After a hearty breakfast in the officer's wardroom, we went topside to watch a monthly weapons test. Ship-mounted, machine guns harkening from WWII, the rapid-fire 50 mm Vulcan and 20 mm cannons provide a last line of defense against incoming missiles. Termed Phalanx, these armaments are capable of both manual and automated firing. The various stations ripped off quick 100-round bursts like Jiffy popcorn once the kernels go nova. It happened so quickly, the firing sounded more like 20 consecutive shots than 100.
As the deck was cleared of non-essential personnel, we worked with the crew to transport the three onboard Chevy Trackers from a hangar bay to the flight deck for a few photos. The ship was cruising at a solid 34 knots into a head wind as we snapped on float vests and stepped on to the 3880-square-foot elevators with some trepidation and many warnings. The elevators raise two F/A-18 Hornets the 60-foot distance in a relatively swift 20 seconds. With just the light, compact SUVs on the high-powered elevator, we braced to be jettisoned upon ascension, but the motion was surprisingly smooth. The greater concern was that we might be to be blown off the side, then sucked into one of the four 21-foot propellers... before we got our photos.
Once topside, Newhardt's 40-pound camera bag was actually sliding across the drag-strip grippy deck surface, while we were leaning toward the bow at impossible, wind-tunnel angles. Looking across the deck to port, we could watch the ocean's horizon line appear then disappear while the ship pitched and rolled through the tumultuous water.
The ride smoothed out as we drew closer to the Everett, Washington, port. Final preparations for disembarking were being made, with machinery cleaned and secured, personal effects packed, and Tiger Cruise families entertained.
Over the course of our coastal cruise, we found friendly sailors eager to talk and share their experiences. The crew in the machine shop proved to be the most ardent car guys, each confessing to owning a muscle-bound project car back home and developing a few trick engine components onboard during down times.
The commitment these often-young adults are making through their service struck a chord with us. Each sailor carries a sense of honor and pride, regardless of whether they are on a kitchen detail or working the flight deck. Every sailor's actions contribute to the smooth operation of the floating city, the strength of America's global military might, and the depth of naval camaraderie.
Seeing the sailors line up shoulder to shoulder along the expansive deck filled us all with a pride, as it did for those families waiting so patiently on shore. As marvelous as the machine is, the people onboard are even more impressive.
Motor Trend thanks the USS Abraham Lincoln for extending its hospitality and thank the crew for its dedication and sacrifices to defend our freedoms.