Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Well hello there fellow ramblers! I hope you all had a pleasant holiday and have plans for a lovely new year! My Christmas was great. A little odd, but great. I believe the last time I wrote, I was looking forward to getting in to Hawaii, still on the ship, and not doing a whole lot. 
We finally made it to Pearl Harbor and docked. I keep joking to my friends that they stuck us in a corner, but they kind of did. We really are on the absolute farthest corner of the base. We're the red-headed stepchild nobody wants to think about. (I was going to say like Harry Potter living under the staircase, but thought it would reveal my dorkish tendencies.) We spent our first few days doing the usual hawaiian touristy things. Mostly we wandered around Waikiki, laying on the beach and making improbable plans. Then on Monday, we got in trouble for not showing up to work when the boss told us we didn't have to work in port... So that was fun. But not to worry, we made it work. If anyone wonders what charts we have on the Mighty USNS Yukon, I've got it. I spent two days inventorying charts on the bridge. It was boring, but not hard. Then we got some time off for Christmas. We actually spent Christmas at a kids arcade called Fun Factory (the kind of place you turn in tickets for cheesy toys that have absolutely no use whatsoever) and seeing the movie Valkyrie, which I loved. Great movie, if you ask me. I thought Tom Cruise did a great job, and I was certainly rooting for his character. I love any World War II movie though, so take my review with a grain of salt. Then the day after Christmas, we went to the USS Arizona memorial, USS Missouri, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. We had a good time, payed our respects to the fallen, and learned a great deal. Then we walked a good three miles to the nearest Chili's. I spent the next few days doing absolutely nothing but reading books, watching movies, and working on projects until the afternoon of the 28th when my parents met Sara and I at Ala Moana Center (great mall if anyone's interested) and took us out to dinner. Yesterday my parents came to the ship and got a tour of the mighty Yukon Jack and met some of the crew. After a quick trip the NEX (also awesome), we were warmly welcomed at Carmen and Jan Shagam's lovely house in Ewa Beach. We had a great dinner and I totally schooled Dad on Guitar Hero World Tour. Mom and I came out of Marley and Me this morning absolutely heart broken. It's a wonderful movie. As I said, heartbreaking for dog-lovers, but truly wonderful. It makes me miss my two dearly departed angels, Chessie and Louis. Our next step was lunch and an epic nap. The plan is that to pop over to the Pacific Aviation Museum. I've already been there, but I didn't get a lot of time so I'm glad we're going again. I'm so grateful my parents could come out here. Not only did they bring me my Christmas presents, but I missed them terribly and it's been both fun and comforting to have them here. I'm going to miss them again when they leave tomorrow, but I suppose they can't stay forever. No plans for me for New Year's Eve, but I'm sure between the eight of us we'll come up with something. Spontaneity is a good thing... right? Right?

And now it's time to say goodbye...


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Retiring to the Nerdery with my calculator...

It’s been insane around here lately. We’ve got an Afloat Training Team onboard and they’re running us ragged with drills and training. They’re nice guys but we’ve had at least four drills a day since leaving San Diego. It’s getting annoying. Other than that though, things are still going really well. The mate I’m on watch with is truly a great guy. (I might have already said that in a previous post, but it bears repeating.) He’s taught me so much. Yesterday he gave me the conn and then randomly comes in from the bridge wing and goes, “Man overboard starboard side, what do you do?” I was so flustered it took it a second to register that he was serious. So I went over what I knew, and then he talked me through it step-by-step. Awesome! I’ve already learned ten times more in the past two weeks than I did the whole four months I was out last year. Like I said… Awesome! Mom and Dad are planning on coming out to Hawaii on the 29th. Yay! I'm hoping they'll come visit the ship. The 2nd mate especially wants to meet Dad and take him to task for not teaching me anything and everything about how the Navy drives carriers. I can’t find it in my heart to tell him that in my family we spend a great deal of time making fun of SWO-tivators. He’s a goober, but that would probably crush him, or possibly cause him to give me more arbitrary “homework.” Sara and I are currently stuck trying to figure out how to plot a Great Circle route to Hawaii from San Diego. Luckily it’s not the one we’re supposed to be using, because we’re completely stumped. We’ve spent hours poring over Bowditch and plugging numbers. The stupid boys got the easy route and they haven’t even started. It’s gonna take them about ten minutes. We are not amused. On the upside, we got TV back today, so we watched the “Crocodile Hunter” at lunch. I forgot how much I love that guy. He truly amuses me. He found a diamondback rattler and decided that was the “pinnacle” of his career. If the pinnacle of my career includes any sort of reptile, I’m throwing myself out a window, I swear. Different topic, we had a cookout tonight on the flight-deck. That was highly enjoyable and ten times better than your average KP Waterfront cookout. (Maybe because we had serving utensils...) I absolutely can’t wait to get to Hawaii, which is supposed to happen Friday. We’ve already got a ton of stuff planned. I hope we get to half of it. And now, it is time for me to go to bed and get my extra hour of sleep. Let's all give a cheer for turning the clocks back! Yay time changes! Hip hip HOORAY!!! No? Just me? Aww...


Friday, December 12, 2008

Since I've been aboard a full week now, I thought it might be time for a quick update. As things stand, I love this ship. The captain is great, always reading us random maritime facts and bits of literature. The Chief Mate, also great, doesn't treat us like his personal toys. And I really really like the mate I'm on watch with. Sam is fantastic. He's great about teaching me things, lets me work on my projects during watch, and actually lets me do things on the bridge. I've been taking positions and logging them into the computer, as well as weather. Today, he let me have the conn for the last hour of watch. He pointed at the Electronic Chart (which uses GPS to plot our position graphically) and gave me two instructions... "Stay inside these lines, and don't hit anything." I managed to comply with both. Yay me! Big day for me. The Second Mate is... intense. His first name is Ken, but I only know that from inference, he didn't actually tell us. He's very demanding, but I've learned a whole lot from him. The other Third Mate, Leif, is really chill. Also cool about teaching us stuff, but we like to ask him about how he likes his job and such. He doesn't sugar coat things and it really helps us figure out where we want to go since he's only a couple years ahead of us. The food is good too. Not gourmet by any means, but there's a good variety and I get my green vegetables and a glass of milk everyday (seriously Mom, I do!). And the cooks are so nice. The one lady is always smiling and she worries about if Sara and I are eating enough. She's sort of motherly. I love her. But now I'm tired. So I think I'm off to bed. This entry seems a little rambling, not terribly coherent, but my brain is kind of off. Sorry y'all!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

There's no sign of intelligent life anywhere...

As I'm certain you were all on the edge of your seats dear readers, I'll start off this entry by assuring you that the UNREPs did indeed go well. Long day Monday. Woke up at 0500 and didn't get done til around 2000. I got about an hour in the middle there to take a much appreciated nap. We did UNREPs all day, and one VERTREP. The UNREPs were very cool, it was somewhat sobering to see these two large ships lumbering along at 15 knots close enough to yell to each other. (Loudly of course) The best parts, though, were not the technical details or anything, it was the fun stuff. More later on those. Tuesday, we came into San Diego and docked at the fuel pier to load cargo. It was an all day affair which we had to be present for in order to get one of our qualifications. I spent most of the day standing around looking busy. Yesterday's big moment came as we were just coming out of San Diego's Harbor. We had just finished up dinner and were looking forward to our evening off when we heard over the 1MC that a coast guard helo had been told to do a few qualifying "touch-and-go"s from our flight deck. We had heard nothing about this, but we set up the flight deck for them. So we had last minute flight ops last night. Then this morning, I woke up to an announcement for a MEDEVAC. More last minute flight ops. Then we had three more UNREPs today and I stood watch with one of the third mates, Sam. He's really nice and lets me actually do things, YAY!

I did promise to share the fun parts of UNREPs, so here goes. First, I should tell you that our captain has a deep booming voice and is fairly old school. Whenever he's on the bridge, he wears a hat not unlike that of the Skipper from "Gilligan's Island." So as the other ship pulls up to ours, he insists we play over the loudspeaker The River Kwai March. You know, the one where they whistle. Then he welcomes them alongside the "Yukon Jack" in his booming voice. Then the UNREP commences. Somebody shoots lines across with a rifle (and that's just fun), and I've noticed that we tend to be better shots than them... hmmm. Then at the end, more often than not, we do an Emergency Breakaway Drill, which is just what it sounds like. We practice procedures for if we should need to get away quicker than usual. And as the newly refueled ship pulls away, the captain has us play "Movin' On Over" by Hank Williams. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that both of these songs are extremely conducive to silly dancing, and as such have lost a small portion of my dignity during a few UNREPs, but I've been having fun.

And now, it's time for dinner. I hear the pork chops are supposed to be good... wish me luck.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yo ho ho and a bottle of... coke...

Ahoy mateys! Welcome to the first installment of "You're killin' me Smalls." the literarily disturbing blog of a world traveler trying to keep Mom from freaking out. For those who are unaware, I'm Alyssa Montague, a 20 year old college student currently serving a few months aboard the USNS Yukon, an MSC oiler in the pacific. (MSC- Military Sealift Command, the US Navy's supply ships)

I reported aboard Friday afternoon around 1700 or so and already love it on board. The crew is great. Ten times happier than my last ship, and there's a ton of people, which can be confusing, but makes for a bigger bubble. Luckily for me, my good friend Jeff has already been aboard for a week and a half or so and knows the ropes pretty well. He's been awesome about helping me and my fellow new arrivals figure out what's going on. Which isn't to say I've figured it out yet, but the process is much easier with Jeff around. I've got my own room (tres nice, and tres messy), internet access (hence the blog), and I'm sharing a bathroom with one other girl, Sara, who's sweeter than homemade pecan pie. We just recently left San Diego for some UNREPs (Underway Replenishment, re-fueling Navy ships that are underway already) until we head for Honolulu next week.

And now I'm going to go to bed, since I have to get up tomorrow morning around 0500 for an UNREP, during which I'll have no idea what's going on. Wish me luck.

Love to my loves,