What’s life-like on the high seas? Well that ALWAYS depends on multiple things.
MY FIRST OFFICER OF THE DECK (OOD) WATCH:
Let me paint you a picture. First of all it was the 0200-0700am watch and when I got to the bridge I could tell that a storm was a coming. I had seen people on Facebook commenting about the moon and how big it was outside (yes we had the internet on deployment… occasionally), but I think I observed one of the best views of it… in pitch darkness through the big eyes out on th bridge wing. It was such a clear night before the storm whipped up that I could even see the tiny craters on the moon, I really enjoy being able to see it so perfectly in the dark. I also couldn’t stop thinking of Despicable Me the movie, when Gru tells the minions that he’s going to steal the moon! The wind picked up drastically in the first hour of the watch, making us have 65 knot winds across the deck which is the first time I’ve ever seen it that high. Then the lightning started… It was quite an interesting watch to say the least. I geared up like they do on the Deadliest Catch. When the goosebumps came it was hard to get them to go away.
Of course at 0330 the helo was scheduled to take off so I had quite the challenge trying to get them off deck. To send them on their way we basically had to stop the ship in the water and get sternway (going reverse through the water) on because the winds were so high they wouldn’t stay in the envelope. After the helo took off, a pan that is used to catch oil during UNREP’s blew over the side and was hanging by a rope so it was just banging on the side of the ship. The engineering officer of the watch called up and said that they could hear it banging around out there and that he wanted to send personnel topside to retrieve it. I tried to call the captain. He doesn’t always answer when you call him in the middle of the night… This was one of those times. I made a decision to slow the ship and send people to get the pan with a spotlight on them and they both wore life jackets. Then the helo decided they didn’t have very good visibility and they wanted to return to the ship. So of course it was another fight to get them back on deck with the ship rolling and us having to be dead in the water (DIW). When I got relieved from that watch, I was happy to go and I was definitely shaking slightly from the stress that all of these things had caused. Of course it would be this intense and cause me emotional turmoil.
MY SECOND TIME AS OFFICER OF THE DECK:
Well, the seas lately have not been in our favor. We are also in the middle of a transit that has a set track and is in open ocean which does not give us much protection from the bad seas. The track that is laid out is not on a good course for the seas either. The course that we are steering has the seas right on our beam (which means the ship rocks the most because the waves are hitting us right in the side) and is the worst to steer in. Because of this, our ship is just rolling all over the place and we have to zig zag in order to take the seas at better angles and minimize all of the rolling. Again, I was Officer of the Deck on the bridge and the helo was being recovered. Everything went very well and then the helo shut down the rotors, and they straightened it and went to move it to a different line on the flight deck. When they were about to do this we took a very large roll on the port (left) side and the ship rolled starboard.
The helmsmen threw the rudder over to compensate and two seconds later the captain called up and I answered the phone. He asked me why the rudder was at 30 degrees (almost as far to the left as you can go) while the helo was being moved and I was in the middle of explaining it to him when the next thing I knew he was on the bridge and he grabbed me on the shoulder. When I turned I was so shocked that he had run up the ladder so fast I was still talking to him and holding the phone. He looked very mad. He took in the situation and realized that it was the seas and he turned back to me and said, “okay, you aren’t doing anything wrong, you just have to understand what that looked like to me while I was sitting in my stateroom watching this take place on video.” I was still speechless and didn’t really know what to say. I thought for sure I was going to be fired because it was only my second watch and I had caused the commanding officer to sprint to the bridge. Luckily this was not the case, and he laughed about it a few minutes later. Curse the bad seas!
HOW DO WE ENTERTAIN OURSELVES WITH NO ALCOHOL?
During night exercises the ship has a whole bunch of chem lights which are pretty much the same thing as glow sticks the navy just calls them chem lights. Before I was qual’d as officer of the deck, (I’m not saying that I won’t still once I feel more comfortable) we got a hold of said chem lights and started bringing them to the night watches on the bridge and when we weren’t really doing a lot, we’d break them, attach them to string, and most definitely RAVE!!! Just to be clear, we only did this when we truly were in the middle of nowhere with not a contact in sight. We do all of these tricks and try to jump through the lights as we twirl them around, its pretty fun. I was definitely outed the one night when I was on the bridge raving and CSO (the senior watch officer) snuck up on me and yelled, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ENS H?!” I was so freaked out and I thought I was going to be in so much trouble that I screamed at the top of my lungs and threw my glow stick! He got me pretty good. He then proceeded to ask who was Officer of the Deck (since I was qualified at this time). I immediately replied, “NOT ME!!!” I then showed him all of my moves for the rave and he just laughed.
30 minutes prior to the end of every watch, for tradition, we (meaning I) always sing the final countdown by Europe. A very old song that people point out repeatedly, came out the year I was born. I have made my own spin to the song and I scream it on the bridge. Everyone has also become familiar with this and so now I have people calling up (the TAO for all of the navy people) at the 30 minute mark to sing the final countdown over the phone. Its pretty funny. I can’t remember if I already told you this but we also call down names of different merchant vessels that we are sailing in close proximity to and our watch has been known to frequently spell out things phonetically that are in fact not the right name of the ship at all. For example our best one is when we say, ” vessel at XXX Bearing and XXX range, name, mike alpha november bravo echo alpha romeo papa india golf. This spells MAN BEAR PIG for all of you South Park folks. They always get pretty mad. We’ve also done [uniform romeo alpha november uniform sierra] for motor vessel uranus. I know very immature, but definitely so worth the humor.
On Saturday nights we now have an ice cream social on a WEEKLY BASIS!! This means that on Saturday during the day I normally call the supply officer who supplies the ice cream at least 5 times to ask him what flavors and toppings will be at the ice cream social. He has never given in and told me :(. I eat four scoops every time with hot fudge, sprinkles, marshmallows, hershey kisses, caramel, and a cherry. Its pretty obnoxious and I get sick EVERYTIME, but it is so worth it. Last time they had mint chocolate chip and we all freaked out.
Also on Saturday nights after the ice cream, I always end my evening playing Call of Duty with the Air Det. I have gotten to know a few of the enlisted guys in the last few ports on the tours and I play video games with them, because they are far enough away from my division that I can’t get in trouble for it. At first they were like, ooo a girl, she probably doesn’t even know how to play. After the first game when they saw the scores, they never said that again. We play in the help hanger with a nice breeze as we sail around.
I did finish the book unbroken which is a very very very good book and I recommend it to anyone who likes World War II. I have stopped reading until I get my SWO pin. My first board for my SWO pin is scheduled for tomorrow but it was cancelled because an UNREP came up. We will be in port shortly and so I think they will be rescheduling it for that time. I have been behind on studying and I can’t wait to get my PIN!! It is so stressful not having it. If I got it while we were in port then the celebration would definitely be pretty fun and crazy. This is all I can hope for.