So There I Was...
The well-deserved attention being paid this week to the outstanding professionalism and seamanship of the crew of USS San Francisco (SSN-711) in bringing their damaged ship safely home may have obscured for some of us the fun side of submarining. For the benefit of any readers who may not be as familiar with submarine life, and even for those who are, I thought I might share one of my more humorous sea stories. Anyone with other good sea stories are invited to tell 'em in the comments.
Anyway, my first boat, USS Topeka (SSN-754), was on the homeward leg of her first WestPac in January 1993. It was a very eventful deployment -- the Global Security website describes it thusly:
In August 1992 TOPEKA began her first overseas deployment which involved six months of operation in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. TOPEKA was the first attack submarine in the Pacific Fleet to deploy in support of a carrier battle group. On 4 November 1992 TOPEKA achieved another first by conducting operations in the Arabian Gulf.
We were on our way to a well-deserved port call in Hobart, Tasmania. I took the watch as OOD when we surfaced at about 0200 on a clear January morning, and drove her up the River Derwent. It was one of those watches where you wonder why they're paying you; early summer night, a full moon, good deep water all around, no ship traffic, a quiet lookout, and the CO in the rack. It came time to station the Maneuvering Watch, and I was getting relieved on the bridge by a young officer who was getting his "final observed watch" prior to earning his submarine qualifications, from a Captain who happened to be riding us from Perth to Hobart (wonder how he scammed into that boondoggle?) As I was giving the young officer a turnover, I pointed out the lay of the land. "Okay, see that island up there? We'll be going to the left of that; our anchorage is about a mile past the tip of the island. There are some small boats there, but don't worry, they'll get out of the way."
He relieved me, and I went below to change, and await the first liberty boat. (As off-going OOD, I didn't have a Maneuvering Watch station.) I'm sitting in the wardroom, listening to the conversations between the bridge and control. The "small boats" I had seen earlier turned out to be a protest fleet, concerned that we would turn their fair city into a radioactive holocaust with our evil nuclear reactor. As the poor OOD was trying to reach our anchorage, the kayaks and other small boats kept trying to cut us off, while the Aussie police boats were trying to keep them away. Eventually, a protestor in a kayak pulled alongside our sub and jumped onto the hull. The Aussie police pulled up, grabbed the guy, held his head undewater for a few seconds, then hauled him up into their boat. Eventually we got anchored, and the protestors left (the TV crews had gone away), and they went up to a mountain near Hobart to fast for the duration of our stay. The rest of the town opened their doors to us, and gave us what all agreed was the best liberty call anyone had ever experienced. (I ended up sleeping on a park bench that first night in my Service Dress Blue uniform because I missed the last liberty launch back to the sub.)
The comments are now open for your sea stories...