18 March 2007

I'm so queasy; my head is spinning.

It's a well-known fact (amongst submariners, anyway) that "Happiness is four hundred feet in a state-six sea." According to this, sea state six involves waves from 13.5 to 19 feet in height. However, all of that wave action is at the surface; go deep enough, and you can't even tell that they're having weather up there on the top of the ocean.

I was only seasick enough to puke once; that was when I was on the skimmer, and I blame it on the meds I was taking at the time. I admit that I did find myself feeling a little uneasy a few times, but I found out early on that two things would make that feeling go away: Get something solid into my stomach, and lie down.

Other people, of course, reacted differently. On the Oly, for instance, we had the FTG1 who would be running for the head before the boat was even fifty yards away from the pier.

And then there was a certain young ensign on the skimmer. (Note that I wasn't there for this incident, but I had several people swear to me that it really happened, so....) Repair Department wasn't really a part of ship's force - it was actually a separate UIC, in fact - and most of Repair didn't stand watches when the ship was under way. R-4 (Tron Repair), however, supplied two of the three watch sections for the Combat Information Centre (CIC).

Now, skimmers don't follow the sensible six-on-eighteen-off watch schedule that submarines do. They do four-hour watches instead. Three watch sections standing four-hour watches in a 24-hour day, of course, means that people will stand the same watches every day (ie, the same section will always have the midwatch). They correct for this by "dogging" the afternoon - splitting it into two two-hour watches, thus making seven watches during the day. This means that depending on where you are in the rotation, you'll get four, six, or eight hours off between watches. And since they only serve three meals a day - no midrats - it's a little difficult to work meals into your schedule. But I digress....

This ensign (whom we'll call Smith, because after all these years I haven't the faintest notion what his name really was) was standing watch on his first underway, and the weather was a little rough. And one of the watchstanders was an ET1 named Jeff, who was munching away on a snack or two between plotting contacts. Noting that the ensign was getting a little green around the gills, Jeff called out, "Hey, Mister Smith - want a cookie?" And ENS Smith looked up to see that Jeff was offering him a sort of sandwich, made of two Oreos and a sardine (with mustard sauce).

They said the ensign set a new speed record running from CIC to the nearby head.

Submarines, of course, normally stay deep. But there was one time on Oly when we were out providing services, and the OpOrd for some reason called for us to be on the surface for an hour or so at one point. And the weather started getting rough....

We surfaced right around the time the cooks started serving lunch. I was in the first group of four called to the mess decks - and one of only a dozen or so people who actually did eat lunch that day. Lunch was Mexican-style that day: Frijoles and burritos (or something similar) from the serving window, and a huge bowl of serve-yourself taco salad sitting on the counter at the forward end of the mess decks. I went in, got my plate, sat down at the table right next to the scullery door, and commenced chowing down. I'd just finished eating when we took a roll to starboard, and I had to grab my stuff to keep it from ending up on the deck.

Then we rolled back to port. I more or less teleported the length of my table, bounced off the chap seated at the outboard table, and ended up sitting on the deck with everything off my table in my lap. Everything, that is except for my plate, which had successfully made the jump from my table to the outboard one. So I stood up, dumped things back onto the table for the mess cooks to take care of, handed my plate, &c, in to the scullery, and went up to Radio to relieve the watch.

Remember my rules for coping with seasickness: Eat something and lie down. After the offgoing RMOW departed, I shut the door behind him and stretched out on the deck, me feet braced against the door and my head next to one of the equipment racks. And I stayed there, watching all of the paperwork slide out of people's in-boxes onto the deck as we continued to slosh back and forth.

Over the white rat I could hear the XO in control, calling out the clinometer readings - and some pretty interesting reading they were, indeed. I missed the OOD's watch relief, but I heard about it later from those who had been in Control. Normally, after the new OOD has taken the watch, he calls out, "Helm, Quartermaster, this is Soandso; I have the deck and the conn." This time it was the Weps, and his announcement was "Helm, Quartermaster, this is Lieutenant Russell; I am on the deck and I have the conn." Seems he was seated on the deck at the time, with his back firmly up against the QM stand and his feet braced against the coamings of the scope wells.

We finally went deep, the rocking and rolling stopped, and I stood up and took a good look around. And the first thing I noticed was the gigapig. This piece of test equipment - a spectrum analyser, as I recall - weighed around seventy pounds, and lived in a puka at the top of one of the equipment racks. The one I had been lying under. It wasn't bolted in, but was instead held by two honkin' big tie-wraps (you know, those plastic zip-strip thingies) and two pieces of white line (string, to you).

Ever see tie-wraps pull loose? These two had. Both of them. And those two little pieces of white line were the only thing that had kept the gigapig from falling out of the rack and landing on top of me as I lay there on the deck.

I was still standing there staring at the gigapig when the 1MC announcement came: "All hands not on watch, lay to the crew's mess to assist with cleanup." I was out the door like a shot, and down the ladder to look at the mess decks. And then I ran for my rack to get my camera, so I could take a couple of pictures* before returning to Radio, secure in the knowledge that I was on watch and didn't have to get involved.

Everything off the tables - tablecloths, condiments, plates, &c - was on the deck. The coffeepots had emptied themselves onto the deck. The bug-juice machines had sloshed out onto the deck. The ice-cream machine had emptied itself - out the top - onto the deck. That big bowl of taco salad I mentioned? On the deck. A couple of lockers had popped open, and there were packages of napkins and other things on the deck, too.

And then there was the soda syrup. Back in those days we had a soda dispenser, just aft of the scullery window, by the bug-juice machine. It was fed with #10 cans of syrup, which were kept between the bench lockers in the crew's mess. A score or so of those cans had come adrift during the rocking and rolling, and at least a dozen of them had had holes punched in them as they banged against things. So all of the other items on the deck were connected by this huge puddle of brown goo....

Clean-up efforts were successful, of course, and all the off-watch people got to go back to their racks. But it was a couple of months before the last of that brown goo stopped leaking out from behind the CRES trim around the edge of the deck.

* That was one reason I waited to write this post - I was hoping to find those pictures and get them scanned in so I could use them to illustrate this post. No such luck.

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