20 June 2007

Steel beach

On a submarine, having a "steel-beach picnic" means taking your meal up topside to eat it in the sun. We did a couple of steel-beach picnics when I was on the tender; for those the cooks actually had grills which they set up on the weather decks; they cooked hamburgers ("sliders") and hot dogs, and the rest of the crew queued up and went past the grills, collected their food, and then picked a spot to sit and eat. The problem with this procedure was that with only one serving line, it was so long that there was no chance of trying to go back through for seconds if you were so inclined. On the boat, all the food was cooked in the galley, as for any other meal, and we just filled our plates and took them topside.

We had three steel beaches during my last deployment. The first one wasn't planned; we were on our way south through the Suez Canal, and the northbound convoy had gotten delayed for some reason, so we (as part of the first southbound convoy) had to pull aside in the Great Bitter Lake and wait for them. The skipper decided that as long as we were sitting there, and we would be able to see anything approaching us well before it reached us, he might as well let off-watch personnel go up for a little sun.

We kept an armed topside watch stationed as a welcoming committee; here he stands up forward, with several targets - excuse me, I mean "surface ships" - visible beyond him.

The chap in civvies is a reporter from the New London (CT) Day. He and a photographer rode us for a few weeks, sending stories and photos home every day by e-mail.

Two months later, we were in the Med, somewhere over near Italy, and the captain ordered another steel beach - a proper one, this time, complete with food.

A lot of people stayed topside after eating to enjoy the sun, of course. (When we went through the Suez Canal northbound in '98, I didn't even go below to hit the rack; I just stretched out in the shade of the sail and slept there.) The fellow all the way forward with no shirt is one of the ship's divers, standing by in case someone is stupid enough to go over the side. And that appears to be the XO with the khaki belt, leaning against the starboard side of the WLR-9 fin.

A month after that we were somewhere off to the west of Sardinia, and the skipper decided to combine a steel beach with a little 9mm familiarization. Here TM1 supervises whilst the skipper fires a few shots.

The Nav, the Weps and a couple of JOs - plus an SCPO rider - waited for their turns with the pistol.

We had the usual collection of loiterers catching some rays, of course, including the diver (with his little booties). And the XO seems to have claimed the WLR-9 again....

YN1 takes his turn with the 9mm. Earlier, we'd had a target - a face drawn on an inflated rubber glove, attached to the top of a five-gallon milk box - but by this time it had sunk, so he's just aiming at the water. I love pictures like this that catch the ejected brass flying through the air.

This was actually rather an unusual deployment, with this many steel beaches - I think the only other time I had that many opportunities to catch the sun was during the '98 deployment, in the Persian Gulf. Those pictures are packed away someplace, though, along with the Suez Canal pics and photos of the few swim calls I was present for. Maybe someday I'll dig them all out and scan them in so I can post them....


Buck said...

Love the photos! Thanks for reminiscing...

Mega Munch said...

Awesome post. Nice to see pics of ol' 719 and think back to my days as a line handler on those very same decks or a lookout in that bridge. Damn, I miss it.

Mega Munch said...

By the way, I'd love to see those pics from '98...that's when I was there with you!