Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Camping on the USS Yorktown

We went as part of my son's Cub Scout pack over the MLK holiday. 44 people (boys and family) went. We were not (by a long shot) the only pack or troop there. I will say that the ladies from the pack were lucky. We had a smaller area (most likely officer quarters) than where the boys were. The boys slept on crew cots hanging from chains. They were stacked 4 high. The walk area between the cots was just wide enough for one person.

For the ladies, we were at most 2 high. Most of us has wooden bunks, a couple of us had cots hanging from metal poles. We had access to a small bathroom through a step-over passage.

It all sounds like hardship, but it was actually fun. We brought our own sleeping bags and pillows. The quarters were heated, so we were warm. The boys got to visit with a lot of other boys, which they fully enjoyed.

The hardship came as soon as you left your quarters. There is no heat on the ship except in quarters and the mess. It would take way too much energy to try to heat that vessel. Not to mention the fact that it's open year round anyway. Since it was 30-40 degrees outside, it was 30-40 degrees inside. The advantage was that the wind stayed OUTSIDE, making the inside tolerable as long as you had a winter coat.

We arrived late Saturday evening, just in time to get our stuff put away before we had to go through a fire drill (required by SC law). After that we were on our own until Taps at 11p. Then it was lights out for the boys.

Reveille was at 6:20am Sunday morning. We mustered out of bed, got dressed and were ready for breakfast by 7:15. After breakfast they offered a non-denominational service (optional). At 11am our pack gathered for an oceanographic class about the Charleston area. The boys listened to a presentation for a bit, then were able to do hands-on work. They checked the salinity of the water in the area and were able to examine some of the local marine life.

After our class was lunch, then we were on our own for exploration. We were able to tour the USS Yorktown itself thoroughly. The USS Clamagore, USS Laffey and USCGC Ingham are all right next door. We toured those as well as the Vietnam Support Base that is set up near the Ship Store.

My kids were very impressed with it all, including sleeping on the ship. My husband is one of those that thrives on military trivia. He and my son had their heads together the entire time going over this and that part of the history of the ships and the battles they fought in. There were many displays throughout the hangar deck and the flight deck of various planes and helicopters. Below the hangar deck were exhibits about not only the working of the Yorktown but other aircraft carriers, destroyers and naval history.

All in all, a well done trip.

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