This is from a letter I wrote to my (now) fiancee while I was underway on a strategic deterrent patrol.

19Nov00 Its a quarter after ten on this Sunday night, and the ship is surfaced in preparation for tomorrow, when we pick up a team of inspectors from a small boat that will meet us off the coast. Its been six hours since I got off watch - two of which was spent cleaning the bilge to pretty up the boat for our guests... then I played guitar just long enough to break a string; the rest was spent studying (not quite the ideal sabbath). Anyway, on to the good part-

As I'm walking toward my bunk room I hear the 1MC (public address) announcement, "The Officer of the Deck has shifted his watch to the bridge." I decide it is high time I get a look at the outside world. As I enter the passageway that leads to Control I see it is "rigged for black", the overhead lights turned out so that just the instruments on the wall give off their green glow. I open the curtain that's preventing even the dim light of the passageway from entering Control, and I walk up the stairs to a world in which I cannot see. Before my eyes can adjust to the dark, red tinted room I hear a familiar voice, that I can't quite place, welcome me. "Hey Ely, here to go up to the bridge?" -Yep. "Chief of the Watch, how many people in the bridge? Ely wants to go up." -Four. Room enough. "Ely, go on up, be ready to get wet."

I walk over to the vertical rungs I know are in the center of Control and start climbing. It gets even darker. I hear a shout of excitement from above as some saltwater hits me in the face. I hear a grating being lifted as I ascend with now only my hands guiding me. I pass through the hatch that was just raised and stand up behind Lieutenant Chip Ackerknacht, the officer of the deck. The sky is heavily overcast, but I can make out shapes around me. The sea is beautiful even at night, swells rolling by us in subdued power. Standing at the top of the sail, I arrive just in time for a spray of water to leap up the side, highlighted by the green running light on the starboard side to match the bioluminescent organisms that give the water its own glow. As our eighteen thousand ton ship plows through the void in front of us, the water sweeps over the bow like a blanket, occasionally erupting upward as two contrary waters collide.

I lean my head out past the windshield like a dog sticking his face out the window of a car, and the rushing wind drowns out the talk of the other sailors; I'm alone, listening to the flowing water mingle with the sound of the wind. I look back at the stern of our ship, hundreds of feet away, to see the stern light casting its beam on the crashing wake. I turn my face forward just in time to see a wall of water rushing up the side of our perch forty feet above the ocean, and I pull back inside the sail to see the spray where my face had just been, as I'm welcomed back by the laughter of my shipmates. I'm reminded that its not all bad out here - there are good times to be had. But as I depart the sail, walk back to my bed, and crawl in it to write you this letter, I look and see your picture and think how much better it will be to be home.

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