Naval Base Kitsap, Sinclair Inlet, WA 30 Dec 2017

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    Every year, I set the following two outdoor goals for myself: Spend twenty nights in a night, and do at least one outdoor activity per month, whether day trip or camping. In 2017, I hit forty-two tent nights, easily satisfying the first goal. But my attempts to do an outdoor activity for the month of December had so far been thwarted by scheduling conflicts and dangerously icy logging roads in the mountains.

    When a research project took me to the Port Orchard library yesterday, I jumped at the chance to finally get outdoors. Port Orchard is on the south shore of Sinclair Inlet, Puget Sound, directly across from Naval Base Kitsap. I had heard it was possible to paddle a kayak up close to the aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, but until now, I had never tried. I invited my dad along to come look at the big boats.

    00 Route Map.png
    00 Route map. Sinclair Inlet is fairly sheltered from wind, and tides are only a minor factor.

    01 Horned grebe at Port Orchard.jpg
    01 Horned grebe at Port Orchard. Winter is the best time for seabirds in Washington. There were many grebes and sea ducks, and I got extremely good looks at a trio of Brandt's cormorants from the ferry. The birds often form rings, with the buffleheads and goldeneyes furthest inland, then the horned grebes further out, then the red-necked grebes and scoters, and then finally the western grebes and alcids furthest from shore.

    02 Kitty Hawk.jpg
    02 Aging Kitty Hawk. The Kitty Hawk is the last of the navy's oil-burning aircraft carriers. All the modern ones use nuclear reactors for power. The Kitty Hawk has been decommissioned and will soon be scrapped.

    03 Fast combat support ships and decommissioned missile frigate.jpg
    03 Two fast combat support ships and a decommissioned missile frigate. The carriers require lots of protection and support while they are at sea. The frigate is the Rodney M. Davis, now decommissioned.

    04 Stennis.jpg
    04 John C. Stennis. Signs on the docks said to stay 300 feet away from the ships, but once we reached the active carriers, a patrol boat came out and warned us to stay 300 yards away.

    05 Nimitz.jpg
    05 Nimitz, lead ship of her class and oldest carrier still in service. I like big boats and I cannot lie.

    06 Nuclear submarines.jpg
    06 Nuclear submarines. We counted eleven submarines at the base, out of thirteen home-ported here. All are powered by nuclear reactors, and at least eight are "boomers" that carry long-range ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. Some of the guided-missile boats also likely have nuclear warheads on their tomahawk cruise missiles. There's enough firepower in this photograph to destroy an industrialized country.

    07 Dad and two vehicle cargo ships.jpg
    07 Dad and two vehicle cargo ships. The ships in the background have ramps for loading and unloading heavy armored vehicles. They are part of the navy's fleet of force prepositioning ships.

    08 Alex near Port Orchard.jpg
    08 Alex near Port Orchard boat ramp. Sinclair Inlet was surprisingly quiet and peaceful, considering the massive amount of military power that lives there.

    The floats that hold up the base's security nets were covered in male California sea lions. I counted at least seventy of these giant beasts, honking and barking at one another. I love Puget Sound for its mixture of human and animal life: Sometimes, the shipyards workers and their equipment were louder than the sea lions; other times the sea lions were louder than the humans. Everybody was louder than dad and me. We just drifted past, taking in all the sights and sounds.

    Alex
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
  2. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I guess this is all that the NSA/Navy allowed to be posted publicly???
    :)
     
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  3. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Surprised he got all those photos. Decades ago, I got the stinkeye from security people just for loitering along the roadway adjacent to a mothballed carrier, Viet Nam war era visit.
     
  4. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I'm surprised also.
    In May 2000 I was heading up the Hudson R. past Manhattan in my 30 ft sailboat. Some US navy ships were 'visiting' town, apparently. A couple of 'patrol' boats (machine guns on foredeck, crew all carrying guns) came screaming out and ordered me to cross the river to the opposite( NJ?) side. I was already several hundred yards out from the end of the docks. But they got no argument from me.

    Times change.
    These days, the principal threat to US Navy ships seems to be their habit of colliding with commercial vessels.
     
  5. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    Although dad and I joked about getting in trouble, the navy’s patrol boat didn't stop us from taking photos. There are several laws that regulate photography of military subjects, but none apply to our jaunt along the waterfront:

    32 C.F.R. § 705.5 is a navy regulation that prohibits visitors from photographing navy installations or ships without permission. But § 705.5 only applies to visitors who are actually aboard installations or ships, whereas dad and I were photographing from outside Naval Base Kitsap. Furthermore, § 705.5 does not criminalize unauthorized photography even aboard an installation. It merely gives the navy the right to confiscate the visitor’s camera, search it for photos of classified information, and then return it to its owner.

    50 U.S.C. § 797 is a law that gives base commanders the power to create base security regulations and makes it a crime to violate those regulations. One such possible regulation could be a ban on photography. However, § 797(b) requires that any such regulation “shall be posted in conspicuous and appropriate places.” Dad and I looked carefully, and there were no signs prohibiting photography along the waterfront of Naval Base Kitsap.

    18 U.S.C. § 795 is a law that gives the president the power to designate military installations and equipment as off-limits to photography and makes it a crime to photograph subjects so designated. In 1950, President Truman published Executive Order 10104, in which he designated as off-limits to photography any military installations, equipment, and documents designated “top secret, secret, confidential, or restricted.” (emphasis added)

    The term restricted as it appears in EO 10104 refers to a specific information classification level that existed in 1950 but no longer exists today. Restricted does not mean “restricted access” or “restricted to military personnel” or any other similar meaning that would result in all military bases being off-limits to photography by virtue of their physical restrictions. Restricted only means classified installations, equipment, or documents. Only these are subject to the prohibition on photography. See Scarbeck v. U.S., 317 F.2d 546, 551 (D.C. Cir. 1962) (in obiter dicta) (noting that the terms in EO 10104 refer to classified information); U.S. v. Giarrupto, 140 F.Supp. 831, 833 (E.D.N.Y. 1956) (§ 795 and EO 10104 exist to protect classified information).

    Dad and I did photograph carriers and submarines and the base itself, but we did not photograph any classified installations or equipment. The ships and base certainly have classified equipment and weapons aboard, but this is all secreted away from view for obvious reasons. There’s nothing classified about the exterior of a ship's hull or the outside of a building.

    18 U.S.C. § 793(b) is a law that criminalizes the photography of anything “connected with the national defense,” but only when the photography is done with the “intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Objects connected with the national defense is a broader category than just classified information, so aircraft carriers, submarines, and Naval Base Kitsap certainly qualify. See Gorin v. U.S., 312 U.S. 19, 28 (1941) (“national defense…is a generic concept of broad connotations, referring to the military and naval establishments and the related activities of national preparedness”). But I didn’t photograph these objects with the intent to injure the United States. I photographed them with the intent to make a cool post on WCP. Still legal!

    Alex
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  6. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    Very interesting! :)
     
  7. pikabike

    pikabike Paddler

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    Great trip report and photos, as always, Alex! Including bird sightings makes me look forward to reading your posts, as being among marine wildlife was one of my favorite aspects of “real sea kayaking.”

    Glad you avoided problems with the Navy. Someone told me about an outing on which he was outside the posted distances but still got warned away, and it sounded like the warner was quite unpleasant about it.