Mark Sikorski

Captain’s Log: 0700 hours, underway in the South Atlantic Ocean, 14 knots on a northeasterly heading along the coast of Brazil. A brilliant morning sun is broad on the starboard bow. The air is warm and clean; the sky is almost empty of clouds–a nearly perfect spring day in the Southern hemisphere has put an extra spring into the step of the crew. The 04-08 morning watch has smelled breakfast and coffee for several hours; they are anxiously waiting to be relieved of their duties.

0830 hours: We encounter 10 or so small vessels (maybe 12 meters in length) fishing an area where the bottom contours rapidly ridge up from 1,000 to 100 meters. Obviously good fishing grounds; wish we had the time to stop and drag a line through the water. A pod of humpback whales makes its appearance off the port bow; reminiscent of the sea lions and penguins off Chile, dozens of playful, charging dolphin in Peru, and broaching whales leaping off Colombia.

1030 hours: Manned battle stations in all gunnery spaces and on the bridge. Conducted a pre-action calibration gunnery exercise; successfully shot five rounds of 76-mm. ammunition from our MK75 gun located on the forecastle (bow). Fired the rounds to test the recent repairs we have made to the weapon. Getting rounds downrange is always a good thing. Spent the rest of the morning pushing paperwork: approving reports and signing the ship’s official logs.

1200 hours: All small arms, ammunition, and pyrotechnics have been inspected. Struck eight bells.

1300 hours: Quarters on the flight deck. Congratulated weapons division for a smart and safe gunnery exercise.

1330 hours: Set battle stations. Carried out multiple training scenarios testing the skill of our damage-control and combat-systems teams. Battled fire and flooding from simultaneous missile and torpedo hits; exercised semaphore signals; first aid applied to simulated personnel casualties. Spirited performances by my exceptionally accomplished shipmates.

1500 hours: On the port bridge wing in my outdoor office. The sun is remarkably warm and bright. I’m standing on our conning platform, which extends several feet outboard of the port side; I can see the bow wake rushing 30 feet below me. Forward has a slight heel to port from the wind and seas off the starboard side. A light mist sprays off the bow as the ship’s stem cuts through the wave tops. The azure water roils like the surf, foaming all around us as Forward treks north into the vast expanse of water. Our wake is straight and true, signifying that an accomplished crewmember is at the helm. An Amazon gull is gliding gracefully overhead; its brilliant white and black is in stark contrast to the pale blue sky; suddenly it arches to the right into an inverted dive, plucking an unsuspecting flying fish skimming the surface of the ocean blue. This is life at sea.

1800 hours: Navigation brief detailing the procedures we will use to enter the harbor of Salvador, Brazil.

1830 hours: Ice-cream sundaes, dished out by the chief petty officers’ mess, bring a welcome and festive change to our daily routine.

2100 hours: Plying our way north through gentle tropic breezes. The navigator reports our position to be 16 degrees 11 minutes South latitude and 038 degrees 00 minutes West longitude (less than 1,000 miles south of the equator). The evening watches are set; all is secure about the decks; my Night Orders are on the bridge. Forward is gently rocking beneath wispy clouds that are illuminated by the first quarter moon–its pale orange sliver sinking into the western horizon. Jupiter shines brightly high in the eastern sky. Countless stars and constellations burn in the heavens, framing our overhead canopy against the dark backdrop of night. The sound of sea spray echoes through the darkness from the open bridge wing doors. The fresh sea air invigorates the senses and relaxes the mind. Another day at sea draws to a close.