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A Happy Rookie

June 6th 2015 was my first ever RC model warship battle, but my experience with the hobby actually goes back a few years to the summer of my senior year of high school. I was working at Disney's Water Sports, a small family owned boat rental business in Lakeport, CA. It was mid-day, which is when all the boats are actually on the water being enjoyed by our patrons, which also means there was very little for me to actually do, so I made some busy work for myself by sweeping out a boat garage and started to daydream. Eventually my mind floated to the RC world. From cars to planes to that old RC tank I owned as a kid, and finally on boats. But not just any boats, boats with BB guns that actually shot each other and sank! Oh man, how cool would that be! I spent the rest of my busy work time daydreaming about the tech needed to build such a ship and tactics needed to sink fictitious baddies. Then my boss broke my concentration (or lack thereof) and asked me to actually do something productive. The daydream was over and I didn't think about it again until a few years later.

The summer ended and I went off to college, where I spent many a long hour surfing the internet in my dorm room. Somewhere deep down the YouTube rabbit hole I came across a video of scale model warships doing combat on a lake, with BBs and balsa wood flying everywhere. I thought, Ah man, this is my daydream come true! In college I revisited the video's and web sites from time to time, but two of the three things needed to actually enter the hobby (time, money and motivation) eluded me until I got out of college and into a full time job. I moved to Southern California and found that job. Finally employed and making money, the monotony of 9-5 quickly gave me the motivation to try something new, but a new girlfriend kept me from having the time. I moved to San Dimas and found that the local 1/144 combat club battles close by, so I made it out to a battle to check it out for real. That day was a lot of fun and I was happy to find out that all of the people at SCRAP were very nice and inviting, everyone was willing to lend advice and offer explanations and show off their boats.

I moved again, this time to Long Beach for a promotion and finally found the extra money needed to turn this daydream into real life. Many of the articles and forums I've read online about the hobby say that the best way to get into it is to buy a ship first, rather than build one. The logic being this way you get on the water faster and without the agony of spending lots of time and money building that first rookie ship. So I reached out to the guys at SCRAP and found that one of their ranks, Craig Matsuura, was looking to sell one. I drove over to Craig's house and found out that he is, in fact, a ship hoarder with an entire list of ships and had several to choose from. The first being a French cruiser, that although built very, very well, was still French. The second being a USS Newport News, which despite being a bit rougher around the edges (especially on the inside) and being a little older, it was American. With these being my choices, I went for the Newport News and joined the allied cause.

Now I seemed to have it all. Motivation, check. Money turned-into-a-ship, check. The only thing missing was time. Which is why not too long ago I turned my girlfriend into a fiancee. Now that she has a ring, she is much more willing to let me spend a Saturday morning off on a lake with a bunch of strangers she's never met. Okay, so maybe finding time to battle wasn't the ONLY reason I proposed, but I'd say it was in the top two.

Friday the 5th, the day before my big first battle. I plugged everything in to charge and went to sleep with very similar thoughts about tech and tactics I had so many years ago. Finally sleep found me, but didn't get a complete hold, as I woke up in the middle of the night to switch out the batteries on my charger. That morning, I woke up to find that although I had plugged my transmitter in, I had forgotten to turn it off! DANG it! With about an hour of packing left, I let it get as much juice as it could, and I picked up a car outlet-120V wall outlet converter at Wal-Mart on my way to the battle to give it as much juice as it could get.

Showing up to the battle, Craig was the first to meet me with his usual smile and a good joke about why I was late and soon after Brian came over to say hi. I introduced myself to the captains I hadn't yet met, Ty Siouxpancic, Todd Olson, and Matt Wilson. I was delighted to find out that they were all great guys, happy to help a newbie in need. I explained the plight with the transmitter and after a bit of teasing we tried to find a solution, which ended up being to let it sit in the car and charge while we were off the water.

It was only the second time I was out with the Newport News, and the first after my initial sea trials. After a bit of balancing and testing the cannons for the first time, I hit the water for my first sortie. It was Ty and Todd against Craig, Matt, and myself. Once the count down to ten was over, we were off to battle. I ran out of BBs much faster than I would have believed and spent the remainder of the battle watching Craig slowly fill with holes and eventually go under. I found myself remembering a piece of advice he had given me when I bought the Newport News from him: "you'll sink. you might not think you will, but you will. I didn't think I would, and I did.". I guess Craig is pretty good at taking his own advice, because he sank again later that day. I came off the water after my first sortie with only a few holes and, more importantly, un-sunk. In the repair respite that followed, my confidence swelled into a bit of well timed smack talk, which earned me a much rougher second sortie. Although I didn't sink then either, when I picked up the Newport News, it was looking a lot more like Swiss cheese than it had before.

Between learning how the rules work in practice, trying to balance my ship so my water line is actually ON the water line, and running to check on my transmitter in my truck, the morning hours flew by the way Saturday mornings often do when you're having a lot of fun. All my fellow captains were giving me very good advice, some of which I think I remember. At the end of the third sortie, it was only Ty and I left on the water and he let me use my last few BBs to take practice shots at his ship until I was out. I left the water that day without sinking, and also second guessing the rest of the advice that Craig gave me.

The scoring totals for the three sortie battle were as follows:

I Don't Know

Captain                    Ship                A   O   B  Pen   Sink   Total
Matt Wilson                USS Pennsylvania   58  16  14        1500    3180
Brandon White              USS Newport News   35   3   8  300            825
Craig Matsuura             USS Houston        50   1   2        1800    2425
Total                                                                   6430

Super Soakers

Captain                    Ship                A   O   B  Pen   Sink   Total
Ty Siouxpancic             HMS Warspite       55   7  28        1500    3625
Todd Olson                 IJN Mogami         24   4   4                 540
Total                                                                   4165

At the end of the day I left Prado Lake a happy captain, having finally seen my daydream years in the making come true.