Let’s see where do I even begin??? We’ve been in a whirlwind of activity the past few days! I unfortunately lost my voice three days ago but I’m still talking as much as usual so this has not gone well for me. The ship was given the small pox vaccination over past few weeks in preparation of our world travels and the shot leaves a pretty nasty black lump on your arm if you’re familiar. Some of the symptoms can be common cold like things, so my cough and loss of voice is due to that… I think.
A few days ago we were out playing chase with the carrier and it is not my most favorite thing to do. Basically while the carrier conducts flight ops, which is all the time, they have a smaller ship very close and offset behind them in case there is a crash. At night it also sets the planes up for their landing when they are coming in. The idea of cyclic flight ops is actually quite in genius.
They have a group of F-18′s take off, plus some other aircraft, and they start at a very high altitude and circle down in this big race track loop and when you get to the bottom altitude you land. A few months ago I actually stood out on the bridge wing and watched it for a few hours so I finally started to understand how it works. We had not played this game with the carrier in a while so the Captain was on the bridge with about 3 other Lieutenants (LT’s) and there was a lot of yelling to say the least. One of the main reasons is because once the aircraft takes off from the carrier they turn around and steam back to the beginning point very fast so they can turn around and recover their aircraft with the right winds. We must chase after them and its always nerve racking to be out steaming so close to the carrier. Here is a diagram that might explain it a little bit better.
By the end of watch we had it down and the Captain was actually sleeping in his chair. Ha. I talked to J about his room on the carrier since all officers are normally right underneath the flight deck. He said it is SOO LOUD as they get catapulted off and when they are landing. I can only imagine. They were flying in pairs and two flew by our ship and it was a loud roar as they were zooming past. I ran out to the bridge wing and waved, I don’t think they saw me.
A few days after that we had an UNREP (this is where you come alongside of a oiler for fuel and stores) so we also had our first real Vertrep in which a helo brings pallets of food and drops it off on the flight deck. This is how we get stores without pulling into ports.
Well I was a conning officer which means I was driving the ship while within 200ft. of the other oiler. As I said before my voice was pretty much gone and I just had a bad feeling about this one. As soon as I got up their I realized that it was pretty windy and very hard to hear. I was setting myself up for a battle the whole time shouting and trying to be loud enough.
Well, I took the CONN from one of the other junior officers and not two minutes after I did, two very bad things happened. One I waited a little bit too long to speed up when we were falling back and two I ordered a left course change instead of a right course change and no one was paying attention to me so no one caught it, not even myself and I had been up there on the Conn for about 6 times previously.
That .5 degree course change in the wrong direction was not good. As we sped up the ship to regain position, the pocket of water between us and the oiler since we are only 160ft. away pushed us out just from the dynamics of it. And when I gave a left order instead of a right to come back, we got pushed out really far. So far in fact that the fuel lines popped out with a loud pop. I was just watching it happen and everyone started screaming. The captain jumped out of his seat and got really close to me and started giving me orders. I followed all of them promptly but I was really shocked with the events.
My hand was clutching the phone that I was yelling into, and I was gripping it so tightly my hand was actually asleep and cramping and I couldn’t even move it. These are the no shit moments when you make it or break it. My only consolance was that the captain did not fire me and allowed me to finish conning till we broke away although we never were able to regain fuel at that station.
Some of the gages cracked and the pressure was very high so they couldn’t bring the lines back across. At the debreif afterwards I told everyone it was my fault that we had lost the fuel lines and about the screw up I had made. It was very hard since normally I do a pretty good job, but I mean when you screw up you must fess up. I had watch after that and the captain came up to the bridge and asked to speak to me on the bridge wing. I was freaking out because I had a very bad feeling I was going to get yelled at. It was quite the opposite actually.
He told me that he has not lost any confidence in my ability. He said the conning coach screwed up too because he did not have his full undivided attention on me as I was conning. He finally said that he has done a laundry list of things in his naval career that are horrible and I should think about what happened today because it wasn’t good, but I should get over it and move on, because that’s all I can do. So encouraging in fact that I lost no sleep that night. It was a HUGE lesson learned though. I don’t ever want to mess up an UNREP again.
A few other days ago we transited the STROG, which is the straits of Gibraltor. See the pictures attached because they are very informative (Thanks M!). So when you enter the STROG you are able to see Europe on your left and Africa on your right. It is very cool.
This was sort of how we transited across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
If you see Spain and Morocco that very small slit between the pink and the purple of the 2 countries is where the Straits of Gibraltar (STROG) is located. You can see both countries as you sail by.
A gorgeous picture of Morocco.
Proof that I was there!
I have a port coming up shortly and I signed up for 2 tours that sound absolutely amazing. I must go now though, I have watch shortly and have to do my rounds beforehand. See ya!