“Smell that? You smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill …”
Unlike Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now,” we love the smell of burning Styrene and the chatter of air powered grinders in the morning, but the effect is much the same.
We are still living on Country Dancer, in the Pensacola Shipyard, while she gets her hull re-skinned. So far, there has been over 7 days of labor with a “peeler” cutting a very precise layer of gelcoat and CSM fiberglass off the bottom. The rest of this 5 month “Tour” has been just sitting around waiting. The ripping chatter of the yard machines makes it feel exactly like we are living in a war zone. Every time the “peeler” touches the bottom it sends out an intense blast of vibration and racket into the hull, and we flinch like soldiers hiding in a fox hole. Today, we have two of the yard guys dressed is combat Tyvek and face-shields smoothing out the ridges with 8” air powered grinders. As the fiberglass gets sheared away it heats up releasing the embedded Styrene… which is a solvent used during the hull layup. This Styrene is the very distinctive “smell of fiberglass” that begins our every morning.
There are other parts of our current situation that are also reminiscent of Francis Coppola’s famous film. Our “hill” is at the top of a 12’ ladder lashed to Dancer’s stern. Our normally plush accommodations are cluttered with tools and covered in blue dust and everything we touch – including the dog – has to be carried up and down that ladder. Since we are in the middle of a parking lot we are not allowed to “discharge” anything and Jodi does the dishes in a 5 gallon bucket. The nearest rest room is 1/4 miles away behind a locked gate, and we use our holding tank for “emergency #1”. But there no pump-out up here so the first job every Saturday is to pump the tank into jerry jugs and cart them to the pump-out station. Maybe we should just burn it in a 55 gallon drum like they did in the “Nam.”
In the movie it seemed like the air was always thick and misty. Here the air so thick with ground bottom paint and fiberglass that everyone working here wears a full respirator. Even inside, any air movement causes swirling and sparkling clouds of dust and glass fibers that have drifted into every nook and cranny.
Across the river the Blue Angels have started their daily practice sessions and they add the screaming shriek of jet fighters twisting and churning just above our heads. All we need now is a couple of “lifts” of Huey helicopters churning up surf in the river and it would make you think a weekend pass into Saigon was due.
“The horror! The horror!”…. fade to black.
(this is a “dramatization” which is “basically” true… we have really enjoyed out time in Pensacola, and the Shipyard has been very good to us.)