Navy guys: What's a 'Port Call'?

In my hometown paper there’s an article about the USS Constellation making a “port call” in Hong Kong.

Now, back in the day of “fighting sails”, I could understand a port call as being a stop in a friendly town, in order to replenish food and other perishables on a ship. But in the age where entire fleets can travel around the world, it seems kinda strange that we would stop ships for a week or so in a relatively enemy port (the USS Cole comes to mind, unfortunately).

So what exactly is a port call, and why do we stop at foreign ports that aren’t exactly the most friendly?

Ask me anything about airfields. Go ahead!

Isn’t it the same thing as a “booty call.” :smiley:

Well, I was a marine not a sailor, but I can imagine that when you’re at sea for a month or more making a “Port Call” is important for morale. “Join the Navy–See the World”. Something like that. My unit had a rotating detachment to the USS Midway so I heard plenty of “sea stories”. By the way, you must that there is an army hospital on Oahu called Tripler? It’s a wonderful pink building with an outstanding view of the ocean.

The sad case of the USS Cole shows that we should exercise caution. But Hong Kong doesn’t sound as dangerous as Yemen.

It can be Wishbone.

Tripler, while ships can go a long way withing having to stop but the people need a break once in a while. It’s also not practical to get everything you want while underway. Food stores can be replenished by helecopter but fresh milk, fruits and vegtables are usually only available in port.

When I was on the Constallation, '81/82 we made several port calls on a cruise to the indian ocean. From San Diego we did a quick transpac to Pearl Harbor, stayed a few days then on to NS Subic Bay/NAS Cubi Point in the Philippines. That is a working port so the stay is from a week to ten days with aircraft operations (that’s what I did) on shore. Back on the ship and into the Indian Ocean to go on station. We made liberty stops in Singapore, Mobasa Kenya and Perth W.A. then back on station for a while near the Gulf of Oman with stops in Phillippines and Hawaii on the way home.

Another reason US ships make port calls is to show off. “Gunboat diplomacy” was a favorite tactic in the days of tall warships. The clearly superior naval vessels made such an impression that the diplomats didn’t need to make verbal threats.

And also, wishbone may be making funny, but he’s got a point - the ship may be able to make it around the world without stopping, but the crew can’t! They need shore leave. Hong Kong sounds like a nice place for that.

When I was in Thailand I often saw reference in the English language newspaper to large naval vessels putting into Pattaya or Phuket. Both of these places main point of infamy is the large population of working girls. Phuket is also well known for its pineapples, rubber plantations and is really beautiful, geographically speaking. So maybe they were loading up on pineapples?

Sheesh, I can’t even spell Constellation or Mombasa right :rolleyes:

Nice article but the Connie can only hold about 5,000. The bigger Nimitz class nuclear powered carriers might have crews that large as they don’t have to carry all the extra fuel oil. IIRC the Connie, JFK and Kitty Hawk are the only remaining oil fired carriers in the fleet. They can get fuel while underway. That’s normally a safe operation but I was on the Ranger when it collided with the tanker Wichita. That was an exciting morning :smiley:

Port call?

How about an abridged version/phrase for “port of call”? Given the changing political situations over the centuries for countries with blue water navies, their ships could/could not count on using various ports to “call on” for resupply, maintenance, crew liberty, etc.

Hence, Palma (Majorca) is a great “port (of) call”; Aden (Yemen) is NOT a great “port (of) call”.

Well, no, it wasn’t pineapples. They were actually unloading something else entierly, of a much less solid substance (I was on the same ship as Robert Clark Young, who used its WestPac deployment as the basis for his over-the-top book “One of the Guys”). All I will say is that nobody expects an oath of enlistment to be a vow of celibacy.

Other than R&R and showing the flag, another reason to deploy overseas is the cheapness of what’s available there: The shipyard workers in the Philipines are just as skilled as the ones in Long Beach, but make so much less per hour that the 2,000 mile’s worth of fuel is still a savings.

In other words, not much has changed. :smiley: An aircraft carrier pulling up to a pier is a truly impressive sight. The Connie is over 1000 feet long and over 80,000 tons of warship. Tack on another 17,000 tons for a Nimitz class carrier.

Unfortunately, I was on a submarine. And while they are quite lethal in a shootin’ war, they are not at all impressive pierside. They’re kind of like icebergs; most of the boat is underwater (even when surfaced).

Also, I think there is a long tradition of Hong Kong being a popular port of call for the US. In recent years, China has been occasionally unwilling to let us stop there, which annoyed many sailors. But when we can get our ships in, it’s a popular spot. Aside from Australia, probably the most westernized port of call in that part of the globe, which I’d imagine that sailors away from home for months on end enjoy.

Actually, 'Uigi, it’s like this: you’d make a “port call” at a “port OF call.”

Hong Kong may now be sort of an “enemy” port, but until 1997 it was essentially a British port, and a very popular stop for U.S. ships. It was my ship’s last stop in October 1990 before we crossed the Pacific to our new homeport, Pearl Harbor.

Hong Kong had many services designed to cater to mariners, mainly from U.S. and U.K./Commonwealth ships. These ranged from a U.S. Defense Liaison Office, to the China Fleet Club, to special rates at hotels (although some hotels barred Australian sailors: too rowdy). It hadn’t occurred to me the Red Chinese would limit visits to the place, but if they want the “one country, two systems” policy to have any credibility they’d be wise not to.

Besides, as far as I know Hong Kong is only a liberty port; no Navy- or Defense-related work goes on there. What would the People’s Government be afraid of, anyway? That U.S. ships would send intelligence officers ashore to ferret out the best bargains at Stanley Market?

The question’s been mostly answered, but one point has been left out: Running a ship or boat is hard on the equipment, and while many repairs can be made out to sea, there are some things that must be done in port. Things like flushing out a fuel oil bunker so the a leak between it and the adjacent potable water tank can be repaired (been there, done that!), or a main reduction gear inspection can be carried out (done that, too), or a replacing a generator rotor (did that in Japan: Best d*mn riggers in the world!).

Meanwhile, crew is being checked aboard or transfered off, ship’s fresh produce supplies are topped off, repair parts are loaded, the crew gets a break (maybe), and (again, maybe) get some more personal ‘maintenance’ done, local big-shots tour the ship, the ship’s force repairs some local shool or orphanage, and diplomacy happens. You get the idea.

Yep, I think I do . . .

Port Call = a sort of holiday or week long break. Makes sense. . .

I just go to the bar.

Not exactly a holiday. There are still watches to be manned, and some work to be done. However, there is usually a good deal of liberty available. Hence the occasional use of the term “liberty port”.

And many of the Sailors do indeed go to the bar.

Do you guys speak English? “call” (among other things) means to make a brief visit and it is not an obscure meaning, it is pretty basic. Maybe I am missing something here… the meaning looks pretty straightforward to me.

Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full . . .

I was wondering more of what the purpose was. Yeah, it might be intrinsically obvious that you are stopping at a port, but my question was, “what’s the point”? I had no idea. And I’m still kinda fuzzy on why we stop at so many ports around the world.

But, alas, I am now in the know, and all powerful with my new knowledge. . .

At least as all-powerful until about 8:23AM, then I have to go and actually work for a living. . .

The standard quip on my last boat was: “First Bar On The Left”. When we got liberty, we’d leave the pier or gate, and commence making left-hand turns until we found a bar. It was always easy to find a shipmate that way, and we always knew what the muster point was.

oh, ok, I was missing something: the meaning of the question. (duh!) Boy do I feel dumb now… never mind me, … carry on