17 Tips & Tricks For Surviving Shipyard

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) successfully undocks at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Nov. 6, 2019. (Source: US Navy)

As submarine spouses, there may be times where we experience the dreaded “shipyard” period. Be it dry dock, extended overhaul, or a refit, these periods in the shipyard can be challenging for many different reasons.

During my spouse’s first sea tour, his boat went into the shipyard for a few months. During that time, he experienced a period of two months of “port and starboard duty”, which meant that I rarely saw him (except sleeping) for two months straight.

Shipyard periods can not only turn our sailor’s schedules topsy-turvy, but our home lives as well. As my spouse is about to experience another prolonged period of shipyard, I asked experienced spouses for ways to cope during this stressful time.

Below are some of the tips and tricks for surviving shipyard periods:

1. Expect nothing and appreciate everything

2. Take aways – don’t plan your life around his schedule. Enjoy that he comes home at night even though you’ll think having him out to sea will be easier some days

3. Really avoid hearing about what any other officer is doing. Because even if you really accept your spouse’s “schedule”, it can wear at you when you find out someone else’s spouse can make it home for dinner on the regular.

4.  Be patient with yourself. Go to bed at a normal hour.

5. Just treat it like a really long deployment and plan your life without your spouse and then be pleasantly surprised if he can make it.

6. I think just keeping expectations low and anticipating there will definitely be timeline delays, especially during COVID. Also know that you aren’t the only one! 

7. Assume you won’t see your spouse. Assume you’re on your own. Be happy when they can manage to be there. Keep in mind, this too shall pass.

8. Plan on your spouse being super stressed…in the yards, the boat is not their own and they are at the mercy of the shipyard workers and their schedule. 

9. When they call and say they are on their way home always mentally add an extra hour. Because something always comes up just as they are walking away that requires immediate attention

10. Expectation management is important for all tours, shipyard time is no exception. But depending on what evolution they have going on, you do get to have weekend time together, dinner every now and again 🙂 it’s not all doom and gloom

11. Schedule the dang babysitter. Even if he swears he’ll be home. If there’s something you want to do that’s important to you, schedule the sitter

12. Plan it like a deployment. If you happen to see your husband, that’s great. But he’ll likely be asleep. So you need to be completely on your own for scheduling and everything else

13. Brownies

14. I couldn’t do everything – you probably can’t either. And that’s okay!!! Be kind to yourself and find help where you need it

15. And just advice for supporting your (spouse): on his time off, try to give him time to do things to relieve stress

16. You can’t compare work schedules, and it’s frustrating for all the families. The nature of the work is uneven and changing, so sometimes the crew will be working very long hours and sometimes they’ll be home after a few hours – for every person frustrated that they never saw their spouse there was someone else I’d overhear complaining that their husband had been coming home in the middle of the day and sat around playing xbox

17. Wine, whiskey, and au paire.

What has your experience been like with Shipyard?  Any tips and tricks for surviving these stressful experiences?

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