The bridge of the submarine is cold. The Officer of the Deck and the two lookouts are cold, wet, and tired. The boat has been heaving into and out of the swells for many hours, throwing sleeping sailors around in their bunks. The three men on the bridge have been thrown side to side much more than the seventy men below decks. Bitterly cold waves wash over the bridge from time to time, and the watchstanders duck behind what little shelter is available, avoiding most but by no means all of the salt water.
One of the loudspeakers at knee level squawks to life with the voice of the quartermaster, who is on watch in the conning tower.
The Officer of the Deck makes a mental note of the time. He then pushes the button on a fixed microphone and replies, "Secure the navigation lights."
The quartermaster acknowledges, "Secure the navigation lights, aye." A moment later he reports, "Navigation lights indicate secured."
In the lightening sky, it is impossible for the Officer of the Deck to see if the stern light is shining, but he can see that the port and starboard running lights have gone dark, as expected. He acknowledges the report, "Bridge, aye."
Perhaps an hour later, a single word comes over one of the knee-level loudspeakers. "Bridge."
The Officer of the Deck picks up a handset for a sound-powered telephone system and pushes the button. He hears the Chief of the Watch reporting, "It is zero seven hundred, time for the captain's wake-up call."
The Officer of the Deck replies, "Buzz the captain for me, please." The chief buzzes the skipper's stateroom. After a few moments, the Officer of the Deck asks the chief, "Please send the Messenger of the watch to wake the captain."
A minute later, the skipper's voice comes over the phone. "Umph. Uhhh. Yeah. Cap'n speaking."
The Officer of the Deck replies, "Good morning, Captain, this is the Officer of the Deck. It is zero seven hundred hours. The weather is cold and dry, with a ninety percent overcast. Winds are from three one zero at fifteen knots. Seas are from three three zero at five feet. Swells are from three five zero at eighteen feet. Overnight, the wind has moved left from zero two zero to three one zero.
"We are five miles ahead of our intended position, and two miles to the right. We are on a heading of zero one five, running standard on two engines. There are no surface contacts.
"Sunrise occurred at zero six zero seven hours. No significant events occurred overnight."
The skipper replies, "Yes. Thank you, Chuck." Later we will learn that, as usual, the skipper remembers nothing of this ritual.
Later, the Messenger of the Watch approaches the wardroom. He is carrying a laminated card that contains a standard script, with blanks that were filled in with a grease pencil for this occasion, by the Chief of the Watch. The messenger knocks on the bulkhead adjacent to the opening into the wardroom. The Commanding Officer is sitting there, having finished his breakfast, and is now reading the radio messages that arrived overnight. The skipper acknowledges the messenger's arrival.
"Good morning, Captain." Our Commanding Officer is not a Captain, but a mere Lieutenant Commander. The messenger is using a common term of respect for one's skipper.
The messenger continues. "The Officer of the Deck sends his respects and reports the hour of zero eight hundred. The specific gravity is twelve forty-seven. Pressure in the air banks on service is two thousand, seven hundred pounds. Here is the navigation report, sir."
The skipper thanks the messenger, and begins to examine the navigation report. After a few seconds he sets it aside and resumes his study of the night's radio traffic.
The specific gravity of the sulfuric acid in the 250-ton lead-acid battery is of constant concern. It tells how much energy is stored in the battery. The report of a specific gravity of 1.247, as given, indicates that the battery has ninety per cent of a full charge. Also, the air pressure is important as a measure of how much reserve buoyancy is available in an emergency while submerged.
A few minutes later, the officer who had given the skipper his wake-up call arrives in the wardroom. He reports to the skipper, "Good morning, Captain. Mister Rome has relieved me of the Deck and the Conn. I have made a tour below decks and conditions are normal. The active sonar and the IFF are out of commission."
The skipper replies, "Thank you, Chuck. What is the weather like?" Chuck repeats, in a less formal manner, most of the report from the skipper's wake-up call.
Four hours later, the new Messenger of the Watch approaches the wardroom, knocks, and reports, "Good day, Captain. The Officer of the Deck sends his respects and reports the hour of twelve o'clock. The chronometers have been wound and compared. Here is the report of the equipment and crew status."
In the latter third of the twentieth century, when civilians were using sophisticated electronic timekeeping systems, the official ship's time was still kept by comparing three mechanical, manually wound chronometers. It was not a joke when the First Class Signalman once asked if I knew the difference between a clock and a chronometer. The answer: Forgetting to wind a chronometer is a court-martial offense.
Six hours later, the quartermaster of the watch calls out through the loudspeaker on the bridge, "Mark sunset." Yet another Officer of the Deck responds, "Energize the navigation lights."
The Officer of the deck reports to the skipper, on the sound- powered telephone, "Good evening, Captain. We have observed the hour of sunset. The navigation lights are all bright."
Later, as the officers are enjoying coffee after the evening meal, the messenger of the watch makes his final report to the skipper on behalf of the Officer of the Deck. This eight o'clock report is almost identical to the earlier eight o'clock report. The final official ritual of the day has been completed, and the boat continues into the night. After the officers have watched a movie in the wardroom, the skipper carries out the final nicety of the day's script. He picks up the sound-powered phone and calls the control room. When the Chief of the Watch answers, the skipper says, "This is the Captain. Call the bridge for me."
The chief says "Bridge" into the microphone, and the Officer of the deck picks up the sound-powered phone and responds, "Bridge, Officer of the Deck."
"This is the Captain. I'm turning in now. Call me if you have any concerns overnight."
"Aye, Captain. Good night, sir."
"Good night, Barry."
Another 200 miles of ocean have been left behind.