06 November 2007

Subs, (Not Sandwiches!)

I'm gonna tell ya about an extraordinary Saturday, but I forgot to relate something important about the trip to Honolulu-
Our flight from Mesa, AZ to Honolulu was on an ATA 757. The flight was full... approximately 200 people aboard. There were four bathrooms on the plane... three amidships and one up front. The flight took 5.5 hours. About 4 hours into the flight the bathrooms began to smell pretty bad... I think the holding tanks may have been nearly full. The otherwise satisfactory experience was made uncomfortable by the fact that from our seats four rows away the smell was strong enough to make Sara Jean gag.

But back to Saturday-
In an earlier post I mentioned our Hawaii classmate's husband Ken works for the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He wanted to give us a special tour of the Harbor facilities. Big Bubba, Sara Jean and I rode along with Ken and his wife as Ken pointed out different points of interest at both Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base. Many of the sights were familiar from movies we've seen, like "In Harms Way", and "Tora, Tora, Tora!"

Then we stopped at the Submarine base.
Security there is obviously VERY high.

I had never been close to a sub, and even though we were 75 feet away behind a fence, was happy to be able to get a good look at three of them... two at the pier near us, and one across the channel in maintenance.

I asked Ken if he thought there was any way we could get inside the fence for a closer look. He said he thought maybe I could do it with my retired ID card, but was much less sure about Big Bubba and Sara Jean. I asked the security guard if I could pass through the gate and he surprised me by saying yes, then asking, "Are you sponsoring the rest of these folks?"
The whole group followed me inside the fence.

The two subs closest to us were Los Angeles class... the "Bremerton" and the "La Jolla".
This is the Bremerton:

"La Jolla" is similar in appearance, but has "bow-planes"... the elevator-like control surfaces on the Bremerton's sail are on the bow of the La Jolla, and its sail is unencumbered.
We chatted for a while with the armed (12 gauge shotgun and sidearm) guard at the Bremerton, then moved on to the La Jolla and did the same. Walking back to the Bremerton, Ken noticed some sailors leaving the boat in their dress whites and said, "Ya know... sometimes when the crew is ashore they give tours on the surface ships"...
The idea of it stunned me. Was it possible to take a tour of an active nuclear submarine? I walked up and asked the guard.
I was amazed when he turned and picked up the phone. A few moments later the "Officer of the Day" appeared and escorted all of us down the hatch!
For the next hour+ the five of us were given a wonderful tour of one of the most deadly weapons systems known to man. We were not allowed near the reactor, but toured three levels aboard the Bremerton, asking what were probably stupid questions.
I would NEVER have thought touring the boat would be possible, and will NEVER forget the experience!


OlePrairiedog said...

How wonderful and lucky, the timing you enjoyed must seem a little sureal. Glad you were able to see a Boomer up close and personal. Yeee Haww

The Old Man said...

Envy is a terrible thing - and that story gave me a very bad case of it. All I can say is "Wish I'd been there".

Andrea Shea King said...

Sounds like a fascinating day!

cary said...

What a wonderful opportunity! With connections like that, no wonder you are exhausted...

elay said...

that must have been a very nice tour..
i enjoyed reading your posts =)

Teller said...

That's pretty much incredible!