Today we left the McChord area and headed north to the Naval base at Bremerton. Nice drive without so many cars on the road. We have reservations at Navy Billeting. So, the current count is: Army $82.00 a night; Navy $77.00; and the Air Force is winning at $70.00. These are the “standard” prices which are adjusted by costs in the local area, usually going up to match local motels. We were told by some of the Navy housekeeping staff that their “hotel” (which use to be a dormitory) is being turned over to a civilian company. The staff was concerned that they would then be working under civilian rules and pay and would lose whatever benefits they had working for the Navy. I’m guessing that, like the Army, the Navy lodging prices will be going up.
So we’re staying on the Naval Base Kitsap which appears to be very small, but is “Homeport” to a number of very large ships. A small sampling of the ships is the USS Nimitz, USS Carl Vinson, USS Maine and USS Ohio, plus six more. In addition, and one of the reasons it’s so much fun traveling with Julieann, they also have three USNS ships homeported here. So what is a USNS ship you may be asking yourself, as Julieann asked me and I had to find the answer? United States Naval Ship or USNS is the prefix designation given to United States Naval Ships that are unarmed auxiliary support vessels owned by the U.S. Navy and operated in non-commissioned service by Military Sealift Command with a civilian crew. Bet y’all didn’t know that now did ya (except, of course, my brother-in-law, Tommy da Sailor Man)??
Naval Base Kitsap is a U.S. Navy base located on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State and was created in 2004 by merging the former Naval Station Bremerton with Naval Submarine Base Bangor. The mission of the base is to serve as the home base for the Navy’s fleet throughout West Puget Sound and to provide base operating services, including support for both surface ships and Fleet Ballistic Missile and other nuclear submarines having their home ports at Bremerton and Bangor.
Naval Base Kitsap also provides service, programs, and facilities to meet the needs of their hosted combat commands, tenant activities, ships' crews, and civilian employees. It is the largest naval organization in Navy Region Northwest, and it is composed of installations at Bremerton, Bangor, Manchester, Indian Island, and Keyport, Washington. It is the third-largest Navy base in the U.S. and features one of the U.S. Navy's four nuclear shipyards, one of two strategic nuclear weapons facilities, the only West Coast dry dock capable of handling a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and the Navy's largest fuel depot.
On our “walkabout” we passed the USS Carl Vinson. Now, I’ve seen this ship many times as it came through the canal on its way to its berth in Pearl Harbor, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in dry dock. It’s not a pretty sight as they tear her apart, clean her up and put her back together again. I don’t know how long she’ll look like this because any questions I asked workers about the Carl Vinson was met with a “Who the hell are you and why are you asking questions?” look of mistrust. Better safe than sorry, I guess. Maybe it was my “Retired U.S. Air Force” hat that turned them off, but I don’t care – I still wear it just about everywhere. We also saw a number of other ships, including a submarine, being worked on. It was a nice walk of around 7,000 steps, but I did not like the up-hill climb back to our quarters.
One thing we found interesting is the Handicap Parking. This base has at least three large parking lots and a couple of streets totally dedicated for Handicap Parking. The Handicap then take a base shuttle base to wherever they're going on base. Parking, as a whole, was very limited and it seemed that EVERY parking lot was reserved for one type of car sticker or another.
We also checked out the Navy Exchange (no big thing; same as others) and the “Dining Facility” (AKA the “Chow Hall”) which is open to all. A big “unusual” thing for the Chow Hall – their lunch and dinners serve one item and one item only – take it or leave it. I thought that it would be set up something like the Air Force where you get to chose from 4 or 5 items, but nooooooo. That’s not the Navy way; at least not at Kitsap Naval Base. And it’s Tuesday so the Commissary is closed…..huh? On Tuesday? That’s also the Kitsap way, I guess. Oh well, at least they had a Wendy’s (Chocolate Frosty -- It’s what’s for lunch).
Since we’re leaving tomorrow for Seattle we made a “dry run” to check on the ferry that will be taking us across the pond to Seattle and to do a little sightseeing along the coast. We stopped by a “quaint” little town and did some walking around. BTW when did “quaint” get to mean “expensive”?? I bought two ice cream cones (single scoops) and the bill was almost $14.00. We also stopped by a casino to check out their buffet and were disappointed to find that the buffet was closed. When that section reopens it will be a Food Court. Guess the buffet wasn’t making any money. We expressed our disappointment by not playing any games and not losing any money --- so there!