October 18-20, 2014, Aboard USS Wayne E. Meyer-
Our last 2 1/2 days of sail found the Tigers and crew reaching a modicum of comfort with one another’s presence, even as most of the sailors were just looking for landfall, as anyone would be, after seven months. We started the Saturday morning with a lesson in knot-tying. The most hardened tough guys among us were almost as perplexed as I was, when it came to completing anything more complicated than a square knot. It’s been a long time since I was at the edge of becoming a Star Scout. The Boatswains (“Bo’suns) were, thankfully, much more adept at the skill which keeps ships moored, and things tied down. Here, a boatswain demonstrates tossing a guy rope overboard, with requisite gusto.
The deck crew has this view of the Crow’s Nest, which would humble just about anyone.
I also tried, a bit later, to don and use a full firefighting suit. The air mask did not fit properly over my nose and mouth, though, and I quickly had to remove it and get out of the suit, though not before going through a room filled with faux smoke, so as to experience the visual aspect of firefighting.
That embarrassing experience aside, it was a pleasant and productive Saturday. I forewent the Ice Cream Social and Bingo, preferring to hang out on in the chart room with my son.
Sunday found us getting ready for Steel Beach Picnic. This is done on the Flight Deck of a ship, with no blankets, no ants, but plenty of barbecued meats, watermelon, salads- and a Journey’s End cake. You may think there was beer involved, by looking at the zig-zag wake. Not to worry. No alcohol is aboard ship. It’s simply a photo of the ship’s course while on autopilot, with the helmsman simply watching the charts for shoals or other impediments to safety.
By 11 AM, the gathering on Flight Deck was getting into full swing.
You may notice more than one shade of blue. In the course of the cruise, I distinguished five shades, when the light was brightest.
Later Sunday afternoon, the organizer of our Tiger Cruise re-enlisted in the Navy. We were privileged to witness this ceremony.
The closer we got to North America, the grayer the sky seemed to get.
Those who are able to zoom this photo in, for a close look, will spot some bumps on the surface. These bumps are a pod of dolphins, come to welcome us home.
Monday morning found Aram at the helm, and it is a proof of his skill that he was able to talk a bluestreak and not lose track of the course and the various features with which we were sharing it: Yachts, other large ships, buoys, a tugboat (sent to help guide our ship), the crowd on the ship’s bridge, Coronado Bridge and, finally, the dock itself and the crowd waiting on it. Below, the helicopter takes off, headed towards ITS base.
We had our final muster at 8:00, then went above decks.
These became steadily more apparent, and before long, San Diego loomed large. Note the boatswains and engineers on the foredeck, in Dress White.
By 11:30, we were at pierside. Success!
Son and I had no need to stick around for everyone else’s hoopla. So, after thanking as many of the helpful crew as possible, I gathered my gear, Aram took some of his, and we headed to his apartment on the base’s “Dry Side”. This refers to the area well away from San Diego Harbor. Still, there are fine views, from the balcony, of the docks, and of each and every sunset.
I spent a day andtwo nights more here, in one of my favourite cities. Though sticking mainly to the base, and surrounding commercial centers, where “return home” chores could be accomplished by Aram and his housemate, it was a satisfying end to another fulfilling journey. As I’ve said before, I don’t view these sojourns as vacations, but as spiritual quests. The sea is as good a place as any, for confronting oneself and pushing forward with personal growth.