Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Garden - Week 7

At the end of 7 weeks, the tomato plants in the 5 gallon buckets are significantly larger than the plants in the topsy turvys:

A couple of Big Mama tomatoes:

Two groups of Roma tomatoes, including the very first one I spotted in the garden:

Two Brandy Boy tomatoes:

The only Big Beef tomato I could find:

Will there be any ripe tomatoes by this time next week? Only time will tell.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Collision at Sea

Almost 3 months after the completion of a 15 month overhaul, the aircraft carrier Coral Sea (CV-43) collided with an Ecuadorean oil tanker named Napo about 45 miles Southeast of Guantanamo Bay Cuba.

In June of 1985, 2 months after the crash, Life Magazine printed an incredible two page photograph of the damaged ship as it limped into port:

USS Coral Sea limps into port after colliding with an oil tanker in April, 1985
I remember that night as if it was yesterday.

I was a member of the weapons department's G-1 division. Our job was to unpack, prep, and deliver ordnance to the flight deck. The prep work included the occasional banding of a torpedo, attaching wings and fins to missiles, and assembling bombs and mines. On this particular evening, I was relaxing with about a dozen or so of my fellow shipmates in our division lounge after completing my 12 hour work shift. One thing that really stands out from that evening was that the seas were very calm. The little bit of ship rocking that was occurring went almost unnoticed.

The first sign that something wasn't right was a voice over the 1-MC (ships PA system) with an urgent message requesting the captain's presence on the bridge. I wouldn't have even noticed the request, except that 1-MC announcements were very routine. We heard the same messages at the same times every day like clockwork. By April of 1985, I had lived on the Coral Sea for over 31 months, and not once in that time had I heard a request for the captain to come to the bridge.

Not long after that announcement, I felt what I believed at the time to be a very large wave. I had felt large waves before while riding out a hurricane named Iwa in the South Pacific in 1982. But Iwa was much different, because in a hurricane, all the waves are big, for the most part anyway. This one seemed like a lone wave that came out of nowhere, which seemed very strange. Not too long after, it felt like a second large wave. We would later learn that these two events were the result of two collisions. The first was when the ships collided head on, the second was when the two monster sized ships swung into each other.

Shortly after the second impact, the collision alarm sounded. It was only then that I realized something was very wrong, because it was the first time I had ever heard that alarm without it being announced as a drill. The funny part about the collision alarm is that in our unit, most of us never actually trained to do anything in response to it, we just knew what it sounded like. Since it was obvious that some sort of collision had occurred, we all began donning life jackets.

Since we stored many of our bombs below decks up towards the front of the ship, a few of us headed that direction to make sure the hatches going down to them were secured. This was a precaution just in case we were taking on water. Once secured, we retreated back to our shop where we waited for word on our ship's condition.

After we were cleared to begin normal operations, I went up to the forecastle, also known as the focsle, which is the most forward part of the ship directly beneath the flight deck. It's the place where the huge anchor chains are stowed when the anchors are up. There are port holes in the focsle that allow for viewing straight down, and from there, even though it was dark, we could see that the front of the ship was badly bent.

The next morning I grabbed my camera and ventured up to the flight deck where I started shooting pictures. It wasn't long before one of my fellow shipmates warned me that cameras were being confiscated, because the captain didn't want anyone taking pictures. I don't know if what this person told me was true or not, but I wanted pictures, and I didn't want my camera taken away, so I continued shooting, but did so without drawing attention to myself.

What follows is a sampling of those photos.

This first one was taken from the point where planes were launched from catapult #3. On the ship, we referred to it as the angle deck.

For comparison purposes, here's a photo taken from roughly the same position 2 or 3 years earlier.

This shot was taken from a sponson located on the same level as the hangar bay on the port side.

This one is from a sponson just below the flight deck on the starboard side. It looks eerily like a bite was taken out of the front of the ship.

This photo was taken from the port side catwalk that runs alongside the flight deck directly above the damaged bow. That's part of the anchor in the upper left corner.

This shot was taken on the starboard side of the flight deck, right at the front of the upper structure. See that white box with the lid partially open, that lid would normally be on the top of the box, except that the rail it is attached to is now lying on its side. Good thing nobody was standing there when the two ships swung together.

The following shot was taken from the pier after we pulled into port. The white boxes in the prior photo can be seen almost dead center. Just to the right of those boxes and up a little is what looks like a grey tarp. That tarp is blocking a hole in the side of the ship that leads to a room that was full of electronic equipment at the time of the crash. Apparently, part of the upper structure from the Napo pierced through the wall, and pulled a bunch of equipment out of that room, jettisoning it into the sea. There was a sailor in that room who was lucky to have been standing at the far end.

This last shot is of myself and some of my fellow shipmates celebrating our first collision at sea. That's me fourth from the left in the back row.

I'm going to do my best to put names to those faces, unfortunately I don't remember all of them:

Starting from the left side in the back row: Lloyd Williams, Jeff Smith, Harvard Adams, me, Mike Parker, Jeff Duffy, Richard Ware, Robert Potts.

Starting from the right side in the front row: Russell Johnson, Milton Pinzon, Ervin Johnson, and unfortunately the last three names evade me at the moment.

Man oh man, those were some good times.

To the reader - If you were on the USS Coral Sea that fateful night in 1985, please feel free to leave your story below in the comments.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Garden - Week 6

The tomato plants just keep getting bigger and bigger. The Brandy Boy and the Big Mama growing in the buckets are definitely out growing the Roma and the Big Beef in the Topsy Turvy's: 

A close-up of Cody as he checks things out:

And a close-up of a couple of Big Mama's:

Alex Has a Job

This is a few weeks late, but Alex recently started his first job.

His mom and dad are very proud!

Peter Pan

Recently, we attended the Penguin Project's presentation of Peter Pan, where our good friend John played one of the pirates.

That's John on the right with some of his fellow pirates doing some traditional pirate dancing: 

John and his fellow pirates plot their next move against Peter Pan:

In the QA session after the play, John tells the audience about his love of performing in Penguin Project plays: 

John posing with Michele after the play:

John shows off his mentor:

Those are John's parents, John Sr, and Krissy:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Garden - Week 5

5 weeks have passed since planting my tomatoes. To get this better angled shot that includes all the plants, I trimmed back all the branches that were hanging down from our tree. Now I can lean my back up against it, and I can still see the tomato plants.

From left to right, those are Brandy Boy Hybrid, Roma, Big Beef, and Big Mama Hybrid. The dog, well, that there is my little buddy Cody.

Week 5 for tomatoes planted in two 5 gallon buckets, and two topsy turvys. 
Today, I spotted my very first tomato. It's a Roma. I think this is my garden's way of saying Happy Father's Day!

Very young Roma tomato.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Our Pets

The cats did a little bit of relaxing in the backyard this morning, and I was there with camera in hand to capture the action (or lack thereof):

Dolly on the deck.

Sam in the grass.

My Garden Redux

We're about 4 weeks out now since I planted my tomatoes, and boy are they thriving:

Another angle:

Close-up of some very young tomatoes:

Yum. Yum.