Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ship Out Of Water

USNS Leroy Grumman in drydock, Boston
Sailors are used to seeing their ships afloat, as I suspect are most people.  When a "landlubber" sees a vessel entering harbor or at anchor there is a tendency to think of what the eye can see as the ship, entire.  From the Sailor's perspective things are a bit different, as we normally live and work within the three-dimensional space of the hull and superstructure; we think in terms of internal spaces and fittings, engines and pumps and staterooms.  So we, as members of the crew, ought to be used to the idea of what the complete mass of an ocean-going vessel is like...

Not really.

This is 'Leroy Grumman' in dry-dock. Two months ago I assisted in bringing her in to Boston and placing her hull in the dock; I watched the water being pumped from the huge basin and the hull being revealed, inch by inch.  Now, as we labor to make our ship ready for return to the sea, one might be excused for thinking that I'd have grown used to the idea of 'Grumman' as a three-dimensional object, but it isn't really true.

Whenever I go ashore or come back aboard I simply must pause to look at my ship in this unfamiliar position.  To see the screws and rudders, bilge-keels and forefoot exposed to my sight seems somehow wrong; even indecent.  Removed from the sea there is a vulnerability to my ship's appearance, a kind of betrayed innocence, and I find myself looking forward to the day when this dock will once more fill with water, 'Grumman's keel will lift from the blocks, and she will become once again a thing of the sea, powered and powerful and ready to set out upon great waters with purpose.

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