Riding A Storm Out

Hurricanes were pretty common. We drank a lot.


So, there was this one time when we thought that the sub would actually be home for a few weeks that summer.  Life was going along fairly uneventful; each day starting and ending on happy notes because my love was home.  Yea, he was in 3 section duty but that was the way it had always been and it sure beat all hell out of port & starboard duty, which is the stuff that ruins lives and families.  

Three section duty: A lesson in working over time but not getting paid for it.

Work on Monday: 7AM-4PM – Go home.

Work on Tuesday:7AM-4PM – Go home.

Work on Wednesday: 7AM-4PM – Do NOT go home because this is your DUTY DAY!  You are on watch for 6 hours, off watch for 6 hours, for 24 hours. You do not go home.  You stay on the boat the entire 24 hours.

Work on Thursday: 7AM-4PM- Go home after 30 some hours and probably no sleep.  This is almost like a short work day because you didn’t have to commute to work this morning because you had spent the previous night on the boat. 

Work on Friday:7AM-4PM – Go home.

Work on Saturday because it is the third day and you are the Duty Section and?  This is your DUTY DAY! Leave home early enough that you arrive AT WORK no later than 5:30AM so that you can properly relieve the watch by 6:00AM so they can go home and you can begin work for the next 24 hours (in this example until Sunday at 6AM) and then go home.  Six hours on watch, six hours off.  BTW, off watch does not necessarily mean that you are sitting around watching movies and eating gee-dunk (junk food).  A lot of maintenance gets completed on the weekends since it is the weekend and everyone else is at home.  

Work on Monday:7AM-4PM. Go home.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. For freaking ever.  As long as you stay in a three section duty rotation.

Port and starboard duty section is the same as above only worse because you are in a two section duty rotation and every other day you have ‘the duty’ and stay 24 hours on the boat. Weekends included.  Military life is so great for the families. Said no Navy Wife, ever. 

Digression, you are my nemesis. 

The summer weather had been most enjoyable for several weeks.  The stifling heat and humidity that southern states are noted for had not started and the neighbors were most generous with sharing their in-ground pools with us.  Yes, we were shiny happy people.  And then the storm came. It wasn’t this storm but one a lot like it.

Hurricanes were pretty common.  We drank a lot.

Source is Geology.com

I don’t recall the name of this storm but it was given a name and we started tracking its projected path across the Atlantic, all the while hoping that Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel fame was not coming to our town this time.  We had learned that when Jim Cantore came to town the weather was sucking, and usually blowing, with wind speeds greater than 100 mph.  

All Navy Wives know that when a storm is approaching that the call for a ‘sortie’ is coming. We also know that it is invariably up to us to get out there in the screaming mob of frantic shoppers and snap up what we consider to be necessary supplies to ride out the weather and the clean-up afterwards.  A sortie is a boat getting underway. Used in this context it refers to the entire squadron getting underway.  It is very bad for ships and subs to be tied fast to a concrete pier during a hurricane.  Submarines will smash a concrete pier to pieces and in the interim tear away all of the shore power cables and lines as well.  Surface ships experience pretty much the same destruction but on a grander scale. Surface ships fare better in open water as they can ride out the storm and sometimes they can sail away from it completely. The subs go out and dive under the storm.  They actually have it pretty easy. Once they get out far enough to dive.  God help them if they get stuck on the surface in a storm.  No keel equals a rock and roll good time.  Vom-a-rama. 

For some people a looming hurricane required the purchasing of an acre of plywood, 50 lb. of nails, 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, 20 gallons of milk and all the bottled water in a tri-state area.  Why these particular items were purchased storm after storm, year after year, I will never know, because once you have plywood, you have it.  If you use a modicum of patience and care when taking the sheets down they can be dried out and stored in a garage or shed without taking up too much room. Nails can’t always be used again but you should not need 5 nails per inch to secure a sheet of plywood.  

I stockpiled my water so I didn’t have to fight thru the pack of deranged apocalyptic shoppers to secure a gallon or two at the grocery store. 

As for the toilet paper, one only needs to ask themselves ‘how much do we normally use in a week?’ and then go with that amount.  If power is out for any amount of time, say more than 2 days, the National Guard is going evacuate everyone except the looters to safer places.  I doubt that a stash of toilet paper will keep these losers from ripping off your stereo equipment.  

Milk requires refrigeration.  If power is out for more than 24 hours it is going to spoil.  Disposing of rotten milk is a vom inducing job, one that I wasn’t willing to do.  Kiddo & I went with out fresh milk for a few days and survived the ordeal.  We are not princesses. We are survivors.  We are a submariner’s family!  

This particular storm came across the ocean pretty fast so when my husband went to work for what should have been a duty day we considered that the boats would sortie and he would not be home for a few extra days.  We thought maybe five days in all he would be gone.  Just long enough to take the boat up to the deep water dive her until the storm passed, surface and come on back home. Five and a half weeks later… 

Yes, the hurricane came and as always we were very fortunate that our home and neighborhood suffered little damage. Power was restored in less than two days.  We had potable water within 24 hours and all things were looking good, until The Phone Tree Call came through.  

Seems like our hard-working husbands were going to have to take the place of another sub that was scheduled to find and track a Russian sub that was supposedly lurking off the eastern seaboard.  No small feat, but a doable one. Well, it seems that the other sub who was already at sea, and scheduled to complete this task, was so not in to performing their duty that their CO actually radioed squadron that his ship could not perform as ordered and that his crew needed to come home and have some time off.  In other words, he cried like a little bitch and got his way!  

Captain Little Bitch

Captain Little Bitch

Oh, yes, he did.  What a loser and a coward and a bastard, too. The kicker is this…this submarine was already tracking the Russian sub and had grown ‘tired’ of being at sea and they wanted to come home.  So, hubby’s CO was ordered to get on the trail of the quickly disappearing Russian sub and track it.  The details of this impromptu deployment are still a mystery to me.  The full disclosure remains filed as one of those top secret missions that the Silent Service brags about that they can’t talk about it in mixed company. Uhm, whatever. 

In the Navy, even in the élite submarine service, as in life, there are people, teams, and submarines that just can not be relied on.  On the flip side there are always people, teams, and submarines that can be relied on.  These folks are forever being called upon to pick up the slack, carry the heavier load, work the longer shift, take the more dangerous path.  These are the people who work harder and longer than all the rest.  Their only consolation is that they can brag, but they usually do not.  A term often used by the Nuclear Navy is “No good deed goes unpunished”.

Coincidentally, my husband’s boat was just beginning some scheduled down time as they had very recently come home from a 3 ½ month run.  Down time is when you go into work every day to muster (see and be seen for a roll call) and then, unless you are the duty section you can go home.  It is the next best thing to actually using your precious leave time and going away on a vacation. 

Down time is like a unicorn.  You hear about it, and are told of the wonder and magic of it,  but no one ever really sees it.  

source http://www.mermaidsrock.net/unicorns.html

Rarely if ever seen. Like Down Time.


After the down time they were scheduled for a couple of weeks in the shipyard to have some new equipment installed.  A proper stores load had not been done since they had returned from the 3 1/2 month deployment and none of the crew was emotionally ready for anything more than a quick sortie and back to the pier to resume their down time.  FYI, stores are food; a stores load means a gigantic amount of groceries had been brought on board and stowed away.

So when the Phone Tree call came through with some of the most hated words a submariner’s wife can ever hear “The boat is being detained at sea.  We don’t have a return date and we don’t know if Family Grams will be allowed” there was only one thing to do.  Go shopping for supplies to weather the ‘storm’.  Alcohol, Diet Pepsi, cigarettes, and food for the child.  She much preferred Kudos, Cheerios and frozen yogurt to Captain Morgan and Diet Pepsi.  

FTN, Baby. 

*F the Navy


Riding A Storm Out — 12 Comments

  1. Awesome post, Pattie. Oh, the memories of duty days. Don’t miss those at all! My DIL is living it now. Danny works usually 14+ hour days and still has duty days. Fortunately(?), it’s 6 section duty, so it could be worse.

    • Herchel,

      I think that Duty Days are the things that I miss the least about being in. I must have repressed the Patrol Months; Before and After Deployments. Those days were nuts for everyone. I am so glad that I have someone in the Fabulous Blogging group that knows exactly how I feel. Hugs!

    • I think that is a picture of Fran from 1996. We were in Miami in 2001 or 2002 and the people were still reeling from Andrew. Hurricanes are nothing to poke fun at. Where we lived we never got a direct hit but we did get a lot of ‘glancing blows’ and ‘near misses’. We were always lucky like that.

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