Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feedback on HORNET - the NHS command model

The first critical item of discussion aboard NIAGARA last week was the operation of HORNET under a military system, and the planned command model.  Among all of the preparations this is perhaps the most controversial facet of all.  For active duty sea service folks, this comes as no particular surprise, but for the civilian sail training community - as much as they want to say it isn't - this is a game changer.  After all, the last military-run sail training ships left service more than a century ago - the era of naval discipline under the square rig is all but forgotten in actual practice. 

Today aboard most ships, the officers are called and referred to by their first names (except in most cases the master, who is called captain or skipper) and nary a 'sir' or 'ma'am' is heard, and it isn't unusual for the officers to mix and mingle with the crew both on the ship and during off time.  And while most get along just fine without it, including NIAGARA (which is often cited as being more organized than many), there is an intangible benefit to be derived from naval discipline - which is often displayed on the Navy's better ships - that not only brings a crew together but drives them onward, motivating them and instilling a sense of tremendous pride that can best be described as a fighting spirit.  Hornet's crew has to set that bar highest of all - all eyes, even in the Navy's Atlantic Fleet - will be on her wherever she goes.  Anything less will ring false to the active Sailors we know we're going to meet, and in many cases cater to.  And none of this mentions the simple fact that onboard a Navy ship - even a mock-Navy ship like Hornet - it is what spectators and participants will expect to see.  But in an era when many of Hornet's crew will never have served in the military - how do we do this?  That's what we're working out, and NIAGARA's crew had some interesting feedback.

First, the obvious - the crew must adhere to a very rigid chain of command.  So today's entry will cover the generalities of the model with respect to ranks and responsibilities, and some of the comments and criticism from NIAGARA's officers and crew.

Back in the saddle, or um, whatever

What would the nautical equivalent of the phrase "back in the saddle" be?  I think I'm forgetting some common salty line there but it's eluding me.  Nevertheless I'm back and working on picking back up in the NHS pipeline of events and activities.  The hurricane did very little damage around the Dockyard, with most of the headaches being concentrated on policing up fallen branches.  And thankfully I have yet to receive any report of any of our members suffering much - so that is great.

But back here in the office, I'm suddenly overcome by that feeling best described as 'a case of the Mondays' although I hope this isn't the sort of place where I'd get my a$$ kicked for saying something like that (this is an easy one, a cult classic!).  After a week sailing aboard a tall ship, followed by a mad dash into a hurricane zone and two days cooking on my livingroom fireplace, the office has easily lost its usual charms.  I'm itching for more excitement, but more on that later - I'm sure everyone would agree that my boredom is dangerous.  But first, a little bit about the past week, and my absence.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Come on Irene

If anyone else starts quoting Freddie Mercury I'm going to loose my own bunt gasket.  Nevertheless, suffice it to say that I have returned to Norfolk, have taken charge of the Dockyard, and the Severe Weather Response Plan has been implemented.

No volunteers will be required at the Dockyard during any portion of the hurricane/foul weather.  The Monomoys are buttoned up as best they can be, and all else secured for sea.  Remain safe - go where you need to - so long as it's not the Dockyard.  On that score, I'm on high ground and I have beer - who wants a hurricane party?

Be safe everyone and I'll get back to writing next week. Yes, it is unreasonable to expect that I'll be answering the 200+ emails that have piled up on me this weekend.  Watch below (hat tip Niagara crew).


Friday, August 12, 2011

Meanwhile, at the idea pool

This weekend we're setting to work quietly, in our favorite armchairs with our trusty laptops and memo pads and calculators by our side.  Recently, we had a discussion about the USS HORNET Project and how it meshes with the existing 1812 bicentennial programming plans.  Now that those plans are being finalized, a clearer picture of what to expect and how to augment it is available.  But as we really focus on the question of what it all means, and should mean, we're in a great pool of thought processes - each with different origins and objectives but crossing somehow beneath the banner of "1812".  The great challenge is weaving every path into a giant knit onion - where the various layers and sinews compliment and embrace the bigger vegetable.  Served raw in that concentration is bound to make some restaurant-goers cry.  But in the right combination, with some preparation, the flavor comes out with great taste.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grab a Snickers. Or just snicker, whatever.

So what's that saying so often made by the ubiquitous 'them' - about the best laid plans?  Yeah, well let's just say that I've grown soft and intolerant of traffic not having to drive onto Naval Station Norfolk in the mornings for going on two years now.  Nearly every single member of the crew we put together this morning was late - myself included.  And as I cursed everything from the Navy for not having more gates to the city for not designing a better traffic pattern to myself for not getting up earlier to the damned drivers who insist on tailgating the Monomoy where I can't see them - if I could kill with my mind it would have been a bloodbath.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Time traveller cell phone - REPRISE

"Oh nothing, just chilling at the Navy Yard, bored.  What's up?"

I may have retouched that photo, just a little.  In case anyone doesn't recognize it, this is a photo taken in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1861 after Federal forces had attempted to destroy the facilities as they evacuated in an attempt to deny them to Virginia state forces (Confederates) coming to occupy it.  Call it a hat-tip to the ongoing Civil War 150th anniversary commemorations, which certainly deserve attention.

This weekend I had a chance to head over to Portsmouth and visit some of my local favorites - the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Museum and the shipyard itself.  It's a visit I try to make a few times a year to go exploring with my military ID.  Sometimes I lament that civilians aren't able to see the shipyard - which requires a military ID to get in - but harbors some truly awesome remnants of our Naval history.  For those without a golden ticket, the museum is located in Downtown Portsmouth and you don't need one to get in, just a few dollars.

Friday, August 5, 2011

All things new and exciting

In NHS we always have a lot on our plate.  From graphic design to architectural work, boat restoration, promotional material and blogging - we run a huge gamut.  And it certainly keeps things interesting as focuses shift from one thing to another and back again - it has a certain freshness to it that just makes it awesome.  But as my individual focus shifts from one thing to another our volunteers seem to follow in step, shifting their focus as well.  It means that of all these great things, most are works in progress, completions are little victories unto themselves and more commonly overdue than not.  I suppose that goes with being your fearless leader - or maybe it makes me "John" (see pic).

So what other awesome things are in the hopper, besides the things I've brought up lately?  Plenty.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who wants a workout?

Yesterday, some of our key volunteers met for lunch to discuss NHS operations.  This year, we haven't had much in the way of active programming, most resources being diverted to the USS HORNET Project.  But that hasn't stymied interest in getting Monomoy No. 1 back out on the water.  We have had her out several times, but mostly as an impromptu 'fun run' rather than serious training.  But as another round of Navy CPO selectees step up, we're finding more and more press to get our underway programming back in play.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sometimes I really do feel like an overgrown child

As I've posted recently, the Dockyard has taken on something of a fascination with models, mostly due to the great response recieved from Mini-HORNET, our 1:12 scale mock up of the ship.  As we continue to explore options to get models of HORNET commercially available, we're running the gammut of great model companies - many of which I've built kits from in my youth, or dabbled in turning to in adulthood.

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Philip Roberts, the owner of Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson LTD.   SC&H is a company that specializes in large scale radio controlled sailing ships - which definately falls into the 'dabbled as an adult' category; I've probably been debating on how to work one of those models into my pasttimes for years now.  These models, which are not cheap, are nevertheless durable, easy to build, fun to sail and absolutely gorgeous.  For between roughly $3,000 to $5,000, any person can become captain of their own miniature square rigger.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Even more brilliant ideas!

Between moving Mini-HORNET up to Richmond - no small endeavor let me tell you - and the growing list of projects around the Dockyard, this weekend was one of the most productive in some time.  Volunteers showed up around our operational area to help in a number of departments and I'm very proud to say our OpTempo is increasing.  Special thanks are well-deserved by the crew that set up Mini-HORNET in Richmond at the Virginia War Memorial on Saturday - an evolution that took just under six hours.

Now, we have even more projects started with notes and ideas flying back and forth with several construction projects moving right along.