Search My Blog

June 10, 2005

Australia Memories

My first liberty port ended on Monday, June 13 and we departed Brisbane, Australia with mixed emotions: sad because we were leaving, but happy because one month of our deployment had gone by.

It was a fun stay despite the fact that 2 of my days there were spent on the boat for duty. But even the duty days were all right and gave everyone time to recuperate. We were moored at a grain pier and had to do a berth shift on Friday to make way for a ship that was due to get loaded out. There was some debate as to whether we would stay another few days or just get underway. Everyone was hoping to stay of course, and it all worked out good in the end.

The piers we stayed at were a major international stopping point for tankers and other large ships to off and on-load their wares. These ships were so big and they just dwarfed our little submarine as they drove by. On my first duty day I saw a 900-foot tanker moor in front of us at about midnight, offload some containers, and get underway at 4 a.m. The side lifters used to take the cargo boxes off are controlled by GPS and setup by grids that the crane will use to offload the containers. Only one guy sits up in the control tower but does not control the cranes. It was pretty impressive.

Brisbane is a beautiful city and the people are very hospitable. I stayed at the Marriott the first 2 nights and then checked out not knowing if we were staying or taking off for the weekend. I had duty Thursday so getting underway the next day wasn’t such a bad deal. When we got the word we were staying I actually lucked out and got another room for the last 2 nights I was there which was paid for by the boat. I had duty on Sunday and it was a long day as we headed out of Brisbane. We are sticking around for a while to play with the Aussies and then we head out for good.

The shopping was really good and I got a few souvenirs for the kids. I had already loaded out on souvenirs the first time I came to Australia in 1999. I did get Jacqui some opals though since they are so cheap here. I didn’t have to pay taxes and got a 10% discount on them too! It will be a nice surprise for here and I am anxious to see her reaction since the only piece of jewelry I have ever bought for her was her wedding ring. A friend of mine bought a didgeridoo and I showed him how to play it at the hotel room. Everyone was amazed that I knew how to play that thing. Boomerangs, music sticks, and even kangaroo scrotums made up the majority of purchases for the boat. A few guys got some rugby footballs and it didn’t take long for the command to say no rugby playing.

There were several tours lined up including an overnight stay in the outback complete with horse rides. Some of the guys went to the zoo and saw the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. The locals don’t seem to care very much for him. The nightlife was really fun there were a ton of things to do. The women really take a liking to American men and needless to say there are a few guys on the boat who have permanent pen pals.

The weather was really nice and it only rained for a little while 2 nights while we were there. It reminded me of Florida weather- 70’s during the day and then it colder at night. I was shivering most of the time walking around at night. I did manage to see the last Star Wars movie my last night out and I loved it. George Lucas did a very good job of wrapping up the loose ends from the other movies and tying them all together. There were a few scenes that were definitely not intended for kids and rightfully so gave the movie a PG-13 rating. Australia bumped up the rating and made it for mature audiences.

For the most part the shopping was reasonably priced and at $1.30 exchange rate our dollar went a little further. I bought a travel guitar for $230 AU, which was a lot lower than the one I was going to get in Hawaii. Although I didn’t eat any McDonalds, a breakfast value meal was only $4AU and they had a deli menu. I thought that was neat. I ate out at a few different places and the food was reasonably priced but there were a few times that I thought it was a little pricey. I got a bowl of Singaporean noodles that cost $14AU. The Australian beef is excellent and some of the guys ate at the same steak house 2 nights in a row. It was called Cha Cha’s and was the place to go. A few guys in my division got tattoos but I didn’t hang around for them when we went out. We used the buddy system exclusively to cut down on liberty incidents and it worked. We made it through without any problems.

Well, that’s about it for now. I’ll send another update as things progress and try to get some photos up. I got some really good ones of sunsets and some night shots of Brisbane’s riverfront.

June 7, 2005

First Port- Brisbane, AU!

G'day from Brisbane Australia! It took us a hwile to get here but we finally made it. Just wanted to drop a quick line and let everyone know what I am up to but will have more time to make a more detailed entry later.

The last 30 days

The first long underway at my new command has come and gone but the 6-month deployment looms on the horizon.

It has been an interesting experience being back on sea duty after being gone for 3 years and so much has changed, especially the security requirements after September 11. It doesn't really affect us at sea but inport it is both a blessing and a curse. The major watches on the boat are all armed and ready to go at the pull of a trigger, and after my pathetic passing of the gun shoot last month I hope I am never on watch when the insurgent horde decides to take the pier. The downside to all these loaded weapons is the extra set of rules and procedures that the Navy places on even the simplest of tasks, like turning over the weapon to your relief. Oh well, a bit of inconvenience for the chance to blow someone’s head off in the drop of a dime is worth the trade off.

The underway was plagued with material problems which made life even worse than the normal situation of being locked up in a submarine. Compound these problems with crew morale and attitude and it became a freak sideshow.

Know anyone that stinks like a foot? Try living in close proximity of a handful of guys like that. Guys that work in dirty places and then don't bother changing their clothes for a week or showering. I saw a guy finally get in the shower, rumor has it his division ordered him to do so, and after he got out, still smelling like a stink ass, he put the same stinky clothes back on. The T-Shirt he was wearing had turned black; it was white a week earlier. There are many stories like this from just a 30-day underway- I can't even imagine what it will be like when we are away for 2 months. I was denied a shower a few times because the Officer of the Deck thought it would be a good time to blow shitters at turnover. Nothing pisses me off more to get woken up for watch then get to the head only to find that the showers and sinks are secured for this evolution. One third of the crew will stink longer now because the OOD can't plan something as simple as blowing san tanks.

Like I said before there have been many changes since I was at sea last. We have a huge screen monitor in my space that allows us to see what the periscope operator sees. Besides the wonders of the ocean that I am privy to listening to on a daily basis, I am now able to see what goes on above the water even in the middle of nowhere. We came up to periscope depth (at an undisclosed location between CA and HI) and I saw a couple of sea gulls following the scope. One of them even tried to land on it. We were hundreds of miles from any type of land but these two gulls were in the exact same spot of ocean as we were.

Speaking of animals and CA, before we reached San Diego I was required to read then train my section on the Marine Mammal and Endangered Species message we received prior to reaching our destination. I was so pissed after reading it but in short it was obviously drafted and forced upon the Navy by the CA tree hugging liberals to "protect" whales, dolphins, and turtles from the mean old Navy ships. Because whales and dolphins have beached themselves along CA coasts en masse the only possible explanation was that the active sonar from the Navy caused it. Yeah, whatever assholes. Besides logging all of our active transmissions we were actually supposed to perform turn away maneuvers from the whales to prevent us from hitting them, like we can actually "see" them while we are submerged. Jackasses.

The head (bathroom) in lower level overflowed with shit from the sanitary tank because the level indicator for the tank was off by about 500 gallons. The shit came up from the deck drains and fumigated the whole forward compartment. I was in crew’s mess at the time and the Chief of the Boat came in and wanted to know what the fuck was for chow. The Executive Officer came in shortly after and looked to see what was in the soup pot. That is pretty bad when the smell of shit is confused for the food the cooks are preparing.

That is about all for now, although I have plenty of new material for the blog for about 3 months. Here are a couple of shots from the underway.

The Control Room:

"I got your back."