Sunday, October 30, 2016

Uniformly conflicted

The end of my beloved "bucket" combo cover is near.  As of Oct. 31, 2016 it will no longer be authorized for wear and females will wear, well, male covers.  How do I feel about it?  Conflicted!  The cover on the left has been with me since 1995, through ROTC, my commissioning, and the first 15 years of my career.  In 2014, Frank placed the one on the right on my head as I promoted to Commander.  They both hold many memories.  

But they don't define me.  I swore an oath that requires me to abide by all sorts of rules, and the uniform is just part of that.  If it changes, so be it.  I'm not a huge fan of the new style, but none of my daily menswear is especially stylish!

But here's the rub--this latest uniform change woke me up to just how naive I've been.  For the better part of two decades I've felt like the pay equality issue wasn't one I had to think of.  I've worked in a field where pay tables based on rank and time in service are publicly available.  I never felt that I was treated differently or was at a disadvantage as a female.  I promoted in stride with my male peers.  Life is good and I love my job.  But to put it bluntly, my pay is anything but equal.

Officers get a one-time uniform stipend upon commissioning.  Males and females get the same amount, only one time in their career, and any changes big Navy institutes following that are out of your own pocket (enlisted sailors get a uniform allowance for each new idea).  So when the NWU came to the fleet, my male counterparts and I both had to dip into our own funds to pay for them.  So far, so good.  When I was promoted to O-2, I had to buy new insignia just like my male counterparts.  But when it came to dress uniforms, I had to stripe (put the new rank stripes) on two jackets (Service Dress Blue and Dress White) while the males only had to stripe one--they could use their shoulder boards from their Summer Whites for their Dress Whites whereas I couldn't.  No biggie, right?  Well, it costs $40-$65 to stripe one jacket depending on your rank and seamstress.  You own Mess Dress Whites and Blues? That's two more for the females to stripe, one more for males (again, the Whites reuse shoulder boards).  So let's just say it double for females to stripe dress jackets for ease.  Promote to O-3?  Double for you again!  Promote to O-4?  Congrats and double again, sister!  You're so successful!  Then I made O-5.  At this point, both males and females need to buy a new cover with "scrambled eggs" on the brim.  It was a big achievement in my career and I paid ~$200 for that baby. My male counterparts?  They paid ~$100 for their O-5 cover.  Oh, and I still got to pay twice as much to stripe my complete set of dress uniforms.

Then in 2015 the Navy announced that female-specific covers would be going away.  Enlisted junior sailors would wear the classic "Dixie cup" and female Chiefs and Officers would begin wearing a cover styled like the males for a "more uniform, professional appearance" across the service.  Enlisted sailors would receive a uniform stipend to cover this expense, but not Officers.  This is the first mandatory uniform change that I'd witnessed in almost two decades of service that only affected one gender.  Only female officers will have to bear this cost on their own.  You may be asking, "how much is this new cover?"  It's only ~$100.  Only ~$100 to replace my perfectly serviceable damn near new ~$200 cover.  Every single female officer that wasn't issued a male-style cover at their commissioning source will have to pay ~$75-100 (depending on rank) to execute this mandatory change.  And that just makes me angry.  As if I didn't look professional enough already?  Just because SECNAV likes how all West Point cadets wore the same cover now I have to pay to make the Navy the same?  You've lost me here.  And for years I spoke about how great it was to be a female in the military because pay inequality didn't exist here, only to see that I've been duped.  I am naive.  And now I will pay more to follow the orders I am sworn to.  

So how do I really feel?  Conflicted.  Can you see why?

This inequality will continue.  By 2019, all females will have to wear "choker" dress white jackets, just like the men do today.  Whether your current jacket fits and is serviceable or not, if you're a female officer you will have to shell out a few hundred bucks for the new style so that we are a more uniform, professional service.  Why?  Some archaic law that limits all officers to a one-time uniform stipend.  Why not change the law to allow for an additional payment of the service enacts a mandatory uniform change that only affect one gender?  Seems fair me me, and I would champion it for the males if they were getting hit with some bill I wasn't.  According to the head of Navy Uniform Matters (real office and yes I contacted him), this impact to female officers was considered in the decision.  Gee, thanks.  

Bottom line--I love my job, but I'm awake now and a little less naive.  Enjoy a few pics of my bucket cover--I think it looks damn professional!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tropical season shifts into high gear

When we moved the boat down to the Gulf coast, hurricanes became a greater worry for us.  And this year's season is ramping up fast with Invest 99L lingering as a possible tropical storm for the coast next week. 

While we watch and wait, we decided to head to the boat to make sure it's ready to get underway if needed.  The amount of sediment and growth in the a/c lines since we moved had me worried about the engine and prop, so it was a diving day!  It was my turn so I scrubbed and scraped the hull, somehow losing a fin in the process!  The water was so murky that even though I felt it fall off, it was lost immediately.  The real work was in the prop, which was so encrusted in the closed position that I had to work to get it open.  I went ahead and changed the prop zinc while I was there, too.  We started up the engine and it sounds great!  In just about 2 hours we managed to get the boat sortie-ready and I am way less stressed about it.  And I got a treat at Pop Brothers as a reward. 

Now we continue to watch and wait.  We didn't take down any canvas or add any lines yet.  Though I'll be gone Wed-Thurs I know we have friends that are willing to help Frank if needed, and I am very thankful for that!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Decisions, decisions

It's never been super easy, but as the kids get older and retirement gets closer it gets a bit harder.  I was asked by my detailer to "power rank" a few potential next assignments.  We are just over a year out from the end of this tour (feels like I just started here!).  This next move may be the one I retire from.  This is forcing us to expand the conversation to what is after this next job.  Are the kids still excited about a few years of cruising?  Do we want to return to somewhere familiar, or try something completely new and adventurous?  Will our next home allow us to return to living aboard and prepping the boat?  And even after we discuss and rank all of this, will it even matter?  Perhaps not.  Decisions, decisions...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence is great!

Today was a heck of a mixed bag!  After coffee we got right to work to take advantage of the relatively cooler morning temps, you know, with a heat index just below 100F.  In a major twist, the Captain and I switched rolls--he went up the mast to swap out the steaming/deck light and I stayed on deck to man the winch!  That was some hard work on both ends!

I cleaned up the dinghy and dewatered a hold while he was aloft, then the 2nd Mate and I went on a little dinghy ride.

After that rough morning, it was time for a refreshing trip to Pop Brothers.  This may be our favorite place in town!

And that was just the morning!  After lunch we bit the bullet, opened our wallets, and headed over to the carnival. The kids rode a few rides, but it was stupidly hot so we went to the splash pad.  Who cares if your clothes get wet?  

As if that wasn't enough, I decided to attack the barnacles on the hull when we got back.  There were jellyfish everywhere so I stayed in the dinghy and just hit the waterline.  It sucked and was crazy hot, but it's done!  Then we flushed the a/c lines and cleaned the filters before finally kicking back to relax.  The heat kept us from getting a ton done, but we made some progress!  And we think we've narrowed the forward a/c issue down to low freon.  More on that later--it's about time to enjoy the Gulfport, MS fireworks!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A holiday surprise

Well, we arrived at the boat to two surprises.  1--a freaking carnival was set up adjacent to the marina.  2--after a quick dinghy ride it was clear the a/c was not doing well.

So of course we listened to the bands while we worked on the a/c!  Kids weren't thrilled, but we spent the night clearing the strainer which was totally gross and full of critters.  The forward a/c still isn't really cooling, but the aft perths were great at bed time.  Free wifi--the kids survived!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Time to fix stuff!

We headed back to the boat today after stocking up on long dock lines and cleaning gear.  We lost a fender sometime in the past 4 days, so we adjusted all the lines, added a line, and fixed up the fender situation.  Between storm clouds I headed up the mast for an inspection.  It's always great to get a new perspective!

Now it's time to shop for replacement lights!  We also grabbed the scuba tank to get it inspected/filled.  It was a short trip, but we are happy with what we got done.

On the way home we treated ourselves to artisan ice pops (yes, it's a thing!) at Pop Brothers in Gulfport.  Oh man, that was good!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

We're home!

After a rather easy day on the ICW, we made it! We are now officially "home" at the Gulfport Municipal Marina!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday funday--fuel, dolphins, and OPLATs

Today's excitement started during Frank's balls-to-04 watch (that's for all our SWO buddies!).  At about 0100 he woke me and called me onto deck (in my skivvies!) so he could investigate intermittent slowing of the engine.  Thankfully it was quickly resolved by switching fuel filters, made especially easy with our Racor dual filter system.  It always happens at night!

0400-0800 watch was awesome again!  Look at that sunrise!  We were offshore between Destin and Pensacola by this point.

Katreina joined me around 0700, just in time for a ton of dolphins to join us!

Just before noon we entered the ICW in Pensacola and began an afternoon on the water with Memorial Day boaters.  They were really quite good with ROR!  

This ICW is really nice--wide and deep!  We had some pretty big thunderstorms in the area, but they kept to the north of us so we pressed on.  After we crossed into Alabama the traffic got more commercial and we saw our first oil platforms.

We pushed on to an anchorage at the west end of Dauphin Island for the night. It was the first time we'd stopped the engines in 56hrs.  Yes, I know it's a sailboat.  But <5kts or 10kts on the nose aren't going to get us where we need to be.  Anchorage was great!  We enjoyed a few beers, I took a quick skinny dip in the insanely warm water, and we took showers up on deck.  And with the breeze it cooled off enough for a good night of sleep.  I've missed all of this so much.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday at sea

I'm happy to report this was a mostly uneventful day!  K and I came on watch at 0400 and enjoyed a quiet sunrise watch.  Ok, she slept and I stood watch!

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.  We filled diesel with a few of our jerry cans, slept, ate, and stood watch!

The kids joined me for the start of my 2000-2400 watch and a nice sunset.

Trent left us shortly after sunset and once again the girls had some excitement!  ~2130 we heard a loud bang from up forward on deck.  I clipped in to go investigate and found that the noise came from our anchor light assembly finally breaking free and falling.  But the night sky was amazing again!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Let's get this party started!


We got to the boat last night around 2100 and promptly went to work putting things in order, picking up provisions, and filling lots of diesel cans as we expect to have to motor a lot.

This morning we returned the car, filled water, and were ready!   As we tossed off the lines and headed out Frank said, "something's wrong--we're not moving." "Yes we are," I replied but he had already thrown it into reverse to get back in the slip.  Something was definitely not right.  He said we barely moved with high RPM's and suspected a fouled prop.  Frank won (?) the toss and dove on the boat.  The prop was seriously fouled and the rudder and hull were covered in barnacles, too.  After about an hour of bloody, challenging scraping, he was done.  We hit the fuel dock for a BSF and we were on our way ~1200!

Kids were great--they hung out on deck a bit, but mostly slept!

As we headed out we watched storms grow along the FL coast.  By some miracle they all stayed behind us and we got an amazing lightning show from a distance!  And we picked up a seagull that decided to ride our boat and poop everywhere.  Yippee!

Nightfall brought some new challenges.  We haven't had a masthead steaming light for some time so we usually throw on the anchor light with our nav lights--better to be lit wrongly and seen than not seen at all!  Well, our anchor light is now flopping at the top of our mast, blinking in and out.  Awesome.  Add that to the list...

Katreina and I took the watch at 2000.  Mars was amazing and I loved sharing the beauty of the night sky with her.  Then about an hour into watch, as I was sitting at the helm with K at my right side, BAM!  SLAP!  Something had come from the port side and literally slapped me in the left cheek, then ricocheted off me and hit K in the face!  We screamed, waking up the Captain.  I was sure it was that damn bird, but it was a flying fish!

Thankfully the rest of the night was peaceful.  We are on our way!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Take 3! Or is it 4???

With the kids out of school, a long weekend, and a forecast that, while not perfect, isn't horrible, we are heading to the boat!  Today we'll drive over 9 hours, give the boat a once over, and get provisions.  Tomorrow we fix anything that needs fixing, fill the tanks, and head northwest!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Happy Easter...from the dock! 😄😔

We arrived in St. Petersburg yesterday to a so-so forecast and some concerns about how tight the weather windows were.  Oh well, we were here!  The boat was in great shape and after a quick scrub it was back to looking like the home we know and love.  I optimisticly filled the fridge.

Today we woke up to a hard decision.  We need a 4 day window.  A 2 day window could get us to Panama City Beach, but we would have to find a marina there and figure out the next leg.  We were stuck between thunderstorms and light winds, with a leg at the limits of our motoring range.  Then all those sayings came to mind..."you can't fight the weather," "if there is any doubt, there is no doubt," and "this should be fun."  It's just not meant to be this time.  And honestly, I think we knew it when we got in the car to drive here and we knew spring storms were going to be a challenge, but I'm glad we did it.  We know the boat is in great shape and we have planned an alternate fun spring break!

And even though we didn't get underway today, we had plenty of boat fun!