This week, the smells of summer can be found in backyards, driveways, and parks around the country. The fourth of July is celebrated with BBQ’s and fireworks and usually time in the pool or on the beach. As we celebrate with family and friends, we can’t forget those who are always on watch in our Navy. But just because a submariner is currently deployed, it doesn’t mean that a little fun and celebration can’t be had.
Life on a submarine can be boring. And for the most part, you want it to be. Submarine movies like to have us believe that it’s all action and secret missions. But most of the time it is routine patrols with the crew taking turns sleeping, eating, and standing watch. So, what do submariners do in their down time? While there isn’t always a lot of downtime between routine maintenance and studying for qualifications, down time does occur. Most of a sailor’s down time will be spent in the mess hall. They watch movies, play video games, play cards, or just sit around and hang out. Sometimes they will get in a gym workout or run. Yes, submarines have gyms. Some modern-day subs are the length of two football fields and seven feet tall. So, while most of the space is taken up with state of the art navigation and warfare equipment, there is still a little room for a treadmill or two. What equipment comes aboard can vary depending on the type of submarine. For instance, an SSBN has a little more space than an SSN. Sometimes there will be a stationary bike or row machine and other times a weight machine with adjustable dumbbells. As far as a run is concerned, if a sailor does 17 laps in an SSBN missile compartment upper level, they have gotten in a nice one mile run! Even this can all get mundane after months at sea and sailors need to let off some steam. So, when weather and schedule permits, a captain may call for a Steel Beach Picnic.
A steel beach picnic is just as it sounds. A picnic topside of the submarine. The cook will bring out a grill and cook up some burgers and hot dogs and the crew will eat on top of the submarine and relax in the sun. For the most part, while out to sea, the Navy maintains a no alcohol policy. However, when a ship or submarine has been out for over 45 days, the captain can request a ‘beer day’, which allows the crew to really get a chance to unwind and feel a little taste of home. Depending on mission status and location, this can be held on the same day as a steel beach picnic. The captain may also allow a swim call. During a swim call, sailors will use the top of the submarine as their diving board and get to swim in the world’s best swimming pool – the open ocean. These activities allow a submariner some fresh air, sun and a little fun during long deployments. Therefore, this week, we would like to share some of our favorite images from Steel Beach Picnic’s and swim calls in the US Navy. We hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th!