are things which need input from the majority or all of them.

Then we go around the table to see if any of them have stuff to talk about with the group or each other. Again, trying to deconflict and work together as much as possible.

Once we're all done with that, I ask the CO if he has anything for the group. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. My challenge/job is to ask about everything on his list before he has a need to. Some days I can do that, but not very often.

If we're really cranking through stuff, Evening Reports can be as short as 15 minutes. But more usually, we degenerate into hilarity over some trifle or another, or spin off on a tangential discussion that is great and useful, but tends to generate more work for everyone instead of simplifying things. And more nights than not, a few of us end up hanging out in the wardroom telling sea stories and getting riled up at administrivia for upwards of 45 minutes to an hour. Or more.


At some point, I remember I still have a POD to publish, and I leave to get that done. I try to get the next day's POD out by 2000-ish. Heavy on the "-ish" sometimes.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Slow Day

It's been a slow day onboard. Things have been happening like they should, for sure, but for the most part there has not been a lot of hullaballoo about the boat (I can't believe I didn't get a squiggly line underneath "hullaballoo" telling me I had spelled it wrong!). Which means it's restful, but not really what we're down here for.

I've heard more than once this patrol from folks onboard that if we were busy and being successful at what we're here for -- getting drug busts -- that people onboard would not mind so much the sacrifice of being underway. It would make it feel worthwhile. Like it meant something.

I don't have a crystal ball to look into to tell when we'll get some action. It may be tomorrow, next week or never. We're ready for whatever comes our way, eager for it, waiting for it.

In the meantime, we'll keep working on qualifications (quals), drills to keep our skills sharp, table top scenarios, reviewing lessons learned, making sure our equipment is ready, reading about other ships' successes and how the ops went down to glean every possible nuance from the SITREP (situation report). Waiting for our turn. And taking the slow days as they come to rest up and relax, recharging our energy banks for when we'll need it most.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Post That Wasn't

This is the first night this blog-a-day thing has been truly hard. I can't talk about what we're doing because of OPSEC, so even though it's not particularly interesting, there goes about 90% of subject material for a post.

We had Quarters today, mustered the whole crew together to make sure everyone was onboard and to pass information. CO talked about it being 9/11, and how 14 years ago the world changed. I thought I could write about where I was on 9/11, but I'm not in the right frame of mind to do that topic justice. And it's not a topic that deserves less than full attention and effort.

Did I really just write a post about writing a post about nothing?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Yoga on the Flight Deck

Tuesday and Thursday mornings we have "Professional Development Time" from 0800 to 0930. PDT (pee-dee-tee) is so people can study for their advancement tests, work on qualifications or somehow otherwise professionally develop themselves, including working out. We have to stay physically fit due to the nature of our job, so Commandant policy mandates commands give crews three hours per week of time during the workday for fitness (operations permitting).

I've been using my Tuesday and Thursday mornings for circuit training per my 1/2 marathon training plan. We also have a new rowing machine in IC Gyro, a space down in the depths of the ship that has a spare few feet of space for the fitness equipment. There are dumbbells, free weights and kettle bells on the fantail. And a stationary bike in Laundry -- which I've tried to use before, usually with limited success because Laundry is already close to 100 degrees even before I start peddling.

This morning as I was starting my first set of 50 crunches on the flight deck, I saw two guys laying out a workout mat further aft of me, carefully placed directly on the center-line of the ship. SN ND and SN WB sat back on bended knees, and then stretched forward into Child's Pose. When I left the flight deck 45 minutes later, they were still out there, pressing powerfully up into Full Wheel. I think it was SN WB's first time practicing yoga. SN ND was a great teacher.

I've always wanted a yoga routine in my shipboard workout regime but usually even just standing upright is enough of a challenge. Balancing in precarious yoga poses underway has always seemed a touch too difficult.

These two guys did a very nice job of sticking with basic, but challenging poses that kept them fairly stable. I even saw a couple of Three-Legged Dogs as I was cranking through my fourth rep of 40 goblin squats. Their chatarangas were things of beauty...nearly imperceptibly slow, all the way down to the deck.

Later in the day I asked SN WB how he liked the session. He said he thought it was going to be fairly easy, but as he got into it he realized how strenuous it actually was. SN ND and I joked about attempting Warrior Three underway, and how that one is hard enough most days in a stable-floored yoga studio.

There's definitely a yogic lesson in this little story somewhere. Maybe something insightful about fitting the practice to the situation, or accepting what is, or finding unique ways to work with what you have to get what you need. Regardless, they brought a ray of joy to my day this morning, seeing two guys practicing yoga on the flight deck.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Trough

The weather hasn't been the best these last few days. Winds are varying between 18 and 26 knots, which has kicked up the seas and swells to 3 and 5 to 7 feet respectively.

We took a pretty spectacular roll yesterday of about 15 degrees to starboard. My stateroom was not secure for sea -- there was plenty of "gear adrift" to get underway and go flying around. Thankfully no permanent damage was done. I have a box of stevia packets for my morning tea sitting on the shelf above the couch in my stateroom, that must have done a cartwheel down to the floor as it showered all the little green packets over the floor like leprechaun confetti. Half the files and papers tipped out of the file holder on my desk. My cup full of coins spilled too. I had about six people tell me my stateroom wasn't secure for sea before I got a chance to clean it up.

At least I wasn't sitting on the stability ball I use as a chair at my desk, without bracing myself, and then trying to grab on to the desk which isn't bolted to the deck or bulkhead for something to hold on to. I did that last patrol...and then spent the next 10 minutes levering my desk, and computer accessories, and files, and most of the contents of all the drawers off of me and back into said desk. My computer harddrive and monitor are velcroed to the desktop, preventing them from sliding off.

We've all been telling stories about almost falling out of racks throughout the night as the ship rolls from side to side. Everyone seems to have their own unique method for wedging, tacoing, nestling, cocooning, bracing themselves in their rack. The most creative includes using boots underneath the mattress to create a lift on the outer edge of the mattress that naturally rolls the body down towards the inside/back wall.

Showering and putting pants on in the trough can also be an adventure in balancing. I'm smart enough to sit down to put my boots on.

There were some spectacular crashes in the galley this morning when I got up for watch. I'm not sure what wasn't tied down, but somehow it didn't stop the cooks from making some amazing "smothered pork chops" for dinner tonight!

We'll be out of the weather eventually. Or it will settle down on its own. Until then, we live by the mantra of "One hand for you, one hand for the ship."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Procrastination

Procrastination was not my friend today. All afternoon long I thought, oh, I'll just write my post later.

It's later now. Way later. And I have to get up at 0430 for watch on the bridge. Needless to say, this will be brief. Over the last few hours we have been through a dozen or more plans for the next five minutes, the next five hours, and the next five days. That's the way this underway thing goes. Nothing is certain until it actually happens.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gremlins

We've been underway for long enough this patrol that gremlins are starting to peak their heads out of hiding. It happens every patrol. Equipment runs and breaks; parts and pieces deteriorate in the harsh salt environment; springs get sprung; valves leak; wires corrode; bolts back out. It's a fact of life on a boat. Ahem, ship...excuse me.

I have a mental picture of what shipboard gremlins look like. They're certainly not the cute and furry little creatures from the movie, even though those had some wicked looking teeth. And I think there are different species and varieties of shipboard gremlins:

Genus: Nauticaus gremlinus (shipboard gremlins)
Species: Engineering -- Snipariun* mechanicum (mechanical variety) or Snipariun electricus (electrical variety) or Snipariun piparian (pipe-inhabiting gremlins -- these are particularly fond of the sewage system, but can also live in raw water, fresh water, cooling water, grey water, or fuel pipes) * in honor of John Snipe, father of modern naval engineering (google him)

Electronics -- Twidgeticus electronicus is really a generic catch all for electronics gremlins because they come in such a stupendous variety of shapes, sizes and aggressions for each type of electronics equipment we have onboard: navigation, radar, comms gear, etc.

Nauticaus gremlinus minor are small boat gremlins.

Snipariun mechanicum drink diesel fuel like whiskey. They love chewing up valves and the natural oil on their fingers and toes eats up gaskets wherever they touch or step. They bathe in lube oil and use hydraulic fluid for cologne. Their skin is toughened, almost scorched thick by the heat from the engine room. They are the most ancient of gremlins. They're clunky and they grumble.

Snipariun electricus are more delicate, but oh so much more wile-y. They are likely closely related to Twidgeticus electronicus; second cousins, maybe. Their fingers taper sharply to points and can shoot out a burst of electricity from 10 feet away. Their eyes sparkle like a class Charlie fire. They cackle in glee and belch brown outs.

Snipariun piparian like hairballs for dessert. Their very most favorite delectable treats are green scrubbing pads and baby wipes. They're sludgy and shit-brown. They drip a little. Individual specimens of Snipariun piparian have preferences for either sewage pipes or grey water pipes, but they can move easily between either system. Needless to say, these guys are stenchiferous beyond all imagining. If they fart--get an SCBA ASAP!!

Twidgeticus electronicus thrive in the cable runs throughout the ship. They're lightning fast, and actually I'm pretty sure a few of them rode a bolt of lightning down to our 1MC (public address system) last summer while we were in drydock. They are some of the most insidiously devious gremlins indentified. They snicker in your ear, taunting you to find them, and then scamper just out of sight when you get close. They travel in packs; it is very rare to find a single Twidgeticus electronicus on his or her own. They like plaid.

All gremlins like to hide. They stuff themselves away into hidey holes and come out briefly to wreak their havoc. Then they tuck away behind another piece of equipment to watch as chaos ensues while the engineers and Electronics Technicians try to lure them out again as they diagnose the problem. They're devilish hard to kill. Sometimes the best you can hope for is sending them into a nice long slumber.

Good engineering practices and solid technical skills are the best weapons against gremlins. But I'm pretty convinced there isn't any way to completely eradicate them from a 50-plus year-old ship.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Holiday Routine

Sundays onboard are typically pretty quiet days. Breakfast is served for a little longer so people don't have to get up quite so early if they don't have watch. We don't have a planned workday. Brunch is served from 1000 to 1200 (that's 10 am to noon). Divine Services are available at 1300 (1 pm) for anyone so inclined to attend. JO Pro Dev is at 1400 (2 pm -- today's session was on Effective Writing). Movies on the ship's system start at 1400. Sunday dinner is usually something a little special. And that's mostly it for the day.

Of course, the engineers are always working on fixing something that's broken. OPS is checking charts and tracklines. Watchstanders are still vigilant at all their watch stations. Department Heads and JOs use the quiet time to catch up on XO taskers. I caught up on enlisted evaluations, messages for review, and a few chapters of "ZeroZeroZero" by Roberto Saviano. "Holiday for some; routine for others" is the standard line.

Right now there's a poker tournament in full swing on the messdeck. We heard the shouts of disbelief at an amazing hand at Evening Reports in the wardroom.

But we're ready to shed our sleepy day for any kind of action at a moment's notice...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Murphy Was A Sailor

Sailors are a superstitious bunch. I was never so superstitious before the Coast Guard, but once I got onboard my first ship, that all changed. Don't whistle on the bridge; you'll whistle up a storm. Don't pack the night before returning to homeport; you'll get recalled (so true!! I've seen it happen). Don't bring bananas onboard; all kinds of bad things can go wrong. 

So I'm convinced Murphy was a sailor. Because it is an absolute truism that whatever can go wrong, usually will, and also usually at the most inopportune time. 

There we were, making our way at a pretty good clip towards our SAR case the other night. We were smack in the middle of the shipping lanes, with the closest merchant ship slowly overtaking us about 3 nautical miles (nm) off our port quarter, with a CPA (closest point of approach) of just over 2 nm. We had about 15 miles to go to get to the vessel we were enroute to assist and had just established radio comms (communications) with him and found out the nature of his distress. The OOD (Officer of the Deck; pronounced "oh-oh-dee," the person responsible for carrying out the CO's orders for that watch) was ENS JB; ENS EH had the Conn, breaking in and working on his qualification. We were just putting together our plan for responding to the medical emergency on the distressed vessel. 

SN WB calmly announces "I have a steering casualty," as the ship heels hard over to port. Welcome aboard, Mr Murphy! 

According to the Watch Officer's Guide's "Quick Rules of Shiphandling," Rule 10: When giving rudder/engine commands, generally follow the rule of 30: The sum of rudder and engine speed should not exceed 30 unless you are will to have the ship heel over hard; that is 15 degrees rudder + 15 knots. At 25 knots, use only 5 degrees, and so forth. 

We were transiting at about 15 knots. When the rudder drifted to left hard (rudder angle = 35 degrees), we did, indeed, heel over hard as well. It took a second or two for SN B's statement about a steering casualty to sink in. But when it did, the bridge team sprang into action. 

We came down in speed -- though I did remind ENS H later that a steering casualty at 15 knots in a busy shipping lane did actually consist of an emergency and it was ok to just bring the engines to all stop instead of walking them down in speed like the engineers prefer if we have the time. 

ENS B broke out the checklist that is on the front of the steering console, while BM2 CJ, the QMOW (Quartermaster of the Watch, pronounced "cue-mo") flipped to the more complete checklist in his emergency binder. BM2 J made the steering casualty pipe, notifying the rest of the crew of what was going on. Most everyone had already figured out something was up between the heeling over of the ship and the speed reduction. 

SK2 KH was the BMOW (Boatswain's Mate of the Watch, pronounced "bee-mo") and met up with MK3 CM, the Aux watchstander back in Aft Steering to see what the problem was. CO was on the radio with the closest merchant vessel, letting them know we had a casualty and requesting them to stay clear. 

The OOD was ordering the helmsman through different steering configurations to see if that would correct the problem. When nothing worked, the QMOW helped the helmsman break out the sound powered phones to establish reliable comms with the BMOW in Aft Steering. The OOD energized red-over-red navigation lights to indicate to other vessels in the area that we were "not under command." 

By this time, the BMOW and Aux watchstander were looking through the window into Aft Steering to see if "system is intact" or did we have hydraulic fluid spraying everywhere from a leak in the system. Thankfully, the system was intact, so they entered the space to see if they could figure out what the problem was. It was readily apparent that the tie rod had come unattached from the rudder post and was allowing the rudder to swing freely with no controlling mechanism. 

Once the problem was identified, the Auxiliary division including MKC JN, MK1 AA, MK2 AF, and EM2 TB quickly got the pieces reattached. We tested steering in all modes and came back up in speed to continue on to our SAR case. Murphy was onboard for a little bit, but we quickly got him contained by relying on training and teamwork -- Murphy's bane. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sunrise

I'm looking out the window right in front of my desk to a beautiful sunrise. The water is a multi-variate grey and silver, and the sky is a mottled grey, peach, yellow and light. 

There is barely a ripple of a breeze. Just a small swell, maybe 1-2 feet, is causing the water to rise and fall like an eternal heartbeat. 

It won't last for long like this -- in fact it's already changing. The peach is fading and being bleached out by the sun's intensity as it rises above the cloud behind which it's hiding. 

I must remember to soak in these moments and know that there are some things about being underway that I will always cherish.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Light Show

received 9-4-15

CO called me from the bridge last night to tell me there was an great light show
going on. We had been diverted from our regular patrol for SAR (search and rescue,
pronounced "sar"), so I knew I was going to be up later than I had originally
planned. I've never gotten a call from the bridge about an awesome light show,
so I quickly finished my email or whatever administrivia on which I was working
and made my way to the bridge.

There were storms off the starboard bow and off the starboard quarter. Great big
huge cumulonimbus anvil heads towering into the sky, that were being lit up from
the inside with massive bolts of lightning. Some of the lightning was streaking
crossways through the sky, but many bolts were striking crookedly down to the
earth's surface. And these were solid bolts -- not the wimpy kind that flash for
the briefest of split seconds. These bolts were boldly staying lit for seconds at
a time.

The flashes that were moving horizontally backlit the clouds with eerie yellows,
tans and greys, at times bright enough to turn night darkness into daytime
brilliance. It would be pitch black anywheres from two to ten seconds before
the next charge lit up, blinding everyone who was looking in its vicinity and
wrecking all of our night vision.

There's something mysterious, seductive and just the tiniest bit scary about
that contrast of brilliant flashes of visible energy against the impenetrable
dark depths of the ocean's surface...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Knights in Dark Blue Coveralls

Received Sept. 2

Last night was a busy night. We had a personnel issue that took CO and OPS well
into the wee hours of the morning to resolve. My heart and thoughts go out to all
our shipmates who are standing the watch while they have loved ones in crisis ashore.
It is not easy to be away from life-long families and friends while others you care
about are suffering. We do our best with our shipboard families and support networks,
but it is still a difficult and heart-wrenching situation.

OPS and CO worked hard to come up with a great solution that helped one shipmate last
night. Ha - I came up with the title for this post before I wrote it, and am just now
realizing how the title applies more than I thought it did. CO was in his dark blue
coveralls last night; I think OPS may have put his uniform on...or never taken it off
to go to bed -- I'm not sure. Either way, they did great things to assist our
shipmate in response to a crisis at home. They were definitely Knights in Dark Blue
Coveralls.

Anyway, I had a bit part in the efforts that got me up for about an hour at 2:00 am,
and then again for about 5 minutes at 4:30 am. When I was up at 2 am, I latched my
door open, because I knew I'd be up for a bit. When I got up at 4:30, I didn't think
about it, and shut my door behind me as I walked out of my state room.

We installed new handles and locks during the last inport to help simplify our key
management. I'm not sure I'm used to the new equipment yet, because somehow I didn't
realize that the little lock button had been pushed, and when I shut my door, I locked
myself out. My bed was *right **there!!** on the other side of a locked door.
I probably cussed. Out loud. Maybe even loudly out loud.
I ran through my options. I called the bridge to ask if they had keys when I damn well
knew the answer -- the OOD keys are kept in my stateroom underway so everyone knows
where they are. And where they were was behind a locked door.

I contemplated calling the Key Control Officer, who is our 1LT (pronounced "one el-tee,"
our Deck Department Head). But I knew he had just gotten off watch about an hour before
and wasn't getting enough sleep as it was without me calling him with a truly boneheaded
request.

I called Main Control where our engineers stand the engine room watch. I talked to MKC JN,
the Engineer of the Watch (EOW, pronounced "ee-oh-double yu"), to see if they could take
the hinges off my door to get me inside. Until I remembered that the door opens in because
the hinges are on the inside of the door.

However, he did give me the great idea of taking off the kick plate. Kick plates are
installed on doors where there is only one point of egress. A panel comes off at the
bottom of the door so you don't have to open the whole door to get out of a space. I
wasn't really sure how to get the kick plate off, so he offered to send up his Aux
watchstanders (Auxiliary watchstanders -- they make hourly rounds on equipment scattered
throughout the ship to make sure it all operates within appropriate parameters).

MK3 JB and FN JH came to my rescue and yanked off the kick plate from the bottom of my
door, allowing me access back to my room...and my bed so I could sleep for a few more hours.

Definitely also Knights in Dark Blue Coveralls!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

42-Day Challenge

I've been after myself to write more. I enjoy it. I get a lot out of it. It's good for me. It helps me build my community. But for some reason, I have the **hardest** time actually doing it. I can always find something else to do, which usually involves sitting on my couch at home and watching tv or reading a not-so-intellectual novel while snacking on something that I really don't need to eat.

So I need a way to encourage myself to write. Starting last patrol, I drafted up a list of personal goals -- I even geeked out on it to the point that I printed out a spreadsheet with the dates at the top, and little boxes to check off for each goal that I completed each day or week or month. Some of the goals have stayed the same for this patrol: Eat healthy things first (this gives me permission to eat dessert, but I really must eat my salad first), drink two bottles of water per day, limit myself to 2 alcohol drinks per night on liberty port calls, and email my family at least once/week (they're very patient with me for sending out one mass email that copies everyone and the cousins, and even more patient when I don't actually get one sent).

New for this patrol are: Train for a 1/2 marathon that takes place a few weeks after we return to homeport (I'm sure there will be more on this later, but just as a teaser, it takes 34 laps around the flight deck to make a mile), do my neck stretches at least 3 times per day, and...write a blog post a day for 42 days straight, starting today.

42 seems like a random number, but the more I thought about it, the more I like it. I initially chose it because...well, I turned 42 last month and it has a nice poetic symmetry to it. It's also exactly six weeks of writing, which will be challenging, but is totally do-able and may help me develop some good habits that I want to cultivate.
We'll also be underway for the whole time, which gives me good material to write about, but makes me also think I need some rules for what I can legitimately call a post:

-- I must be extremely careful to not give away operational details, including schedules or techniques, tactics and procedures (TTP, pronounced tee-tee-pee), which in some ways is no fun at *all* because that's where some of the best stories come from. But OPSEC (operational security, pronounced op-sek) is important -- lose lips sink ships, and all that.

-- It's no fair for posts to just be a recitation of the day's meals, as tempting as that is because food is morale. Nor can I just provide a recall of what we did that day -- see rule 1.

-- Posts can be short, but there needs to be substance in each one. A story, a well-developed thought, or some insight. The best ones will be a combination of all three.

I'm going to ask a couple things of you:
-- Please encourage me. I don't think this will be easy. I have a lot of things to track and do as XO, and those are definitely my priority. But I think I'm good enough at my job that I can take 20 minutes or so a day to do something that I want to do for myself. I just won't always want to, and your encouragement will help me to do it anyway.

-- Please understand that underway internet connectivity is not entirely reliable. I will try my best to write every day, but posts may not go up on a daily basis because of when they get sent out to my trusted agent ashore.

Which brings me to my trusted agent ashore -- my Uncle Heathen. He has graciously offered to act as intermediary for me and post what I send him. Uncle H, thanks very much for helping me with this endeavor!

Thanks also go out, in advance, to my CO, CDR JMC. He is trusting me with an enormous amount of latitude by allowing me to post underway. I will do my best to uphold that trust, by following the rules I already shared with the crew (and on the blog) when I came to DILIGENCE.

Now, bring me that horizon!