Personal entries from another space

    Monday, August 1st, 2005
    1:22 pm
    News of the Short & Sweet Variety
    It’s been awhile, so I’d better throw something down on this here brand new laptop that I recently acquired. It’s been quite a trip figuring out this Windows XP program after the ease of the most vacuous WEBTV. I purchased a VAIO and an all-in-one, so I can be part of this here computer revolution riding on the big DSL; toot, toot. You can find this old-timer hiding under the following rock: . . . or surfing the net on Peace&Love train.
    Saturday, November 13th, 2004
    1:29 pm
    Boring Holes in the North Atlantic (con)

    The trip to this point was almost two years long. From Boot Camp in San Diego, to Polaris Electronics "A" School and Navigation Equipment School (NEC 3337) in Va Beach, to Sub School in Groton, CT, I was finally heading to Holy Loch, Scotland, to check onbaord the USS Casimir Pulaski, SSBN 633. The last day on the way there was a long one. It started with a two hour bus ride from the Sub Base in Groton to the airport; a seven hour flight on a chartered jet to Prestwik, Scotland; a three hour bus ride to Gurich; then, finally, the Navy barge to the submarine tender anchored directly in the center of Holy Loch; a huge finger of water about twenty miles up the Firth of Clyde (much like the Puget Sound in Washington) on the west coast of Scotland. As we approached the tender, I could see a floating dry dock with a huge tarp over something bulging up from inside. We sailed around the side of the dry dock and the first view I got of a submarine was of the screw; a monsterous, multi-bladed, brass series of scythes mounted on a central hub. Extending out from this primary method of thrust was over 300 feet of nuclear submarine weighing in at over 7,000 tons, and I was one of 120 crewmembers prepared to transfer onto the Pulaski which was due in the next day. Total trip time to check-in on the tender: 36 hours; most of it waiting between the various means of transportation.

    The following morning we woke to find the Pulaski had tied up along side the tender, so we quickly ate breakfast and headed down to go aboard. I showed my ID card to the topside watch and followed an experienced Navigation Tech down to the NavCenter. Then I was hit with an unexpected piece of news: "You, sailor, are going to be assigned to X-division for this patrol cycle. The man you are supposed to replace has extended for a patrol. You’re an extra man, but we’ll get you in here when possible to get qualified on your watchstation, so you’ll be ready to assume your technicians position next patrol." Well, that was a bit of a stunner. What the hell was X-division anyway? I found out quickly enough: topside watch, loading parties, paint the hull, topside watch, grease the davit, loading parties, topside watch… At least I didn’t have to mess cook. Since I was a petty officer, I was afforded that one privlege.

    Then the day of change came. Actually the change happened about a year later, but the event that caused the change happened that day. The nuclear reactor was shut down for maintenance. A welder from the tender had a job assignement in the reactor compartment to attach a bracket to an internal bulkhead, and he required two fire watches to be present while he performed the task. The chief in charge of his division looked down the list of names of those of us assigned to X-dvision and picked out two personnel. Guess whose was one of the names. I reported to the petty officer at the hatch leading down to the reactor compartment at the designated time and helped lower two fire extinguishers down into the compartment then followed them down the ladder. Stainless steel and bright florescent lights were everywhere. A huge vessel containing the nuclear core and six main cooling pumps with all the anciliary plumbing and electronics filled most of the space, so the welder and we two fire watches filled up most of the available empty space. The job took less than an hour. After the welder gave the final thumbs up, we beat a hasty retreat. Even with the reactor shut down there was still plenty of radiation around, so limiting time exposed was always a priority. The less exposure the better. After the welder exited with his gear, we hauled the fire extinguishers up and closed the hatch. Then the ship’s doctor showed up and asked us for our TLDs. "TLD?" I asked. "I have this dosimeter badge." The doc took it with a slight look of concern on his face. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew someone would tell me if I had messed up. Aw Shits are awarded freely. At-a-Boys come much more rarely, and it only takes one Aw Shit to wipe out 100 At-A-Boys. This was a silent Aw Shit, but it wasn’t on me. I was just the victim.

    Up to about 1973, the nuclear engineering sailors on subs, all chief petty officers, and officers wore TLDs. These nuclear monitoring devices measured a much higher range of nuclear radiation which might be encountered by those that wore them. The rest of forward area sailors like me wore dosimeter badges like the ones that are worn by X-ray technicians. They measure a much finer degree of exposure to radiation, but their upper limit is much, much lower than a TLD. This was ok of course, since no forward area sailor ever was put in a position that would send his dosimeter out of range, right? Leave it to me to be the one that changed the Navy’s point of view on that assumption. But why? What was the reason for a forward area sailor to be sent into a nuclear engineering space that might have radiation present. The old line about assume reared its ugly head. When you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. The chief that chose me from the list of X-division personnel ASSUMED the N in ET(N)-3 meant nuclear. My ranking was "E"lectronic "T"echnician – "3" rd Class – (N)avigation, not (N)uclear as he had assumed. Since he made that assumption, he assumed I was equipped with a TLD and didn’t even check me when I reported to the hatch. Why should dummy old me know any better? So, when the doc develooped my dosimeter it was totally black and off the scale. He didn’t know what to enter in the log as my dose, so he had to put the maiximum the badge was rated. It took another year for the reports to make it through all the channels, and I was never directly informed. After all, the military was fighting liability for Agent "Orange" in Viet Nam, so they weren’t about to give me ammunition against the use of nuclear power.

    Since I hadn’t been given any kind of heads up about what had happened I thought everything was a-ok. It wasn’t until a year later when I was on my third upkeep preparing for patrol #3 that the word came down for all sailors that were assigned dosimeters to turn them in for TLDs. It didn’t take too long to piece things together after that. Now I have an unknown dosage of whole body radiation that may be nothing more than a dozen chest X-rays, or worse. But when the doctor had to turn in his report, it started a chain reaction that reverberated throughout the Navy.

    Current Mood: accomplished

    Tuesday, August 24th, 2004
    10:18 am
    Busy August 2004
    The events of August 2004 were anticipated well before arriving at the month’s door. When the government announced that Boeing had been awarded a contract to replace the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft called the P3 Orion with the new Multi-Mission Marine Aircraft, I was intrigued. The local paper carried a few articles about the business side of the deal and reported that there would be a job fair for walk-in applicants on August 12th. I started the process of getting ready by researching what I could find on the internet which lead to the several day hit-and-miss process of filling in an on-line resume at the Boeing web site.

    Then we got a call from Mom and Dad. Helen was going to be visting for a week at the begining of August, so would we be up for a gathering here on August 4th. Of course we woud be. It had been over five years since we had last seen Helen and we always enjoy having the family join us here. It gives us an excuse to spend some time and energy getting the place spiffed up for the additional eyes.

    Well, we took a little extra money and bought a couple of new screen doors for the breezeway and got a little pressure washer to clean up the siding. I mowed the yard and pulled a lot of weeds. Gretchen and Kirsten planted a few extra flowers since the nasturtiums didn’t come up like they did last year. The moldy walls were blasted clean, and the new doors added the right touch. Finally, I edited together a bunch of video snippets I had recorded over the past couple of years and dubbed on a musical soundtrack to give to everyone for a souvenir of the Puget Sound. I need to copy a couple more to send off to Tara and Amber.

    August 4th arrived and Mom, Dad, Pat and Helen got here followed right behind by Amber, Logan, Julian, and Amber’s friend Kate. After the hugs and kisses and totting in all the food and kid care items, I took everyone on a tour of the property. When we got back inside there was a suden flurry of cameras, and everyone started snapping away. Logan is noticably absent from most of the pictures since he immediately disappeared into Nick’s bedroom to watch Nick play video games. We visited with each other while the dinner cooked. When it was ready we all ate lasagna, salad, and bread. We finished up the visit watching a couple of segments of the video I made before I had to go to bed.

    Amber took the rest of the family to Pike’s Place Market after leaving here, so Helen could see the fish market. It has a business management philosophy that her employers use in their business and she wanted to get some pictures there. It was a wonderful visit enjoyed by everyone. Then it was time to get ready for the job fair on August 12th.

    Gretchen and I went to Tacoma and I found a blue pin-stripe suit at Bargain World which cost me a whopping $20.00 and fits like it had been tailored. I also got a new pair of shoes, socks,and a belt. Then two days prior to the job fair I got a HAIR-CUT. AAAArgh. Yeah I did. A business man’s hair-cut right down the last 1/4 inch. All of a sudden it was Thursday. The temperature was over 85, I was wearing a suit and TIE, and it was hot.

    I drove over to Seattle and found the convention center where the job fair was being held. The parking lot was already filled when I got there, so I found on-street parking about a half mile away. The doors were supposed to open at 1:00 pm, but even though I made it there by 12:30 the line was out the door and into the parking lot. Fortunatley, there was a pavillion roof over the area of the walkway where I had to wait, so I didn’t get the full brunt of the sun. Over 500 people were standing ahead of me when the line started to move forward at 1:15 which was a heck of a lot better than the 1,500 people behind me.

    After two hours of inching forward in line #1 I got to the first interview. It was brief and determined which of the next nine lines I was to wait in. "Any of the three next to the left wall," was the first instruction. That line only took about an hour before I reached the next interviewer. She took a couple of minutes to read my resume and directed me to the third line titled "Systems Engineering."

    Another thirty minutes passed before the next interviewer got my resume, and he directed me to a manager in another room. The helper took my paperwork and asked me to wait in a lobby full of people filling out job applications. I was feeling pretty good until she came back out five minutes later to inform me that I did not have the skills Boeing was seeking at that time but to keep my resume on-line for the technical positions that would open in the future. The 4,000 people that were sent home without even getting in the door didn’t even get that encouragement.

    Oh well… The process got me prepared for getting back into the job hunt, and I’m ready to start the job search with a clean hair cut and up-to-date resume. Now all I need to see is the job market open up a little bit. At least I do still have an income source, but it would be nice to get a day off once in awhile.

    Current Mood: satisfied
    Current Music: this constant ringing in my ears

    Sunday, June 20th, 2004
    1:51 pm
    Boring holes in the North Atlantic (con.) Happy Father’s Day 2004
    "MAKE GOING HOME TURNS," the Captain announced to the Engine Room over the 2MC intercom system which was the word all the crew had been waiting for. A couple more turns (revolutions per minute) on the shaft for a little additional speed. The previous 70 days had gone by pretty quickly with all the watches, drills, and qualification exams, but the last few days seemed to have gained a few minutes. Standard watch standing procedure was six hours on watch and 12 hours off. 18 hour days are hard to adjust to at first, but after a week or so underway they level out.
    At least until the first drill or an all ship’s emergency like a fire in the clothes dryer. That gets the whole crew up for at least an hour hauling out all the damage control equipment and getting to your proper damage control station. Once the emergency is cleared everyone not directly involved goes back to what they were doing, but it’s hard to get back to sleep with the adrenalin pumping after waking to a general alarm. With all the ship’s quals, I usually tried to find someone I needed a signature from right after a drill since I knew they would still be awake, and the questioning would often take up all the time before the next meal or watch. There were meals every six hours, so everyone going on watch and getting off watch are able to eat if they wanted.

    We were heading back into home port at Holy Loch, Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde which is a bit like Elliot Bay on the Puget Sound. At the 50 fathom curve the captain told the diving officer to surface the boat, and a few hours later we were sailing past Nothern Ireland on our way into port. It took another day or so to get in, and the other crew was waiting on the sub tender when we arrived. Three days of turn over and we were on the long trek home. A ferry ride, then a bus to Preswick airport. The plane flew us into Hartford where another bus drove most of the crew to the submarine base at Groton, CT, but I had a month leave. I got on the Amtrak and headed down to my almost year old daughter and her mother at her family’s home in Fairfax, VA. I arrived there on Father’s Day 1972. It was a good one for me.

    And today, here we are at another Father’s Day. After finishing my Sunday deliveries at 7:30 this morning, Gretchen and I relaxed togther watching MONK which we recorded last night. Then I went out and did some yard work before coming in to update my web page and this journal. While I was outside moving some dirt around and yanking blackberry vines from a fir tree root hole I’ve still got to fill in, I was reflecting on a conversation Gretchen and I had a couple of weeks ago when we were watching the mini-sereies: SPARTACUS. I told her a story about the time Dad took me to see the original movie starring Kirk Douglas.
    We were living in Germany in the early 60’s and Dad and his boss, Jim, were able to take some time off to participate in a bowling tournament in Munich. It was a couple hour drive down the autobahn from where we lived in Frankfurt and Dad decided to take me along. I was about 11 at the time and probably not the ideal traveling companion.
    A couple of examples come to mind. We stopped to eat along the way, and Jim bought me french fries to go with the meal. After I had finished all but the little crispy hard pieces, I thought to offer him some. Yummy.
    Then we got back into his company Mercedes to finish the drive down, and Dad let me sit in the front seat. Jim was driving and he smoked continuously. He used the car lighter everytime he lit one up. That was until I decided to see how hot I could get the lighter by holding it down in its socket. Needless to say, in short order I had burned it out. Jim finished the trip up having to use matches, and Dad had to buy him a new lighter when we got home.
    Once we got to Munich, the rest of the team was already there. Dad pulled the short straw, so he and I had a couple of hours to burn before we headed home. There was a movie theater on the base, and that’s where we went to see SPARTACUS. It was quite a movie on the biggest screen I’d ever seen. Probably a bit intense for my young eyes not having grown up with HBO, MTV or CNN, but I know Kirk Douglas ended up a lot worse off than I did when it was all over.
    The new mini-series went into a little more historic detail, but held none of the majesty or acting quality as the original, and I was able to relate my own story to my wife about going to see it 40 years ago with my dad.

    Current Mood: Grateful
    Current Music: the whoosh of the air conditioner

    Sunday, June 13th, 2004
    11:01 am
    rant on the WSF (Wonderful State Ferrys)
    For those that don’t live or work on an island, this will probably be just a big waaa; but I both live and work on an island that is only accessible by the Wonderful State Ferry system which is part of the state’s Dept of Transportation. This situation began at 10:00 pm when someone walking off the ferry at the Southworth ferry dock sighted a small rowboat drifting up against the dock pilings with a suspicious bottle full of fluid in the bottom of the boat. Sticking out of the bottle were wires connected to a small motorcycle-sized battery. The Southworth dock worker was notified, and he called the WSF Operations Dept and the state police. The dock was then promptly shut down.
    I was driving onto the Vashon ferry dock to wait for the 10:45 pm ferry to Southworth when I heard a report on the radio that there was a bomb scare on the Southworth dock, so it was shut down, but the service between Vashon and Fauntleroy would still continue. Normally, at that time of night, the ferry service runs a triangle route from Vashon to Southworth to Fauntleroy back to Vashon. I have to pick up my deliverables in Tacoma which I can get to from either Southworth or Fauntleroy. To make it back to the 12:55 am boat from Fauntleroy to Vashon I need as much turn around time as possible, since I also have to fit a gas fillup in to the round trip.

    Here’s where the RANT begins — There were four vehicles other than myself also waiting to go to Southworth, so we were all affected. Rather than load the ferry with all waiting vehicles immediately after the Vashon vehicles had off loaded the dock worker instead closed the gate, and there we sat for 25 minutes until they finally loaded us onboard. Since the boat didn’t have to go to Southworth, the WSF (ferry captain or Ops Dept decision?) decided to burn the time extra time waiting at the Vashon dock. This decision was ignorant, inconsiderate, and stupid (AFU). Not only did the people that wanted to get home from Southworth lose 25 minutes of driving time I lost 25 minutes of commute time. By the time I got back to Fauntleroy it was 12:58 am, and the 12:55 am sailing was three minutes gone from the dock. There I sat. When, you might ask, is the last boat back to Vashon? Try 02:05am. That’s one hour and ten minutes waiting on the ferry dock, because the WSF decided to hold us hostage on the Vashon dock. Had they left at 10:45 pm from Vashon as scheduled they could have waitied the 25 minutes at Fauntleroy where they could have made their sewage dump, off loaded garbage, run a saftey drill, or done whatever they did at the Vashon dock while those of us waiting to get to the mainland trying to keep on a schedule could have been on time. Those that had to make the 70 mile drive around to Southworth would have been 25 minutes closer, and I would have made it back for the 12:55 am sailing.
    AARRRGGGG — Where do I go to get that hour and ten minutes back that the WSF stole from my life.

    Current Mood: still pissed
    Current Music: steam venting out fo my ears

    Friday, June 11th, 2004
    12:18 pm
    Boring holes in the North Atlantic
    A long time ago, in a different life, there was this 425 foot long, 33 foot wide tube of HY80 steel. It was round on one end and had a multi-bladed prop on the other with a sail on top that housed the antennas and periscopes. Inside, 125 men sailed the seas for 72 days at a time haulng 16 missiles each carrying 10 nuclear warheads for a total of 80 megatons of mass destruction. Most of those 160 bombs were aimmed at some city in the old Soviet Union. It was my job to operate, maintain, and repair the equipment that kept those missiles pointing in the correct direction. Between 1970 and 1978, I made nine 72 day "patrols" finishing up with a 15 month shipyard overhaul.
    During my first patrol I was an extra crewman, so I was assigned to the deck crew where I learned how to drive the sub (also called "the boat"). This was always a real trip; sitting in front of a black guage board with nothing but mechanical readouts for the angle of the fairwater planes (mounted on the sail and used to make the boat go up and down), the rudder (just forward of the prop and used to steer the sub), and the stern planes (slightly forward and on either side of the rudder used to keep the boat level or pitch it up or down). There were also depth guages, a speed log, and a compass for direction; but no windows. So there I was, pointing the sub in the direction I was ordered, and just having to trust that the Officer of the Deck (OOD) was giving me good directions. After a couple of weeks I was able to maintain the sub at periscope depth without broaching in a state 5 sea. In other words, I did good.
    While the Control Room was a great place to stand watch, the equipment I had gone to electronics school for 18 months (during which daughter #1 —Tara— was born) to learn to maintain was 20 feet behind the pericope stand in the Navigation Center. After a month of standing watch at the helm I was reassigned to the Nav Center and began to learn that space as a Nav Watchstander. All the while, I also had to learn the basic principles of the submarine systems to become qualified SS (Submarine Service or Silent Service), so I could earn my Dolphins. By the time I finished my first patrol I had qualified at the helm, Nav Watch and SS.

    Current Mood: it’s bedtime
    Current Music: none now, watching DS-9

About ItheMissingLink

Retired longshoreman at the Port of Seattle. US Navy veteran 9 patrol FBM nuclear submarines; married 29 years
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