Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cartagena

So, I'm sort of on deployment right now, but not actually. The ship deployed as scheduled to perform Counter Narco-Terrorism Operations, and we were lucky enough to get a Caribbean port visit before transiting the Panama Canal in Cartagena, Colombia. Besides the liberty, an added benefit is imminent danger pay due to the presence of drug cartels and terrorists.

So we got to spend three days at anchor in Bahia de las Animas at the Colombian Naval Base. I only went out one night in the old Walled City, which has been turned into a plaza with lots of shops and restaurant. We ate at Cafe del Mar, which is actually built on top of the wall, overlooking the beach. We were able to sit at our table and watch the sun set. Since it was dark, I couldn't see my food when it came. It was come assortment of seafood, though and really tasty with that Chilean merlot. I bought a kilo of coffee, too, considering how fast I go through it. (I got a sweet new coffee maker in my stateroom with a timer and no pot, so I always have hot, fresh coffee available. It's all bungeed down and completely meets the requirements of my caffeine addiction.)

The second day, as I took over the duty, I got word from Doc that my Chief Electrician's Mate had broken an ankle while dancing. He's quite a character, especially on liberty, and has lots of stories about all the scar tissue he's accumulated over the years. He was out with some of the other chiefs and was bragging about what a good dancer he is, so they dared him to prove it. Except my Chief Engineman, who said he would leave if EMC started dancing. But, he saw EMC start to shake a little and they all cheered him on, told him to get on the dance floor. As soon as he went out there and tried to spin, he slipped on a loose tile and went down.

Naturally, they all laughed.

He hobbled all the way back, thinking he had sprained an ankle or torn a ligament and he refused to go to the hospital until the Captain ordered him to. Turns out he's broken his leg in four places, not his ankle, and he's going to need surgery and pins and two months of physical therapy at least. So we flew him home to Jacksonville.

The last day, I decided to stay on the ship. It's hot and humid and extremely uncomfortable if you're not into that kind of thing, which as a Minnesotan, I am not. We had to run all three air conditioning plants just keep it bearable inside the skin of the ship. I listened to a lot of "Weird Al" Yankovic, played some Civilization III, read some Ayn Rand, and went to bed at about 2300.

Around 0100 I started having this strange dream someone was pounding on my bulkhead and yelling, "Matt, there's a fire." Nobody calls me Matt on the ship, so I had to be dreaming the acrid smell of burning insulation as well. The quarterdeck watch rang the bells and called away a Class Alpha fire in the centerline passageway - That had to be a dream. Alpha fires are paper and wood and other similar combustible materials and there's no way anything like that was on fire in the certerline passageway.

Then I woke up. I was dizzy, I still wasn't comprehending exactly what was going on, except I saw smoke in my stateroom. I threw on my tennis shoes and said, "Air Boss, there's a fire!" Which was funny to him later, since he was the one pounding on the bulkhead earlier. I went out in the Officers' Country passageway and pounded on some of the other doors yelling, "There's a fire, get up!" and then out through wardroom into the cetnerline passageway, where smoke was billowing out of a fan room and filling the whole superstructure. I went out past the quarterdeck and down to the Central Control Station to get a handle on the situation. I was still a groggy from being roused out a dead sleep and there were a lot of conflicting reports about what was going on, so it took the watchstanders and I some time to figure out what was actually happening.

It turns out that the turbocharger on one of my ship's service diesel generators failed, causing extreme heat in the turbo and exhaust. That heat ignited the lagging on the exhaust designed to contain the ordinary exhaust heat and started a Class Alpha fire in the overhead of the diesel enclosure. That fire also burnt a lot of wiring inside the enclosure and caused other damage, not to mention the damage the seawater we use for firefighting caused.

We thought we'd be able to get patched up in Panama, but our Big Navy boss told us to go directly back to Mayport. So we went home two weeks after we left to get repairs done and get back out to sea as soon as we can. We got back Wednesday. It was a rough week. The fire happened on my birthday, too, which added to the fun. I can't wait to get back out there and run down some cocaine smugglers, but right now I'm just concentrating on getting my stuff fixed.

Anyway, no one got hurt and I'm deployed to, er, Mayport for the time being. Might be here long enough to be at Jack's first birthday, which would be cool, but I'd rather be underway doing what I'm supposed to be doing, honestly. It feels so wrong to be home right now, as much as I love it. Is that weird?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Lone Pony bloody well said...

Friday the 13th was your lucky day. (Nobody was hurt in the fire.)

It's hard to believe Jack is a year old!

Good to hear from you.

22 April, 2007 06:30  
Blogger Crazy Politico bloody well said...

Damn, they actually let you off in Cartegena. Last time I was there all could do was buy cigars (Cuban, of course) from the barge rats.

Sounds like it's been an interesting deployment. And, if you do get to be around for the birthday, enjoy it, you'll miss plenty more.

25 April, 2007 17:53  

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