Rainy days and Mondays…

Photo courtesy of StrategyWorld.com, Inc

Photo courtesy of StrategyWorld.com, Inc

Due to the popularity of my post about a submarine excursion to the North Pole, I thought I would write about another submarine adventure.  It was a few years later and it was at the opposite side of the earth – weather-wise – near the equator.

Typically, a submarine will deploy to the Western Pacific Ocean for six months at a time, conducting various operations and exercises along the way.

My fast-attack, nuclear-powered submarine was conducting operations with the Thai Navy, within the Gulf of Thailand.  During the day, we operated submerged and maneuver about while the surface ships hunted for us.  At night the exercises ceased and we would conduct normal submarine routine.

One evening, we were required to surface.  We did not “own” the water space below, and thus as a safety requirement, we had to operate on the surface.  Operating a submarine on the surface is a bit more challenging; it was not designed for sustained surface operations, and as a result had certain limitations.

I routinely had the 6 pm to midnight watch (1800-2400) as Officer of the Deck (OOD), responsible for the safety of the submarine and the conduct of all scheduled operations.  Because we were operating on the surface, my post was on the bridge.  The bridge is located at the top of the submarine’s conning tower, which was about 25 feet above the surface of the water.  From here I used radio communications to direct the movement of the boat and watched out for other ships and obstructions – basic safe navigation.

If any of you have ever been to Southeast Asia in the summer, you may recall that it rains every night from about 8 pm to midnight.  This is no ordinary rain.  It is torrential.  The skies open up and unleash a deluge. This continues for hours, and so it happened on that fateful night.

Of course, I remained on the bridge despite the rain.  The sun had set.  It was dark out.  The rain poured.  There wasn’t much wind, so the ship handling was not difficult.  We progressed very slowly, but had nowhere to go.

I could not see anything.  One of my roles was to avoid hitting anything (submariners do not like things that go “bump” in the night).  I could not see the hand at the end of my arm.  It was impossible to see another vessel until they were close enough to shake hands with the crew (too close!).

Maybe I would hear their ship’s whistle blasting out a warning signal?  Possibly, if the noise of the rain beating on my head and the submarine’s steel structure were not deafening!

It was another of those scary and silly submarine excursions.

Here I was in a position to look out for dangers to the submarine, but could not see more than two or three feet in front of me.  Even then, the irony of the situation struck me.  Submarines are designed for optimal efficiency under water, not on top.

Fortunately, we did have a radar system that could detect other steel vessels in our area, but it could not detect a wooden vessel, which were common in these waters, and that danger was real.

The look-out and I muddled through the watch.  As I went below, after the next OOD took his position, the rain ceased, and safe operations continued.  I dried out, had a bite to eat, and hit the rack for a few hours of shut eye.

Again, I can’t claim to have learned a great deal about that situation.  However, I much prefer sailing is clear, sunny weather.  You could say that I am a ‘fair weather sailor’, but I have learned from the storms of life, that I can weather a great deal and that I am stronger than I appear at first glance!

How about you?  What have you learned from challenging, rainy-day experiences of life?

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About John Forrest