I'm a Navy Jack n' I'm okay; I work all night....and I work all day!
January 17, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

How to pack for living at sea?

I'm in the Navy and currently at my first (shore) duty station.

I'm becoming increasingly worried from other sailors' stories of sea duty. For example:

1. Apparently the rate at which items are stolen is high. Everything from a simple pair of socks to cameras can fall victim to petty theft. Even more amazing are the punchlines to those stories: “....and then I said, 'Smith, aren't those my camo pants?' and you know what he said? He looked me in the eye and told me 'No, Petty Officer' and I was like, 'Smith! My name is on the back pocket, you stupid bastard!'”
2. Repeated assurances that your personal space for keeping items is VERY small.
3. How little sleep you get between all of the watches, the musters, port calls, etc.

Now, mind you, I was aware of much of this (except for the theft) and more before I joined. However, I'm starting to wonder (read: amusedly over think) how I'm going to pack.

Because I have things that help keep me sane. I know I'm allowed to bring a camera, but is the laptop, for downloading pictures, feasible as well? And if I'm a sort of tech junkie, am I going to have to pick and choose as to what I bring with me, between my laptop, camera, Kindle (huge book reader here), iPod, and possible future cell phone AND their assorted cords and chargers? For that matter, how in the hell do people on ships charge their electronics, when many such things take a few hours at least and you obviously can't just leave it like you can at home.

I'm really needing to hear about life on a ship from people who live or have recently lived on one for 6+ months, mainly from those also in the Navy.

How do you plan for petty theft? What do you have on board with you that gives you a little fun on any off time? What did you not expect to need, but found yourself desperately wanting when you were 2 to 3 months in? Do you have any tips or tricks for storage/packing, etc.? Do you wear civvies on a ship in your off time at all?
Basically, no detail is too small in this case. I'm even interested in the “I brought X amount of civilian clothing with me, when I discovered I really/ only needed X much” kind of information.

*I note that I am planning on implementing the ideas found at OneBag.com, but of course this doesn't help with the requirement to lug around an 80 lb sea bag of often superfluous shit (4 camo uniforms? 4 towels? And that many socks......Is all of this really necessary other than for bag inspections??)
posted by DisreputableDog to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"my laptop, camera, Kindle (huge book reader here), iPod, and possible future cell phone AND their assorted cords and chargers?"
Is there anyway you could replace all of them with one smartphone? That would cut down dramatically on your electronics. You can also lock most of them with a code to deter theft.
posted by soelo at 9:47 AM on January 17, 2011

Always, Always, ALWAYS lock your locker/rack. NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR STUFF UNLOCKED

From my experience on subs, laptops and handheld gaming systems were ok. I even participated in a few short LAN parties. Finding a place to charge the batteries could sometimes be an issue, though. If one was in good with the Electricians, they might be able to (illicitly) do something for you regarding power in your bunk, but I wouldn't count on it and I definitely wouldn't ask until you'd been on the ship for while.

As for making crap fit, use the folding methods from boot camp. There is a reason they made you do that.

You don't wear civvies on the ship, ever. The only time you wear them is on liberty. That's why you need that many uniforms. The numbers given for seabags are the bare minimum. You might be able to get away with only wearing 4 sets of uniforms in a week (since that's how often your laundry will be limited to, maybe less often), but they tend to get disgusting pretty quick, especially if you are in the engine room and you are somewhere in the tropics. While underway on subs we just wore the Navy coveralls.

Sleep: Don't plan on getting much, at least until you qualify for some watchstations and your warfare designation. that's why everyone drinks coffee, no matter how bad it is.

A popular items to bring along were various non-perishable food items that could be easily hidden. Vacuum sealed packets of tuna, pop-tarts, granola bars, etc. Good for when the mess was serving stuff you didn't want to eat.

I am assuming you are actually at A school, and not an actual shore duty station here, but ask your instructors about what they did. They've been around the block a few times.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:59 AM on January 17, 2011

I spent 8 years in the Navy with two cruises on an aircraft carrier (JFK). This was in the early '80 so it was before laptops and iPods (or women on ships). Somebody with more recent experience can speak to having Kindles and laptops and how good internet access is but I doubt it's much.

Yes, your personal space is very limited, you will have essentially a half height locker like you see in a gym and your bed will lift up with about 8 inches below that for storage. It's really a quite reasonable amount of space for one person. You can put your own lock on both of them. You can also store stuff under the mattress depending on how tolerant you are of sleeping on lumpy things, though I wouldn't put anything valuable there since it's publically accessible. Your bunk will have a light with a single plug in it that can be used for charging.

I brought a very expensive and complicated 35mm camera setup with me and a bicycle and didn't have either one stolen. I don't think things were stolen at a particularly high rate as long as you were careful, lock your stuff up or have it on your person. I've also found that you can store some personal stuff in you work area, those usually aren't publically accessible and you'll know everybody there.

Yes, you'll need all that clothes, laundry is often slow and small things get lost occasionally. Nobody wears civvies on a ship when it's at sea. I would only bring a few sets of civvies, you'll only need them when you visit a port.

Sleep, I would typically work 12 hours a day and then have 12 hours to sleep/eat/read/goof off. Occasionally you would have a watch that would take up some of your sleeping time; these are more likely when you’re in port.

I could keep going....
Don't listen everything people tell, they might be just jerking your chain cause your the newbie.
Have fun, living on a ship is an interesting and weird lifestyle.
memail me if you have more questions.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:19 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually it was the late '80s, apparently I can't tell the differnce between high school and the Navy anymore....I'm not sure what that says about me or the Navy...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:12 AM on January 17, 2011

Agreeing with AgentCorvid (and Confess, Fletch) to simply remember to lock your rack and locker as soon as you are done putting stuff away/rummaging/etc.

I was on an aircraft carrier as well (America CV-66, now decommed and sunk off the Outer Banks) in the early 90's, and individual divisions/departments tended to bunk together, so you would generally know those around you (not that this makes them 'not thieves').

You probably are getting a little stick from those you've spoken to. It's total madness on board a ship, but it's also a real learning experience and fun some of the time.
posted by kuanes at 12:18 PM on January 17, 2011

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