Sunday, January 06, 2013

Patriot's Point

Patriot's Point was the best kind of museum—full scale and hands on. The USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier, was the most impressive ship on the horizon and kind of stole the show (but it's difficult  to be unimpressive when you have a runway on board).

I'm just a floating airport; don't mind me.

If you can believe it we skipped right past the Yorktown and toured the smaller ships first. It's probably a good thing we did because the Yorktown is huge. So, here's Grandpa and Benjamin aboard the destroyer USS Laffey (the name of which kept bringing to mind lame jokes from candy wrappers):


Everyone enjoyed USS Laffey a lot. We're lucky we got to see her since she only just returned to Patriot's Point last year after spending a few years in a ship hospital. Her hull was rusting out and by 2008 she had over 100 leaks and was in danger of sinking right there in the harbour.


Most of the tour was on the main level but we did go up a little higher.


The girls both found this terrifying though there were certainly some fun things to discover.


We looked out at the submarine USS Clamaagore (which we would tour later but wouldn't take any pictures of because I was carrying a sleeping baby and Andrew was helping Miriam through; I knew I didn't have the camera because it was in Andrew's pocket but he assumed that I did):


No one seemed to mind being up high once we were up there...




Coming back down was another story. Rachel was terrified but bravely faced her fears (though she thought it was unfair that both Benjamin and Miriam got to be carried down).


A guide on the ship (who'd served on three different destroyers) told us that he used to hold onto the railings and just slide down the ladders. That certainly would have been quicker!


Here's just another view of USS Yorktown and then USS Clamagore:



It was shortly after this that we sat down on the pier to have snacks and ended up getting separated from each other. Grandpa left to take the stroller back to the car since it having it with us was a joke (there are too many staircases on a boat). I sat down to nurse Benjamin. Andrew took Miriam to the bathroom. Rachel was dancing around the pier and making everybody nervous. When Grandpa came back Grandma left to go to the bathroom before Andrew and Miriam had even returned. We waited around for a while before Grandpa took Rachel by the hand and led her to the submarine. I followed a few minutes later, with Benjamin asleep in my arms, thinking that everyone else couldn't be too far behind us. 

So I toured the submarine trailing Grandpa and Rachel, who eventually realized I was behind them, and Grandma, Andrew, and Miriam toured the submarine behind us. We didn't find them until after we'd left the submarine which was awesome.

I've seen movies and read books based in submarines—Down Periscope, K-19: The Widowmaker, and The Hunt for Red October come to mind—but I had no idea how cramped everything was until I was in a submarine myself. I don't think I would like to live on a submarine for any amount of time—whether it was yellow or not—because I would likely go stark raving mad. I like windows far too much.

Next up was the USS Yorktown, which not only was in a number of wars but was also used to retrieve the Apollo 8 Control Module in 1968.


We went on several of the self tours—five of them, I believe—and we went up and down more ladders than I ever thought possible. Benjamin slept through most of the tour so I carried him in one arm while keeping my balance with the other. I kept the nursing cover over him on purpose so that he'd sleep longer—if he wakes up and sees he's still under the nursing cover there's a chance he'll go back to sleep but if he wakes up and sees anything else curiosity trumps drowsiness every time.



He slept a long time—much longer than I thought he would—so my arm was getting pretty tired. At one point an older gentleman stopped me and asked if I had broken my arm.



I guess the nursing cover kind of looks like a sling. Maybe. But that would've been one big cast!



I gave him a peek of the baby. He congratulated me and then asked how I was managing to navigate the passageways. The answer is that I don't really know.




The stairways were more like ladders than stairs and the girls were rather scared of them. Miriam had to sing while she was climbing, something we tried with Rachel, too, though it didn't work so well for her and she kept breaking down into tears. She's quite determined not to be a sailor.



They were usually fine once we were on level ground—unless it was a catwalk of sorts or had a railing—but those ladders were just torture. One room we went into had a flashing red light and Rachel ran around in circles screaming about wanting to get out. She ran almost all the way across the room to the exit but then turned around and ran back to me and then I pointed her to the exit again and she commenced running back and forth screaming and flapping her arms. All because there was a flashing red light in the room.

I was amazed at how well equipped the ship was. Here is Rachel sitting in one of many dental chairs in the ship's dental office:


There were around 3500 people on board the ship so the office had to be large. Their kitchens were also huge. They had mixers bolted to the floor that were as tall as me, with beaters as big as the children. Their recipe book was likewise ginormous:



You can see Rachel's eyes are a little red from crying. She was glad to get back up to the hangar—this ship could hold 90-100 planes and there were several in the hangar (as well as on the landing strip).


The girls went on the flight simulator with Andrew and Karen—this one was a ship you climbed into and the whole thing moved. The girls loved it. Rachel said it was just like Star Wars and it was one of her favourite parts of the day.

After they were finished with their ride we went up to the landing strip, first walking through the briefing room:


We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the planes. All of them have collapsible wings so that more of them could fit on the ship. I'm not sure how I would feel about flying on a plane with collapsable wings...that had to be sling-shotted off the runway and then snagged with a hook upon its return. It just seems like so many things could go wrong. And yet, USS Yorktown was a relatively successful ship.


Here are a multitude of pictures of our time on the landing strip...I'm not even sure it's called a landing strip...but that's what I'm calling it:





Miriam loved this helicopter, obviously.




Andrew, Rachel, Benjamin, and I climbed up higher into the ship. You can see Grandpa walking on the runway in this picture (he's waiting for Grandma and Miriam to return from the restroom):



Here's Captain Rachel:


Benjamin played a little peek-a-boo with Andrew:


We waited on the runway while Grandpa and Grandma took Miriam up top:


I love Benjamin's face in this picture:


He seemed to really enjoy the time he spent awake aboard the ship. It's too bad he slept through so much of it...

We spent a few minutes chilling in the hangar before we left: eating snacks, feeding Benjamin, hugging pylons...


The restrooms were most informative. They had fun fact-filled signs in every bathroom stall, above the changing table, above the paper towels, on all the walls. And they were things that we had wondered about, too.

I was so excited when I read the "cup of joe" sign above the changing table. It's not something I cared about until Andrew and I saw a "cup of johan" commercial and then I was like, "Why is it called a cup of joe?" 

I made up a theory that it was based on the word cappuccino, so obviously I didn't care enough about it to look it up. But in the bathroom I saw the sign and was so excited that it answered a question that Andrew and I had recently discussed. So I ran out of the bathroom and told him about it. 

Unfortunately I looked it up when we got home (because I have trust issues or something) and it turns out that the sign was wrong! The explanation in the bathroom was nearly word for word the same statement that Snopes has deemed false. Snopes' explanation is pretty solid, too—the dates simply don't add up. Instead it's likely that it's short for 'java' or 'jamoke' (which is apparently a mixture of the words 'java' and 'mocha' though I don't really see that but that's probably because I really have no idea how to pronounce mocha) or is simply a cup of "regular" since Joe is the most generic American name there is. 

(Seriously, Patriot's Point!? Not cool. Museums are supposed to be pinnacles of education, not spreaders of hearsay. Consider yourself duly reprimanded.)

Their explanation of port and starboard checks out, however, so I suppose their bathroom blunder is redeemable.

On the flight deck...or runway...or whatever...there was a part of the ship that jutted out over the ocean and Andrew was like, "How is this even useful? What is this even for?" and I was like, "How should I know?"

Turns out, we were standing on the port side of the ship, which is the loading side of the ship, which is the left side of the ship. It used to be called larboard (the loading board) but that sounded too similar to starboard (the steering board) so we started calling it 'port' instead. It's typically where things are loaded into the ship so it makes complete sense for a little gangplank to jut out from that side. 

USS Yorktown is docked a bit funny and you enter the hangar from the starboard side but the real entrance to the ship was where Andrew posed his question.

Here we are walking out of the ship and over to the Vietnam camp:








Grandpa and Rachel decided to "beat" us to the van. Somehow it never got communicated to them that the Vietnam Support Base was part of the museum and that we were going there next. We had to call them to tell them to join us.

Here's Miriam hiding out in a bunker of sorts:


Here's Rachel racing to catch up from us—she has always been a girl who doesn't want to miss a thing:


Here we are exploring the base:






We were pleasantly surprised with how much fun we had at a naval museum. We spent most of the day there but had just enough time left over to visit the beach...which will have to be another post (obviously) because this one is long enough already.

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