Ever wondered what it would be like to be a sailor?

Recently Frank and Vicki Johnson got the opportunity to find out.

The couple returned home earlier this week from a seven-day sea voyage aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.

Since Vicki’s son, Michael Daugherty, is an airman aboard the carrier, the two were able to participate in what the Navy calls a “Tiger Cruise,” where friends and family members of the carrier’s crew, known as “Tigers,” are able to join their loved one for the final leg of the journey home after a deployment is completed.

Several Navy aircraft carriers participate in the cruise program, but the length of the cruise and path the ship follows differs for each ship.

For the USS Ronald Reagan, the journey begins at Pearl Harbor where the Tigers board the ship. The Tigers then experience the ins and outs of Navy life as they join the crew for the 2,000 mile trek back to the ship’s home port of San Diego.

But before they could ever think about boarding the carrier, the couple had to apply for their spot on the cruise and find sponsors, who are crew members that are responsible for the Tigers while they are on the trip.

Frank said that Michael would be his sponsor, but they had to find a female crew member to sponsor Vicki.

After submitting their applications, he said they had to wait to find out if they were accepted. They were then told they had been accepted only a couple of weeks before the cruise was scheduled, he said, so they had to act quickly to make arrangements to meet the ship in Hawaii.

Vicki said, after boarding the ship, she and Frank did everything the seamen did except their jobs. She said they even experienced some of the same drills the sailors must practice during their regular routines.

Frank said they even got to experience a man overboard drill, which is one of the most important drills since everyone needs to know how to respond quickly and effectively in such a dangerous situation.

They also ate in the huge and crowded mess halls, slept in the tiny racks, used the sometimes problematic showers, she said.

In fact, during one shower, just when she got her hair all lathered up, Vicki said the water just shut off. She said her sponsor had to explain that it happened frequently and that the water should be back on within a few minutes. She said she just about froze waiting for the water to come back on, and when it did, it did not help matters as it was also cold.

While this was definitely not one of her favorite moments during the trip, it was not the worst thing about it either.

What was the worst thing? The food.

Vicki said that the interrupted shower was just a one time thing, while the food was an ongoing affliction.

However, these little inconveniences allowed Vicki and Frank to better comprehend and appreciate all the hardships that the men and women who serve our country have to experience and the sacrifices they make.

Frank said the trip made him realize all the little luxuries that people usually take for granted, which the sailors must forego.

He said it includes things like running the water when brushing your teeth or taking a shower. While on the ship though, since fresh water is so important, he said you have to shut the water off as much as possible so you use as little water as possible.

Vicki also talked about the lack of privacy as everyone was crammed together in the sleeping quarters where the beds were stacked three high.

She said that you cannot truly understand how hard of a life they lead until you experience it for yourself.

And after experiencing it for himself, Frank, who knows a little bit about military sacrifices after serving in Vietnam, said he has gained even more respect for the men and women who serve.

But the couple were not only amazed at the sacrifices the sailors have to make when living and working on the aircraft carrier, but they were also amazed by the ship itself.

Vicki described it as “a huge floating city,” noting that among all the technical equipment the ship also contains two convenience stores, a barber and beauty shop, doctors’ offices, even a dentist’s office, and a post office.

She said that just like experiencing Navy life, you just can not comprehend how big the ship is until you start to explore it.

Frank said they were told that the flight deck alone was over four acres. He said they were also told that those were some of the most dangerous four acres in the world.

“Everywhere we went, we were walking,” Vicki said of the long distance between various parts of the ship, which they used throughout their voyage.

“We were lost half the time,” she added, noting that the ship was not only massive but also had many convoluted and often confusing passageways.

“It’s a mass of hallways, doorways, stairways,” she said.

The couple was also awed by the power of the planes when they took off and the skill it took to safely land them.

These air operations were Frank’s favorite part. He especially enjoyed experiencing take-offs from within the ship’s air traffic control center where Michael worked.

He said he was impressed with how quickly the planes could take off and land, saying it only took a minute either way.

Vicki said she was impressed with how much the take off would shake the ship. She said sometimes the planes would take off while she was still in her bunk, but she could still feel the vibrations.

Other things about their voyage surprised them as well, from how much the ship rocked to the beautiful deep royal blue of the sea.

Vicki said she was surprised at just how much the ship rocked and rolled on the water, but it did not really bother her.

“I slept like a log at night,” she said. “The ship just rocked me to sleep.”

Frank said he learned that the reason behind the ship’s rocking and rolling was that they unloaded a lot of weight at Pearl Harbor causing the ship to sit higher in the water and thus be more affected by the natural motion of the ocean.

But it was the ocean’s color more than its movement that really surprised Vicki.

“I just never knew the ocean would be so blue,” she said.

In the end, Vicki and Frank agreed the good far outweighed the bad.

So while seven days of Navy life might have been more than enough for Vicki and Frank, overall they said it was an amazing trip.

“It was an amazing, amazing experience,” Vicki said.

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