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Sleeping on the Aircraft Carrier

For our weekend stay on the USS Yorktown, our scout group slept in the general crew quarters at the stern of the aircraft carrier. About 120 dads and scouts bunked in three rooms, each only maybe 50% bigger than our master bedroom at home. There were 44 sleepers in our particular room.

The bunks were stacked in pairs, 4 high. In the floor space that a cheap and small normal double bed would take, there were eight sleepers. Calfgrit8 and I slept side-by- side on the second bunk from the floor.

Getting in and out of the bunks took a special gymnastic talent. Some of the boys could climb up and jump from one bunk set to the next like acrobats. Us dads, though, were a little more cautious and slow.

I tried several different ways to get into my bunk, but only one way actually worked. Just climb in head first, face down, then roll over onto my back or side. The mattresses are almost exactly my length, and only a few inches wider than my shoulders.

Once in bed, there was only six inches between the tip of my nose to the bottom of the bunk above me. If I wasn’t careful when rolling over on to my side, my shoulder would scrape the wire supports of the bunk above me. And, of course, any movement by any one of the eight in the bunk set could be felt by everyone else above, below, and beside him.

Getting out of bed was even more difficult because one mistake could have you tumbling out onto the hard, steel floor. It’s obvious that these berths were designed for 19 year olds, not for 40 year olds. Of course the 7-10 year olds not only didn’t have a problem with the berths, they loved climbing in, out, and on them.

Although I got used to sleeping in the bunk by the second night (after one night and one nap), the thing that I couldn’t get used to was the fact that we had nowhere to sit. I’m so used to sitting on the edge of my bed at home to put on my socks and shoes, and for any of the multitude of functions that sitting down helps with. I found myself several times kind of spinning in a circle, lost at trying to sit down somewhere. I had to sit on the floor to put on my socks and shoes, and had to kneel over the suitcase on the floor to get out our clothes. It’s amazing how a mind gets so used to something so basic that it shuts down when that basic expectation is taken away.

Taps and lights out was 11:00 pm, and reveille and lights on was at 6:00 am. Eleven to six is not all that unusual for me (Calfgrit4 gets us up at 6:00 normally, every day), but Calfgrit8 needs and gets 11-12 hours of sleep each night at home. Plus, the heavy activities of the day — climbing, playing, and exploring what amounts to a giant playground — made everyone extra tired. The uncomfortable bunk sets with 8 sleepers, and the noises and disturbances that come from sleeping in a room with 40+ other people (a dad or two snoring, a couple of boys talking and laughing), made the sleeping time not as restful as needed.

The sleeping and bathing arrangements (1 shower per ~30 people) were the least fun parts of this adventure on the Yorktown. I’ll tell you about the more fun parts tomorrow.

(The ladies on this adventure were set up in the officers’ quarters — no more than 4 people per room. Harrumph.)


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2 Responses to Sleeping on the Aircraft Carrier

  1. SAD says:

    How long are sailers out on a ship? How long do they have to live in those rooms?

  2. John says:

    sailors aboard ship for over two years without leaving it. Sailors live in the rooms for two years and then they get a shore leave for one week then back to another ship for two years. They eat only one meal a day and have to shower and go to the bathroom together once a day at the same time to save water. There may be 2,000 sailers showering at the same time

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