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10 things I've learned about living on a ship

10 things I've learned about living on a ship

by Patrick Terpstra


Posted on January 21, 2010 at 8:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 12 at 3:13 PM

I've been thinking about this blog post for awhile. I wanted to write down all the things I've learned about traveling with the Navy on a hulking ship.

Those in the Navy now or in the past may think these observations are obvious, but not to me:

1) I've never said "excuse me" so many times in my life. The corridors are so narrow it's often impossible for two people to walk by each other. And when 2,500 people are on a ship, well, excuse me.

2) There is one way a navy ship is like a cruise -- the food. Chow happens three times a day, and I won't lie to you, the food is actually pretty good. Today it was chicken fajitas for lunch, tonight it was steak and lobster for dinner. Though in all candor, that is not the norm. And we're all in love with the chocolate frozen yogurt. Eventually I came to wonder, however, if the fro-yo was actually ice cream. I think so.

3) Sleeping in rough seas is actually fantastic. The ship rocks your rack back and forth like a cradle. Good night!

4) Speaking of the racks, the third rack up is not easy to get in and out of, especially when fellow journalists are already snoring, I mean sleeping, below you. It requires hoisting and lunging and pain.

5) Speaking of racks, the navy has unique names for things you'd never think would need unique names. Beds are racks, bathrooms are heads, dinner is chow. Even life jackets are float coats. Helmets are cranials.

6) Reveille is genius. They announce a wake-up to the entire ship at 6 a.m. Who needs to set an alarm? Everyone is up and at-em at the same time. Just don't shower in the morning or you may have to wait.

7) Ahhh the shower. I learned for some reason it is extremely hard to maintain balance in the shower while closing your eyes washing your hair when the boat is underway. One day I almost fell out. Good thing my competitors were not there to see.

8) The stairs on a ship are as steep as ladders. I'm amazed at how fast sailors go up and down them without splattering themselves to the floor. To transmit videos, I must scale a number of these while holding my precious laptop. It ain't easy!

9) Halls, called passageways or "P-ways," have ovular fire doors every 20 steps or so. You have to step up to pass through, and often you have to pull these huge levers to open the doors. I'm told this is to seal off sections of the ship in case of fire or flood. I liked watching someone try to maneuver a roller-suitcase down a P-way.

10) You could live here and not ever go outside and still be healthy and not smelly. You'd imagine there would be a gym, amply-stocked kitchens, all that, and of course there are. But on the Bataan there is also a barber, a dentist, doctors, a general store, a post office. And my favorite -- there is the flight deck and "vulture's row," where you can stand above the flight deck like a vulture, with the biggest and best seaside view I've ever seen.