The Bow Ramp

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Testing - One, Two, Three...

Just a quick post from my handheld to test new upload settings. If this works, you will see a photo of the Change of Command ceremony at our local Coast Guard station on July 21st.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Personal Anecdote about Fletchers and Mexico

Way, way back in my (greatly) mis-spent youth, I was a young 17 year old Navy Reservist. I had just completed boot camp, and was sent to San Diego for an additional two-weeks of training aboard a Fletcher class Reserve Force ship. The name of that ship has unfortunately been lost in the mental landfill of my memories. I do remember that we got underway for some gunnery exercises, followed by a weekend liberty in Ensenada, Mexico. This was memorable for a number of reasons. It was my first time underway on a ship. It was my first time in a foreign country. It was also the first time it dawned on me that being in the service just might be a tad dangerous. We had fired off several rounds of 5" and I was admiring the fall of shot around the target sled when things got quiet sooner than expected. The gun mount had experienced a mis-fire. Now how you take care of one of those depends on how hot the gun has become from firing the previous rounds. I forget the exact procedure that was followed, but I seem to recall something about evacuating the mount, and one gunner beating on the breech with a hammer to free the round.

The other thing I remember about that ship has to do with the nickname for the Fletchers. They were commonly referred to as "flexible Fletchers." Now many people will say that came from the fact that during WW II, they were assigned to many different roles (hence, were flexible.) However, while standing on the stern of that destroyer looking forward up the main deck, I could easily see the deck bending as the ship cut it's way through the long Pacific Ocean swells. This flexing of the hull is known as "working" and happens to a certain degree on all ships. However, that phenomenon on the "flexible" Fletchers was the most pronounced of any ship I ever set sail on.

As for that weekend in Ensenada? The less said the better, but I do enjoy Mexican cervesa to this day.

More Travelogue From The Armorer

This is somewhat out of order. John sent this one before posting the pictures you see on my previous post (so sue me!)

We're in Lázaro Cardenes. We were met by a Captain and Lieutenant from the Mexican Navy, and we're off to lay eyes on the Rodgers, and have a "Welcome to Lazaro Cardenes" lunch with the Mexican Navy.
And, importantly, I have access... which means tonight... PICS!
Meet our motley crew...
Brewer's Banditos.
Ward Brewer -Captain
Ken Guiles - Number 1
John Donovan - Gunnery Officer
John Nowakowski- Chief Engineer
Sean Quigley- Able Seaman
Jeremy Byers - Able Seaman
Jim Nowak - Chief Photographer's Mate
Rob Harshbarger - Intel Officer
We're a patchwork crew, come to take a look at the Cuithuiloc/John Rodgers for the first time. All *any* of us have seen of her are old photos and the relatively current satellite shots. Not a sailor among us, either. What's up with you swab-jockeys, anyway? We've got a retired Army guy, retired Air Force guy, OIF veteran, a former Marine, a firefighter, two camera guys...
We're hoping she's a Pretty Woman... a down-on-her-luck, long-in-the-tooth chick who will clean up nicely.
We're prepared for a pretty bad initial impression. Rust peeking out from faded, peeling paint. Water in some of her compartments, the depredations of rodents.
But she was very well cared for by the Mexicans for the 30 years she was in service with them, so we're confident that her basic structure is sound. Oh, she's had some cosmetic surgery here and there, trying to keep up with all the young chicks, what with their missiles, slick radar suites and stuff.
She's had her 20's removed, had her stern cleaned up by losing the depth charge racks and the splinter tubs the 20's used to sit in. Her balcony gun mounts on the funnels are gone, and she's had her torpedo tubes tied removed.
But she's got her 5 inch/38s, all five of 'em. And she has something all these new chicks don't.
A war record. Where she went close inshore for shore bombardments and stuck her neck out to defend the big girls from the Kamikazes.
Those new chicks? Of sure, some of them have launched missiles at targets they can't see... but how many of them have just steamed back and forth, pounding away, emptying their magazines against something that shoots back?
*That's* why we want to bring the Rodgers home.
We want to take better care of her in her dotage than the VA does with her flesh and blood crew.
We can't fix, nor fund, the VA.
But we can fund and fix a home for DD-574, the USS John Rodgers.
This is gonna be kewl.

Once again, you are encouraged to visit Castle Argghhh!! and peruse the many fine offerings there.

Ohhh, Pictures !

Here are the first two pictures from the USS John Rodgers expedition.

This one shows her alongside the pier from the starboard quarter. The ship outboard is another decommissioned destroyer of the Gearing class. She appears a little weathered looking on the outside, but this is entirely normal for a ship that has been layed up for a few years. On the inside is another matter.

Here is an interior shot of the fire control system. That large console on the deck is a mechanical, analog computer. It was made by the Ford Motor Co. and I bet it still works -- no blue screen of death for that baby ! As you can see, the insides look to be in much better shape than the exterior.

I am sooo, jealous.

As usual, here is a link back to Castle Argghhh!!! Please drop by there and let John know what a great job he is doing (between tequila shots that is.)

USS John Rodgers (DD-574) - The Journey Home

For those of you who haven't heard of this yet, a group of wonderful people have gotten together to save a really grand ship, the USS John Rodgers (DD-574).

Right now, an inspection team is in Mexico preparing her for a tow back to the United States. Ward Brewer, the fearless leader of this endeaver, would like to have this operation published far and wide via the internet, so he has drafted eminent Milblogger John Donovan of Castle Argghhh!!! to chronicle the trip. John has delegated many other bloggers to help spread the word. So, in order to carry out my tasking (but avoid stealing John's bandwidth) I will be quoting John's posts in their entirety and hosting his pics on my own server. Never-the-less, please be sure to visit Castle Argghhh!!!, because much else of an interesting nature is be found there -- especially if you like weaponry.

Bringing the Rodgers Home, Day 1
No pics with this post, sadly. I'm having some technical issues with the wireless, and don't want to have my little hard drive touch this network, since who knows who else is touching it?
We all made it, though some of the baggage didn't (mine did). We move on tomorrow to Lázaro Cardenas and will get our first look at the Rodgers, after puddle-jumping our way there in the morning.
The Mexican Navy is picking us up and taking us straight to her. Pics tomorrow, one way or another, I promise!
This is a nice airport - though you can see why some locals the world over aren't fond of American commerce... McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Cinnabon, etc, all filled with people.
The most startling thing to this midwesterner is how few Mexicans at the airport look like the Mexicans we see at home. These guys look very European-US, with a sprinkling of the kinds of faces I'm used to seeing at home or I saw when I was stationed in San Antonio and California. Says something about the structure of the immigration problem.
I find I'm doing okay with spanish commerical signage as far as reading it. Get into details and I'm reaching for a Babelfish. But nothing is helping understand spoken Spanish. These deaf english-german trained ears haven't been up to it.
The documentary film crew we brought down are doing some initial interviews (I'll get roped in later).
I gotta go, there's a line for this computer (I already spent a half-hour wading through the day's mail).
I'll check in again tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Here is a link to the original.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Whew, That Was A Long Day

Yesterday’s safety patrol got off to a quick start.  We hadn’t even got underway yet when we were tasked to go out and tow someone in.  Figures – Saturday was a halibut fishing day and the weather was perfect.  When I arrived at the marina at 6:45 am, there were dozens of boats lined up waiting for their turn to launch.  Many more fishermen had gone out Friday night and spent the night at sea so they could get an early start.  Because of that, the local Coast Guardsmen had been working until about 3:00 am and were totally bushed.  This particular tow was interesting in that the owner had broken down over 30 miles out.  That was much farther out than most people will go in a 19’ boat.  Its certainly much farther out than I would go.

Anyway, we get out there about noon, and this is what we see:

The hookup went smoothly, and in only about three minutes we had him under tow.

Here is a shot of Ralph and Le in the cabin on the way back reporting out position to the Yaquina Bay Coast Guard Station.

Took us almost exactly six hours to tow him back in, get him alongside the dock, and secure for the day.  All in all, my work day was about 16 hours.  We were glad to be on hand and allow the “Regulars” to get a little more shut-eye.  Semper Paratus!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Korean Tango

I was in the car listening to some talking heads arguing about whether its better to hold direct talks with Korea or stick to the multi-party talks, and what sort of mixture of sticks and carrots to hold out to the Norks.  Sheesh!  I have one word for those folks – Panmunjeom.

We spent years being jerked around by those people at that place.  The truth about negotiating with the North Koreans is that they don’t actually negotiate.  They understand that our side doesn’t really want to fight.  So they will vacillate, threaten, rattle sabers, hold out the possibility that they will compromise, renege, etc.  One step forward, one step backwards.  For them, the sole reason for negotiations is to gradually wear us down like water dripping on a stone.  In the end, they either obtain something they wanted from us; or, at worst, don’t loose anything that is important to them.

We will never get any real (i.e. they won’t cheat) concessions from them, because they aren’t scared witless of us.  The problem with dealing with a ruthless dictator is that both sides have to be equally ruthless.

No doubt about it.  ‘Lil Kim firmly believes he can keep pushing our buttons until he gets what we wants, because he knows we are afraid to get serious.

My guess is that somewhere in the White House, there are people who recognize all this and realize our hands are tied by the very system we are trying to defend.  They are hoping that North Korea will just disintegrate before we are forced to nuke the poor bastards in self defense.  I wouldn’t want all those innocent Korean people to die; but on the other hand, it would sure give the Iranians some incentive to behave.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Small Town 4th.

This is what I did for the 4th. of July (I'm on the left.)

This morning our Flotilla participated in the annual 4th of July parade in Gleneden Beach, Oregon. Its a pretty small place, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Range -- pure Americana. It was the first time I've marched in a parade since 1967! I was amazed at the good will the Coast Guard has.
Later, it was off to our Vice Commander's house for a BBQ and friendship.