navy life

Love in a Coffee Cup

So, this happened today.

Manning the rails

I’m doing okay, really. I think I am in complete denial about the whole thing, to be honest. We’ll see how I am two weeks from now. In the meantime, I have a little story about yesterday.

If you know my husband at all, you know that he is what I affectionately call a “coffee snob.” I am not kidding. He lived in Italy for 4 1/2 years and learned to make cappuccinos from a barista at the place down the street from his apartment. We buy Illy coffee (among others) and he has two grinders (a manual and an electric) and (I am not exaggerating) five coffee makers. He has temperature gauges, frothing cups and espresso spoons. And one of the things he does for me is that he makes the coffee.

J is the sort that expresses love more through small actions than through words or gifts. You have to know what to watch for sometimes. And every morning that he has time, he makes me coffee (if I want it) or tea (if I don’t). It’s one of his gifts for me, and I love that about him.

Well, he’s gone now for a while (thanks, US Navy!) and I am left with lots of coffee making equipment and no barista in the house. I do know how to use all of these things but when I just want a cup of coffee, a simple cup and not a whole pot, it’s an awful lot of trouble. It’s time consuming. It’s messy. This is why he does it for me.

And so yesterday while we were out enjoying our last free day together, he took me to an appliance store.

And he bought me a one-cup-brewer.

It’s one of those automated deals where all I have to do is fill the reservoir and choose the flavor I want and it automatically makes the drink for me. All I have to do is throw away the used coffee packet at the end.

While it may seem random (and strange for a coffee snob like mine to purchase), by giving me this little gadget, he has given me coffee for the entire time he’s away. No mess, no fuss. It’s a little way to still take care of me even when he can’t be here.

Dress whites on board

I have love in my coffee cup. What’s in yours? ^_^

———————-

If you want more info about the ship getting underway, here are some Navy photos and a video you can have.

navy life

Port Royal Change of Command

Last Thursday I was one of a few to attend the Change of Command ceremony on our ship, where we received a new Captain and said goodbye to the one that has been there for our entire time in Hawaii. Sitting in the front, I had a good view overall and took some photos which are now in my photo journal. Really, though, it’s hard to describe some Navy traditions without seeing them yourself. Pennants were lowered and raised, the Captains saluted the admiral and shook hands, new orders were read to the crew and assembled guests.

I had intended to write a lot more about it, but I think the photos really speak for it better than I could.

I will say that the outgoing Captain was given a piece of the ship’s hull, complete with repaired cracks, in a large frame. I know his family is ready to have him home for a while.

But even with a new commanding officer, much remains the same; Sailors have duty, the ship has to sail, and we keep moving forward, just with the possibility of a new tone and maybe the feeling of a fresh start.

[update]
Here is a link to the Navy’s article on the change of command, if you’re interested. ^_^

navy life

Frocking Photos

Here are a couple of photos from the frocking ceremony. The first is J getting his letter from the captain giving him permission to wear the new uniform; the second is the one they took of us. You can see where I was upset… heh.

As you can see, he was on the front row. I was the only family member that came, too… but I already told you about that.

Joanna problems, navy life

The Frocking Date

Today they held the frocking ceremony on J’s ship.

What is frocking? It sounds kind of… bad, doesn’t it? Like it might even be painful. Well, back in the old days, the sign of a Petty Officer or commissioned officer was that they wore a frock coat. When they got promoted, it sometimes happened at sea before the Navy could approve it, so they’d put on the frock coat and act as the new rank without getting paid yet. The same basic principle applies today.

Getting to the frocking ceremony turned out to be a bit of an adventure. We were told early in the week that it would be at 10:30 on Friday morning. Two days ago, it changed to 2:30 on Friday afternoon. Last night it became 8:30 Friday morning. They also changed the location a couple of times and finally settled on the pier, or so I was told. J confirmed that families were invited to come and let them know I would be there, so at 8:00 this morning, I left for the pier.

Background information: All this week, J has been getting home at 9:30 or later because of a clogged drain on the ship. I won’t go into too much detail (for your sake, dear reader, and you should thank me), but suffice to say I learned that the Navy owns a giant version of a plumbing snake, uses the fire main (i.e. big hose) for lots of things other than fires, and that stupid people tried to flush chicken pieces down the drains. This means J and I have both been exhausted since I wait up for him and we haven’t been having dinner until 10pm or so and then get up at 5am because they’ve insisted he be back by 6am every day. You’ve got all that? I’m tired. I’m frustrated with them keeping him all the time. They change the frocking ceremony repeatedly (and I canceled a possible interview, which I’ll get into later).

I got down to the area where the ship is, in the shipyard section, and started trying to find parking. Because it was at 8:30 in the morning, all of the lots were full. I had to drive about a quarter mile away to park and walk to the pier. I finally got there, already frustrated that I spent almost 30 minutes finding a place to park, and J met me at the gate to escort me back to the ship. It turned out that they moved the whole thing onto the flight deck of the ship. That’s right, the entire crew was packed onto the flight deck.

The other fun thing? I was the only spouse that came. I’m guessing that had something to do with the constantly changing schedule, but it’s just a guess. A hunch, even.

Anyway, J fell into place and I stood to one side, very frustrated by that point. The captain hadn’t arrived yet, but this other man I didn’t know came over and shook my hand. He told me his first name (though it’s escaping me at the moment) and I told him who I was.

“How are you today?” he asked.
“Oh, I could be better,” I said.
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Well, it was a really big pain to get here today. There’s no parking in this part of base and they kept changing the ceremony times.” At this point, I did what any smart, supportive military spouse would do: I started crying. I wanted to fall through the floor at that point, but I was hot and tired and fed up with the whole ship. Oh, and the only spouse there. There was that bit, too.
The guy looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry, that’s my fault. It’s a proud day for your husband, though. What would make it better?”
“Well, it would be nice to have him home for lunch,” I said. “And I’m so sorry, I’m not usually like this.”
“Oh, it’s all right, and I think I can have him home for lunch today. And thanks for the feedback, we need to hear things like that.”

That wasn’t so bad, right? Right?

Right. Well, the guy changed caps just then for the ceremony, which was about to start. The new cap was labeled. It said “XO.”

That’s right. I just bawled in front of the Commander of the ship and told him what a bad job he’d done coordinating the frocking. Like I said, I wanted to hide.

The outcome? Well, J got the rest of the morning off and I took him back after lunch, so that was good. I apologized to the XO for being rude, but he told me I had no reason to apologize. J told me later he probably doesn’t get much honest feedback so it might have done some good in the long run. I sure hope so. The XO was nothing but nice to me, and seems to be a decent guy overall according to what J’s said about him.

So that was my adventure. J is now a First Class Petty Officer.

Joanna problems, the funny stuff

The NoTsunami

This weekend was one of those rare events when the local weather personalities get to play at being TV stars and have most of the country hang on their every word. “What word is that?” you might be asking, if you had not turned on the news at all for the 48 hours that were this weekend.

Tsunami.

Oh, yes. That one. There was another tragic earthquake on Friday night, in Chile where they were apparently better prepared than Haiti for dealing with such things, and it sent a “tsunami rushing toward the Pacific rim!” That would be us.

At 3am, we were awakened by one of J’s shipmates, texting him to make sure we knew about it. By 4am, we’d heard from two more people, so while J returned calls, I called our folks and let everyone know that we were not in the “inundation zone,” which is the flooding area. We tried to go back to sleep. The phones kept ringing. “Why not turn them off?” you might be asking. Well, when you’ve been here a little while you start to realize that sometimes news gets to the mainland in the middle of the night for you and that people will worry. Rather than let the phone go unanswered, we tried to field the calls. By 6 we were wide awake. Mostly. We vaguely heard the warning sirens going off (although I’m told that, even though tested monthly, several of them didn’t sound).

I turned on the news, and I have to say that the local newscasters did an excellent job in explaining the seriousness of the situation. With their their very best We’re-Taking-This-Tsunami-Seriously faces they told us the two indications that something is happening: The Denny’s was closed and the stores were out of Spam! Oh, the drama!

By 7am, we were outside chatting with the neighbors about disasters past. Apparently any time there’s a bad storm or anything like it, we can lose power for days. They told us to expect about 5 days if it happened, and that our water is tied to the electricity, so that the pumps stop if there’s no power. So, at 7:15, we headed to the grocery store to buy ice and peanut butter and a few other non-perishables, as if we were going camping. While at the store, J got recalled to the ship so they could get it towed away from the pier and hopefully not break what they just finished fixing by smashing into things. We went home and ate a quick breakfast and I dropped him off at the pier and came home and watched..

….and nothing happened. It looked like we had fast-moving tides, though usually the tide is almost imperceptible here, and that was about it. J came home around 4:30, we stayed up as late as we could, then crashed and slept.

My favorite part of anything like this is when the weather people realize that nothing is going to happen, but feel the need to say something anyway. Suddenly the “tsunami” became the “event” and it became very important that to show this one strip of coral reef that was exposed and then covered four or five times by said “event.” Exciting stuff.

After spending the day at work on Saturday, the ship gave J the day off on Monday, so we decided to pretend it was Saturday. We spent the afternoon touring the USS Missouri (nicknamed the “Mighty Mo”), on which they signed the Pacific peace treaty that ended World War II. The ship was active through the mid-1990’s and is now moored beside the USS Arizona memorial.

That evening, we went down to Waikiki to see the Magic of Polynesia show. We got there a few hours early to have dinner, and as the magic show is in the same hotel as Jimmy Buffett’s, we wound up eating there on the patio. Mondays in Waikiki are my favorite, since they seem to be the lull in the tourist traffic. Granted, there are always a ton of people there, but you can walk freely on Monday nights. The only thing you have to watch is making eye contact with the people trying to tourist-trap. I’m sure you know what I mean– the people who try to press random pamphlets, “coupon” books, or shell necklaces into your hand to get you to buy whatever they’re selling. Well, we took a walk between dinner and the show, and encountered a new set of them: people with macaws that they’d stick on your head or shoulder or arm and snap a photo with your camera in exchange for a “donation.”

I made eye contact before I realized it, though we assured them we didn’t have any cash. And sure enough, one of the birds bit me. Parrots just don’t seem to like me, what can I say? It didn’t hurt, but it reminded me why I will never be a bird owner. The show was pretty good, though it had some cheesy moments. The guy did make a car vanish on stage, and made a helicopter appear (though not at the same time).

So that was our weekend. Since then, I’ve volunteered at the zoo (and am getting my hours extended, so yay!), we had our taxes done (and are getting a nice amount back, so yay!), and had a relatively painless trip to the vet yesterday for booster shots. Today I’ve got to get brake pads. If it weren’t for the parrots and tsunamis, you might think my life was boring. ~_^

holidays, this and that

Holiday Parties in January..?

Yesterday was the ship’s “holiday party.” I put that in quotes because the holiday is seems to be closest to is… well, maybe New Years, but then again, we’re getting awfully close to Valentine’s Day, and to Chinese New Year, as well as Groundhog Day and Presidents’ Day… but I think since tomorrow is MLK Day, I’m going to go with that. They picked a holiday weekend.

I have to say, this was the most low-key holiday party I’ve yet attended courtesy of a Navy command. Though I am told it varies from place to place, the holiday parties we went to in Virginia were something along the lines of a bad wedding reception, assuming you didn’t know any of the other guests. Imagine, if you will: a ball room in a hotel downtown, decorated with greenery and such. Everyone dresses up because it’s an evening thing, and a couple of times we even got our portraits taken by a professional photographer. I say portraits because we sat down in front of a white drop cloth, and not in front of a Christmas tree, or something that might put it in context. Anyway, the next step was to go into the ball room itself. The room, as with any large wedding reception, is filled with round tables that seat 10 to 12 people, though you might not know anyone else there, so you have to navigate the mostly-full tables to find a mostly-empty table where you won’t be caught in the middle of, say, the divers, who are the Navy’s equivalent of frat boys. No joke. After finding a reasonably deserted table, you head to the buffet, where the food is again wedding reception standard: mashed potatoes, either asparagus or green beans, chicken and some type of beef product, with dinner rolls. Maybe there’d be salad. Maybe. So you eat, and then maybe dance (of course there is a DJ and a dance floor, I told you it was a standard big wedding reception!) and then get dessert. We usually stick around for the raffle, though we have yet to win anything at one of these, and then head home around eleven.

I would like to say that last year, we didn’t even go to the one in Virginia. At $25 a person, or whatever the cost was, it just wasn’t worth it.

This brings me to yesterday. The Port Royal’s holiday party was the complete opposite of anything described above. It was at the beach at Bellows Air Force Base, it was family friendly (including those bouncing castle things, a balloon artist and toy giveaways), and it was free. It’s hard to beat that. There were, however, two things that seem to be constant– bad food, and trying to find a reasonable table. I won’t talk about the food, but I do think it’s interesting that at both the previous command and this one, there is no sense of unity. The people who are in shops together kind of sit together, but it was just… quiet. I know morale is low, but it seemed quiet even considering that. What didn’t help is that we’re still fairly new and don’t know many people on the ship.

We spent a little time down at the beach, though the water was cool so we didn’t get too close, and headed home about mid-afternoon. We took the long route, down toward Diamond Head (the party was on the windward side) and stopped to sea the turtles at the Blow Hole and then at the overlook where you can see whales… and we saw three or four, still a good distance out, but very active. One was huge– you could tell from the size of his spout when he came up for breath. Very cool. I’m excited about them being here. ^_^

About twenty minutes from home, we stopped at a kayak launch park and watched the sun set. It was a nice way to end the day. Photos from yesterday are in the photo blog, if you want to see what we saw. ^_^

this and that

Christmas Eve in the Navy

The stockings were hung by the, well by the TV with care (after all, let’s be honest, shall we?),
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.

It is still Christmas Eve for me, though for almost everyone who reads this it’s already Christmas morning or even solidly into the day. That’s okay, though; I’ll get to enjoy Christmas a little later than you tomorrow. ^_^

This evening has been interesting, since J has duty today and tonight. I went and had dinner on the ship with him (which involves lots of carbs, always, and yet they worry about too many sailors being overweight… hmm), which was nice. Apparently I’m allowed to do that any day that he has duty and they’re not swamped with drills or jobs or anything, which is good to know. I can also take him dinner and still eat on the mess deck with him, too. The “dining room” (this is not its real name, but “mess deck” just sounds odd) reminds me of the cafeteria in elementary school, with the sectioned trays and the buffet-style serving. The food is even similar, though someone in there knows how to make some yummy macaroni and cheese. We sit at diner-style tables in a little room surrounded by TVs, usually with sports shows playing, and which was decorated for Christmas tonight. There weren’t many people there, as it’s a holiday and only the people with duty had to stay, so it wasn’t too crowded. We sat with the four other people in his shop who were there for a while, and then he took me on a little tour of part of the ship I hadn’t seen.

After that, I went home and got him a change of clothes because he had gotten permission to come across the street with me to the base chapel and go to Christmas Eve service with me. It was so nice of them to let him go, though I suspect he may have been the only person to ask. We walked over there and had a Lessons and Carols service with plenty of music and even a hula performance to “Silent Night.” Then we walked back to the ship and said goodnight. I’ll pick him up in the morning.

This is one of the ways the Navy makes life interesting; holidays are sort of scheduled, and you have to make the best of them. I’m spending Christmas Eve mostly by myself, but I’m okay with that. I have the cats and I have music and plenty of good movies to watch, and I’ve got a nice big mug of hot chocolate, so it’s going to be a relaxing night. And I think that might be exactly what I need tonight.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright.

Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, and all the best to you and yours. ^_^

navy life

Touring the Port Royal and finding the beach.

Yesterday I got to take a tour of J’s ship. While I couldn’t take any photos, I did find a couple online that are old news photos and things. The one at the top is from 2005. ^_^ It was larger than I thought it would be, but the spaces are still narrow. I got to see his berthing and the mess desk and the quarterdeck, as well as several other places I can’t recall. Oh, and he took me as high up as he was allowed (see the highest flat point on the box-like part of the front?) and I got a nice view of Pearl Harbor.

Today they pulled out to begin sea trials. This was the point when they ran aground last February. J called as they were passing the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. Next time they go do circles in the ocean I’m sending his camera with him. ^_^

Anyway, November is shaping up to be a busy month. Last week I was shown how to get to various places downtown, including Chinatown, the Palace, Ala Moana beach park, and a few others. Then I got a little tour of the east coast. I discovered a beautiful military-only beach and stopped in a little shop where a famous artist paints local scenes– I got two prints of sea turtles. ^_^ All in all it was a good day.

Friday night we kicked off NaNoWriMo for Hawaii. We had almost 40 people squeeze into a little local place called Zippy’s. We played a few games and answered lots of questions and generally had a good time. Of course, I haven’t been able to start writing yet (I’ll have a lot to do today) but at least the other people in the region are doing well. Ha.

That’s about it. Maybe the next post will be more interesting. ~_^

navy life

News Article on J’s ship

Here’s a quickie update on the Spouse’s ship. The original link is here.

Warship put through its paces

The Port Royal is being tested after repairs for damage done by a reef

By Gregg K. Kakesako
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 25, 2009

After seven months in dry dock and $40 million in repairs, the cruiser USS Port Royal is tied up at a Pearl Harbor pier undergoing testing before being certified for sea duty.


U.S. NAVY
USS Port Royal is being tested for its return to sea duty.


The $1 billion warship ran aground Feb. 5 in 14 to 22 feet of water about a half-mile from Honolulu Airport. Nine tugboats and ships pulled the ship off the reef on the fourth attempt Feb. 9.

Just before dusk on its first day back to sea after a four-month, $18 million overhaul, the ship was transferring crew members to a smaller boat when the grounding occurred.

The cruiser had been dry-docked at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard until yesterday, when it was towed to Pearl Harbor’s Bravo piers for more work, testing and further training of its more than 300 sailors. The Navy said it will be “several weeks” before the ship is returned to “full operational service.”

Dry-dock crews from BAE Systems and the shipyard replaced the warship’s sonar dome, reinstalled rudders and completed structural repairs to the ship’s tanks, superstructure and underwater hull. The sonar dome, located under the bow, was the most heavily damaged part of the vessel. In addition, four sections of shafting were replaced, struts that support the propulsion shafts were realigned and the underwater hull was repainted blue.

Pearl Harbor Shipyard commander Capt. Greg R. Thomas said it was “truly a team effort.”

The Navy spent another $7 million to restore the reef, including dispatching scuba divers to help reattach more than 5,000 broken coral colonies in a 6- to 10-acre area. More than 250 cubic yards of rubble also was removed to prevent further damage to the reef. Southerly summer swells forced the Navy to halt the repair work, but there are plans to continue the operation this fall.

Capt. John Carroll, Port Royal’s skipper, was relieved of command and assigned a desk job. In June he received nonjudicial punishment for dereliction of duty and improper hazarding of a vessel.

Three other officers and one sailor received nonjudicial punishment in the grounding. On Feb. 11, Capt. John T. Lauer III was named to replace Carroll.

During the mishap, the warship dumped 7,000 gallons of waste water. The state Department of Health declined to fine the Navy, saying it did not have jurisdiction over a Navy vessel.

Because of threatened legal action by the state, the Navy has never said what caused the grounding, although there were reports that the ship’s navigational equipment was broken.