Friday, January 25, 2008

Naval battle

On January 20, the privateer Lynx sailed into San Diego Bay, hoping to find easy prey among the soccer moms, real estate agents, and sundry stoned surfers of our fair city. We later came to suspect that its quarry was Hummer stroller, but when we and 20 or so other brave souls set out in the cutter Californian, we knew not that it planned to take from us that which we wished gone in the first place. We thought only to defend our patria against the incursions of the insidious evil to the north (Orange County).
Our noble ship.

Our quarry.

Clouds in the bay presaged a storm, but luckily the day was fine for a gun battle and our comparably heavier size and larger guns put us at the advantage.
Our fine and seasoned crew, loading the guns.

Our metal saviors.

'Twas truly a fine day.

The old girl did manage to fire at us once or twice.

Yes, those are tiny people way up on the mast.

I suspect this scaliwag was one of her crew. Also, I want a parrot.

But we bested her in the end. She cut tail and fled before we could do her in for good, but it was a successful campaign. The Hummer strollers and related goods of the people of San Diego were safe for another day, and another attack.

(In utter and complete seriousness, the volunteers who manned this incredibly complicated piece of non-digital, all-manual machinery--the official tall ship of the state of California, apparently--deserve some sort of alcoholic prize. Every five seconds they were scrambling around the deck to maneuver the sails, tie off things whose function I never quite understood, and stopping all the while to try to explain to one intensely stupid or very deaf old gentleman that he really did need to sit down when he was on the quarter deck. What I hadn't realized before now was how dangerous these ships really are, outside the usual hazard of tripping on something and ending up in the drink. On the quarter deck, you could also get slapped around by the mast and end up in the drink WITH a concussion. Or one of the little people who climb on the sails could fall on top of you, which would produce much the same effect. Or your knife could slip while you were cutting off some rope. Really. I've never been so grateful not to be a nineteenth-century seaman in my entire life.)

Finding ourselves with a whole five hours before the Maritime Museum closed, we decided to tour the Soviet submarine that, in a great scream of irony, a bunch of capitalist pigs refurbished and brought to San Diego after it was decommissioned from the Russian Navy.
The b-39. What, you think we give our ships names? Like little American girls?

Whether from visceral fear of the Commies or the rather intimidating series of four narrow portholes that one had to climb through to proceed from one part of the ship to the next, I was somewhat afraid to head below deck. What strikes you about any ship--with the possible exception of the massive floating palaces designed to transport retirees from one part of the Caribbean to another, similar part of the Caribbean--is how small a space it really is. Inside the the Russian submarine's sleeping quarters were a series of bunks, stacked 3 x 4. I'm about 5'7. I very much doubt I could have slept the night without kicking a poor fellow Communist in the cranium at least once or twice.

But in the end, I crawled down the ladder and through the portholes and was glad that I did. For one thing, there were plenty of fun Russian signs to translate.
"Stay out." (More or less.)

Damn torpedoes.

Controls. All well and fine, but notice the little sticker in the upper right corner. "Doesn't work."

I'm no expert on Russian naval instructions, or, for that matter, Russian, but I think these are instructions about what doors to close in various situations. "Water and fire" are the first two, but the last means "call" or "summons."

The Russian word for ketchup: "Ketchoop."

Speaking of the mess, drinking anything other than Georgian wine was forbidden on Russian submarines. However, as a kindly plaque informed us, while one Soviet submarine was being cleaned, the staff found over 1000 bottles of vodka secreted away in various locations.

To recreate the real atmosphere of a sub, I asked my husband, who was conveniently wearing a leather jacket, to look like a Soviet submariner:

It came out rather splendidly authentic. I think he might be the political officer.

So naval battles, Communist submarines, and good times all around. San Diego is safe once again, unless Russia's secret plan is to patriate an entire crew into the state of California, have them steal on board the sub at night, and torpedo the unsuspecting harbor. They may be a little surprised by the analog computer they'll need to carry out their brilliant scheme, however.

More can be found here.

Your intrepid photographer.

Posted by Shannon Chamberlain @ 10:36 AM