When Jason and Brent Richardson returned to elementary school this month, they had a great summer experience to share with their classmates. The two brothers went on a four-day cruise on the United States Navy's newest missile cruiser, the USS Ticonderoga. They went with their dad, who is in the Navy and serves on the ship.
''I didn't think a ship this big went so fast,'' says Jason on the stern (the rear) of the ship, looking at the large, white wake of water spreading out from the Ticonderoga's propellers.
The Ticonderoga weighs more than 9,600 tons and is 563 feet long. It travels at more than 30 knots, or almost 40 miles an hour, and has an engine with 80,000 horsepower to drive it. (Your parents' car only has about 150 horsepower.) Jason and Brent's dad works in the engine room where there are four gas turbines, the same engines that are on a DC-10 jet airplane.
''We got to steer the ship,'' says Jason, ''and meet the captain and have dinner with him.'' At night they slept in the same bunking area as their father and got up early in the morning with him when reveille sounded for breakfast. ''The food's good, but not as good as my mom's,'' says Jason.
Mr. Richardson also learned a lot on the cruise. ''First, I got to see just how tough it can be for my wife to have to be both parents while I'm away on sea duty,'' he says. ''And this was just for a few days. I go out for a couple of months at a time.''
But what he really liked was being able to share with his sons just what it is he does while at sea. ''Until this 'tiger cruise,' they really couldn't imagine what I did. Now they not only know what I do with the ship's engines, but with my free time on board as well.''
In the Navy, a tiger cruise is when a ship goes to sea for just a few days before returning to port. Officers and sailors are allowed to bring their sons or younger brothers along to see what life on board a ship is like. The Navy also has cruises for wives, daughters, and sisters to come along when a ship goes out and comes back the same day.
Jason expects to learn a lot more about ships when he gets back to school. ''I want to join the Navy when I'm older,'' he says.