Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lessons From the Ship

“There’s a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbor, and tomorrow for old England she sails.”  That line from a song of  Roger Whitaker’s keeps running through my mind.  There was a ship in the harbor for the past  two weeks and on Monday it did sail, not for old England, but for Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti and the Marshall Islands. My heart was a little sad at its leaving.  When we were in town Monday I asked Leon to drive down by the harbor to see if it had gone.  The harbor looked empty without the silhouette of the USS Pearl Harbor against the sky.  I can’t explain why it made me sad.  Maybe it was the connection we felt to  Dr. Scott Hurd who became our friend so quickly, a brother in the gospel, and an important part of the ship’s mission.  Maybe it was the energy it evoked with its multi-national passenger list of young men and women, and some not as young, who ‘went about doing good’ among these islands, promoting good health practices, dental hygiene, clean water and food preparation.  The marines on board rebuilt a bridge that was out after the cyclone of last December. There were disaster management sessions, which drew on the experience and knowledge of local agencies as well as those who came to teach and to learn from others.

Twenty two of us senior missionaries took a tour one week ago of the USS Pearl Harbor, a relatively new ship christened in 2005 and which is the only ship to ever have borne that name.  It was well worth the hour we spent on board.  I believe we saw 90% of the ship. The only area I know we didn’t visit was in the belly of the ship where the ammo is kept for the defensive weapons on board and also where they store the munitions for the marines they transport in times of war.  The ship is amphibious, which means it is capable of loading and unloading landing craft, machinery and men by lowering one end of the ship up to 15 feet into the water.  It has the capacity of handling 2 helicopters on its landing deck, mostly for refueling as it has no hanger on board.

If Leon was writing this, I’m certain he would have a different perspective and would have been impressed with things I likely have forgotten or barely understood.  What struck me was what we learned in the bridge of the ship. That’s where all the navigation takes place.  As you might expect, there was lots of  electronic equipment for gathering useful information and translating that into action.  There was also a white board of sorts (it was actually black, but same idea) with lots of hand written notes and symbols.  The advantage here, it was noted, was that receiving information directly from on board crew members and writing that information on the ’white board’ avoids the possibility of hackers intercepting the message.  There was an area for paper charts and hand written calculations and notes next to the sophisticated tracking devices that help the ship to avoid natural dangers, such as shallow waters or underwater obstacles,  as well as enemies (or as our young lieutenant tour guide referred to them, our ‘frienamies’, since in today‘s political climate we have no enemies).  These calculations are made by a crew member trained to do just that, and not as a result of consulting the technical data, thereby establishing a principle that should sound familiar, i.e., providing a second witness to confirm the data.

We exited the enclosed bridge through a door on the right and we were standing on a forward deck, which name we can’t recall. It is a small area looking out over the bow of the ship from its elevated position.  There are huge binoculars through which you could see clearly anything on the horizon.  There is against the railing a vertical metal pipe or tube about  6” in diameter with a cap attached. By lifting the cap and speaking into the tube or pipe, your voice is carried to other areas on the ship, including the captain’s quarters.  The lieutenant explained a set of flags which are carried on board all sea-going vessels, which are universally understood.  When other types of communication are ill advised or impossible, the flag can signal the ship’s intent, it’s cargo, whatever pertinent information it wishes to communicate for its own safety and protection as well as other purposes.

After showing and telling of these various time-honored, universally understood, simple tools, he concluded by saying that by employing this knowledge, it is possible for a ship to navigate safely when other more sophisticated methods are inadvisable or unavailable.  A ship can safely sail with just the knowledge and practice of its crew working together with their combined and shared understanding of the ship, the sea, and their ultimate destination.

Do you remember hearing the prophets refer to the gospel as The Good Ship of the Gospel?  The counsel is to stay with the Good Ship of the Gospel.  The simple basics of daily personal and family worship, attending our meetings regularly, partaking of the sacrament, attending the temple, serving each other, and following the Prophet, taken together will ‘guide us safely home’. All of these practices are within reach of every one of us.  It is simple and basic and it works.  That is what I remember most about the USS Pearl Harbor. That is what it taught me.

The Good Ship lies rigged and ready in life’s harbor. (I feel an old gospel song coming on.)  Sing with me, brother, oh yeah, we are on the Good Ship!  Man your stations!  Anchor away!  Full speed ahead!  Woohoo! I am soo grateful to be sailing with you!

 USS Pearl Harbor, anchored in Apia Harbor, June 2013
Supply boat inside the ship used to unload w/o a dock. 
 Looking at the flight deck.
Looking over the bow of the ship from the deck to the right of the bridge.
The flag says, "Don't Tread on Me"


  1. What a cool experience, and what interesting facts! I'm sure Dad was in heaven! I'm also thrilled that you're taking so many pictures!

    1. Ha ha! That isn't a hard record to break.

  2. Great post! Now I have that song stuck in my head. Those are great insights. Very cool.

    1. It's a great song, though, right? Thanks, Les.