Monday, August 4, 2014

USS Coronado


A while back someone made a comment about motion sickness and ships. Now, I have piloted many ships of the air, in many different weather conditions and, to be honest, in many different physical conditions. I do not suffer from motion sickness.  

I've flown in the back seat of a T-38 under the hood, in the hot Del Rio Summer.  The Hood AKA (the Bag) was an instrument of torture designed to teach students how to fly under instrument conditions even when it was clear and a million outside. The hood was a sheet of canvas mounted to some bungee cords that the crew chief stretched from the back of the rear canopy to the front.  It was pulled back for takeoff and landing, but shortly after takeoff, the IP would direct the student to put the hood up and once set up, take the aircraft for the instrument part of the mission.  Now, this technique was first used by Jimmy Doolittle as he developed the Army Air Forces capability to operate in all weather.  I think the hoods used at Del Rio were first used by him.  They smelled bad, they had little holes that let light in which would move around the cockpit in an unusual manner adding to disorientation.  In short, they were an unforgettable, if unpleasant training aid.  Many, many, many students had “issues” with motion sickness while flying under the “bag”.  Not I. 

I've flown in the back end of a C-130 returning from a Red Flag exercise. Tired from flying between 10 and 20 simulated combat missions against multiple adversaries, delivering ordinance, pulling g’s, avoiding the ground and other aircraft and celebrating the successful completion of the exercise at the club the night before. Followed all that by flying through a thunderstorm in the packed back end of the 130 on troop seats, with others having “issues” with motion sickness, didn’t faze me.  Not I. 

Leading a JTF Planning Cell aboard USS Blue Ridge in the North Pacific on a "work till the plan is done" schedule. Getting the plan put to bed and opening a weather hatch to get a breath of fresh air and seeing waves breaking above the railing, realizing that was an “oops”.  Not even that much motion, caused me to have “issues with motion sickness.  Not I. 

I have no problem with motion sickness.  Not I. 

So, There I was…* On a 3 day TDY to San Francisco to board USS Coronado and conduct training for the 3rd Fleet Staff as she sailed to San Diego at which time, I would meet my wife and we’d take a few days of well-deserved leave before returning to our hardship tour at Camp Smith HI.   

I have landed at SFO, caught a cab to the ship and successfully performed the coming aboard procedures, to the surprise of the Navy types on deck.  The ship is set to sail the next morning and the training will commence once we get through the Golden Gate.  I've traveled across it a million times, but never seen it from underneath.  Pretty Cool, I gotta say. 

That has now occurred and I am commencing my rousing presentation on how, if directed, the 3rd Fleet Staff would form the nucleus of a Joint Task Force and plan and execute operational level of war plans in the event of contingencies.  I feel the ship commence to bobbing and weaving, and at one point, the water pitcher slides off the table falling to the floor and shattersAs I continue the presentation, I notice  a couple of people at the back of the room get up and leave in a somewhat hurried manner.  I think nothing of it, assuming they are heading off to repel boarders or something suitably naval in import.  The day’s training complete, we head off for the evening meal.  There seems to be less people around than I expected, but maybe that repelling of boarders is more difficult than expected.  Watch a movie, chat with some folks and turn in. 

At some point, there is an announcement on the 1MC.  You know, that thing in the Movies, where the Captain grabs the microphone and says “Now Hear This” followed by something about repelling boarders or something.  In the Movies, it comes across very clear.  In real life, it comes across much like an adult talking in the old Charlie Brown cartoons.  Blah, blah, blah, which translates to “Everybody strap into your bunks tonight, we’re going to see how far we can make the Air Force Wienie fly”.  So I'm settled into my bunk and I’m in that transitory phase where you’re relaxed and about to embrace the arms of Morpheus but still somewhat aware of your surroundings. I can feel the bed rise as we transit up the wave, pause ever so slightly at the top, and then gently fall away from me as we slide down the back of the wave. Followed a second or so later by another cycle. Up, pause, Down, Up, pause, Down.  Very relaxing….Up, pause, pause, pause.  Eyes shoot open, why’s the rack up there?  Blam!!  I hit the deck.  Literally. 

The next morning arrives and I head to the mess, where the night before, dinner was served on porcelain.  This morning, it’s paper plates and paper cups.  I ask if this is a regular occurrence, and am told all the crockery on board had busted during the evening.  Hmmm... 

At the conclusion of the prior evening's training, I had made an appointment to visit the Staff JAG officer prior to the resumption of training.  One of her responsibilities would be the development of the ROE for the JTF.  She’d said she had no specific training along those lines, and asked if I could  get her pointed in the right direction. 

She hadn't been at breakfast, so I stopped by her spaces.  Gave a knock on the hatch and heard a muffled voice, but couldn't make out what was said.  Knocked again and called her name.  She must have gotten closer because all I could hear was "...wedged against the hatch".

I tried the hatch, but couldn't budge it. 

Went looking for someone who might know what to do.  I was told later that rescuing her involved several large sailors cutting a hole in the bulkhead above her hatch, and getting pry bars into the four drawer classified document safe, full, 1 Each and prying it away from the hatch so it could be opened. 

So, The prior evening became a topic of discussion as I wondered exactly what had happened.  Evidently, the seas were very heavy (got that one on my own) and because of her flat bottomed design, USS Coronado AGF-11, didn’t ride in heavy seas well.  Asked more about that, seems USS Coronado started life as an LPD (amphibious transport dock), so needed less draft in order to be able to get closer to shore.  Less draft meant less keel.  Therefore, she was less stable in heavy seas than other ships of her approximate size. 
USS Coronado
Picture is Public Domain

However, I have ridden this bucking broncho of a ship, for two days, in seas that have pitched it such that all dishes on board have broken, thrown me out of bed and dumped me unceremoniously on the deck, and trapped a Naval Officer in her quarters.  Have I had any “issues” with motion sickness?  Not I. 

We pull in to the San Diego, it’s a beautiful, balmy day with a light offshore breeze blowing.  I’m on deck looking down at the, maybe, 6 inch ripples in the bay and am suddenly stricken with the certainty that I’m going to have a violent “issue” with motion sickness. 

20 comments:

  1. Old sailor's trick: munch on saltines when it's rough at sea - keeps your stomach contents from sloshing, which then prevents sickness. I never had a problem in 18 months on board an old destroyer, nor in any of the cruises we've ridden here in Alaska.

    And don't look down too long.

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    1. Going through Pilot Training, I told the other guys about "Richtofen's Law" which stated, "A bean burrito consumed before 6 AM means you can never be defeated in Aerial Combat". In actuality, that meant always have some food in your stomach before you fly, else...

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    2. I didn't like him so I simply failed to point out to the XO that the Saltines he was desperately munching were laced with millions of little bugs that were, in fact, visible to the naked eye. Saltines are dangerous. I think the first 60 years of production didn't include date labeling and thereby lies a tale.

      OK, to be honest, after he wolfed down a whole sleeve of them, I did point them out. One really has to position oneself properly when reorienting the clueless.

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  2. Hey, I didn't remember/know you were an old Del Rio hand! )Of course I went thru in the days when you could still bring back a half-gallon duty free. EAT YOU'RE LIVER! :) ) Remember "Ma Crosbys" and the small bull training ring out back? And the 38 Hoods? AMEN, brother, AMEN...

    The closest I ever came? When we had the Incirlik rotation. We'd send down two flights from the UK with their aircraft for two week stint, then fly down replacement aircrews in a C-130 and original crews would return same, then the replacements would fly the birds back at end of 2nd two wks. It was my 1st trip going down as replacement aircrew and we had to RON at Athens as the C-130 couldn't one-hop it. (Remember, France wouldn't allow overflights, so had go the long way around Spain from UK) Spent until 0400 drinking Ouzo all night. (MINOR DETAIL: We had a 06OO departure T.O time) Trouble was, we had a side trip to drop off some electronic parts to Iraklion on Crete, so never got to altitude much above above traffic-pattern alt (ok, I exaggerate, but not by much!) so were in extremely rough air all the way. I was bent over w. my flt-suit unzipped to my naval gasping. I jumped out AS SOON as the ac stopped on transit pad. ONE SECOND MORE and it would have all come up. I've NEVER felt so sick in my life w.o. being hospitalized, lol!!

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    1. Yep, spent some time and brain cells at Ma Crosby's. Don't know if you've been back to Del Rio lately. Very big city nowadays and what with the border situation now, not sure the guys are allowed across the border. Ah well.

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    2. Juvat/

      I viewed a Houston (?) Real Estate section some 15-20 yrs ago and even then there were some very pricy new homes built around the Amistad Reservoir being advertised as "retirement" homes for upper-middle to upper class San Antonio types..

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    3. Yeah, one of my favorite drives is US 90 from Del Rio to Marathon and then down into Big Bend. Did that again a few months ago. There are a lot of big homes on the north side of the lake. Wonder if their proximity to the border has dropped the price lately.

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  3. There's always been some rough water just beyond the Golden Gate.
    The "Potato Patch" is a joy for old hands to take greenhorns through.

    I had a shipmate who found it necessary to carry a bucket for about the first six months aboard ship.
    No amount of food helped his condition, other than to prevent the dry heaves.
    Miraculously, his condition improved upon earning his crow (E-4).
    The rest of us were extremely happy.

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    1. I actually knew that before this trip, what I didn't know was that it seemed to go all the way to San Diego, or it did on this trip anyhow.

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  4. LOL, Crackers and not looking down... Works! And Coronado and Blue Ridge are the same class... They don't ride, they BOUNCE across the waves...

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    1. Really! Did not know that. Spent a bunch more time on Blue Ridge than Coronado and Blue Ridge just seemed bigger. But I will vouch for Coronado, at least, BOUNCING across the waves.

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  5. I haven't had your vast experience, of course, but as a kid I looked forward to turbulence on the many flights my family was allowed because My Dad working for the airlines. I enjoyed the feeling in the pit of my stomach. Meanwhile, adults were reaching for the motion sickness bags. And my few times on a ship never bothered me. Closest I came was a ferry from Nantucket. I was at the rail, staring out at the horizon, and suddenly I started feeling slightly like I might upchuck. I went into the snack bar, sat down with eyes closed, and it passed.

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    1. We lost 3 guys from my Pilot Training Class due to Air Sickness. Richtofen's law worked for me. We had one guy make it all the way to T-38s before succumbing. Great sense of humor, on his last ride in the T-37 as he's returning to the base, he tells the instructor to take the aircraft and starts making like he's reaching for the bag. T-37 is side by side, so the IP turns his head away. Kid pulls out a full sized black garbage bag and pulls it over his head. Tells the IP he feels much better now and takes the stick. IP looks over at him and busts out laughing.

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  6. No, wait, I just realized that's a lie. My Dad (who was on an aircraft carrier during Korea, and had never been seasick there or anywhere else) booked a deep sea fishing expedition for us in Fort Lauderdale when I was about 10. We both got violently ill that day. The seas were extremely rough and the relatively little boat was being tossed up in the air viciously. I don't know how that slipped my mind while writing my previous comment. I even wrote about it a while back... http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/2012/03/fishing-trip_29.html

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    1. Some experiences are best left purged from our memories, I guess.

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  7. Rode a minesweeper with VERY shallow draft up from San Fran to the Portland Rose Festival. I experienced the same as you- as did every single sailor on board. No shame in that when it comes to rough seas.

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  8. Yeah, but what got me was nothing happened until we got into very calm waters.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)