The sky is a clear blue, the candyfloss clouds wispy, the silvery sea ripples gently away from the flat shingle beach. This is Stokes Bay, a slightly sloping shelf of pebbles in the Solent just south of Gosport (Hampshire) that offers a great view of the Isle of Wight and supports a wide range of community recreational activities on the large expanse of grass adjacent to its beach. The area is often used by large warships such as American supercarriers to anchor as Portsmouth Harbour is not deep enough to berth them, and this was the reason for our visit, to check-out the 1,092 feet long aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The ship loomed across the horizon and John took some photos while I stared in awe at the enormity and grandeur of this battleship. It is designed to support and operate aircraft that engage in attacks on targets which threaten the free use of the seas and it’s a Nimitz class warship named after the 26th President of the United States, Mr Theodore Roosevelt. It also provides a credible presence for the military and a conventional deterrent in peacetime. Along the flight deck were the turrets for air traffic control and the radar housing placements for navigating the ship as well as 80 or so combat aircraft ready to be launched forward into the wind. The aircraft are recovered using three two-inch diameter arresting cables on deck which can bring an airplane going 150 miles per hour to a stop in less than 400 feet. That must be the strongest two-inch wire in the world!
I shut my eyes and wondered how a cat would feel on a ship like that. It would be quite an adventure, patrolling the corridors and scenting all those pieces of equipment, meowing at the galley staff for titbits and sneaking in to the captain’s quarters for a nap. If I was ship’s cat, I’d sit in the bridge at the front with the officers reigning over the seas, and I imagine there’d be loads of scraps left over from the 18,150 meals served each day to the 6,000 navy personnel available to tickle my chin. This $4.5 billion ship towers 20 stories above the waterline and boasts a 4.5 acre flight deck. Its engines power 4 bronze propellers each 21 feet across and steering is accomplished by 2 enormous rudders. Much as I enjoyed imagining myself in a garrison’s cap and gold sleeve stripes commanding a naval war ship, the reality is that I prefer my simple life at home. So I’ll forgo the prestige and responsibility that goes with being a fleet admiral and settle happily for my snake toy, extra plump cushion bed, chicken treats and John for company.