The Tall Ships were in town; those majestic, many-masted, multi-sailed, mariners’ manors. (Cut me a little slack here. I was on a roll with the alliteration.) Andrew had the day off, our daughter was at work, our out-of-town guests were out of town, so we decided to go down to the waterfront and see what there was to see. I was ready and raring to go while Andrew was still contemplating his coffee, so when he asked, “What time are they open?” I responded, shortly, “Whenever we get there, they’ll be open.” (I know; it’s pretty darn obvious what’s coming.)
Feeling adventuresome, we hopped off the Silver Line bus and walked around the block, enjoying the sun and the proximity to water. And then we saw the ships, lined up one behind the other at the pier. They were indeed impressive – and not open to the public until 4pm.
Dismayed, but not willing to give up on our adventure, I suggested we follow the signs to Navy Ships docked further down the road. They opened to visitors at noon, and while we were too early for that, too, it was going to roll around a lot faster than 4pm. Andrew was conflicted about visiting the navy ships and I understood his hesitation. If we walked on a naval destroyer, expressed interest, maybe even asked a question, would we be branded hypocrites by our peace-loving, liberal cohort and drummed out of the group? I was willing to risk it. I was going to salvage the outing even if it meant enlisting.
We had to go through a metal detector on the pier, past armed guards, some toting machine guns, but once through that screening we could choose from about half a dozen ships to visit. We thought one of them was a floating hospital and decided that that would be the easiest way to express interest without implying approval, so we trudged up the gangplank. At the top were several officers in spotless white uniforms and as I stepped over the threshold they saluted – me! I didn’t know what to do, how to respond. I was flattered and flustered. I blushed and said, “How nice, not necessary, but very nice.” (Particularly unnecessary because it turned out to be a Canadian ship and our taxes don’t entitle us to anything from them.)
Once aboard, we found out that the hospital ship was actually a refueling ship, suggesting that perhaps eavesdropping is not the most reliable way to get information. There wasn’t a whole lot to see on that ship, but we enjoyed our self-directed tour enough that we decided to take the metaphorical plunge and visit another one.
This time we chose the destroyer, USS Gravely. To tour that ship, however, we had to be part of a group that was led around by several of the crew. I loved it. We climbed up and down ladders that bordered on vertical, visited the bridge, stood on the forward deck where the missiles come out and the aft deck where the on-board helicopter gets tended to, once it’s been folded up small enough to fit inside its garage.
When we left the ship I was a little choked up. I think I caught something from the sailors, a touch of… patriotism.