Day 3: January 28, 2011
A Day at Sea
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We were on board the USS Boxer, ready for the family cruise, just a bit ahead of 6:00. After a brief stop in the Public Affairs room where Fletch actually works, we headed up to the flight deck. Even though it was obviously still very dark, we were able to verify that we were on the right ship: LHD 4.

We returned to Fletcher's "office" and waited for the first scheduled activity which was the captain's welcome. As the time approached, we headed down to hear it and found that the sun was up and a crowd was gathering.

Little Fletcher tried out some of the displayed equipment both before and after the captain's speech.

Then both Fletchers climbed aboard something in order to... look silly. Grandpa got to look silly, too.

Next Fletcher led us into what I believe he called the "well deck". This is what really makes an amphibious assault ship amphibious. The ship can fill holding tanks with water to lower its rear end. "Sort of like some large busses", Fletcher said. Then the huge "tailgate" is lowered and all manner of vehicles can rumble out. Right now that big "tailgate", shown in the last picture, is busy keeping the ocean out.

We returned to the flight deck to watch the departure. A boat pulled open the gate and two tugs (These are called C-tractors.) pulled alongside to help us out. It took a healthy portion of an hour to get us out of the berth and pointed the right way.

On the way out, we passed the USS Mercy hospital ship, the Coronado Bridge, and the USS Ronald Reagan. Just a bit later we were passing hangars, helicopters, and airplanes. A narrator for one of the commercial sightseeing boats was on board and giving us the scoop on what we were passing.

We eventually reached Point Loma where I was yesterday. There's the cemetery, the Cabrillo Monument, and the old lighthouse. I didn't make it to the "new" (1891) lighthouse yesterday. The lower location is actually better as fog often hid the original lighthouse.

For quite awhile we monitored the lunch line from the Public Affairs office but eventually realized that it wasn't getting any shorter. We moved to the flight deck and joined one of the two lines running much of the length of it. More than 3000 people are being fed here today.

We were entertained while in line by demonstrations of some of the flying and floating things that the Boxer carries. The jet is a Harrier but I don't know the names of any of the others. I believe all pictures in this panel and many others on the page were taken by little Fletcher. I think he's got it figured out.

ADDENDUM: Jan 31, 2011 - Journal reader and ex-sailor Alex reports that the 'copter in the first two pictures is a Boeing CH-47 Chinook and the other is either a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion or a CH-53E Super Stallion. Thanks, Alex.

There was still plenty of line left after the demonstrations had ended but we did eventually make it to the food. The food was good and there was plenty of it. After lunch, the deck really started to look like a commercial cruise ship as people lined the edges with lawn chairs. The fact that some folks carried folding chairs aboard was actually one of my biggest surprises.

Our narrator covered things on the port side both coming and going so we now learned about some different stuff like the submarine base. The dry dock photo was actually taken outbound but it fits better here. This picture shows some men inside the dock for scale. Two subs lay moored as we passed and another was headed out to sea. There's something you don't see every day, Chauncey.

This time, we watched a little closer as we passed under the Coronado Bridge and verified that no one has to duck.

Our berth was open and waiting as we approached. Fletcher finally did some real work and set off "getting quotes" for an article on the cruise. Despite his "Waiting? That's what I do for a living", comment this is his real job.

Since shortly after the attacks of 9-11, all US Navy ships have flown a "Don't Tread on Me" flag while in port but only in port. I watched as the sailors waited then smoothly hoisted the flag on a mast at the ship's bow. Looks good.

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