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.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home For Christmas

One thing I've noticed is that the Navy in general, and the Sub Force in particular, does pretty well is to get as many ships as possible home for Christmas. (The Sub Force also does a good job getting as many boats as possible into port for the Submarine Birthday Ball.) This year, USS Ohio (SSGN 726) returned from her 14+ month deployment (two crews) on Monday, and USS Providence (SSN 719) returned to Groton on Friday from a six month deployment that featured a trip to the North Pole to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nautilus' 1958 trans-Arctic journey. Here's a picture that shows a "visitor" they picked up at the Pole:

This story from The New London Day features a video of the homecoming:

My only Christmas homecoming on a submarine came not following a deployment, but following one of those "weekly ops" that turned into a three week cluster****. Here we were, onboard USS Topeka (SSN 754), in December 1991. We went out during the 2nd week of December to provide services for USS Chicago (SSN 721); this was to be our last underway prior to the Christmas stand-down. During the week, Chicago somehow turned her diesel into a seawater pump, so she wasn't going to be able to fulfill her obligation to head up to Nanoose for a Mk 50 OpEval. (Maybe Midwatch Cowboy will be able to fill us in with details from the Chicago's side.) The powers-that-be (correctly) decided that the Topeka would be a good stand-in, so we identified the people who were going on the first Christmas leave period and did a BSP at San Diego to drop them off; it was about a third of the crew. Due to various circumstances, we kept getting delayed from returning home, but when we finally got released, SUBPAC gave us the highest SOA I've ever seen to get home by December 23rd. (I ended up with duty that night, and that's how I came to finally believe in the concept of Decay Heat -- but that's a different story.)

Do any of you have any good stories about returning home in time for Christmas?

Update 1128 24 Dec: USS Boise (SSN 764) also got back from deployment just in time for Christmas. This story from The Virginian-Pilot has a video and some pictures of the homecoming.

Update 2141 24 Dec: Pictures of the return of USS Boise to Norfolk can be found on the official Navy website: here, here, here, and here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it wasn't exactly -Christmas,- but sorta close to right before Christmas.

December 2000. A brand new DDG-51. My son was due on 7 December. We were doing ... uh, something - can't remember exactly what - down in PROA. I guess we were doing post-commissioning workups. (We'd commissioned in October.)

Anyway, we weren't scheduled to come back home until -right- before Christmas. I went to the XO to try and get leave to be home when the kid arrived, but he said 'f*$k no.'

In one of the few decent acts of his entire evil life, my department head stepped up and punched it through for me.

I still had to pay my own way home from Roosevelt Roads, though. (We had a stopover in Gitmo, and in one of my perhaps worst ideas ever, I called my (now ex-)wife and said 'hi Honey, I hopped a plane to Cuba. I'll see you ... uh, sometime, I guess!')

Perhaps the -strangest- condition of my getting leave was the requirement that I go up to Camp Lejeune - from Mayport, FL and again, on my own dollar - to pick up a prisoner that we'd sent to break rocks with the Marines, since the CCU at NAS Jax is for wusses.

So, yeah, I got to get home and see the kid get born, but ... Christ, it almost wasn't worth it.

But, yeah, I -was- home at Christmas that year, so, it worked out okay.

12/23/2008 6:14 PM

Blogger midwatchcowboy said...

Sorry Joel,

I got there when the diesel was just being retested.

CHICAGO did make it up to Nanoose, though. We did surfaced ADCAP testing (yeah, they can be shot from surfaced just like in the bad old days of WWII). I wound up being the OOD on the bridge with the Conn, the Approach Officer had the deck. Did I mention that it was February?

And it was on a range - the only surface contact was the target/torpedo retriever. Only time I've been colder was on sea trials in Groton.

12/23/2008 7:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes. That wonderful trip to Nanoose. One uniform, only a few changes of underwear, no civvies, and Labatt Blue on the pier. Fond memories, fond memories...

12/23/2008 7:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One Christmas Eve underway, we actually went out of our way to skip a navsat (no gps back then) so the snorkle wouldn't be up. Just in case Santa still found a way, we had an armed guard (topside po) stationed as an auxiliary sump watch just in case their were invaders.

Not much love going around those days.

12/24/2008 6:11 AM

Blogger Submaster said...

Was your CO CDR Jablonski (sp)...who told an OOD during that transit "big ocean small submarine theory" when he slowed down to clear baffles and the CO said get to PD.

12/24/2008 7:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to your question, no. SSBNs do not get Christmas breaks. If we were at sea, we were at sea - period. At least not when I was in. We did our jobs while the "fast attack tough" crowd got to go home.

(I'm such a troublemaker... ;D)

12/24/2008 7:40 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Submaster - Yes. He did that a few other times, too.

As Veemann mentioned, almost no one had civvies, and most of us had only brought along a week's worth of underwear. We ended up anchoring out off Nanaimo, and whoever had civilian clothes got to go ashore until midnight. (I wasn't so lucky; I stood watch back aft.) The guys came back with stories about a great lesbian sex show on stage at one of the bars in town. Canada is fun.

12/24/2008 9:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

June-December 1972 WesPac on SS-580. Three back-to-back SpecOps, 42 days inport for entire deployment. Early December skipper mustered crew on the pier in Yoko and told us C7F (a submariner and I can't remember his name) would let us go to Australia and New Zealand. However, only 5 days in port in each country, and we would have to extend the deployment by six weeks to provide services to RAN and RNZN. Skipper said decision was ours. No hesitation, "lets go home." Sent one officer, one chief (me) and 10 white hats home by commercial air the day the boat sailed. We got two weeks home then took the duty for the first four days when boat arrived PH on December 22, 1972.

Keep a zero bubble......


12/24/2008 12:54 PM

Blogger Celia said...

Merry Christmas!

12/24/2008 2:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a an old San Diego ssn sailor when bubblehead was on the waterfront, I'm disgusted... After two west-pacs and a couple of other short ops, I don't know what the hell Joel is talking about... Club Dallas in Guam, liberty in Phukett, two days in Pearl, 3 days in Thailand..And oh, 3 days in New Caledonia(SSN-677), an island off Australia.. Mis the old NAV

12/25/2008 12:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure don't remember getting home for Christmas. Spent one in the PI and another running racetracks up north.

We got into PI 2 days before Christmas. Drain pump had been out for 3 weeks. (We could pump bilges at PD if we used the submesible as a booster). I just knew there was going to be a tiger team and a new pump on the pier. Wrong. New pump in a crate. Had the old pump under the hatch by Christmas morn. They called in a civilian rigger from SRF to rig in new one. He was hot. Quickest and slickest rigging job I,ve ever seen. Next day was my Birthday and
sweet thing had a party ready!

The Christmas on spec-op the CO let us see snow at PD. Said just don't write home about it.

The good old days. Ha!
Have a very Merry Christmas and New Years Holiday and heres to the boats that are still out there.


12/26/2008 9:53 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

When I was on Daniel Webster (SSBN626) in 1980, we spent Christmas Mod Alert in the Irish Sea, lengthening our pre patrol sea trials, to permit another SSBN to get home for Christmas. Since we were away from home anyway, I thought it was a good way to spend the holiday.

12/26/2008 10:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the Chicago ANAV, can tell you we made it to Nanoose after the diesel was fixed. As the current Range Officer in Nanoose, I will verify this with the logs when I get back up to work in Jan.

Maybe it's just me, but spending some quality time in Subic or Phukett can have the same relaxing qualities as being home with the family!

12/26/2008 12:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh Christmas in the PI on another WESTPAC. Who knew you could find a pine tree (plastic) in Subic Bay back in the 80's. We had a roasted pig, Lumpia, Mojo and San Miguel.

12/27/2008 11:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the Chicago when we got welded to the pier. I also ended up serving on another Sub with one of the Topeka guys that took our op. I heard about it all the time. Johnny Watts was his name. A very bitter Nuke ET1 (loved the guy!). I could go into details of why we had to return to port but remember, diesels don't pump seawater! and RTP fixes everything.

Thanks, Joel for taking our op.

1/05/2009 11:00 AM

Blogger Dani said...

Thanks for mentioning the Boise :). That's my husband's sub.

1/06/2009 2:16 AM


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