The first half of Monday proceeded exactly as we all expected. The reactor was brought up, we divorced from all pier services, and everything seemed to be on track for the Submersible Death Trap to put to sea as expected. But less than an hour before the scheduled underway time, the word came over the 1MC that we'd have to try it all again tomorrow. The reason? Abnormal and unexpected indications from my division's equipment. So we shut down, and since I had duty, I was on the sidelines while the rest of my division attempted to get the gear working properly. It's not as though I would have been any help; as I said repeatedly that day and the next, if the boat wanted me to fix shit, they would have sent me to ETMS. The problem was diagnosed fairly quickly, but one of the parts required to repair it could not be located, so we adjourned for the evening. When we reconvened Tuesday morning, we got everything together and performed the corrective maintenance. By the time the retests were complete, it was clear that our sailing would have to be delayed another day. I thus became hopeful that I might be able to get back to the New Nexus of Hate for a respite.
Alas, no. While we couldn't head out Tuesday evening, we could certainly start up the reactor and steam through the night. We did exactly that - and yours truly was the Reactor Operator for the startup. Upon learning of this doucheing, I was fuming mad. It's actually quite surprising that I was able to compose myself and pull off the startup I did. Sports fans are familiar with the concept of being "in the zone," where you feel like you're in total control, and you can see everything, and anticipation is wonderfully simple. That was me at the panel on Tuesday night. I hit all my marks, safely and efficiently bringing the radioactive rock from (relatively) cold to hot and sustaining the submarine. Though that gave me a nice high, it didn't mitigate the fact that I was about to be shorted on sleep (to the tune of four and a half hours) for the second straight night - on the boat, of course. When an underway is shifted two days to the right, one would expect to get at least a little bit of extra liberty. But totally in accordance with the recent trend, I was one of the few excluded from that benefit. Once again, the justification for my hate is affirmed and my resolve to separate is strengthened.
When we finally did get underway on Wednesday, I had a long day ahead of me - and by the early evening, I was drained, and so was nearly everybody else. This led to a rookie error on everybody's part; we took alarms that we should have able to easily prevent. Though quickly corrected, this mistake was compounded by our failure both to get the word out and to record the anomaly. After getting relieved and doing our standard after watch cleanup, I was looking forward to finally spending a long stretch in a (hopefully) deep sleep. Despite this, I knew I'd probably get woken up so that our screw-up could be critiqued. Two hours after I drifted off, I was indeed awoken by the sound of my last name - naturally, near the low point of a sleep cycle. I didn't say a single word during the critique, and I didn't drop out again until an hour after it was over. So that's at least another ninety minutes stolen from me by the SDT, with no hope of their ever being returned.
I've been able to settle back into the underway routine without much trouble. While at sea, we follow essentially an eighteen-hour day, rotating three watch sections on six hour shifts. Six hours are spent on watch, followed by an off-shift (which includes an hour of cleaning), and then six or so hours of sleep before standing watch again. Of course, no schedule is ideal, and the sleep sometimes has to be moved and/or shortened to make room for other all-hands events, like the dreaded field day. My watch consists of being sealed into "the box," lording over my beloved control panel. Recently, I've been given the responsibility of having "under-instruction" watches assigned to me. "Powerball" Steve and LevelSeventy take turns under my watchful eye, learning the time-honored ways of the Reactor Operator. While I'm not happy that they leave me to stand for the duration of the watch, I am pleased that they're close to qualifying, because that will significantly lessen the burden on BigBen, BilgeMonkey, and myself. I was fortunate to score a fairly good draw in the box. To my left is LakeErie, a fellow sports fanatic, so we always have some ground to cover. On the other side of me is CornFed; despite the fact that he loves flame-spraying his hate on everyone around him, I enjoy standing watch with him.
Other than that, the two biggest adjustments I'm forced to make relate to food and technology. I'm a notoriously picky eater; throughout our tenure on the Seacoast, I went to great lengths to avoid eating food from the ship's galley. There's no such option right now; underway and underwater, the Beale Street Café is our only source of sustenance. I've been able to adapt sufficiently thus far, and consider myself fortunate in a sense. My selective palate, and the resulting reduced intake, mean that I'm naturally set up to lose weight during the underway. As for contact, we're cut off from the outside world for the overwhelming majority of our time submerged (as we need to be). Contact is limited to e-mail traffic and whatever news and sports dispatches we can obtain during our relatively brief trips to periscope depth. As I type this, it's been nearly a full day since the Belmont Stakes was run, and I still have no idea whether or not Big Brown completed the first Triple Crown in my lifetime. Nor am I aware of the status of the NBA Finals (though I have gotten word of the Red Wings' taking the Stanley Cup). Likewise, as far as I know right now, the Democratic nomination is still up for grabs, even though it's been five days since the polls closed in the last primaries. One of my co-workers put it quite well a couple of days ago - once we're off the pier, our lives are effectively on pause, waiting for their resumption on the passing of the words "the ship is moored." I very much wish to hit that "play" button and keep things rolling forward, but I'm still three hundred forty-five days away from getting there for good...