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Midway

Started: 2014-12-02 19:04:37

Submitted: 2014-12-02 21:14:24

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator takes Calvin to a series of museum ships in San Diego Harbor

After spending one day at Legoland, Calvin would have been perfectly happy to return for another day, but I was more interested in doing something different. I've been taking business trips to San Diego for eight years to visit two different employers, but I rarely had time out of the office to do much that didn't involve work (or going for a run on the beach). I had my eye on two museums next to each other on the waterfront: the Maritime Museum of San Diego and USS Midway.

Calvin and I arrived at the Maritime Museum of San Diego just in time to catch the day's first trip around the bay on the retired pilot boat Pilot. We sat up front for the forty-five minute cruise around the harbor, giving us a good view of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) docked at NAS North Island (with its island covered in protective sheeting), the oiler USNS Yukon, Coronado, the Coronado Bridge, a lonely banana boat in the container port, the downtown skyline, a sea lion sunning herself on a buoy, USS Midway, and the maritime museum. Calvin got a little bored by the end of the ride, but I thought it was great.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in San Diego Harbor
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in San Diego Harbor
Coronado Bridge and San Diego Harbor
Coronado Bridge and San Diego Harbor
San Diego skyline
San Diego skyline

We returned to the museum and proceeded to wander around the ships docked in its permanent collection, surrounding the ferry boat Berkeley. Inside the ferry boat were a number of models of ships and other displays, including a diorama depicting a giant log raft that would be tied together in the logging fields in northern California or the Pacific Northwest and pulled by tug boat down the coast into San Diego. I was amused to see a Shay geared locomotive (depicted specifically as West Side Lumber Co. #12) in the display.

Model of West Side Lumber Co Shay #12
Model of West Side Lumber Co Shay #12

Calvin wanted to see HMS Surprise, which I let him refer to as a 'pirate ship' because of its role in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. (He thought a pirate ship was far more interesting than the ship's other roles, as the replica frigate HMS Rose or in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.) Calvin seemed amused by the gun deck as I explained how the gun crews worked, but he seemed less impressed by the expansive captain's quarters in the stern, or by the prospect (offered by one of the museum volunteers sitting nearby) of becoming a powder boy with the chance of someday becoming an officer himself. Most of what I know about battle tactics from the age of sail comes from reading David Weber (the rest comes from watching Master and Commander), but I know more than enough to impress a five-year-old.

HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum
HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum
Calvin tries to turn the wheel of HMS Surprise
Calvin tries to turn the wheel of HMS Surprise

We visited the far more modern, but almost equally cramped, boat berthed next to HMS Surprise, the crumbling Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-39. Calvin was not quite as enthralled by this Cold War relic as I was; he hurried through the diesel-electric submarine without giving me much chance to read the displays or try to explain anything to him -- let alone the geopolitics of the Cold War or the strategic importance of submarine games in the open ocean.

Calvin walks through a hatch on B-39
Calvin walks through a hatch on B-39
Calvin walks along the top of B-39
Calvin walks along the top of B-39

We took a quick walk through the retired Navy research sub USS Dolphin, then Calvin reported that he was hungry, so we left the museum for the deli down the street for lunch.

Bow of USS Midway in San Diego Harbor
Bow of USS Midway in San Diego Harbor

Our next stop after lunch was the museum ship USS Midway (CV-41), the lead ship in her class, built during World War II and commissioned immediately after the war ended. While queueing for tickets I pointed out the signal flags flying from the command island and told Calvin they meant something, but I couldn't actually read them. He didn't like that answer; what was the point of knowing they said something if I couldn't read them? The other adults in the queue were amused that I would admit to Calvin that I didn't know everything, and thought I was selling myself short.

We started on the hangar deck, where Calvin sat in several simulator cockpits, then climbed up to the four-acre flight deck, where a wide variety of Cold War aircraft, of the types that flew from Midway (much of it on loan from the Naval Museum in Pensacola), was on display. Calvin was generally amused, especially by the Vietnam-era pilot discussing the challenge of landing a jet fighter on a moving flight deck.

Calvin in a jet trainer cockpit on USS Midway
Calvin in a jet trainer cockpit on USS Midway
Calvin looks down from the deck of USS Midway
Calvin looks down from the deck of USS Midway

Calvin was especially interested by the display of helicopters displayed opposite the command island, including one Huey and one Seahawk. (Throughout the day we saw various helicopters flying overhead, mostly Navy Seahawks, plus one pair of Ospreys.) He started to flag as I led him through the flight crew ready rooms immediately below the main deck; he was more interested in sitting and watching the loops of grainy late-Cold War military footage on the monitors. We stopped for a snack in the cafe on the fantail, protected from marauding birds by netting, then poked around one of the aircraft elevators in the late-afternoon light.

Calvin has a snack on USS Midway
Calvin has a snack on USS Midway
F-4 on elevator on USS Midway
F-4 on elevator on USS Midway

By the time we left the museum ship, the sun had set, silhouetting Ronald Reagan across the bay against the orange sky. I photographed the crescent moon above Midway's island, then departed the waterfront to drive north.

Island of USS Midway at dusk
Island of USS Midway at dusk

We met my cousin Tammie and her family, including two of Calvin's three second cousins, for supper at an Indian restaurant in Poway, squeezing in a few consecutive hours in her busy soccer mom schedule, then returned to my aunt's house to put Calvin to bed and pack to fly north the next day for the second phase of my extended Thanksgiving holiday.

For more photos of the harbor and the museum ships, see Photos on 2014-11-25.

C will not only let you shoot yourself in the foot, it will hand you a new magazine when you run out of bullets.
- Charles Stross, Where we went wrong