With tensions on the rise between the United States and North Korea, Navy families found the farewell a little harder than usual.
As they waited on the pier, thick fog enveloped the ship - making it hard to see their loved ones up on the carrier's 4 1/2-acre flight deck.
"It's all gray. The ship's gray, the sky is gray, it's all gray today," said one woman as she looked vainly for her husband up on deck.
Then she spotted him - and pointed him out to their young son, who was on the pier with her.
"See the guy moving his arms - yeah, that's daddy it is, yeah," she says.
But seeing also made family members realize what would soon be slipping away.
"I'm so proud of them all - they look like babies," said Stephanie Morford as she eyed her 20-year-old son Aaron up on deck. He's a nuclear mechanic on his first deployment.
"We brought him down at 3:45 this morning," she says. "We cried this morning; we couldn't go back to sleep. And then we came back down 'cause we thought there'd be a long line. So we've been crying all morning."
Aaron's little sister came to hold up her sign as long as her arms would let her.
"Because I want my brother to know that I love him," she says.
It's more than coping with separation. Navy families know they cannot control world events that could draw their loved ones into harm's way.
"I wish they would just go float around the ocean, just off the coast, and come right back," says Navy wife Kinsi Gregson. This is also the first deployment for her husband Karlton.
"The last time I saw him he was at boot camp, and he was safe there. And I know he's still safe, you know. It's just different," says Kinsi.
A heartache that knows only one remedy - the ship's return, months from now, when the tears - will be tears of joy.
The 1,092-foot Nimitz heading to the Western Pacific for a deployment that will last six to 10 months.
The Navy says the big flattop's mission will be to support combat operations, along with providing humanitiarian and disaster relief missions if need be.
And as the ship set sail, the fog lifted, revealing a sunny morning.
A carrier air wing will join the Nimitz off the coast of Southern California, adding another 2,000 crew members to the 3,000 already on board.