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.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

You Can't Spell "Submariner" Without "Mariner"

"When you see the Southern Cross for the first time,
You understand now why you came this way..."
- "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash

Many of my fondest memories of submarining involve the most basic aspect of operating a ship -- getting from point "A" to "B" without hitting land or another vessel. While the internal operation of a ship or submarine is incredibly important, the simple acts involved in driving the ship and making sure you don't hit other people driving other ships are among the most intense and satisfying part of being a Submariner.

Whether it was being on the Bridge during a quiet surface transit into some southern port under the summer stars or making the right decision to avoid a close-quarters situation with some dumb merchant, or even freezing while doing a 6 hour transit in December out of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and down the Washington coast because some boomer owns the submerged water, these are probably the memories of at-sea Submarining I'll hold onto the longest.

What are your most intense memories of getting own-ship's plotted position to move across the chart? (Alternate question inspired by the song at the head of this post: How many of you joined the Navy because of a girl/woman? One hand raised right here.)


Anonymous ShoreJO said...

Drawing phalluses while in the navigator's steaming box

5/27/2011 5:11 PM

Blogger Bearpaw said...

Didn't get to see to much of that... Just get back there and push the boat dammit. Oh, ERS, I need you to come up here and plot dots. If you were lucky the QMs would show you where you really were.

I did get to see Haley's comet through the periscope though!

5/27/2011 5:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing like a red sounding in the BAM.

5/27/2011 6:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Six hours as periscope operator attempting to get fixes through heavy fog while inbound in the Straits of Juan de Fuca on the midwatch piloting party. Out of necessity, we constructed quite a few running fixes of dubious quality during that watch.

The sun came up toward the end of the watch, turning everything visible in the optics into a bright white cloud. By the time I was relieved, I had the equivalent of snow blindness.

That experience was quite a contrast to a previous tour in Pearl Harbor, where the important questions for the periscope operator on the piloting party--between fixes, of course--related to the skimpy attire of young females on nearby sailboats.

5/27/2011 7:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crossing the equator as Surfaced OOD while on WESTPAC, just me, my favorite lookout, a couple cigars, and a billion stars.

5/27/2011 7:24 PM

Blogger Alex Fleming said...

I was Midwatch Cowboy OOD on a surface transit from Guam to Hawaii, and every night at 3am the constellation Orion rose over the horizon. It was the halfway point of the watch and the lookout and I always celebrated.

5/27/2011 7:26 PM

Blogger ChaseKB said...

While in an obvious head on situation, a coast guard cutter of all things turns LEFT, scaring the bajeezus out of the CO and forcing me into extremis. Still fun though..

5/27/2011 9:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the straights of yuan d' fuck'ya as the control room supervisor and hearing the fathometer operator say "is that a red sounding". I just called it away.....


5/27/2011 9:33 PM

Anonymous Stsc said...

Spending an entire watch to get across the 'highway' bounded by fields of trawlers. Depth separation was not an option. Many gray hairs were created on those watches.

5/27/2011 9:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two come to mind. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times..... February, Straits of Florida, surface OOD on a fast attack going to PEV for a port call. Midwatch, warm, stars, a dumb ass sailboat with no running lights, 1000 yd CPA. did I mention PEV?

Return to Norfolk in February from PEV. In pumpkin suit with lookout waiting to go to bridge due to HEAVY seas abaft. Captain finally says, "Well, I guess it's time for you to go up." as we were well within the bouys off of VA Beach. Up we go, open the upper hatch, lookout crawls aft into sail to open his clam shell (688), I open bridge clam shells. Pop my head up into 30 degree cold ass wind and turn around to look aft. Remember those HEAVY seas? Wave catches us from behind, about 10-15 feet OVER my head and washes on by. Did I mention I had not yet buckled my lifeline to the boat? I figured it out when I started to float. After the wave passed I pull the lookout out of the sail by his feet and shoved him down the hatch after I made sure he was breathing. I look down the hatch and fellow JO who got drenched with a column of water yells up that he is going to shut the lower hatch. Fuck no! We go back down and shut the upper hatch. Sparks everywhere, grounded panels, TV in crews mess blew up from water finding its way down and aft (gravity works). I'm drenched and freezing. Strip down and head to shower. then the shaking started realizing just how close I was to being washed overboard and dying within site of land! Good times!!!

5/27/2011 9:54 PM

Anonymous Hamptonplankowner said...

Being a line handler on the will rogers pulling into holy loch after 82 days out, sunshine and beautiful green hills, and for once it was not raining

5/27/2011 10:49 PM

Blogger Kinole said...

Staring up at the sky off the coast of Australia, marveling at the depth of the star field, enjoying those cigars the XO CDR SYR would bring on Westpac, and wishing we could navigate using a sextant for a little while.

5/27/2011 11:22 PM

Blogger Alexander said...

Transiting surfaced off the coast of San Diego as OOD U/I on a SSGN. Just me, my over, the CO and the lookout. Sticky Parker Checks needed a bit of motivation. Someone recommended a bit of an emergency blow to help them seat. We thought we'd see a nice bubble burp out from beneath the bow. Turns out it was more of an explosion that soaked the periscope optics, all of us in the bridge and flooded down into control. With a backdrop of laughter coming up the access trunk I watched the CO toss his soaked sandwich and now extinguished cigar off the bridge. Needless to say, we all ended up a little wet...

5/28/2011 5:24 AM

Blogger Sandy Salt said...

Point A to point B had to be the mid watch in the Atlantic dodging freighters in a box outside the canal and then having the evening watch in the Pacific and watching the sun go down. Pretty good day.

The CO offered to let me drive some in the canal, but I didn't see the need to be a meat puppet. Always loved the mid-watch before heading in to where ever we were going. Some were pretty hairy because of either merchants or trawlers depending on the location, but there is nothing like a transit with your favorite lookout(the guy smart enough to know when to enjoy the stars and not constantly run his cake-hole) and cigars.

5/28/2011 6:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any surface transit on a clear night as OOD. Will never forget all the stars.

Watching it rain UP in Holy Loch.

5/28/2011 6:41 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Deleting a spamment.

5/28/2011 7:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard from many, many submariners that their favorite part of their job was driving the ship on the surface. I experienced it myself on my middie cruises; I loved nighttime bridge watches.

No flaming please, I'm honestly curious...but if your favorite part of operating a SUBmarine was driving on the surface...why not just be a SWO?

5/28/2011 10:16 AM

Blogger Bublehead10MM said...

As a mostly ER guy I didn't get a lot of real knoticle stuff. One cruse I got to handle lines, and it was some of the most memorable times. For instance steaming into Dartmouth in the summer during a sailing rigata. I liked the one that tacked withing 5M off port beam with girls hanging over the rail, literary. They shouted something about see you at the Club, which one? Never found out.

5/28/2011 10:20 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Favorite memories come in two parts:

As a skimmer: First realized "I'd Arrived" as a QM when I unintentionally became the nav-detail plotter passing One Fathom Bank in the Strait of Malacca...QMC sent the guy who was supposed to relieve me away. Shortly thereafter, I did my first successful "Day's Work In Navigation", maintaining running celestial fixes from morning stars all the way thru evening stars. My head got REAL big with that one!

As a Submariner: When I first learned that strong currents can be your ally rather than your nemesis, especially when doing ISR, SOF Ops, etc. It was then that I discovered that Master Qui Gon Jinn was right...the force will guide you!

Always relished a challenging surface transit with lots of contacts. As a general rule, everyone else rolls their eyes at naval vessels and their, generally speaking, inability to do what is expected of them, and there's a certain degree of satisfaction that comes from the other guy knowing that our ship is NOT the biggest dumbass in his field of view!

5/28/2011 10:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No flaming please, I'm honestly curious...but if your favorite part of operating a SUBmarine was driving on the surface...why not just be a SWO?"

Because it's the difference between having a mistress and having a wife.

5/28/2011 10:49 AM

Anonymous said...

Transiting the Caribbean while changing home-ports from San Diego to Groton. On the midwatch it was warm, incredibly clear, and with lots of bio-luminescence in the wake. There was a rainstorm to the East, a bright full moon low in West, and a complete rainbow in the moonlight. It was all in black and white, like a photograph, but you could see the colors in variations in intensity.


5/28/2011 11:37 AM

Blogger Old Man from the Sea said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/28/2011 12:02 PM

Blogger Old Man from the Sea said...

"No flaming please, I'm honestly curious...but if your favorite part of operating a SUBmarine was driving on the surface...why not just be a SWO?"

Not even close to the same experience. I like the previous wife/mistress comment.

Nothing I ever did on a surface ship matched the surfaced time at night (in calm seas, good weather, and low contact density) on the bridge of a submarine. On the boat there was a sense of connection with the expanse of the universe and the sea around you.

Closest I ever got as a OOD on a surface ship was on the bridge wing, but you couldn't stay out there too long. And it just was not the same.

Hope that helps, but it really difficult to put into words.

5/28/2011 12:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fall 2007. Station 2 Winch operator onboard USNS Kiska T-AE-35during UnRep with USNS Shasta T-AE-33. 14 kts, 120 feet apart two highlines sending pallets of bombs to Shasta. About 20 miles from Sasebo, calm seas, some fog. Ball diamond ball hoisted on both ships. suddenly Shasta starts sounding her horn. Ahead of us is a fleet of Japanese fishing boats. They're about 1500 yards ahead. Horns on Shasta and Kiska are now blasting. No movement from fishing boats. Time for an emergency break-away. Recover trolleys and loads, slack highlines, Receiving ship releases high lines, Horns are still blasting, getting pretty close to fishing boats, no time to recover T and D line, cut that sucker! Start maneuvering to avoid collision. Pretty sure we tore up some fishing net as we passed by fishing boat within 50 yards. Japanese just looked at us. Exciting times on the bridge of both ships!

Keep a zero bubble..........


5/28/2011 3:22 PM

Blogger hughmon said...

Surfaced OOD? Whats the difference? Why didn't you go SWO?
W holy crap. You and only one other man, exposed to the weather from the waist up not in an enclosed, lighted space.
Bad squall? You might die.

5/28/2011 9:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought that if you asked any submarine officer, he would say the best watches were midwatch surface transits. These postings seem to back that up.
For me, it was WESTPAC, into Yoko in late spring. You, the good lookout and a quiet competent team in control, a cup of coffee, crystal clear night with countless stars, cooperative merchants, all capped by a spectacular full moon rise about halfway through. The mid-watch into Hong Kong was fun too, but for different reasons and not so peaceful.

5/28/2011 10:36 PM

Blogger Sandy Salt said...

The answer about why not SWO, that is easy. What surface ship puts you about twenty feet from the surface of the water you are cutting through so you can feel the spray, see the dolphins jumping, feel the breeze on your face and the sun or moon shining on you. There is a connection to the sea and air, but more importantly to the past. Thinking about all those other sailors on all those other mid watches. I felt more like being on an old sailing vessel than being in command of the deadliest ship in the world.

Sorry old crusty sailor waxing poetic or more typically blowing sans.

5/29/2011 6:43 AM

Blogger Sandy Salt said...

There is the dark side to surface OOD, like when the skipper has you harness in and goes below and shuts the hatch on you and his last words are hope to see you soon. That was a pretty sinking feeling heading out into the potato patch outside the Golden Gate bridge. They lost a CO overboard out there, so it was no hollow sentiment. Good new he obviously saw us again, so it ended well.

5/29/2011 6:47 AM

Blogger Gospace said...

Waiting for NPS, on the LPD-4, in the aft ER, 0-dark-30, and I'm sure the bridge crew had a lot of fun. We were in a 4 ship formation, and the lead ship signaled turn starboard 90. At execute, 3 ships turned starboard 90; the lead ship turned port. BEF on the midwatch wakes you up fast. We were told later our bow got within 50 yds of her side.

5/29/2011 8:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pulling into port, particularly San Diego and Pearl Harbor, as topside diver. Ahhh the flashes, er mammaraies, er memories.

5/29/2011 8:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have a yearning for the awesome night skies full of stars, check out this video of the VLT in Chile.

5/29/2011 10:17 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I will join the majority when saying that my most memorable watch was a surface transit through the coral of the Solomon Islands going from Brisbane, AUS to Guam in 1965. The sunsets were the most beautiful I have seen, the coral reefs on either side of the sub were beautiful in the clear water and the Assistant Navigator got a three line star fix on the Sun, the Moon, and Venus at Local Apparent Noon. Those were the days. The most harrowing watches were submerged transits in shallow water somewhere in WESPAC dodging junks at Periscope Depth. I am still amazed that we never hit one. The surface watches I hated were the ones in wind and horizontal rain, whether going into Yokosuka in WESPAC or Holy Loch. You could not see and were cold and wet. The best were under the stars on quiet nights with just enough contacts to keep you interested but far enough away that they did not interfere with the transit. Like the other 'old seadogs' on this blog, I do sometimes miss the people and the sense of accomplishment of driving a submarine.

5/29/2011 11:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a civilian, I was never eligible to stand watch. However, I did join the XO of an SSN on the 'conning tower' as we surfaced near Pearl. I was on the boat training the MSs (now CSs). As we sailed into the sunrise, the moon was setting behind us. The spray, the wind...what an experience. Of course,smoking Cuban cigars with the XO, while doing all of the above on a SSN was part of the fun too!

5/29/2011 12:48 PM

Anonymous ew-3 said...

Suspect being on surface ships gives more opportunities for interesting experiences in this realm.

In my short 4 years, I was involved with about half a dozen unique events.

Coming back from VN in ARL-24 was in CIC going through the San Bernardino Straits on MidWatch, and the scope lit up with dozens of targets. All LBGBs. We got up into double letters and could not keep up. Finally the OOD called down to us, not to bother tracking them. He's just make sure they didn't get our license number in case of an accident.

Did starboard pelorus entering Kiel after a 12 hour sea and anchor. Suddenly the guys up in the bow notice that during the night we lost our bow anchor. Officers scrambling to see if it might have hit our sonar dome.

Leaving port lauderdale (aka port everglades) again on the pelorus, while taking bearings a small boat with 2 people aboard came close along side. The female proceeded to take her top off. Interesting talking on the phones explaining it was a no-sh!tter siting. We did get the ships photographer to take a few pics which we proceeded to sell at the ships store.

Then while in CIC going through the English channel we tracked a surface craft doing better then 60kts. The bridge thought we were nuts, till someone figured out it was a hydrofoil ferry.

5/30/2011 11:45 AM

Anonymous Striker Yeoman said...

"No flaming please, I'm honestly curious...but if your favorite part of operating a SUBmarine was driving on the surface...why not just be a SWO?"

Its like the wife/mistress thing. Being on the surface was something rare and only a few people got to truly enjoy it. We got the view and stars without surface BS.

And one of my favorite memories involved a surface evening watch as lookout with a great OOD, Mk 43 operator, and a middie with his own cigars to share.

"CIC" "sea and anchor"
What are these stranger words you speak here?

5/30/2011 9:04 PM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

"No flaming please, I'm honestly curious...but if your favorite part of operating a SUBmarine was driving on the surface...why not just be a SWO?"

Let's say you work in a brewery as a Brew Master, and you get paid to drink beer every day.
Now let's say you go on vacation to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It is beautiful, and it is fun and you get a free "Ever Lasting Gob Stopper", but you really miss drinking beer.
Working at the brewery every day and getting to go to the Wonka factory, on occasion, is better than working at the Wonka factory and wishing you worked for beer.
Everyday submarine life is boring, exciting, boring, aggravating, boring and exciting again. Mostly it is fun. You have to rely on 100, or so, other guys to keep from imploding the boat all the time. Not so much for the skimmer . . . guys. (Notice I didn't say pukes)

Favorite memory; Stepping over dead, puke stained soldiers because they forgot to eat "Captains Wafers" before we surfaces.

5/31/2011 5:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had soldiers on a submarine? Explain that one please.

5/31/2011 11:10 AM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

We called them dead soldiers because there were so many laying on the floor, puking, it looked like a battlefield. NavET's, ICmen, and a pussy A-ganger. 12 in all, laying on the floor moaning - Omaha beach.

6/01/2011 8:02 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

First Westpac, surface transit in the Gulf of Thailand on the way to Pattaya. Finished night cranking and got permission to stand a "Lookout U/I" (like I'd ever qualify being a nuke) while I watched the sun come up and the dolphins racing the boat.

Some things you never forget.

And no, never joined because of a girl.

6/01/2011 3:28 PM

Anonymous dirty-blueshirt said...

As the only nuke qualified lookout, the COB gave me the unique opprotunity to stand every maneuvering watch as lookout from the day I qualified, until 22mos. later when the new CO kicked me off the bridge (which is another story for later involving how NOT to use the "outboard" when leaving the pier). I always loved the transits into port, as they were usually far busier than the outbound passages.

6/02/2011 6:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enroute on the Bremerton to Ketchikan for sound trials up the west coast of Canada at PD. As off watch QM stuck on the scope by the OOD trying to see anything in fog. Hearing sonar call a contact dead ahead I strain to see anything and then there it is.....the raked forward mast, followed by the funnel with the mermaid with hair waving in the wind, only the upper works visible drifting by from right to left in the fog. Run a fire control solution with the variables of mast head height and divisions of high power........turns out my father was sailing on that very cruise ship. BOOOOOMMMMM. My father thought I was nuts to be skulking around in the deep.

Fun times.

6/04/2011 2:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And on the midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away" -Southern Cross

Just had to throw that part in.

6/20/2011 12:29 PM


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