Passing On Tribal Knowledge
A Discovery Channel show on dolphins that I noticed while channel-surfing tonight got me thinking about the lovable critters, and what they mean to submariners. Of course, the Submarine Warfare Insignia for many countries (including the UK) feature dolphins, and while those of the U.S. have dolphinfish, we still call them "dolphins".
This being the Year of the Dolphin, I figured I should pass on some of my experience in interacting with dolphins to today's crop of surface OODs. All submariners know that dolphins like nothing better than playing with submarines. I remember one time seeing a dolphin do a backflip above the water when I was on the 'scope with the TV off, so I was the only one who saw it. My favorite thing to do with dolphins, though, was to give them a good ride on the bow wave. I've seen dolphins change course and make a beeline for my boat from a couple of miles off just to ride the sub's bow wave.
The problem is getting the right speed to make it the best possible experience for our friends. A 2/3 bell is just too slow; the wave isn't big enough, and they'll soon get bored. Likewise, while a Standard bell kicks up a good wave, that's really just too fast for a dolphin to swim for a long period. I've found that the best speed for dolphins is about 12 knots -- they'll ride for a few miles, and never tire of it.
The problem for OODs, of course, is that your track is rarely laid out for 12 knots, and slowing down off the track speed makes the CO and XO concerned and the Nav team pissed off. I found that by getting ahead of track, you could get a good 10-15 minute period of 12 knot dolphin-watching by calling down to the NavSup and telling him you were doing some calculations, and you're afraid we might be getting to the entrance buoy too early. By the time they figured out that your "mental gym" is all messed up, you've given our mammalian brothers just the kind of aerobic workout they need to excel in the "eat or be eaten" world of the ocean.
Bell-ringer 2310 26 Apr: bothenook came up with a great picture of dolphins riding a sub's bow wave: