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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Monday, October 01, 2007

Point of Contention

Sunday, September 30, 2007 18:05
USS ColeAilsa Craig 55°19N 006°10W

I’ve been away from home the entire month of September. It seems far longer, as I told Jane on the phone in Edinburgh. The humor of the junior officers—even the not-so-junior—is becoming stale. I’ve no reason to be dyspeptic, though. I’ve just dined on steak and lobster—albeit the steak tough and dry, the lobster nearly tasteless— complemented by baked potato and sweet corn, and the excess protein affords me great pleasure at the moment. And I have to keep reminding myself that most of the officers aboard are in their 20s, barely past their undergrad training.

Sea and anchor proceeded slowly today, but eventually the ship was eased away from the pier of the sprawling Faslane Royal Navy Base. I watched the process for awhile, then went back below to work on student papers. I napped after lunch to catch up from last night’s fitful sleep. Once you’ve become used to the motion of the sea at night, the comparative stability of the ship when moored seems to become an unconscious irritant. Of course the long travel day in Edinburgh may have contributed.

There was a great deal of tension about the bridge when I went up before dinner, aiming to see Ailsa Craig again. The navigator, actually an ensign in training, was in some sort of conflict with the experienced bridge crew, evidently over the timing of our passage out of the Firth of Clyde and projected time for concluding the maneuver. I was focused on the enormous rock. Even at more than 20kts, the strange outcropping came up very slowly. Finally, Ailsa Craig once again some 1000 meters to port, the USS Cole slid out of Scotland’s waters into the Irish Sea. It will be nearly all of two days before we thread our way into Portsmouth harbor, since we must wait for high tide to enter the mouth of the Thames, as do most ships of significant draft (9.5 meters, in the case of the Cole). At dinner the junior officers were talking excitedly about taking a trip to see Stonehenge. One of them—the young ensign from Spooner—remembered reading the scene in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I mentioned the more ancient megaliths a little further west, but no one asked me any questions about the archeology, let alone discoveries about the construction and use of the 3500 year old site.


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