Friday, May 05, 2006

how did you keep your sanity underway?

vigilis over at Molten Eagle has posted a "compare and contrast" about the amount of room in a super-max prison and a typical submarine. i responded, and thought a little post expanding the thought was in order.

what do submariners do to keep their sanity while underway? for us on the old seawolf, liberty ports were non-existent. following overhaul, we went to san diego for degaussing, and keyport/dabob bay for torpedo trials and ship silencing testing. that was the infamous "East Pac" run following our refueling. when we went to sea, it was for a long time, with no pitstops, unless something broke. a pitstop in pearl in 74 for a new evaporator basket comes to mind.

so how did we keep our act together. it could be argued that we didn't, but that's for another post.

i can't tell you how many sets of "Flintstones" or Sesame Street sheets covered bunks. many of the married guys "borrowed" their kid's sheets just to have something of home nearby. and in that environment, the expected ribbing simply didn't exist, because we "got it".

some took "listerine" to sea with them. listerine had about the same visual characteristics of Scotch. that was in the days listerine came in glass bottles, and you could tell there was a whole bunkpan full when we were on the surface. rattle rattle clink, rattle rattle clink in time with the rocking and rolling of the boat was usually a dead giveaway.

others played cards or acey-duecy for hours on end.

many qualified every watchstation they could, just to pass the time. i was a nook, with my sonar supervisor card, torpedoman of the watch card, diving officer of the watch card, and junior officer of the deck card all filled out.

many, like me, had our noses buried in a book. i usually took something like 50 books to sea, read them, and then swapped for others. i can remember being pissed that we were out at sea because Stephan R. Donaldson was releasing a new book in the Ill Earth cycle, and i wasn't going to be able to read it for a couple of months. sad, but true.

We made bowling pins out of tape and rags, and rolled EB green duct tape rolls in a makeshift bowling alley in the engineroom.

I learned to embroider. go ahead and laugh. it helped pass the time, and the motorcycle i embroidered on a workshirt was "BITCHIN"

we had a saying in the nuke world that we had raised sarcasm to the level of a performing art, and we practiced day in and day out.

i watched more abysmally bad movies than any free man should be exposed to.

i laid down on the deck under the after escape trunk once when we were in Nanaimo Bay for weapons trials. we had to disassemble the entire hydraulics systems on the boat after an A-ganger mistakenly struck down amines for the CO2 scrubbers into the hydraulic oil storage tanks. that necessitated a total teardown and rebuild of every hydraulics system on the boat. including the torpedo tubes. hence... nanaimo bay weapons accuracy range in British Columbia. but i digress.
here we are in beautiful Nanaimo, clear sunny skys above, with a few big poofy clouds to break up the monotony of nothing but blue. i pulled out my camera and took a picture of the sky through the hatch ring.
when we got home, i took the picture down to a poster shop in san francisco, and had a big poster printed.
the next time we got underway, i taped the poster over the hatch opening. it didn't take long before folks from up forward headed aft just to stand under the hatch looking up at a clear blue sky. i can't tell you how many times looking up at that poster helped clear my mind and help me cope with the fact that it had been months since i'd seen the sun, with a lot more time ahead of me down in the tube.

so, bubbleheads. what did you do to keep your sanity?



Blogger WillyShake said...

What a great post! And it deserves and will get further consideration, but for now, you may not be surprised at my short answer--The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Nuff said!

Love this post--thanks!

5/6/06, 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

76 summer run. qualified, mess cooked, slept, drank coke and shoot the breeze with my bro, jeff travis. also watched some movies provided by the contractors associated with us. Participated in the casino night, acey-ducey tornament and defeated Franzen in the first of three chess games. I of course lost the next two.

78 run before overhaul. tried to amass as many hours in the rack i could. stood watch (planes or machinist mate of the watch) for 6, ate, hit the rack (torpedo skids since I pissed off the COB) and slept for about 10 hours before I had to do my 6 again.

i guess today with all the new electronic gadgets they have, time is spent a lot differently after one qualifies.

5/6/06, 7:31 AM  
Blogger bothenook said...

hop, it was a fact that you were a world class rackhound. have those pillow burns on your face healed up yet?

5/6/06, 8:26 AM  
Blogger Lubber's Line said...

Novels by Ken Follett, Tom Clancy and John Irving were my favorites. The Eye of the Needle, Red Storm Rising and The World According to Garp come to mind. -LL

5/6/06, 1:51 PM  
Blogger Vigilis said...

Diary postings were infrequent. Made a chart entitled 'Liberty Ports Almost Visited' (announced ports of call before each departure). It was a compilation of straightline tracks from every debarkation point to the next announced destination with dashed lines for the bogus destinations. The only announced ports we actually hit were stateside, San Juan, St. Croix, Rota, Naples and Piraeus. Other overseas ports, were, shall we say, Cold War misinformation.

The crazy chart made it up to O-8 level (Yeoman's idea, since he was on good terms with an Admiral). One could say the resulting silence was deafening.

Passed the erupting volcano Mt. Stromboli the night before Naples -impressive fireworks for our surface transit.

Passtimes? This was the era of vacuum tubes, $30,000 transistors, and 4-layer diodes, who needed passtimes?

5/7/06, 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember my first long run after I qualifed, or maybe it was the second med run, but I went "exploring". I started back aft, climbing around the shaft area, all levels, and headed forward. I crawled through bilges, tried to get every where and anywhere that I wouldn't get killed, burned or cause a problem.
I ended up crawling quietly into the sonar dome (my bunk was where the access hatch was)and kicking back. It was really clean, I remember.


5/7/06, 7:36 PM  
Blogger Distant Timbers Echo said...

Being a cook, I only had one qual card, so I filled it out, got my fish and from that point on, I brought down my laptop and wrote. Just wrote and wrote and wrote. I probably wrote ten novel-like stories down there, some I still have to this day. All of them badly need a going-through/revamp later on, but I couldn't stand the movie nights on the mess deck, and even when I was there, my LPO usually saw me and had me do some off-watch chore, so I hadly ever showed my face there after hours.

My favorite places to write were all the way forward in the void spaces past the sonar room, or all the way aft in shaft alley, where the smokers hung out.

5/8/06, 10:30 AM  
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Heh, I kinda did the sheet thing. T-shirt material sheets, just like the sheets my kids had, except mine were design-free.

More music than I care to admit to. Books and books of CDs.

Every Asimov book I could get my hands on, and then worked my way through the other masters of SciFi.

However, the younger guys, if they had the extra cash, would bring DVD capable laptops so they could play games and watch flicks in their racks. If they were a little more strapped for cash, the PS2 (which could also play DVDs) were the next best option. So many guys had one of these setups in their racks that our lighting breakers kept tripping. At least it meant that only old farts were in Crew's Mess for movies, so there was usually not much debate about what to watch.

5/9/06, 8:09 PM  

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