Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fourth of Her Name, Fifteenth of Her Kind

Bright and clear - can you see the submarine?
Saturday, up at the crack of dawn, The Missus Herself, The Nuke, and Your Humble Scribe prepared themselves for a trip over to Connecticut, specifically the Naval Submarine Base New London (Subase for short), for to see the commissioning of the fourth United States Navy warship to bear the proud name Colorado, the fifteenth ship in the mighty Virginia-class. (To which Yours Truly had made a wee sma' contribution, both in software and in system testing, way back in the days when I hadn't quite gotten used to being a civilian after so many years of wearing the blue.)

'Twas a bright, sunny day, nary a cloud in the sky, but with a brisk wind which promised to make the proceedings out on Pier 6N a might chilly. The ride went without a hitch, with moi at the helm, and we arrived in the vicinity of the Subase with minutes to spare.

Not for the commissioning itself mind you, but with time to park in the designated area, to ride the school bus from the parking lot to the pier, to discover where we would be seated amongst the gathered multitude, and to perhaps purchase a few trinkets to commemorate the occasion.

We had received instructions in the mail as to which gate to proceed to, not the main gate but a bit further on, which would be marked with "flashing lights" to designate that we had indeed arrived at the fabled, yet completely unmarked, Gate 5.

We should have brought a pinball wizard with us, for we didn't "see no lights a-flashin'" and though playing by sense of smell was not mentioned in the "if traveling south from Providence" directions, I'm sure the kid who played a mean pinball might have discerned where to go.

After a pass "over" what we soon discovered was the "target," marked by a traffic light and a long line of cars trying to gain entry, we figured, that must be it!


A one-eighty was executed and we returned to the mysterious and completely unmarked Gate 5. There we gained entry and noted that the Navy was well-prepared for the arrival of the multitude. There were junior sailors, all kitted out in their crackerjacks, shivering and pointing at each bend of the road towards the destination of a parking lot way in the backwoods.

The Navy had everyone backing into their allotted space, no doubt to make egress simpler, but which made parking a slow process. Eventually, after a few trials and tribulations, we made it to the pier.

Where we all began to freeze to death.

Note the many hoods and hunched shoulders, an indication of cold, damn cold.
Mind you, it wasn't the ambient temperature, which wasn't all that mild, it was the wind off the water, which, it being a submarine base, there were ample quantities of. Continue down that waterway (the Thames River by the way, the one in Connecticut, not the one in England) glittering in the background and you'll find yourself in Block Island Sound, a piece of the always cold and especially cold in March, North Atlantic.

We surveyed our seats which were a ways from the speakers, and decided that, as we had an hour before the festivities commenced, we were not going to sit on the pier for that long. So we set course back to the trinkets, er, souvenirs booth as I had seen a chap wearing a watch cap (see next photo) and as I could no longer feel my ears I was hoping the good plank owners of SSN 788 might still have a few in stock.

Which, as you can see, they did. (Pay no attention to the GQ reject in that photo, I did tell the ee-jit to smile, but does anyone listen to me?)

I also dropped some hard earned coin on various and sundry other items of swag which appealed to me. Particularly the hooded sweatshirt (which some loon eating lunch models further down the page, no skipping ahead, patience) which looked to be just the ticket for keeping me warm and cozy, while all about shivered and hissed with frustration at my coziness.

A T-shirt was had, as were challenge coins galore, two of which I purchased, at The Nuke's request, for her to give to a pair of submariners of Her Majesty's Royal Navy. I am ever the diplomat, sort of. (Well, I paid for 'em, didn't I?)

T-shirt Front
T-Shirt Back
Ship's Challenge Coin, top left, Ship's Commissioning Coin, top right
Commissioning Booklet, below
Reverse of the Challenge and Commissioning Coins
I would like to note that the Commissioning Coin is a limited edition, only 200 of which were struck, of which I hold #040. A thing of which I am inordinately proud. I had more money as the sailor had these magic beans which I simply had to have...

But The Missus Herself gave me, "The Look," so I put my wallet away, donned my newly purchased hooded sweatshirt and watch cap and grinned proudly. The Nuke took one look and said...

"Dad, you look like a homeless guy."

Declaring that I needed my ball cap to protect my aging eyes from the wine dark seas (okay, the glittering blue river) I stowed the watch cap and just pulled the hoodie up over the ball cap. Warmth was attained. (No longer homeless I looked.)

Hooded and warm, the old guy basks in the warmth of his ladies' company...
Lest ye think me unchivalrous, I did buy The Nuke a sweatshirt as well, which she declined to wear, and The Missus Herself, being from Korea, declared that she was "Fine."

I wasn't sure just how to take that...

Anyhoo, the speechifying commenced and we dug in for the long haul. Though there were a number of speakers on hand, we had been briefed (okay, we eavesdropped on a conversation between a lieutenant commander and a young sailor) on what to expect as regards the speeches.

"Each speaker will talk for about three minutes, most of the speeches will be along the lines of how great the new ships are, how wonderful the Navy is, and what an awesome job the builders did. The whole thing shouldn't take more than an hour."

The lieutenant commander nailed it. (I was rather amazed at the camaraderie demonstrated between these two submariners, one a fairly senior officer, the other a rather young seaman or junior petty officer, I didn't notice his rate. Most impressive.)

You can watch "the whole thing" in the video at the end of the post. Not the highest quality and it's about an hour (and change) long, but it's kinda cool.

Pictures, some of you wanted "lots of pictures." Well, I have some pictures. Wasn't much to see, what with the hordes of spectators. When they announced that there would be tours of the boat after the ceremonies were concluded, and up to 1600 that afternoon (ceremony was pretty much over by a little past noon), I was sorely tempted. I was a bit crestfallen to hear that "all cameras and cell phones will remain topside while on the boat" but I understood, completely. While I know what not to take pictures of, most civilians (and apparently some sailors) do not

At the conclusion of the event we elected not to tour the ship, we were all rather chilled and desirous of seeking a venue to partake of hot food. So we pressed on and skipped the tour.

Happy campers. Not yet frozen.
But I did get a few snapshots worthy of sharing.

"Great seats, hey buddy?" Said my inner Bob Uecker.
All masts extended.
Brought to life!
Red, white, and blue mark the brow.
(How one gets on and off the ship in port.)
The view upriver.
View from our seats towards the stern of the boat.
When we regained our own vehicle we headed off base for to attain sustenance. A local eating establishment had been recommended by one of The Nuke's colleagues, a retired U-Boat captain.

Okay, hold on a minute. While technically true but somewhat misleading, the good captain, whose given name is Paul, is indeed a retired captain of the Naval Service and had indeed commanded an attack boat back in the day. In fact his boat was the very Los Angeles-class sub used in Hunt For Red October. No, it wasn't USS Dallas (SSN 700) but USS Houston (SSN 713), which played USS Dallas in the film. No, I don't know why but next time I see the good captain I'll ask him. (He was not in command when the movie was filmed, he would've been far too young. And, FWIW, we don't call our submarines Unterseeboot, or U-Boats. Why? Because we're not German, that's why.)

So The Nuke laid in a course for Paul's Pasta Shop in New London where...

Wait a minute, the captain's name is Paul, the pasta shop's name is Paul's Pasta Shop...

The Nuke assured me that that was pure coincidence. Captain Paul knew about the place from his days in the submarine fleet stationed in New London. He also recommended the spaghetti pie. Which, I had to try.

What the hell?
Said spaghetti pie which some ancient loon* sat down and ate while I was in the head washing my hands. Damn it, I think the old fart is wearing my hoodie as well!

Seriously though, it was a great time, even if it was colder than I like. I've had worse times on St. Patrick's Day!

Oh yeah, I promised you the video, here 'tis.

One more thing, if you're ever in New London, go to Paul's Pasta Shop, have the spaghetti pie, it's very, very good. And yes, take the cannoli.

If Clemenza is there, keep driving...

* In my defense, I wanted to let Captain Paul know, pictorially, that I thought the spaghetti pie was crazy good. Which it was, but doesn't excuse my goofiness.


  1. What a great way to spend your day.
    My reserve unit was doing a weekend aboard the Emory S. Land (AS-39) in Norfolk and the USS Key West (SSN-722) was commissioned next to us.
    We manning the rail on the Land during the ceremony and we had a bird's eye view of the proceedings.
    She was commissioned on 12SEP87 and for some strange reason I was not able to calculate how many years ago that was.
    Thank you for bringing back some good memories and I did look up some recipes for spaghetti pie.

    1. The key to the pie was crisp, fresh green bell peppers. Well, that and the four types of cheese and two types of Italian sausage. Good stuff!

      (You can also watch them making pasta, right behind the counter.)

  2. Hmm, the ship's coin appears to be a bottle opener. Have you tested it yet? Can't have shoddy workmanship, like openers that don't open.

  3. A chilly day to be putting lips to instruments although it did seem to keep most of the speakers short save for the two Colorado senators (typical pols). Very interesting post, first commissioning I was witness to even with YouTube....Anchors Aweigh!!

    1. Ah, you watched the whole thing? Good man.

      Yeah, one of the pols had that fixed, toothy smile. I think it was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. They must have had heaters up there, no way they wouldn't keel over wearing nothing but a business suit.

      Then again, maybe the politicos were cyborgs, I mean, all of the Navy guys were wearing bridge coats.

  4. Whatta fun day to have for you and yours!

    1. It was excellent. Cold, but excellent nevertheless.

  5. As I'm sure you're aware, when a female of the species utters the word "fine", under any circumstances....life is anything but and about to get worse. Just sayin' and I've got the scars to prove it.

  6. There are two kinds of ships. Subs and targets.

    Well done at the commissioning and cold aside, I envy your attendance with your family...and the spaghetti pie.

  7. The fantail colors bear witness to the briskness of the wind off the waters.

  8. I find that watch cap quite stylish but understand the need to keep women happy.

    1. Not the hill I wanted to die on, that's for sure.

  9. A few things-

    1. Never been in colder weather than that part of the world. You're both crazy and brave.
    2. The Nuke fortunately takes after her mom.
    3. You can take photos on a sub, but you just need the President to pardon you afterwards.

    Thanks for the photos.

    1. 1. No argument here.
      2. Again, no argument here.
      3. Sadly, true.


    2. 3) However, if you store TS documents in a private unsecured server in your home.....

    3. That's my beef, let the sailor go rather than prosecute the real criminal?

      A real "no balls" move if you ask me.

  10. You went to the commissioning ceremony for a U-Boat.

    We don't much like U-boats.

    It's out nature. We are incompatible with them.

    1. Yes Captain, I have gone to the dark side...

    2. For some reason, I feel similarly about SAMs and AAA.

  11. You elected not to tour the ship? Really, all that HY16 and the pile itself is warmth itself. I would have gone without moxie for a month rather than forgoe the tour. I'm sure you were thinking of missus' Sarge comfort.

    1. Indeed I was, poor lass was shivering. (As was I.)

  12. Both post and comments up to usual ' Chant du Depart ' standards. The photos are awesomeness itself ( well, maybe except for the ones of some old coot who kept sneaking into them). I hope you know that I am joking about that last part.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks Paul.

      (Yeah man, that old dude was following me around all day!)

  13. No ship's Zippo? I don't smoke, but have one for every, albeit a limited number, of USN ships I've been on.

    1. Didn't see any of those, more's the pity. I have a few from other ships and one from an E-2 squadron. I like the look of 'em even though I don't smoke anymore.

  14. Nice pics Sarge! Nice hat too! And those rivers are easy to tell apart; yours is ‘The Thames River’, ours is ‘The River Thames’ 😇

    1. Well, it does flow past New London. In New England.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...