27 November 2006

That big hunk of metal back aft

Look - it's a skimmer!*

And here's another one.**

What do these two ships have in common? Well, they're both big, grey targets, of course. But besides that?

They're doing something that submarines almost never do - riding at anchor.

Sure, boats have anchors, but they don't use them very often. In fact, during my thirteen years on submarines, we anchored out exactly four times, thrice on my first boat and once on my last. One problem, of course, is that we only have the one anchor, unlike skimmers, which have backups, both forward and aft. Another is that anchoring out means keeping the plant up, which in turn means that while the coners are ashore having fun, the nucs are still on the boat working.

The first time I anchored out was at Frederiksted, St Croix (US Virgin Islands), in November or December of '84. They had a pier, but as I recall the story was that it had been damaged by the last hurricane that blew through (that would have been Klaus) and hadn't been sufficiently repaired by the time we got there. I couldn't find any pictures of the boat at anchor; I'm not sure if I even got any, though I do remember being topside the morning we got under way and taking pictures of the liberty boat alongside, and the work party transferring all the cases of booze aboard.

The second occasion was during our first visit to Lahaina, Hawai`i, in July of '86. It was a very enjoyable port call; I especially remember the banyan tree, and the free ride - with all the drinks I wanted - I was given on one of the harbour-tour boats because I was almost the only person aboard who was willing to give up his boat ballcap. (We'd run out during our visit to Olympia, Washington, a few months before, and the rec committee hadn't restocked yet.)

We visited Lahaina again the following year, but that time we had an AD with us - they did the anchoring, and we tied up alongside. (We'd done something similar when we visited Hong Kong in early '87 - tied up to a generator barge that provided power for us.)

The third time was off Pattaya, Thailand, two years later.

Pattaya was another interesting port. We were on our way ashore in the liberty boat when someone say, "Hey - look at that!" There was a lovely, sandy beach, with a row of palm trees separating it from the street that ran parallel to the shore. And just the other side of the street was a large A&W Root Beer sign. I think a lot of guys went straight from the liberty boat to a hotel, checked in, dropped their bags, and headed over to the A&W for a root beer float - I know Jay and I certainly did.

Here's another picture. We weren't the only Yanks in Pattaya that week - if you look closely you can see USS Towers (DDG 9) and USNS Mispillion (T-AO 105) at anchor in the background.

The final time at anchor was in Cartagena, Spain, in the summer of '01. This is one of my favourite pictures from that deployment.

Cartagena was really cool - the mediaeval cathedral rising straight up out of the ruins of the old Roman amphitheatre, the other Roman ruins, and even a section of the Carthaginian wall. There were some really nice restaurants, too; I'll never forget the gazpacho, the paella and the fresh Manchego cheese.

* USS Yorktown (CV 5), to be precise, in 1937.
** Hr Ms Sumatra, a Java-class light cruiser of the Royal Netherlands Navy, sometime in the '30s.

1 comment:

bothenook said...

we rode anchor in nanaimo B.C. when we were up there for sound/torpedo trials. there was a boomer parked at the only pier. the liberty boat was a torpedo retriever, and those guys hated the fact that we were hanging all over their gear from shore to our boat. crossing a temporary gangway from the TR to the deck was a challenge at 0 dark thirty, with a 30 knot wind blowing, choppy water, and a full head of steam. that cannuk beer really wrecked us brought up on the weak as piss american beer.