I’m backkkkk… and this is legit. I have been underway for the past 2 months!!!! and it was very unexpected. We barely had any communications with the real world.
This is how it all started… We began our group sail with our strike group, and that was pretty intense for me. It was Anti Submarine warfare exercises round the clock and little to no rest for me and my guys. We were dying. We were playing war games, and that is always exciting, and this time we even had real submarines to track and track us. While underway the wardroom thought it would be great to grow mustaches for the month. O my goodness we had a whole bunch of pedophiles walking around. I mean SCARY people. I was totally appalled.
Just entering the first set of Locks, Panama Canal
So about 16 days into the group sail, we stopped in Mayport just for a few hours and this is when I found out that we were staying in Mayport for the next 2 days andwe weren’t going back out with the ships. We were detaching from them and heading South to Panama on an mission that I’m directly involved in. How cool is that???? I was going to be able to get some real hands on experience.
And just like that, we took on some extra stores, batten down the hatches, I went to the strip club with some guys the night prior, and then the next morning we were sailing South at 25 knots, headed for Cuba and Cancun and ultimately Panama City, Panama South America.
Not many people were excited about this, but deep down, I was excited. This is the kind of stuff I signed up for, although I played it off very carefully, not letting most people in on my excitement factor.
Now for many of you out there who aren’t aware, the panama canal is quite the transit and it takes about 12 hours at sea & anchor to get through it all which again meant no sleep for me. But, I got to be on the bridge the whole time so I couldn’t really complain that much.
Here’s how the canal works. First you drive on up to the first set of locks, there are 5 total, and you parked the ship in the canal like its in a car garage or something. The doors behind you close and the lock starts filling up with water. From the forecastle they take lines that are attached to cars that are on tracks and they help guide you through the whole way so you don’t scrape the sides and bump around in there while you wait. So as the water fills up, you eventually rise high enough for the next set of doors to open. Basically they raise the ship up to transit you through. On the other side of the locks, there’s a lake and you transit that and then do it all over again through another set. It was way cooler than I expected. The ingenuity of the human mind, I’ll tell you.
On both sides of the canal there are tons of ships anchored out that are waiting their turn to transit the canal, sometimes they have to wait for a few days just to get through. I’m sure they weren’t happy we jumped line, but the Navy is always on an agenda.
Once we were safely through we stopped at some piers just on the other side of the second full set of locks and we spent the night, which gave people a time to rest up after the long transit, but more importantly allowed us to refuel and take on stores before continuing on our mission.
My first foreign port, and we weren’t even allowed to go anywhere! I guess I can’t count this one… I still sent out 10 postcards to all my friends and family, just so I could feel like I was a tourist.
After our day of rest, we were underway and still steaming at 25 knots rushing over to the area below Guatemala and El Salvador. When we arrived on station, well that’s when our hell began. We were put into port and starboard watches which means 12 hours of watch a day. It is terrible. It was 7 hours on watch, 7 hours off, 5 hours on watch, 5 hours off. These times became very tough for me. I do not drink coffee or energy drinks (I’ve never had either) and I refuse to drink that stuff so I was walking around like a zombie. All I did was eat, sleep, and stand watch.
At noon everyday we had a meeting scheduled where we would be able to get together and talk about our plan of attack. On the first day I was standing up waiting to get everyone’s attention and I said, “good afternoon war council.” Apparently they liked that one because the next day instead of it saying meeting in the plan of the day it said war council meeting. I laughed when I saw it.
We stayed on port and starboard watches for two weeks before we had to go and refuel. One day when we were driving around and I was directing the ship where to go I decided to make a star pattern on the display with the ship. Needless to say I completed my pattern, took a picture of it since the line shows where the ship goes, and then I emailed it to my dad, because I mostly drove it in this pattern just so I could tell my dad, I was driving it like I stole it. He got a kick out of that one.
While working our way towards Columbia, we embarked a Coast Guard Ledet, two helos, a desron staff, and a Columbian officer. It was quite the to do. I met some very interesting people. We stayed on station for endgame and then we headed back for home. Luckily, we did make it home the Friday before thanksgiving which made people very happy.
I missed a wedding, and my corrective vision while we were gone, but the experience was great. I can’t wait to get to some more foreign ports!!!