Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dolphins Riding The Bow Wave

Check out this video shot from the bridge of USS Helena (SSN 725):

I always loved watching dolphins ride the bow wave, as I discussed earlier. For you OODs out there, remember that about 12 knots is the best speed for giving the dolphins a nice long ride without tiring them out too quickly.


Blogger J120 Bowman said...

Through all of the BS associated with being a submariner, being on the bridge as the OOD with just the lookout are my most memorable and enjoyable experiences. It truly is a shame more of the crew, especially nukes didn't have the chance to experience it! The solitude, the fresh air, the openness, and the dolphins all made it great. Two suface tranits stand out. Straights of Florida, midwatch, full moon, 75 degrees, no clouds, 1500 yd CPA to sailboat that we didn't see until I had to manuever to avoid it (CO didn't remember me reporting it in the morning!) on our way to PEV for a two day liberty call. This after a swim call in the Bahamas! Priceless.

The other wasn't as pleasant. February and cold, manning the bridge for manuevering watch into Norfolk with HUGE following seas. As the lookout was crawling aft in the sail to open his clamshell (688 class), I was dropping the main clam shells. Before I could hook in my harness, I look aft and see a wave about 10 ft taller than the sail rolling over us. Head down was the only instinct that kicked in. When I started to float and my feet left the grating I realized I wasn't hooked in and grabbed the clam shell to stay on the boat. After the wave subsided, I'm soaked to the bone even with a pumpkin suit on. I grab the lookout by the feet and tell him to go below after making sure he was breathing (he found an air pocket in the sail!). Then a fellow JO who happened to be walking under the bridge trunk and got slammed with water yells up that he is going to shut the lower hatch becuase we were taking on a little water! I used some choice words as I was coming down and shutting the upper hatch. Water all over control that sloshed down into crews mess, electrical shorts everywhere, control party soaked. The CO and I looked at each other and he said we'll wait to man the bridge. As I was stripping down in the head, the shakes kicked in!

9/19/2008 5:35 AM

Blogger cheezstake said...

As a Nuke, I was fortunate enough to be assigned in the Control Room for the Maneuvering Watch and Battlestations. I always appreciated when asked if I wanted to be in the sail or have a look through the scope. I had the wonderful experience of being topside as well as below with the hydrophones on when the dolphins rode the bow wave.

Those moments more than made up for drills, field days and examinations.

Experiences that only we Submariners can have!

9/19/2008 9:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have two memorable bridge experiences to share:

1st was early evening transit from Holy Loch to sea trials, mid-summer, nice weather, no sea state. I was standing my first qualified lookout watch and was proud and happy to be having this adventure. At some point during the watch the skipper (CDR Keith) came to the bridge concerned over the whereabouts of the Soviet trawler. He told me to keep a strong lookout for it, and to by-g@d let him know the second I thought I had it sighted.

About 15 minutes later the trawler passed our port beam, overtook us, and commenced doing circles around us. I had not seen her coming so my first report was, "contact bering 270 relative, range 300 yards, speed ??? knots, starboard 90 degree angle on the bow. The skipper gave me a look I'll never ever forget. For the next hour or so, every time the trawler passed our port beam the skippers of both vessels flipped each other off. Even though our skipper was very conservative and somewhat quiet, I could see that he was really enjoying the interaction with these red commie trawler drivers. This was, after all, the mid-1970 and these guys were our arch enemies. His level of joy was so much so that he looked at me after the trawler moved away and said something about chaulking up my mistake to inexperience.

The second memorable lookout experience happened at the end of that same patrol cycle. I was on the bridge with our engineer. His name was Baronowski and we called him The Baron.

It was late in the mid-watch, cold, 20+ foot swells coming in sets of two. Since we were heading directly into the swells, we'd ride up over the first, drop into the trough between, and then get hit full force with the second. The sets were about a minute apart. Each new set brought what felt like a 55 gallon barrel of very cold North Atlantic salty sea water being poured over our heads. This went on for the entire two hours I was on the bridge. We were both soaked and the salty sea water made me need to spit. At first I tried to avoid spitting on The Baron but after a while I gave up trying to be nice and began just spitting where ever. I figured that if I was flinging spit on the engineer, he was probably spitting on me as well. And I suppose in the long view of things a little bit of slimy salt infused spit didn't matter since it was all being washed away every few minutes. Although I remember this two hour watch as being physically very uncomfortable, I also remember the adventure of being a young man, qualified in submarines on my first patrol, at sea on the bridge of a nuclear powered FBM submarine, seeing and feeling the power of the cold North Atlantic ocean. It was a wonderful time.

I suppose that if there's any point to these two stories, it's to keep a close watch out for Soviet trawlers coming from behind and if you're an OOD, watch out for spitting lookouts standing next to you during big sea swells.


9/19/2008 1:13 PM

Anonymous anon e. moose said...

My favorite two bridge watches:

I was the mid-watch OOD doing racetracks just south of Oahu awaiting a 0800 Papa Hotel for some urgent repairs. With nowhere to go, specifically, I just did AA 1/3 racetracks for 6 hours.

The highlight was it was a moonless night, and without any noise except the waves slapping the hull. You could see every single star and the Milky Way. Most awe inspiring sight I've ever seen.

The second was the evening OOD leaving Ketchikan, AK. It was December, cold rainy, and totally unique to this Hawaii sailor. The CO ordered the lookout below (we didn't have any dry foul weather gear for him) - so for about 2 hours I was alone on the bridge!!! Not a good idea, in retrospect.

However, I felt very close to my grandfather, a WWII submariner who spent most of his time in AK waters, and survived a grounding of the S-27 on Amchitka.

9/19/2008 4:24 PM

Anonymous Carl said...

I was OOD coming north from AUTEC in the afternoon. A pretty nice day, all-in-all, but I observed a line of waterspouts / funnel clouds about five to six miles out. A fantastic sight! But I've got no clue as to how strong these things might be so I have a bit of discussion with the skipper and decide that if one gets close, the lookouts and I will just head down the hatch and ride it through.

Didn't get too close but it was an awesome sight seeing these things form, touch the water to create the spout and then dissipate.

On another evolution, we were heading out from Charleston and I'm the OOD again. It's probably four or five in the afternoon, light breeze, no seas to speak of and we're just waiting to hit the 100 fathom curve. I've kicked back and am enjoying the ride. I look down at the water to port and there are two hammer head sharks idly swimming along with us. Those suckers were BIG, too. Must have been ten to twelve footers. They ambled along with us for about five minutes and then headed north. Very impressive animals! No Oscar drills that day!

9/19/2008 5:12 PM

Blogger SonarMan said...

Watching the dolphins dancing in the waves over the bow was the most awesome thing I've ever seen.

I went to the bridge on the way in to port on my last patrol, and there were dozens of dolphins on either side of us, playing in the wakes.

Things like this are one of the things I miss the most.

9/19/2008 6:08 PM

Blogger midwatchcowboy said...

Driving inbound in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, I had the morning watch. However, we were surfacing about 0430. I got up early to man the bridge and relieve the OOD in control.

The seas were glassy smooth and was greeted by a pod of Orca and the sky growing purple with the sun still an hour from coming up over the Olympic mountains.

It's good to be the OOD.

9/19/2008 6:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a short-timer on my first boat I asked if I could be a line handler since there were enough RO's to go around and topside I went.

On my second I pointed out the Engineer the value of having a qualified EWS as the bridge phone talker since he spoke nuc-talk. He liked the idea and topside I went.

Best time I had in the Navy!

9/19/2008 9:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

South China Sea March 1962 a day out of Subic Bay. 4 X 8 lookout on Fleet-Snorkel boat, standard on # 3 and 4 Main Engines. Sea absolutely flat. Only sound was low rumble of the engines and water swishing on the tank tops. Lookout puka's on fleet-snorkel sail are aft and outboard of the bridge area. Just the glow of the stern light in the mist from the engine exhaust along with flashs of phosphoresence in the water along side. In the darkness looking outboard and aft for a while then up at the stars, almost a real sensation of being absolutley alone and small on the sea. Quick glance forward to check the OOD is still there. At first light start to see flying fish going airborne to get out of our way. Then the Dolphins started to arrive off the port side. Dozens of them, couldn't even count them there were so many. What a joy to see. It was the best of times for this old smoke boat sailor for sure...

Keep a zero bubble.....


9/20/2008 11:40 AM

Anonymous CS1(SS) Tim Poole said...


How big was the divide between diesel boat sailors and the new nuc sub sailors back then? What was it like? How did it affect you as an individual sailor?

Can the change you personally experienced be compared to the way the Army's Horse Calvary became Mechanized?

I am just interested, that's all. I used to have an old grumpy chief back in High School ROTC who used to bitch all the time about nuclear power ruining the Navy.

9/20/2008 1:03 PM

Blogger Navy Blue Cougar said...

I remember seeing dolphins when we towed my first submarine from Mare Island to Puget Sound following decomissioning.

I tried to get up to the bridge whenever I could while on the boat. I think my second best trip to the bridge was while departing Alaska. It was cold and clear and dark, lots of of the best views in the world.

My best trip to the bridge would have to have been a transit into Yoko, notable because it was my last time underway on nuclear power.

9/20/2008 4:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of boot camp I Reported to a Destroyer in San Diego on Dec 7, 1959. I stood lots of lookout and lifebouy watches during those first two years. Most memorable was a lifebouy watch when we were on ASW ops at 20 to 25 knots, out of San Diego in 1960, all alone back there with sound powered phones and a starry moonless night. In the distance to Starboard I noticed a light in the water, which I dutifully reported. The light approached straight in on the beam. I was really concerned an continued to report the approach, receiving "Bridge Aye" each time. The light passed under us from Starboard to Port and advanced ahead and out of sight.

I was never told what it was, that's what happened when you were a Seaman on the deck force of a tin can. I can only speculate that it was an early attack boat showing it's stuff.

There are other tin can stories for other times.

YNC(SS), Retired

9/20/2008 10:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On sea trials of the 621 in 1967, a great photo was taken from the air of three porpoises leaping out of the water simultaneously on our bow. The photo is posted on navsource for your viewing pleasure.

9/20/2008 11:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got to stand with the OOD on a dependents cruise and must say it was amazing. No dolphins but so peaceful and quite chilly even though our location was warm.
Another funny thing I remembered while reading this. My husband recently tried a dirty martini for the first time and said, "holy crap that's like being topside taking waves in the face."
I laugh everytime I think about that.

9/21/2008 12:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were practicing shallow water ops somewhere near Maui. We are at PD and as the FT on watch I was lucky enough to have the scope at the time. This was on a 637 class back in the early 90's. Anyways, I guess the dive was having issues keeping depth and the scope goes under and I just happened be looking in front of the boat at that moment. What I saw was a mass underwater play ground of dolphins. It was a really nice view, I couldn't count all of them. The dive managed to get on depth only to have the CO come running into control telling him to take the scope under again, I guess he had been watching on his monitor in his stateroom. :)

9/21/2008 4:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

CS1(SS) Tim Poole,

My experience of going to a new construction Nuc boat in summer of 62, wasn't much different re: crew from diesel boats back then. At that time almost all Nuc career personnel had qualifed and served on smoke boats. Our skipper had qualified and served on three diesels before his first command tour on on USS Sterlet SS-392. Rest of wardroom was pretty much the same. It was only years later that Ricks NPP generational changes really started to have an impact. Check out my essay "The DBF Pin" on Submarine to get a flavor for that generational shift.

Appreciate your service, and keep a zero bubble......


9/21/2008 5:04 PM

Anonymous LT L said...

We were doing TRE ops off of San D. and I was coming up for a routine PD run to clear the broadcast and housekeeping. As I raised the scope at 150 it kept shaking intermittently like there was some fault with hydraulics. I had no problem with this: hanging out in SD for a few extra days to replace the scope was just fine by me. Taking the scope it became obvious to why it was shaking: we were in the middle of a pod of dolphins, and they kept running into the scope! I looked over at the captain, he looked from the PERIVIS at me, shrugged his shoulders, and we went to PD. The two "8 second safety sweeps" took a bit longer than what the manual prescribed that time: go, stop for jumping dolphin, keep going, another dolphin... repeat. One of my better PD runs.

9/21/2008 6:26 PM

Blogger pbsterling said...

I never go to see dolphins. But I did get to see another neat phenomena - the photo luminescent algae!!

We were surface transiting into Rosie Roads in the middle of the night. I just got off watch as RO and decided to check out the bridge (as I often did when possible).

The light from the algae could be seen for a few miles behind the boat.

9/22/2008 6:53 AM

Blogger David said...

Best moments indeed.
During my first WESTPAC, my boat was assigned all these littoral warfare exercises and we stayed surfaced for extensive periods of time off Guam.
I was the only guy qualified Lookout in my section and loved every minute of it.
I have some great pics from that period.
I used to bring a thermos of coffee up on the morning watch. The COW in that section called the thermos the bandoleer and he always managed to get a cup out of me before I requested permission to lay to the bridge.
I remember getting the tins of the smaller Macanudos to smoke while up there.
The same run, COMGRU7 which was Vice Admiral "Big Al" Konetzni at the time went up to the bridge and lit up a huge stogie and blew the smoke right in our Captain's face.
He and the XO had just tried to ban smoking stogies onboard at any time.
I believe that Captain finally made full bird. He was an Al too. Al Gonzalez. He and our XO, Litherland or Slitherland in some circles , deep 6'd the moral of that boat really quick.

9/22/2008 2:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember watching dolphins through the bullnose at the prow of the Long Beach. The ship had a sharp bow, and the dolphins would play "sea chicken" by jumping from one side to the other.
I also saw a school of flying fish pass below once. I waited for more, but some topsider puke made me leave. For no reason, of course.

9/22/2008 9:22 PM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

My most memorable encounter with dolphins occurred on USS BARBEL (SS580) as we were entering Brisbane, Australia in 1965. There were so many we could not count them. Two dolphins got into a jumping contest and took turns leaping as high as they could and landing with a big splash. Unfortunately, we were not able to get pictures. I also remember the most beautiful sunsets as we transited north to Guam through the Solomon Islands returning from Brisbane. I am one of the fortunate few that can say they qualified on a single screwed BCPed Diesel Boat and then went to a manual valved twin screwed Nuc (SEADRAGON). We were certainly young and innocent then.

9/24/2008 11:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hands down, my best surface OOD experience was manning the bridge on a warm, calm, moonless summer night off the Atlantic coast. When I dropped the clamshells, I was looking directly up at a huge comet that, because it was so dark, looked like you could reach out and touch. Spent the rest of my watch looking up. Luckily, I had no pesky contacts to track.

9/24/2008 5:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the video, where the cleats still flipped up or was I just seeing things?

9/28/2008 4:22 PM

Blogger David said...

Not sure, but I still have a pic I took from the sail of the Pintado that shows the bow line locker cover lying on the deck and just barely hanging on.
I developed the pic in port and gave it to the First LT. as a gift.

9/30/2008 3:28 PM

Anonymous said...

Here, I do not actually imagine it will have effect.

11/18/2011 2:51 PM


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