Power sailing with the Navy

A power couple from Washington celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary by observing the power of the US Navy — twice.

On an otherwise placid York River, I saw off in the distance the USNS Zeus proceeding slowly downriver from its home port of Cheatham Annex. That seemed odd, since the ship just returned from deployment ten days earlier and usually spends months in port before redeploying.

Power sailing with the NavyThe Zeus is a cable-laying vessel whose giant sheaves are visible only from bow and aft. Otherwise it looks like a grim cruise ship, painted white. It plies the Atlantic Ocean criss crossing cable on the ocean floor to detect Russian submarines. From the website navysite.de:

USNS Zeus (T-ARC 7) is the first cable ship designed and built by the U.S. Navy from the keel up. Its main mission is the installation and maintenance of submarine cable systems. Zeus combines her main propulsion system with bow- and stern-mounted tunnel thrusters for cable laying and repair.

Power sailing with the NavyUSNS Zeus is fitted with a wide array of cable handling equipment. These  include five cable tanks, cable transporters, and cable tension machines. She can lay up to 1,000 miles of cable in depths of up to 9,000 feet without resupply. Zeus is also equipped with both single-beam and multi-beam sonars for bottom profiling. Acoustic measurement buoys and environmental measurement buoys provide data of the ocean environment.

Fair warning

As the Zeus neared the Naval Weapons Station, a radio man contacted me on marine radio. “To the sailboat in the middle of the York River at Yorktown, this is the Navy ship USS Zeus proceeding your way.” He was unaware that I had eyes on him, so we communicated that I would stand off to the north to provide plenty of leeway. As the ship transited the bridge, it began to close.

Power sailing with the NavyThen we heard from US Navy warship 58 that it was getting ready to depart Naval Weapons, on the way back to the Navy base at Norfolk. Never have I seen two ships move almost simultaneously. The bridge reopened before it could close, and here came a modern destroyer. Per Wikipedia:

USS Laboon (DDG-58) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the United States Navy. She is named for Father John Francis Laboon (1921–1988), a captain in the Chaplain Corps of the United States Navy, who was awarded the Silver Star during World War II while serving on the submarine USS Peto.

As the ship neared the bridge, some hotdog in a motorboat got too close and seemed to be approaching. A giant Moran tug behind the Laboon scared him off with big turbulence from his wake. We were surprised that the Navy didn’t attack with one of its patrol boats used to guard ships in port. Then again, the hotdog could have been an optical illusion from our angle of sight. Still, don’t test the US Navy at sea.

The bridge finally closed, and it seemed the Zeus had slowed down as it exited the river. It was almost as if the two ships were setting up a parade.

Let’s go sail

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Power sailing with the Navy



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