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Big Boats

Friends Meeting: the B sides

#1: A dream from November 5th 2007

Good morning friends. I had a dream this past Sunday night which troubled me.

I saw a fleet of very large ships, container ships I suppose, on the river Clyde in Scotland.

The setting of this dream is everything, so I must tell you a little bit about where it took place.

When I was 13 and 14 years old my father was a chaplain in the U.S. Navy and we lived in Dunoon Scotland.  During our second year there we lived in a house overlooking the Holy Loch where the USS Hunley, a nuclear submarine tender, was moored.

The crew of the Hunley, as well as contractors flown in from the US, would refit and repair Lafayette class submarines which carried Polaris missiles.  These subs might be moored along side the Hunley, or one might be brought into the floating dry-dock for longer work.

From our street on my way to school I could occasionally witness an intercontinental ballistic missile, presumably full of nuclear warheads, being lifted over to the Hunley for maintenance.  White canvas shrouded a portion of the deck concealing some of the procedures from potential Russian spies we were told.

This is the life I grew up in, this was all perfectly normal to me.  In fact I was brought on a tour of a nuclear sub, twice I think, sort of like “take your kids to work day”, except instead of an office, I was guided around a billion dollar boat.  I met the captain, or “skipper”, who later gave me a signed photograph of the SSBN. 

I recall the sleeping quarters for the enlisted.  Their bunks, squeezed 3 beds high, were nestled around the missile silos.  It seemed that I could almost reach out and rap my knuckles against a silo bulkhead to hear if it was hollow.  The whole notion that there was a missile - which could travel around the world and completely destroy numerous cities and millions of people in short order -  right there in front of me, was just sort of beyond me I guess.  I did keep my hands in my pockets though.

I think each “boomer”, that’s an affectionate term for a nuke sub, had around 16 missiles, with maybe a dozen nuclear warheads each, and every warhead was X number of times more powerful than the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan… I have to wonder if collecting weapons, whether it be a personal gun collection, or a national arms race is rather like trying to count bottles of booze an alcoholic goes through: “one is too many and a thousand is never enough”.

Not that anyone else here can identify with obsessive-compulsive self-destructive behaviors or anything…right?!

Honestly, I have to wonder if US government foreign policy is just written by the biggest shareholders of military contractors to fit their production schedules. (David Rees, cartoonist of Get Your War On has figured out how many bombs it takes for World Peace...).

Well, on the other side of the subtender, barges, dry-dock and subs, was a peninsula with a hill rising up from a town called Kilmun.  One bright summer day my father took me hiking up that hill, maybe an entire afternoon to walk up an elevation of about 1500 feet.  I vaguely recall a firebreak in the forest down low, and then open grassy hillside dotted with heather, and maybe even sheep.  Our considerable efforts were rewarded with a wonderful view over that part of God’s creation: the estuary of the Clyde heading west towards Ireland, and beyond that our first home, America, somewhere out there.

Another fond memory of that peninsula behind the nuke subs, was caddying for my grandfather on a golf course in Strone I think.  My grandfather had been an MP during the second world war, and so he was very proud of his son’s Navy career.  And of course a golfer’s dream is to visit Scotland.

Well, my recent dream was that I saw many ships, large shadowy vessels lined up along the Clyde, some of them leading into the Holy Loch, and others extending beyond it, further south and east towards Glasgow.  These new additions to my childhood scenes were awe-inspiring.

These great vessels were non-descript container ships with black hulls and large metal cubes on their decks, like warehouses.

I saw no one on board these anonymous vessels.

And there were so many of them that they dominated the view.  They were all I could see.

The bonnie green hillside across the Holy Loch was now hidden by these massing freighters, and I could no longer see God’s beautiful creation.



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