Any of you ol’ shipmates ever get to drive along the water’s edge in Bremerton… up along PSNS?!? What a bunch’a old cobweb coated recollections for Crackerjacks who’d been put out to pasture!! That fleet of rust buckets sits like a gaggle of nuns in a whorehouse… about as useless as tits on a boar-hog!! At least that’s what they look like from the outside!!!
You see… those mothballed hulks of rusted metal served a very good purpose back in my days on the Chucky ‘V’ and Rainier ‘Lucky N°7!’ While they sat wait’n to be memorialized as some Podunk museum sold to the highest bidder… referred to the Gillette Razor Blade Scrap Yard Factory… or sent to Davey Jones Locker as a barnacle encrusted artificial reef, those rust buckets were a navy man’s nirvana for spare parts!!!
Once they got their death certificates and decommissioned... they were like a floating wonderland of repair shops, pipes, valves, davits, and left over machined whatchamacallit doohickeys the likes you’d never seen before! Like shepherds with shears we’d cut off anything salvageable and haul it away!!!
I learned the tricks of the trade when I first set foot onboard the ‘Chucky V’ while resting high in dry-dock! With all the welding, hammering, needlegunn’n, priming & painting going on by the shipyard, we had all the time in the world to head over for some cumshaw!! The ol’ Canoe Club was starting to draw down as ships the likes of the Long Beach, Parche, Truxtun, Pyro & others were on a skeleton crew ready to be dismissed!!!
Supply made us fill out requisitions that resembled Sumerian Cuneiform but it didn’t matter much to a bunch’a rowdy young Crackerjacks! Things that hadn’t been pre-approved could perhaps be pre-arranged for appropriate consideration… I think Radar and Klinger from M.A.S.H. were masterminds of such debacles!! A carton of smokes… some nudie mags… sex with someone’s sister… it hardly mattered!! It was a great source of cumshaw and a chance to shoot the shit with other shipmates on other boats!! The idea was to locate an item or items of comparable value, and exchange them for what you needed!!!
And when the skeleton crews disbursed… we kept on visiting and kept on taking as we’d climb in the skin of old ships like sharks in an organized feeding frenzy... transporting screwdrivers, wrenches, crowbars...you name it, and joined in on a regular parts removal merrymaking revelry on an A-gang spare parts orgy!!
“See if you can get some door gasket material…”
“We need a wave guide dry air pressure gauge…”
“… some wingnuts & dogg’n wrenches…”
“… any saltwater strainers… toggle pins for handrail stanchions…”
“You think you can find any fire hoses laying around?!?”
Hell, you went aboard with a gauddamned assorted grocery list! Because sometimes, removing chunks from ol’ rust buckets was the best way to get spare parts… we called it cannibalizing!!
We’d climb aboard and find our way inside a ship wondering through a maze of dark passageways and compartments looking for a heaping pile of gold!! Oh the wonderment of walking into a compartment with more electrical gedunk whizzbang stuff than you’d ever seen… There were special synchro driven ionized heterodyned dickey madoos… static & dynamically tested thingamajigs… electrically phased thingumabobs… super-duper whizbangs & whatchamacallit doohickeys that I had no idea if it was attached upside-down, downside-up, inboard or outboard or whatever the hell kind’a board!! Just had to make sure you brought one of them reprehensible cutt’n torch technicians and a pair of bolt cutters so we could give the ol’ rust bucket a hysterectomy and transplant those machined giblets on a newer much improved ship!!!
When we got back to our respective ships we must’ve looked like Ali Baba and the The Forty Thieves with all that crap! And once our spare parts bins reached Guinness Book proportions the CNO decided to venture into this thing called ‘Lean Manufacturing’ … you know… TQL, Sigma Six & that sort’a thing and all the raping of old Hulls with varicose veins & saggy tits went to the wayside!!!
AAAAAH Hell… I’m sure it’s still going on to some extent! Though before I hung up my hat, I remember tell’n my young ones how in the ol’ days we actually used synchro & servos… power amplifiers… tubes & solid state devices to move things that go boom instead of all these gauddamned ones & zeroes you can fit on a microchip the size of your thumb!!!
… And to the outside observer, passing by the Bremerton Boneyard… where the zip codes of rusty ol’ hulls of mothballed rust buckets that included some of the greatest ships the world has ever known… those mighty behemoths of power are being eaten to death… rivet by rivet… layer by layer… slowly drifting into oblivion while relaxing on their barnacle encrusted bottoms… just like the ol’ coots who once road on them!!!