Optimum Track Ship Routing
Optimum Track Ship Routing
When the NATO exercise ended the fleet scampered south where the weather was better, but the two old diesel submarines couldn't scamper half as quickly as the surface ships could. The support ships had already headed back south a few days earlier, after the surface ships had all been refueled for the last time, and the remaining combatant ships were all more than twice as fast as we were. The weather in the Norwegian Sea was really starting to kick up, and the cooks were having trouble serving meals with the submarine rolling 35 degrees either way. But it didn't really matter, since almost all of the crew was seasick and only a few of us were hungry.
The other submarine, USS Bang, was a sister to our boat. They had only been on this exercise for a few weeks, and they were heading back to their home port of New London, Connecticut. We had been on this exercise for five months, and we were quite eager to get back to our home port of Charleston, South Carolina. When the exercise ended, we both plotted our courses, and it showed that we would be running in company with each other past Iceland, until we reached Cape Race, near St. Johns, Newfoundland. At that point our boat would turn right to head for Cape Hatteras, but the Bang would turn slightly farther right to head for their next turn at Nantucket Island. They would be home several days before we would.
At that point our new skipper made a decision that completely demoralized the crew. He asked the Navy Meteorological Office to recommend a course back to Charleston, based on our boat's characteristics and the weather forecasts. They routed us away from the heavy weather, and added two thousand miles to the trip. For weeks we cursed those deskbound bureaucrats who were obviously wimping out on us, and who were keeping us from our wives or girlfriends for several extra days, after so many months.
We headed southeasterly into the North Sea, which was delightfully calm and pleasant. We continued through the English Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, and south to the Canary Islands. At that point, we turned west and headed directly home.
We made good fourteen knots for the entire trip. I'm still convinced that the electricians and enginemen fiddled with the calibration on the instruments to get more power out of the engines than we really should have demanded of them. Every four days we dropped one engine off of propulsion for several hours while we charged the 250-ton battery, then we sped back up again. Every day we revised the estimated time, or even date, of our arrival home.
We finally reached Charleston, and after we had spent a few days getting re-acquainted with our loved ones, we checked to see when the Bang had arrived in New London. We wanted to figure out how many extra days we were at sea there at the end of the trip. As it turns out, we got to Charleston before the Bang got to New London. The weather for their entire trip was so rough that the Bang averaged only five knots on their best day, until they passed Nantucket. They had been running as many engines as we had, but the sea had held them back.
We decided to give our new skipper another chance. On his first major decision, he had been right and the rest of us had been wrong.