|My two days as a sailor on board the USNS William McLean|
Tuesday, August 30:
My adventure begins! I haven't traveled solo in a long time, and I feel just a little guilty taking off on a five day adventure while Rick is laboring away teaching for the week. But this is a chance in a lifetime and one I am not going to miss!
I head out of Baker City around 9:30am, with the best wishes from Betty Spooner and the gals at Sorbenots, along with a free coffee courtesy of Bulldog Cards! The valley is cloaked in smoke – there must be an increase of fire activity in the eastern half of the state. It makes for a beautiful mirage of layered mountains as you head down the Burnt River Canyon, but otherwise the vistas are pretty well hidden. Five minutes out of town I remember the first thing I forgot to do – leave Rick the hotel information. Correctable. Just past Durkee I remember I forgot to toss in the thumb drive to save all my writings and pictures on from Margaret's mini laptop. OK, so I WILL stop at Walmart. I had been trying to decide anyway between Walmart and Quality Art. Had made up my mind for Quality because it wouldn't be open on Saturday. Only have time for one or the other. Another 15 miles down the road and I remember I was going to bring a water bottle. Definitely a Walmart stop now, forget Quality Art.
I find my necessary purchases at Wally World and proceed on to Boise, arriving at the airport just about exactly at my target time of 12:30. Park on the third level of the parking garage, speed through security (the airport is NOT busy at this time of day!), grab a yogurt parfait at the MacDonald's in the airport (I am starved by now) and sit down to await my flight. So far so good!
Smooth flights south, although landing and takeoff in Las Vegas is still bumpy – I think the air currents there make things exciting. I have a window seat, but quite frankly the views of Nevada and the Mohave Desert in the middle of August are brown, brown, and browner! A little more interesting as we flew over the southern part of California and a few green mountains came into view.
Marg is waiting for me at the gate, we locate a shuttle from the hotel, and by 5:50 we are lodged in our hotel room at the Days Inn – Harborview. Third floor. A brief moment to relax as we try to decide WHERE to go grab a bite to eat. Margaret has coupons and we look those over while testing out her new GPS unit, which basically tells us how far we have to walk to any of the choices. We finally opt for the nearby Denney's and the senior menu! Only a couple blocks away!
I enjoy a Shrimp Skewer meal – just right! Then we walk around down along the harbor boardwalk for about a half hour until it gets dark. There is a wonderful display of public art sculptures along the boardwalk. I took a picture of the shovel tree, but there were at least 9 more, some whimsical, others more profound. Fun to look at.
Marg loans me her phone at 8:50go ahead and call Rick. Otherwise I have to wait until 9, because we are out of minutes this month! Then into bed and lights out!
WEDNESDAY, August 31:
Up at 5am for a full day of …..We don't really know! A driver is scheduled to pick us up at the hotel at 6am. That's all we know! Quick showers, check out of the motel, and grab some coffee and a mandarin orange to find our driver waiting! A professional company has been sent with driver in suit, water bottles for us, and a can of mixed cashew nuts with m&ms! We don’t want to take the whole can and appear gluttonous, so Marg fills her empty coffee cup instead! We are only HALF gluttonous, we county bumpkins!
|...with our names on the back!|
|Fancy new hats...|
|We are on board Uncle Bill's ship!|
We are then taken to the mess hall on the 01 level and said “Make yourself comfortable here”. Karla would join us as soon as she was done checking people on board. The boat is currently 9 people overloaded, so Karla had to arrange for extra berths. Full capacity is 197 and we are carrying 208. The extras are Coast Guard personnel, and various others who must go out on the trials. There are Naval people on board plus all the NASCO employees. Basically the trials are to make sure EVERYTHING works – it is all tested – before the boat is officially turned over to the Navy in September. We are given a full schedule of the tests to take place, some of them extensive, some of them quite short.
|Marg is ready for "Abandon Ship" trial!|
At 8am there is a life boat “abandon ship!” drill and we find our station (well, it took awhile!) and put on the life jackets. They just have to make sure everyone checks in and then we can take them off. The life boats are huge orange things with enclosed roofs – they will hold 99 people each. There are four of them. I asked why the extra and it is because if the ship is submerged on one side, there are enough on the upside to hold everyone.
After the abandon ship drill we wait for nearly 45 minutes, talking with Karla on the top deck, while we wait to start moving. A helicopter is flying circles around us taking pictures. He will continue to do so until we pass Pt. Loma. The ship will be piloted by a professional bay pilot until it leaves the bay at which point the official “captain” will take over. At the bay a little boat comes alongside and the pilot gets off the ship.
|San Diego skyline as we depart the harbor|
Around 10 pm we head up to the bridge level and inside (we couldn't be in there when the pilot was working), and then eventually down to “settle in” our rooms prior to lunch. The first test was conducted then – the checking of the ballast on the ship. Basically they ballast the ship with sea water.
Karla comes in at 10:45 to tell us some whales are visible, but we can't see them! Time out until next time when I'll write more! I've already taken 118 pictures this morning!
Marg and I headed down to the 1st level where the mess is located for lunch. But we couldn't figure out where to get our lunch because where we were earlier only had salad and dessert. So we eventually went back up to our staterooms to wait for Karla! Read the US Today that I picked up this morning at the motel until Karla came by around 11:30.
Lunch is quite the choice – BBQ ribs, beans, fries, Pollo tortas (baked chicken with a pepper in a bun), plus a salad bar, and desserts. There is a cooler in the mess hall with bottled water, sodas, etc. Marg had some ribs and fries, while I tried the chicken without the bun, plus a few beans and a salad.
|4 shots of anchor are out - color coding!|
|More were watching the whales than the anchor!|
After the anchor test, we went on a tour of the engine room – VERY noisy down there. They supplied us with ear plugs, which then made it doubly hard to hear the very young super of the engine room. Evidently many of the NASSCO engineers are trained back east at a certain marine engineering college. Four main engine power the ship's generators, which in turn provide the electricity to run the prop and all the other electrical needs of the boat. The engine section was a maze of turns and small noisy rooms. I'm not sure I'll be able to identify everything when I get my pictures downloaded!
|Transferring the admiral off the ship!|
From the engine room we went to the main flight deck at the back of the boat. We saw more whales and then watched the transfer of the Rear Admiral Wray and three others from the ship to another small boat that would take them back into San Diego. An exciting piece of video there! The boats were shifting considerably in the wind and wave.
|The tether system for cargo holds.|
|Ship exercise room|
Tonight we understand that the full speed ahead test will take place, with the stop and start test in the morning. Right after lunch they will do the full wash-down, which we are going to participate in, but it means we will probably be getting wet! Think I will wear old clothes for that part, because I didn't bring a lot of extra stuff! Back later for more!
We were taken to dinner by Karla around 5:15 – a long line had formed in front of the galley. Dinner was a choice of beef stroganoff on noodles or fried rice with sweet and sour chicken. I opted for the latter while Marg had the former. Best part of dinner was a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and basil with a vinaigrette dressing. Excellent! I shall have to try and make that sometime when they give me lots of basil again.
We sat and talked with Karla at dinner until 7pm when she suddenly realized she had a meeting! So Marg and I headed back up to the rooms (she took the elevator and I raced her up on the stairs. I won because she had to wait a long time for the elevator!) I have avoided desserts all day so I could enjoy the ice cream later! We basically just read in Marg's room the USA today and magazines until the intercom announced the ice cream social in the mess hall. Went down and found the line again – vanilla or chocolate, with strawberries bananas, syrups, all sorts of nuts, m&ms, candies cut up, caramel, cherries, etc. Top it off with whipped cream and sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top! When we walked into the mess hall itself, there was a meeting going on, so we decided to head back up to the rooms. That didn't make us very “social” at this ice cream social, but it sure tasted good in the room!
Back together after showers in Marg's room to type here. Some test is going on right now but we can't figure out what. The ship seems to be stopping and starting, but the full speed stop and start test isn't scheduled until morning. It is blacker than blacker outside now – certainly isn't a lot of auxiliary lighting anywhere! Karla warned us if we got out on the deck at night to be VERY careful and ONLY go out on the little short deck right outside the doors to our rooms.
We have decided to head to bed rather than hit the “mid night” rations – soup and sandwiches – served in the mess hall at 11:30pm. Those are mostly for the crewmen who will be on duty all night. So with that I will bid goodnight from the USNS William McLean. It is now 22:00 hours! I have switched my watch to military time!
Thursday, September 1:
|Early morning on the ship.|
Karla came knocking early to say we needed to pick up our “wash down gear” now, but that the drill wouldn't start until 9am. So we follow her to the end of the ship somewhere and find a gal with a pile of “fisherman gear and boots”. One size fits all and the one size is 3x!! Oh boy! I find a pair of size 9 men's boots and we'll hope!
Breakfast follows with scrambled eggs, bacon, half a bagel (onion!) and fruit. Good thing this trip will only be two days because I couldn't keep eating like this!
After breakfast we wander the ship for abit, finding the bridge area, taking picture of the gym/rec room. We then head back to the room to get dressed for the counter measure wash down and foam test. We have told Karla we want to participate fully in the trials, so this is part of it! I change into old dirty clothes because we are told we will get VERY wet!
|So a 3x for One Size Fits All is just a little big!|
|We pose while waiting for the wash down trial.|
|Just a little damp!|
Time for a shower! And then lunch. I had a huge cheeseburger and some fries – probably the first cheeseburger and bun I have eaten in a year. It tasted OH so GOOD! But I am very full now as I type. We are probably going to be in port by dinner time so Marg and I figured we would eat a full lunch so we didn't have to buy a big dinner later tonight! We are such Scots!
|Cruise ship time in the afternoon!|
|Our awesome vantage point|
as the ship enters the harbor
Fun passing under the Coronado Bridge, only this time it didn't seem like we were quite so close to the bridge. It must have been a higher tide yesterday morning when we left.
|Coronado Bridge Panorama|
|Final shot prior to arrival back at the shipyard.|
|T-AKE 13 and 14 are being built.|
|Uncle Bill greets us as we dock.|
We are ready to hit the sack early tonight – another early morning today. We make a few phone calls to family, finish downloading some pictures and discuss our plans for the day tomorrow.
Friday, September 2:
We arise around 7am to be ready for a day of exploration without much direction! Our plan is to take the trolley first off north of the airport to “Old Town” – the earliest section of San Diego. Many old, reconstructed or restored buildings remain, now museums, shops, restaurants, etc. We grab a quick breakfast at the hotel and then set off to find the trolley stop about 5 blocks away and purchase our day pass. We each have a five dollar bill in our pocket to use in the machine.
The transit system in San Diego is actually pretty good for the main heart portion of the city. There are three different trolley lines plus a full system of buses. Our Day Pass gives us free rides on any of it! An extended pass would include the Coaster Train that goes about 45 miles north to Oceanside. By 9:30 we are in Old Town, only to find that most of the shops and the visitor center don’t open until 10am!! Oh well, still places to check out!
|I had to try out the fake donkey ride!|
|Kitchen at the hacienda.|
The shops ranged from leather works to candy stores, tin craftsmen to candle shops, bookstores and mercantiles to rare coffees and teas. We sampled, read, and in general had a great time taking our time!
|Sunset in ship rigging down by harbor.|
Then it is off on the Orange Trolley line for Seaport Village – more shops, restaurants, etc. down at the harbor. We definitely will have spent plenty of time on our feet today! We spend nearly a half hour combined coming and going waiting for freight trains on the tracks. Seemed to always be on the wrong side when a train went through! Saw the fireworks from the Padres game at Petco Park, and mostly wandered around. We didn’t buy much, but poked a lot! I did pick up a low-fat Mexican cookbook with some yummy recipes.
I still found I wasn’t completely comfortable walking around downtown at night – at least not as two gals. I just haven’t spent a lot of time in recent years in big cities. We didn’t get back to the hotel until a little after 10 pm. I quickly called Rick, and then Marg and I packed up to be ready to leave first thing in the morning.
Saturday, September 3:
Up early around 6:15 to shower, eat, check out, and by 7:35 be walking the 4 blocks down 9th St to Broadway where we were to pick up the bus to the airport. All went smoothly and by 8:20 we were through the security line at the airport with boarding pass in hand. Good thing we got there early, because during the night Marg remembered that we hadn’t transferred all the files from the computer to my thumb drive. It took about a half hour while sitting at Gate 3 for the files to transfer, but with 30 seconds left on the pictures, the thumb drive was full. Eight gigabytes worth FULL! Oh my! I took too many video clips I fear! Oh well. We decided we would figure out what I didn’t get later after I go through the pictures.
|Catalina Island off Southern CA coast.|
|Yosemite Valley from the air|
|Burning Man site in Nevada|
My flight out of Reno is delayed 25 minutes, so I read, eat, wander the concourse, and talk with Rick between my 11:05 arrival and 2:25 departure! Into Boise at 3:20, out of the parking garage at 3:40, and home to Baker City by 6pm!
What a great experience AND time spent with my sister!!! Now to try and keep track of where the William McLean is at sea…..and where in the world my sister is at the moment!