USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) Sailors left Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, for sea trials May 6, only to find themselves dropping anchor hours later.
Sailors from deck department's 1st division lowered the port-side anchor during a precision anchorage drill in the ship's forecastle.
"It's one of the most dangerous jobs on the ship because we don't do it every day," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Travell A. Young, petty officer in charge of the drill.
Three hospital corpsmen, clearly marked with red crosses on their helmets, are a visual reminder of the hazards a fast-moving chain supporting a 30-ton anchor creates.
"Set special sea and anchor detail," is called out over the shipboard announcing system, and the drill begins.
Seaman Douglas Tynes uses a five-pound mallet to remove one of the stoppers on the ship's port chain. Stoppers are large, metal clamps and are another safety device to hold the chain in place.
"Back in the day, Sailors would release the anchor by disengaging both stoppers on the chain," Tynes said.
"Now, we do it a safer way."
The process is reversed from what it used to be, meaning the two breaks in the windlass are disengaged after the stoppers are removed.
George Washington nears its first target, 5,000 yards from anchorage, and a flurry of orders are barked to the crew, understandable to those fluent in deck terminology.
After a few minutes of silence, George Washington meets her mark. With a gentle swing of the mallet, Tynes releases another stopper.
Next comes the order to "cover down," as the Deck crew prepares to lower the anchor to the water's edge.
The breaks are released, and the chain groans and shakes the forecastle as the anchor descends to its mark. The crew's next challenge is to drop the anchor to the bottom.
Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Jeff Ellis, the drill's anchor watch, cranes his neck out the port hole to get a reading on the anchor as it is lowered and raised.
"You take readings, like a clock, and this helps to make corrections so the anchor doesn't go under the ship," said Ellis.
During the drill, Ellis checks the tension on the chain and ensures the anchor is holding the ship in place.
As quickly as the anchor was released, it takes more than 10 minutes to raise it.
"Anchors aweigh," yells Ellis, signifying the end of the drill.
For more news from USS George Washington, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.