Wednesday, August 4, 2010

(Excerpts from Ship's Librarian, Rich Delbango)

Tuesday, August 3
We left St. John's last night in a hazy mist that turned into a dense fog by morning. The fog lingered most of the day. It started burning off above us, but a low fog clung to the ocean. It was weird. When you looked up there was sun and blue sky, but when you looked out, there was nothing but a gray mist. The air temperature in these Canadian waters has been rather cool, 65 -70°, a refreshing change from the hot Mediterranean. The ocean is fairly calm as we start to enter back into American waters off the coast of Maine. We're doing about 10 knots so we will get to NY in time. We'll be tracking by Cape Cod sometime later this week.

Today is the last day the library is open. I have to pack materials and supplies that are returning to shore and that is quite a bit. Even though most items remain on the ship, I still had over 40 boxes of stuff to go back last year. This year should be the same.

Monday, August 2
We sailed on in fog all day and finally reached St. John's about 17:00, right around dinner time. We maneuvered near the mouth of the harbor which was barely visible through the fog. Two peaks guard the narrow entrance to the harbor. While we waited for them to get the fast boat readied to take the cadet ashore, a whale swam around the ship to entertain us. The cadets were more excited by the fact they had cell phone service from shore than by the whale.

Finally, the patient made his appearance hobbling along with the aid of the two corpsmen. They got him into the boat and he, one of the corpsmen,two of the mates and two cadets were lowered into the water and headed to St. John's. We are still awaiting their return, and then we'll head south, past Nova Scotia and New England, to home.

Sunday, August 1
This morning we got the news that a cadet had broken his ankle... The doctor deemed it serious enough that it required getting him to a hospital ASAP. The injury was not so serious as to require an airlift, but serious enough to get him off the ship. There were two choices; turn around and go back to the Azores or proceed northwest of our track to the nearest port with medical facilities, St.John's, Newfoundland. The Captain decided that St John's would be our best bet for keeping on our timetable to get back home on the 7th. We made the turn and increased the ship's speed. We should arrive at St.John's late afternoon on Monday and anchor in the harbor. The two Navy medical corpsman on board will take the cadet ashore by launch and accompany him to the hospital. It is assumed that he will be staying there for treatment and then be flown home. We will then proceed home, hopefully arriving on-time. I'll keep you posted.
So, I'll get to see another part of this earth that I've never seen,Newfoundland. Newfoundland is Canada's eastern most province and its newest, having only joined Canada in 1949. It consists of the large island of Newfoundland and the mainland portion called Labrador. It is a huge, sparsely populated region with a rich maritime history. St. John's is the capital and most populous city. Strangely, off the coast of Newfoundland, are two tiny islands that are the last remains of France's North American colonial empire; St. Pierre and Miquelon. An odd thing about Newfoundland that will affect us tonight is that it is in its owntime zone that is 3 hours and 30 minutes less than Greenwich Mean Time. That means we set the clocks back 90 minutes tonight instead of the one hour we were supposed to. We'll have to make up the rest of the 30 minutes another night this week.

With all the excitement, our last Sunday at Sea continued as scheduled. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The barbecue that Chartwell's food service put on for us was as good as usual. Everyone enjoyed the food and the rest. Six days to go.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Heading Home

(Excerpts from Ship's Librarian, Rich Delbango)

Saturday, July 31st
This time next Saturday we will all be home. It'll only been 6 weeks for me, but some on board have been away for 3 months. The crossing home so far has been spectacular. Warm weather, light seas, you couldn't ask for better conditions. The clouds broke last night and millions of stars were visible in the sky above the dark ocean. The Milky Way stretched across the sky. Today is equally as beautiful. You can't get too complacent at sea though, it will kill you. The ocean can turn into a roaring nightmare at the drop of a hat.
By the end of this cruise, I will have spent 6 months of my life at sea. That seems like a lot to me, but nothing to some of the "old timers" onboard who have spent years on water. Even Vinnie, the guy who runs the Ship's Store and hardly a professional mariner, has done 30 of these cruises. That's almost 5 years at sea. It's a hard life that these cadets are choosing. Being away from home and loved ones takes its toll. Some will never go to sea again, some will do a few cruises and drop out for shore jobs, but some will do this their whole lives sacrificing a "normal"life to do what they love.

Friday, July 30th
I had two treats this morning. The first, when I headed down to breakfast was the sight of LAND! Capt. Smith had taken us on a track between the two westernmost islands of the Azores, Flores and Corvo. I thought the sight of the cliffs of Brest would be the last land I would see until Montauk Point. It was nice to see the peaks of these volcanoes sticking up through the blue ocean. There is something reassuring about seeing terra firma while at sea, even if you don't land there.

The next treat was, when I opened the library, it was downright COOL. The temperature had dropped 10° from closing last night to a chilly 68°.

Thursday, July 29th
Everyone on the ship has settled back into their routine. The classes are in review mode getting prepared for finals. The last painting will start soon with a fresh new coat of green on the decks. The ship will look mighty spiffy when we arrive back at the fort.

The seas have been calm. No storms ahead in the foreseeable forecast. The weather is warm and cloudy most days, much to the chagrin of those cadets that still have to "shoot some stars" for their celestial navigation assignments. People are still checking out books even though they only have a week to read them. I myself have gone through 6 books including the 1,000 page tome"Dreadnaught" that I have been putting off reading. It's nice not to have the distractions of TV and the internet for a while.

Tuesday, July 27th
The coast of France is behind us and only the open sea is ahead. We left Brest at 10:30 Monday morning. The weather was cool and drizzly.

Now we're back on the Atlantic heading home. As soon as we got to the open ocean we hit a thick fog that lasted most of the day. Thank God the radar's working. The drone of the ship's fog horn cut eerily through the "soup" for hours. By evening it began to clear, but the afternoon's planned lifeboat drill was cancelled. I knew that they'd probably have it in the morning, so I prepared for such. I was right. At 08:30 the alarm rang.

One nice thing was that we crossed into another time zone last night. That means we gained an extra hour's sleep. I'm getting back all of the hours Joe lost sailing over here. We're only 5 hours ahead now and will probably gain and hour every other night.

The cadets are scrambling to finish their work. Teachers are preparing their finals for next week. 11 days to go and counting.