The day after my birthday was thick with more of the same beaching activities before one of my Academy classmates joined us for dinner. Because it is Fall and we had pumpkin to use, I made one of my favorite autumn dinners, Creamy Pumpkin Prosciutto Rigatoni. It was lovely to catch up with my friend on decades of life and we vowed to reconnect again soon.
The following mid-morning, Papa and Grammy joined us after having spent much of the wee hours driving. One of the main sights right in downtown San Diego is the USS MIDWAY and we thought that would be a great thing to take in. This was an easy sell for Papa who had repaid his NROTC Scholarship to Penn State as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) and easy-going Grammy agreed.
On our way to the carrier, I saw this:
Only in San Diego…
We met at the imposing MIDWAY and, after a round of hugs, trundled off to see the museum. This incredible ship was commissioned just eight days after WWII’s conclusion and remained the largest warship afloat until 1955. We were going to walk around, touch, and experience Naval History – how cool is that?!
Try as I might, I couldn’t get the kids to get as excited about seeing the carrier as I was. Maybe it was the extreme heat that threatened to melt our shoes to the flight deck and the docked vessel we were aboard relied on movement for ventilation. Or possibly it was the omnipresent smell of naval aviation (somehow all aircraft of a certain vintage reach the same malodorous bouquet…). Or perhaps it was the scent I closely and unfavorably associate with my only eleven days of being haze grey and underway while on a midshipman cruise (and revisiting that particular aroma aboard a pier-side museum is close enough for me, thank you). Or, really, any combination thereof might have served to put a damper on their enthusiasm, as noted once we moved passed the flight simulators on the hangar deck when they seemed less than gung ho about the day’s enterprise.
Papa, however, was thrilled, as was I. Steps into the museum, he found pictures of his former ship, the USS BRINKLEY BASS (DD-887) that was part of a display parked next to one of the aircraft that was used to evacuate thousands of Vietnamese children following the fall of Saigon in Operation Babylift.
While Papa read more about what his ship had been up to since his departure, Flight and Grammy observed the kids popping in and out of stationary cockpit simulators.
I was sucked into learning more about Operation Babylift as a dear friend from my recruiting days was one of those rescued. After Papa’s cruise down memory lane, I saw that his step got a little jauntier as we continued to bathe in the smell of the Surface Navy.
From the hangar deck we climbed to the Flight deck and looked at many retired aircraft.
Papa asked me what the things on the edges of the tail fins were on this fine Navy missile:
I told him he should ask someone who taught the Fundamentals of Navy Weapons Systems at the Naval Academy, because I didn’t know. Now, if you asked me what a Mk-46 torpedo looks like, I’d… I’d tell you… I’d probably still have to Google it, so distant is my time from the mighty P-3C that said prime mental real estate has long since been reallocated, probably twice.
While on the flight deck, I did learn something beyond “Call the Ball,” which I remembered only from watching Top Gun countless times in high school. When a “Shooter” (see below) goes to launch a jet at night, the signal to launch is two arcing taps to the deck with a flashlight.
“Why two, you ask?” I didn’t, but the docent briefing us did and immediately followed up with, “Well, what if the Shooter dropped his or her flashlight? With two taps there’s no ambiguity on a launch.” Yikes, I could see how only one tap as a signal could easily make flight ops go horribly wrong, especially considering my own tendency to suffer from the dropsies. I pondered those implications as I meandered aft. Clearly visible from the receiving end of the flight deck was a fine example of 90,000 tons of diplomacy still in operation.
Pretty cool to see her parked across the harbor from the fantail of her more diminutive foremother as she readied to get underway…
At last we made it to the tower where Firebolt easily assumed the Air Boss chair (no surprise there).
And, equally unsurprising, WoodSprite took no time sliding into the MiniBoss seat. And then they swapped seats…
On the bridge, the girls took turns at the helm and we made our way back down to the hangar deck by way of a couple of ready rooms (where aviators enjoy downtime between missions).
As our kids let us know they were done (see above), my knees simultaneously proclaimed, “Great googlie mooglie are there a lot of ladders (stairs) aboard this boat!”
Preparing to go ashore at last, we found ourselves back on the Aloha Deck.
Kidding, that’s from The Love Boat. It was really the Poop Deck.
HA! Holy cow, the Poop Deck’s not a real name either.
Actually, it is.
Unless it’s not.
Indeed the Poop Deck truly is a Naval Architecture term – it’s French, look it up – one that my inner seven-year old enjoyed sharing with our kids, especially when I was gleefully rewarded with many giggles. But, as that’s nowhere near where could debark, most fortunately that was not where we found ourselves. I marveled not for the first time of the day, “Man, is this boat enormous!” Had I not had arrows pointing me towards the exit and kind docents gesturing the way out, I’d probably still be walking around the MIDWAY.
After a most enjoyable visit to the aircraft carrier, we headed back to the cottage for more beach time.
Aside from others’ entertainment witnessing my standard sinus cavity rinses as I got thrashed about in the surf, the most delightful sight was, despite his lack of sleep, Papa’s excitement at seeing yet another Navy warship pull around Point Loma to favor us with front row seats for their conning operations – or whatever it is they do on those pointy, grey things.
Since the P-3C is far too large to fly off a carrier (thank goodness), Flight and I take great delight in trading gentle barbs with Papa who insists we were never in the real Navy. As I headed back to the ocean for more
thrashing boogieboarding, I vowed that, despite having thoroughly enjoyed visiting the carrier today, I’d use my time in the ocean to rinse the pervasive ship smell out of my hair. Don’t tell him I said so, but I think that Papa’s probably right…