Sea Cruise: U.S. Navy offers families the opportunity to ride the high seas

U.S. Navy offers families the opportunity to ride the high seas

While many spring break vacations are to sunny destinations in the southern half of the United States, Orein “Dave” Reidt’s week-long trip included a special twist.

Reidt, 58, traveled to sunny Cape Canaveral, Fla., to visit his 28-year-old son Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Reidt, who serves in the U.S. Navy.

FATHER AND SON: Orein “Dave” Reidt (right) stands with his son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Reidt, who serves on the U.S.S. San Juan submarine. Twelve navy dads recently had the opportunity to travel on a “Tiger Cruise” 45 miles off the coast of Florida. (Courtesy photo)

Kyle’s submarine, the U.S.S. San Juan, came into port in eastern Florida late last month to pick up a few civilian passengers. Reidt and 11 other navy dads had the unique opportunity to take a four-day “Tiger Cruise” on the 360-foot-long, nuclear-powered, attack submarine.

A Tiger Cruise offers a limited number of family and friends a visit on a ship and cruise along for a few days. The submarine left port the evening of March 27 and traveled about 45 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

“For those few days, I was just awestruck,” Reidt told the Pioneer upon his return to Big Rapids. “I told my son at the end of the trip, ‘That was the most awesome thing I’ve ever done, but I’ll never do it again.’”

Crew on the San Juan treated the trip like a regular cruise and practiced their drills as normal. Reidt and the other navy dads were able to observe the sailors at work in every area of the submarine, except in the engine and nuclear power sections.

The fathers were given a list of activities and duties to complete, including using the sub’s periscope, sonar equipment, completing a fire drill and steering the submarine.

“I got to drive the sub for about a half hour; my hands were sweating the whole time,” Reidt said. “There’s three guys who drive the sub. There’s one guy driving the front of the sub, one guy driving the back and one guy who balances the sub. Behind them is a chief telling them what to do.

“One guy said I picked it up pretty good, but it was a challenge to steer. … When you’re driving, you want to get it to a certain degree, but the sub keeps going so you have to take each turn slow.”

The sonar equipment was not amplified to maximum capacity, Reidt said. However, he could hear every sound in the ocean within about a 10-mile radius.

“You put the headphones on and you can hear schools of fish swimming, a propeller from a motor on a boat a few miles away,” Reidt said. “They couldn’t show us the full power of the sonar, but they said they can hear people talking in other (vessels); it’s that powerful.”

 

NAVY DADS: The fathers of 12 crew members of the U.S.S. San Juan submarine were invited to take a “Tiger Cruise” last month. A Tiger Cruise is where a limited number of family and friends can visit a ship and cruise along for a few days.

The life aquatic 

Although the activities were fun, Reidt said life on a submarine’s cramped quarters is not for him.

The 6-foot-tall Reidt had about four inches clearance from the ceiling has he traversed the submarine. The hallways also are so narrow that two people walking in opposite directions had to turn sideways to pass each other, he said.

“I wasn’t on the boat for more than 30 minutes before I bumped and cut my head on something hanging,” Reidt said. “I hit my head twice throughout the whole trip.”

The sleeping arrangements were even more cramped. Laying on his back in his bunk, Reidt said his feet and head could touch the walls. Also, when he turned on his side, he had less than an inch of room to the top of the bunk.

“Sailors don’t have much space for anything,” Reidt said. “All their stuff has to be kept in small storage spaces that are only a few inches high.”

Bon voyage 

On the last full day of the cruise (March 30), the submarine surfaced and the dads and crew took a break to swim in the ocean. The ocean floor was about 750 feet below, Reidt noted.

“I was the first to jump in, other than an officer who went in with a mask to look for sharks,” Reidt said. “At one point we saw dolphins swimming around us. As soon as we saw dolphins, we knew we were good because no sharks were going to come around when there’s dolphins.”

Crew members swam in shifts, while others manned the helm. Swimmers also would run and slide off the bow of the submarine, Reidt said.

Towards the end of their three-hour swim, Cmdr. Oliver Lewis pulled out a box of cigars for the navy dads to smoke. His dad also was on the cruise.

“Everybody was smoking cigars on the deck. It was pretty amazing,” Reidt said. “The captain is a very nice guy; he’s really laid back and gets along with everybody.”

Once back on shore, Kyle had a few days leave. The father and son relaxed in Cape Canaveral and went to the Kennedy Space Center one day.

“I got to spend four days with my son in Florida, just hanging around,” Reidt said. “It was a great vacation.”

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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