This is the second installment of a travelogue detailing a two month voyage through the Caribbean. Part 1 is here.

ii and I (ha!) waving to noted OS/RW writer and all around awesomely creative person Vanessa Seijo as we rounded the west end of Puerto Rico after crossing from the North Atlantic into the Caribbean via the Mona Passage. Hi Vanessa!


But, anyway, where were we? Four days out from Savannah I believe, heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway...

We had sailed into waters adjacent to King's Bay Naval Submarine Base just north of the Georgia/Florida line, and before too long it started feeling like we were getting the hairy eyeball from all sorta directions. Right about then, as if to confirm my growing suspicion that sometimes paranoia is just common sense, a US Navy fast attack inflatable complete with manned M60 machine gun and a squad of grinning, Ray Ban-wearing, assault rifle-toting stormtroopers suddenly roared up out of nowhere and, at the last possible moment short of ramming us, curvetted gracefully into a blocking position just off our bow. The skipper of the attack boat hailed us over his PA system simultaneously with someone telling us on our radio to stand to and identify ourselves. We of course complied, and the radio dude said a submarine was right at that very moment getting ready to cross the ICW directly in front of us so we needed to hold our position until it was gone and they came back on the radio telling us it was OK to proceed. Unfortunately, you can't hold a yacht in position when you're under wind power, so we had to reef in our sails, fire up Lillie Mae's Chinese-made diesel engine, and put-put around in circles for a half hour or so. 

Growing bored as we circled in place, I went below-decks to retrieve my camera from where I'd hurriedly whipped it under some dirty laundry after the Navy boat jumped us. I then took this portrait^^ of a cute little tern on the ICW channel marker nearest to our position. That was one of the few markers we saw between Savannah and Miami that had something besides cormorants perched on it.

After a while, the water directly to our south got weird on a right angle axis to the channel. Not being a nautical person, I didn't really know what I was seeing, and when I looked away for a minute to see what the tern was doing, then looked back south again...

 Holy f*#kin' shit!

Right there in front of us, maybe 300 yards away, was an Ohio-class nuclear powered, nuclear armed SSBN, the largest submarine employed by the United States Navy as well as far and away the deadliest warship of any kind ever employed by anyone, anywhere, ever. We were so close I could have ricocheted an RPG-7 off her armored hull and right through the flag on her conning tower, which made me wonder why they hadn't boarded Lillie Mae to make sure we weren't working for the Taliban or ISIS or some other inappropriately turban-oriented organization. They had no idea who the hell we really were, except that we looked approximately like what the terrorist bad guys in quite a few Hollywood movies look like. Hell, I would have boarded us, but the numerous Navy and Coast Guard vessels in our line of sight let us just loiter around there - with me snapping photos faster than some pathetically conflicted turncoat protagonist in a John Le Carre novel - like it was no big deal as the 16,000 ton, 560' long death machine made its way out toward St. Mary's Inlet and the open Atlantic.




Once the sub had disappeared as mysteriously (to my landlubber eyes anyway) as it had appeared, someone came back on the radio and said we could proceed.

As we sailed past the submarine pens on the base, I was distracted, barely noticing the cool military infrastructure all around us as I tried to place what we'd just seen in some broader context than, "Oo, oo, looky - big boat!"

There are currently 14 SSBNs on active duty, all of them Ohio-class subs like the one we'd just seen. These boats, sometimes referred to as boomers, are familiar to anyone who's read much Tom Clancy, and, being the most important components of our nuclear deterrent strategy, all 14 of them are armed at all times with 24 Trident II hydrogen bombs each of which packs many times more destructive power than the primitive A-bomb that wiped out Hiroshima. The Trident II is what's called a "multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle" or MIRV for short, which in English means each Trident missile, once launched, deploys 12 separate thermonuclear warheads all of which are capable of annihilating any city on the planet. That is a lot of mojo, and in the event of a nuclear exchange, the SSBNs, being quite difficult (read; impossible) to locate while on patrol, are considered to be the most survivable weapons platforms in our nuclear arsenal. Such survivability, paired as it is with enough firepower on each vessel to burn down a continent, makes these machines beloved of every DoD war-gamer and strategizer since Dr. Strangelove, and it guarantees the existence of facilities like King's Bay Naval Submarine Base for decades to come. 

That mathematics of power and death is as simple as it is chilling, but stark as the numbers are, there is an upside to 'em; if ever we utilize our Ohio-class submarines in anger, for the missions they were designed to accomplish - remembering again that each of the 14 boomers carries 24 Trident II missiles with each Trident capable of delivering 12 doses of thermonuclear Armageddon - we would no longer have to worry about global warming. 

After a while I started noticing our surroundings again, which had returned to normal in that the channel markers were once more the exclusive preserve of cormorants.  

It was too late in the day to exit the ICW, so we found an anchorage off the south end of Jekyll Island on the Georgia side of the state line.  

The next morning, we sailed out St. Mary's Inlet toward the North Atlantic, and, to my complete surprise, saw feral horses walking along the shoreline just before we exited the sheltered channel of the ICW. 

That was my first day aboard Lillie in truly Big Water, and I'm proud to say I didn't get seasick, then or at any point later on in the voyage even though we from time to time passed through some fairly scary stretches of ocean. 

Seasick or not, I was sort of taken aback to see the USS Carney, an Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer, cruising by just a half mile or so away. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit here that I had no idea what type of destroyer it was or what it was called 'til months later, when I posted this pic on Facebook and my nephew, who was in the Navy at the time, identified it for me. All I knew that morning at the mouth of St. Mary's Inlet was that another honkin' big US Navy warship was doing interesting stuff in front of my camera lens. 

That destroyer being where she was, and the fact that both of her helicopters made repeated very loud, disturbing pretend strafing runs at us just barely above the level of Lillie Mae's 65' mast top, were no doubt coincidences that had nothing to do with our having been too close to a boomer as it left King's Bay, but by the time we got well away from the Inlet and the heavy military and cargo vessel traffic there as we made passage to points south, I was not even a bit saddened that we weren't going to be seeing any further manifestations of our military/industrial complex for a while. 


all images ©2017 by nanatehay

Views: 1976

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on June 16, 2017 at 7:28am

Your pictures make me sad.  In just two ships you saw tens of BILLIONS of wasted dollars that could have better been put to some good use.  

Comment by Julie Johnson on June 16, 2017 at 7:39am

cool stories and pictures!  I worked at Kings Bay for a construction company, (tool shed and inventory) before they brought the subs in.  While they were dredging and laying the groundwork.  I had to do a quick google to make sure my years were right, mid to late 80's.  Crazy times, with all the folks brought in from all over the world.  

Comment by JMac1949 Today on June 16, 2017 at 7:39am

R&L Great post.

Comment by nanatehay on June 16, 2017 at 7:53am

The amount of wasted tax dollars on display just during those couple days was pretty extraordinary for sure. Let's keep our fingers crossed that one day soon we'll get to experience toe-to-toe nukeyalur combat with the Russkies and it will all have been worth it. 


Comment by nanatehay on June 16, 2017 at 7:58am

So you're from near there, Julie? It was beautiful along the Intracoastal Waterway, and appropriately enough there were almost as many bald eagles in the area as there are defense industry lobbyists on Capitol Hill.  

Comment by nanatehay on June 16, 2017 at 8:15am

The only birds more common than bald eagles were the pelicans - 

and the cormorants - 

and the terns too, i guess, there were a lot of damn terns

well, and vultures, Georgia had vultures out the wazoo now that I think about it...

Comment by Julie Johnson on June 16, 2017 at 8:45am

No,no.., definitely not from there, just been there.  I'm 'from' North Dakota. My oldest baby's daddy was in the Air Force, and after he got out, went into sales. We spent so many years in that area of the country.  A year or so in Atlanta, a few in Goldsboro NC, Jacksonville FL, St Mary's GA.  Sort of a long story, and I don't want to take over your comment thread, but damn...It's brought back some memories. Just thinking about it,  I guess I used to be sort of adventurous.  I don't think anybody would believe it, now.  I sort of watch the stories I tell...

Comment by Julie Johnson on June 16, 2017 at 8:45am

You really do take the best pictures.  

Comment by Anna Herrington on June 16, 2017 at 9:10am

Holy Cow, that's one scary looking sub!

Thought briefly about moving to the Ga/SC coast, once upon a time, but between the nuke plants, the government, the military presence, and the seemingly endless streams of arrogant fat ass khaki-wearing preppie-type southern men....

oops, my worst bias is showing. I do have an attitude about most polo-wearing southern men. Not the grizzly bear types, not at all, but those gawd-awful.....



Love the first shot! And I do hope Vanessa sees this photo of greeting  : )  Great shot as well. among many you posted here. Where has II/Will gone to, I've been wondering....

and I'm really glad you've posted part 2. Photo posts are a wonderful momentary distraction away from the sludge of current events going on in the world.

I wonder why so many cormorants vs other seabirds.

The variety of birds you saw there were in much abundance here on the Oregon coast last week, too, where we camped for days and now I just mumble 'can't wait to go back' all through my working hours as well as during sleep.... 

"This is a land where nature rules, and humanity keeps a low profile." ~William Wordsworth, quote posted at my computer. 

All that military etc/humanity presence aside, the lands down there are lovely, the unsullied version really must have been paradise.

Comment by koshersalaami on June 16, 2017 at 10:50am

288 independently targetable nuclear warheads per sub? 

To put that in perspective: If anyone managed to take thirteen of them out, less than 20% of the remaining sub's firepower would be necessary to destroy the equivalent of every American city with a major sports franchise.  You could make the US non-functioning with 50 warheads if they hit individual targets. 


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