The Captain (left), Master Chief Quartermaster, and XO contemplate another early morning departure.
We were finally aboard and headed to sea. This is the point of the trip where reality always sinks in for me, the first day underway. You realize there will be no more phone calls, no more mail, no more evening news.

In the old days, there was no more e-mail. I say 'old days' with a bit of a chuckle, since ship-to-shore email has only become convenient since 1999. I have been going to sea since 1988, so 'old timers' may point out there were always MARS-grams and radio phone patches. I had always found the MARS system to be a quantity unknown to any Coast Guard Radioman.

Which is not a slight on them, by any stretch. Most often the problem was lack of equipment, then training. As with any system run by volunteers, the most you could expect was what you paid - in time or effort.

Often times I have found, in recent years, that the will was there, but not the gear. The increase in available technology has heralded the removal of morale radio equipment. I finally took and passed the test for my Amateur Radio license only to find the ships no longer carried a HAM shack. The Navy has had satellite based internet connections for several years, and the Coast Guard (in typical trickle-down fashion) is finally getting in the loop.

One of the side benefits of such pervasive technology is its use to enhance morale. The command has granted the crew the discretion of about two pages of e-mail per person, per day. The system is labeled as "For Official Use Only", but is so seemless and there is so much bandwidth relative to even last year, that the personal traffic has little effect on the official stuff.

You can of course make voice calls via satellite, but the cost is still too high for anything but the most urgent matters. And what is really urgent while you're at sea, anyway? Time, in a very real sense, is standing still.

Rockin' and Rollin' in the North Pacific.

Taking time off to work on some skills.

Washing down the ship is an all-hands evolution. Here Jason is watering the flight deck, trying to grow a second helicopter.

Here the mechs are rebuilding the rotor head.
Sailors of old would keep a diary, and those that 'knew letters' would write home about their adventures. They would anticipate each port call as a chance to send and receive mail; the words across the miles. In more recent times the radio magically filled in the spaces between ports with news from the beach.

So in today's world, e-mail is able to cover that gap once filled by radios. For the casual communication of daily details, and for keeping a fairly permanent record in the process, e-mail at sea makes getting underway a lot less isolated.

That's not to say modern sailors don't still look forward to every port and the promise of mail. Some things will never change!

Send email to Ed
Back to the Index
Page posted 12/30/2001