You always know you’re in trouble when the Captain comes on the loudspeaker and tells the crew we’re going to be hitting some rough seas. They are expecting 10 foot swells, and already it feels like I’m on the kiddie coaster at Coney Island and can’t get off.
The day started with a ride in what’s called an LCAC -- Landing Craft Air Cushioned… It’s basically a giant hovercraft. They loaded on a 70-ton M-1 tank and then we got into the small cockpit and it took off, riding five feet off the waves at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour. It was bouncing like crazy and then we had to wait for a helicopter to clear the ship before we could arrive, which meant more time bouncing at sea.
Finally, we came in for what looks like a landing. A huge ramp at the stern of the ship drops down and the hovercraft parks inside, but it’s a lot harder than it seems because the hovercraft is sliding on its air cushion, the ship is moving around and the "parking space" is only about two feet wider than the 40-foot wide hovercraft. It took two tries but we made it.
We pulled into what’s called the well deck. It’s really incredible, like Chelsea Pier and a huge parking garage all in one. There’s space for two huge hovercraft, plus space for 12 tanks and other armored vehicles and space to sleep 800 marines. And it floats!
We’re working in what is an onboard newsroom with workstations equipped with PC’s and an Internet connection that’s spotty depending on where the ship is located. It’s an example of how the Navy is adapting to the needs of the modern media world.
We haven’t seen our accommodations yet, but we have had two meals, and we must rate, because we’re assigned to the wardroom, the officer’s dining facilities. It’s like an executive dining room. I hear our sleeping quarters will hold up to 15 people.
Here’s to hoping it’s not a full house tonight onboard the USS New York.