Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise Transits Strait of Gibraltar

Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise Transits Strait of Gibraltar

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) traversed rough seas and high winds while transiting through the Strait of Gibraltar March 23.

Although the passage was rescheduled for early in the morning, allowing Enterprise to transit with less traffic in the strait, weather conditions remained severe, making the transit challenging.

The wind can push you off course if it’s strong enough and the waves and sea state are obviously going to be affected,” said Quartermaster Seaman Robert J. Stallcup, a master helmsman, who was supervising and training junior quartermasters while piloting Enterprise through the strait.

In order to be a master helmsman, Sailors must complete an extensive qualification process. The Enterprise uses opportunities such as the strait transit to train Sailors using the full range of challenges presented.

“Five minutes into the transit, the quartermaster at the helm got a feel for the ship, and based on what the sea was doing, he was able to counteract it and kept the ship as straight as possible,” said Stallcup.

Although this was a successful transit, problems can arise from both weather conditions and high traffic. Stallcup is no stranger to either challenge.

“It’s one of the easier transits, but I’ve always done it through bad weather,” said Stallcup. “I can never get a good day. It’s pretty challenging and you have to stay focused. You can’t look at the strait or the mountains. You have to pay close attention to what you’re doing.”

Something Quartermaster 3rd Class Thomas J. Sanborn, the chart petty officer, reinforces from a navigational standpoint.

“The weather changes your winds and it changes the water running under the ship; so it changes where we’re getting pushed around,” said Sanborn. “So any turns that we make, we need to make sure are on time. Any slight mistake could be bad.”

Navigating a ship this large through the strait is a coordinated effort that requires input from many different specialties including the Aerographer’s Mates (AG), the ship’s weather forecasters and observers, who are especially vital on days like today.

It is the AG’s job to analyze meteorological and oceanographic data from satellites, radar and the vast amount of meteorological and oceanographic products and charts.

They use this data to predict weather conditions and how they may affect operations, and then present this data to not only Enterprise, but all the ships and units attached to the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1,” said Aerographer’s Mate 1st class Craig P. Hawkins, a forecast duty officer aboard Enterprise.

“Today’s event called a ‘Levante’ caused very strong funneling of easterly winds through the Strait of Gibraltar,” said Hawkins. “It’s not uncommon to see funneling in this gap, but certain meteorological conditions this morning favored a very strong ‘Levante’ wind event.”

Weather observers aboard Enterprise recorded wind gusts as high as 46 knots during the transit, but when added to the ship’s speed, the gusts felt closer to 50 plus knots on the flight deck.

“Winds in combination with rough seas made this transit more challenging than usual,” said Hawkins. “Forecasting the strong winds days in advance helped the strike group better prepare for what was to come and plan accordingly.”

Proper planning and quick reflexes by the ship’s crew made the recent transit successful.

“I think the transit went really well despite the weather,” said Sanborn. “This was well thought out by the chain of command and everyone involved did a great job.”

Naval Today Staff , March 27, 2012; Image: navy