Friday, August 28, 2015

‘A Sailors Random Thoughts’

• A sailor will lie and cheat to get off the ship early and will have no idea where he wants to go.

• Sailors are territorial. They have their assigned spaces to clean and maintain. Woe betide the shipmate who tracks through a freshly swabbed deck.

• Sailors constantly complain about the food on the mess-decks while concurrently going back for second or third helpings.

• Some sailors have taken literally the old t-shirt saying that they should “Join the Navy. Sail to distant ports. Catch embarrassing, exotic diseases.”

• After a recent sea cruise, I realized how much I missed being at sea. We are now considering a Med cruise visiting some of my favorite ports. Of course I’ll have to pony up better than $5,000 for the privilege. To think, Uncle Sam actually had to pay me to visit those same ports 35 years ago.

• You can spend two years on a ship and never visit every nook and cranny or even every major space aboard. Yet, you can know all your shipmates.

• Campari and soda taken in the warm Spanish sun is an excellent hangover remedy.

• E5 is the almost perfect military pay grade. Too senior to catch the crap details, too junior to be blamed if things go awry.

• Almost every port has a “gut.” An area teeming with cheap bars, easy women and partiers. Kind of like Bourbon St., but with foreign currency.

• If the Guardia Civil tell you to “Alto,” you’d best alto, right now. Same goes for the Carabinieri, gendarmes and other assorted police forces. You could easily find yourself in that port’s hoosegow. Or shot.

• Contrary to popular belief, Chief Petty Officers do not walk on water. They walk just above it.

• Sad but true, when visiting even the most exotic ports of call, some sailors only see the inside of the nearest pub.

• Also under the category of sad but true, that lithe, sultry Mediterranean beauty you spent those wonderful three days with and have dreamed about ever since, is almost certainly a grandmother now and buying her clothes from Omar the Tent maker. 

• A sailor can, and will, sleep anywhere, anytime.

• Yes, it’s true, it does flow downhill.

• In the traditional “crackerjack” uniform you were recognized as a member of United States Navy, no matter what port you were in. Damn all who want to eliminate or change that uniform.

• The Marine dress blue uniform is, by far, the sharpest of all the armed forces.

• Most sailors won’t disrespect a shipmate’s mother. On the other hand, it’s not entirely wise to tell them you have a good looking sister.

• Sailors and Marines will generally fight one another, and fight together against all comers.

• If you can at all help it, never tell anyone that you are seasick.

• Check the rear dungaree pockets of a sailor. Right pocket a wallet. Left pocket a book.

• The guys who seemed to get away with doing the least, always seemed to be first in the pay line and the chow-line.

• General Quarters drills and the need to evacuate one’s bowels often seem to coincide.

• Speaking of which, when the need arises, the nearest head is always the one which is secured for cleaning.

• Three people you never screw with: the doc, the paymaster and the ship’s barber.

• In the summer, all deck seamen wanted to be signalmen. In the winter they wanted to be radar-men.

• Do snipes ever get the grease and oil off their hands?

• Never play a drinking game which involves the loser paying for all the drinks.

• There are only two good ships: the one you came from and the one you’re going to.

• Whites, coming from the cleaners, clean, pressed and starched, last that way about 30 microseconds after donning them. The Navy dress white uniform is a natural dirt magnet.

• Sweat pumps operate in direct proportion to the seniority of the official visiting.

• “Pride and professionalism” trumps “Fun and zest” any day.

• The shrill call of a bosun’s pipe still puts a chill down my spine.

• Three biggest lies in the Navy: We’re happy to be here; this is not an inspection; we’re here to help.

• Everything goes in the log.

• Rule 1: The Captain is always right. Rule 2: When in doubt refer to Rule 1.

• A wet napkin under your tray keeps the tray from sliding on the mess deck table in rough seas, keeping at least one hand free to hold on to your beverage.

• Never walk between the projector and the movie screen after the flick has started.

• A guy who doesn’t share a care package from home is no shipmate.

• When transiting the ocean, the ship’s chronometer is always advanced at 0200 which makes for a short night. When going in the opposite direction, the chronometer is retarded at 1400 which extends the work day.

• If I had to do it all over again, I would. Twice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


This one comes from an OS2 off a Knox back in 1972! Great Story Folks…

While on duty in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1972, getting mail was damned difficult at times! Since we were always on the move, we missed the drop offs on many stints!! At times I think the Navy didn’t even know where we were!!!

The following author is not known, but I am sure this happened to all the forces in Viet Nam at one time or another…

" And now the news from the Far East: The South Vietnamese today surrendered to the American Forces, the American Forces surrendered to the North Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese surrendered to the French Canadians and Canadians beat the Bruins four to two. The City of Olongopo in the Philippines today was hit by the worst disaster in the city’s history, it was overrun by thousands of virgin women. And all the while U.S. Naval Forces off the coast of Vietnam were surprise attacked by several tons of US air mail!!!”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

‘Sandwiches Anyone?’

This no-shitter told by an old veteran shipmate happened moons ago aboard the USS Lyman K. Swenson in Korea, during the winter of 1951…


There were two individuals onboard from Omaha, Nebraska! Their names were Salami and Hamm. I shit you not!! There’s still evidence of them if you check the Omaha phone book!!!


We spent 55 long days out there in Task Force 77 without even seeing land! Morale was lousy, provisions were low, while eating powdered milk, powdered eggs and dehydrated spuds!! The weather was lousy, we were port & starboard and always at darken ship!!!


We did have 8MM movies on the messdecks, but they’d all been seen six times or more! The Ships Store was out of cigarettes and the only way things could have been worse is if the damned laundry had broken down or they’d ordered salt water showers!!!


There was a lot of frustration and resentment building amongst us enlisted types when each evening the Officers Stewards would make this enormous platter of sandwiche! They’d leave them in the Officers Pantry just outside of the Wardroom!! This resentment wasn’t tempered by the fact that the officers paid for their own food out of their food and clothing allowance!!!


Well it started slowly… a sandwich here and a sandwich there! Someone pretty ballsy was slipping in there and ripping off some of those sandwiches!! So the zeros on the 4 to 8 weren’t getting their sandwiches!! It took a while, but they finally put two & two together!!!


On this particular night, the Executive Officer had staked out in the Wardroom lying in wait! About half way through the midwatch, Hamm and Salami made their move!! The Torpedo Deck was almost completely covered with 40 MM ammo cans, with just a narrow trail running fore and aft!! You could only hope to find your way through them if you were lucky!!!


It was absolutely black that night with an overcast and no moon! Hamm and Salami were standing their watch on the 40MM Quad Mount Aft!! Forward past the stacks and past the Torpedo tubes they laid in wait under the hatch!!!

Past the Radio Shack and into the Officers Pantry slid Hamm while Salami was standing lookout at the hatch aft of the Radio Shack! Well, Hamm had no more than picked up the tray of sandwiches when he heard the Wardroom door open Ham and the XO met in the door of the Pantry!! Hamm brushed past the XO and turned left headed for the Torpedo deck with the XO right on his ass screaming…


"Halt!! Halt!! Damn you, stop right there! You're under arrest!"


Of course Hamm was on his way through the 40MM ammo cans with that tray of sandwiches and the XO started banging his shins on those ammo cans! You could hear him going off…


“Oh Shit… Ouch… Damnit!”


He never got far and never got a good look at Hamm either! The only evidence they found the next day was a tray somewhere behind the aft stack and a few wax papers strewn about!! Let me tell you that Hamm was the A #1Ship's Hero for a long while and is still a hero of mine today!! Hamm get in touch and I’ll come to Omaha and buy you a sandwich!! The XO never did find out who the thief was… even til’ now!!!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

‘Old Sailor’s Poem’

Old Sailors sit and chew the fat 'bout how things use to be,
of the things they've seen and places they've been,
when they ventured out to sea.

They remember friends from long ago
and the times they had back then,

of the money they've spilled and the beer they've swilled

in their days as sailing men.

Their lives are lived in days gone by,
with thoughts that forever last,
of Dixie cup hats and bell bottom blues,
and the good times in their past.

They recall long nights with a moon so bright

far out on a lonely sea,
and thoughts they had as youthful lads,
when their lives were unbridled and free.

They know so well how their hearts would swell
when the flag fluttered proud and free,
and the stars and stripes made such beautiful sights
as they plowed through an angry sea.

They talk of the bread Ole Cookie would bake
and the shrill of the bo'sun's pipe,
and how the salt spray fell like sparks out of hell
when a storm struck in the night.

They remember mates already gone
who forever hold a spot
in the stories of old when sailors were bold
and lubbers a pitiful lot.

They rode their ships through many a storm
when the sea was showing its might,
and the mighty waves might be digging their graves
as they sailed on through the night.

They speak of nights in a bawdy house
somewhere on a foreign shore,
and the beer they'd downed as they gathered around
cracking jokes with a busty whore.

Their sailing days are gone away,
never more will they cross the brow,
but they have no regrets for they know they've been blessed
'cause they honored their sacred vow.

Their numbers grow less with each passing day
as their chits in this life are called,
but they've nothing to lose for they've paid their dues
and they'll sail with their shipmates again.

I've heard them say before getting underway
that there is still some sailing to do,
and they'll exclaim with a grin that their ship has come in,

 and the Lord is commanding the crew.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

'Engine Room Excursions'

Now, set condition ‘This Ain’t No Shit’ throughout the ship!!!

Over the years I’ve told a gazillion stories about the ‘Canoe Club of Old’ where the world was wild, forbidding, perilous and looming with snake oil peddlers and iniquitous dames waiting outside the gate and of the drifting fog that swallowed ships whole and how we weathered storms of unknown origin!! Well it was also a place and time where there was an endless supply of room temperature IQs and plenty of stupidity to go around!!!

On the Baglady, I was a young lad who didn’t have much direction… but several of my compadres had decided to work towards their Enlisted Surface Warfare Qualifications (ESWS)! This was back in the day before it was mandatory, and you had to be an E-4 or above to qualify!! I must admit, I didn’t have much drive to accomplish such a task, especially since I knew I was only gonna finish one tour and get out… so I thought!!!  

Well this ol’ ship was beginning to show its age!  She used the most sophisticated of Fifties technology and if you found Stonehenge carvings in a cave somewhere with ancient arrowheads and such… you probably saw the ol’ Baglady up there as well!! I suppose the Navy needed to make room for some new shiny toys, so that’s why they got rid of the Knox Frigates!!!

Part of ESWS quals was going down in the Engineering spaces and learning all the dials, knobs, and gauges associated with the different pieces of rusted & whistling circus calliopes deep in that underworld! I had to get in good with one of the Snipes if I wanted a tour down in the hole… the pit… the place where no one dared to go without invitation!! I knew just the guy!!!

Pat the Electrician was the fella I had in mind! He wasn’t a pit snipe per say, but he had good reason as any to enter the dwellings down below!! I was damned determined to get a few pearls of wisdom from him as well as anyone he could introduce me too in the belly of the beast!!!

There was always someone on watch down in the pit! The trick was finding the friendlier ones!! There were a few Pit Snipes I needed to be watchful of!! I knew of their antics through celebrated shipboard folklore… and lord knows I didn’t wanna run into those animals at the wrong time or place in their neighborhood!!!

After some discussion with Pat, he agreed to give me the Grande Tour, or his best guess of it in the pits while introducing me to the zoo animals down below! Before we headed in he handed me a broomstick…

“There’s 1200 pounds of steam coming outta them pipes… and it can cut you in half!”

The broom was carried in front so if there was a steam leak, the telltale sign would cut into the broom instead of me!! Hell, I just figured it might be of good measure in case them bastards tried to hog tie me into the overhead!!!

I remember a sign hanging over the hatch at the top of the ladder going down…


Now let me tell you something about Enginerooms back in the day if you hadn’t grown up as a pit snipe! They’re hot, noisy, dirty and often smelled of greasy bilges!! There’s fuel and flammable lube oil, steam, and plenty of electricity going around to make one helluva spark!! To a pea-sized brain of an idiot it could be a constant fire hazard!!!

The first thing of note was the noise! You had to where double earing protection in many areas as it sounded like WWIII was about to erupt!! We wore ear muffs called Mickey Mouse Ears giving the appearance of a dozen John Belushi ‘Wild Bill Kelso’ characters prancing around tapp’n gauges and turning valves!!!

There was a lot of sweat’n and grunt’n going around for all and plenty of pipes, valve stems, and steep ladderwells to fall down or break things while putting you in a mild coma! One thing was for damned sure… it was hotter than a marathon runner’s jockstrap in that place… like the waiting area at the gates of hell!!!

As we walked by a few snipes it was apparent they weren’t skipp’n and sing’n sea shanties in that hell hole! Their faces were hard and many of them could scare the bejesus outta decent people without saying a damned thing!! They didn’t appear much of a friendly bunch from first glance!!!

The deeper into the Engine Room we got, the louder the grinding and thumping of diesel and steel and the squealing of hydraulic and steam with a rattle here and there! There was odd whining and vibrating at the high end of the audio range coming from every direction!! These old steam engines sounded like a giant bloated cow gett’n ready for the slaughter!! The shit all looked ancient… like stuff outta museums!!!

I knew that being a twidget, I was about as welcome as a fart in a phone booth down in these parts! Pat introduced me to a fella who looked like he’d just experienced a retroactive abortion!! He had a face like a bag of greasy spanners, chewing Copenhagen and spitting into a soda can… maybe into someone else’s soda can… who knows!!!

 “Swing, this is such-n-such… this is Swing! He’s work’n on his ESWS!”

 … He looked me over once or twice…

 “So what do you want to know?”

 “Well, I suppose I want to know what it takes to move the ship through the water!”

… I must have came across sounding like a smartass though it wasn’t intentional!

“You got a Power Drive, Reduction Gears, and a shaft that turns a propeller… Suck’n Two, spinn’n One… going that-a-way… any more questions?”

I suppose that was short, sweet & to the point, but not exactly was I had in mind! Then a First Class came around the corner and I had a little sigh of relief as things were getting tense!!!

“Aah, it’s you guys! I had to make sure you weren’t Chief or the Cheng! They like to wander down here and catch some dumb ass doing something they ain't supposed to be doing.  It’s part of their job description I suppose!”

Pat introduces me to the First Class and explains what I’m down there for…

“I’ve been told that Chief Such-n-Such is on the ESWS board and has a fascination with things of no relevance… You ain’t passing that board unless they want you too!”

“I’m sure I’ll do okay as long as I study!”

“Listen kid… I’ve been around the world three times, been to several of those Goat Fucks in the Chief’s Mess and rode the shaft at least twice, not by design… I know what I’m talking about!”

 Yeah, this twidget wasn’t getting nowhere down in Snipe Country and probably needed to build a little rapport before kneeling at the Gates of Hell…

“Yeah, well this info doesn’t come for free! No one gets out of here alive, especially a fresh air fag like you… this is home of the long shafts and you’re about to get shafted!”

Next thing I know, ‘Strong like Bear & Smart like Tractor’ comes outta nowhere with cutoff green coveralls grabbing ahold of my collar!

“You’d ever drink Bilge Wine?”

“Wha-wha-What’s Bilge Wine?”

“It’s like moonshine that didn’t get run through the radiator enough!”

 “Doesn’t sound too good to me!”

… About this time I was shaking in my boots!

“Oh come on now… which would you rather do, drink a quart of our infamous Jonestown Bilge-Wine laced with snipe sweat or eat the contents out of a duplex strainer… your choice?”

… That’s when he put me in a headlock while one of his henchmen grabbed me by the feet!

“Dude… You smell like a bucket of horse shit!”

… And that’s when the duct tape came out, and I knew I was gonna end up ten feet in the overhead or hang’n upside down in the nastiest part of the bilge!

Then one of the Chiefs came around the corner…

 “Knock off the bullshit and get back to work! This ain’t no place for lollygagging!”

… Saved by the Gauddamned Bell!

“I like you… You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid! If you really want to learn about Engineering Spaces, a couple of midwatches in the hole will take the bloom off your dewy rose in the morn!”

From that point I was look’n for the nearest door or hatch outta the place! I was sweat’n harder than a pedophile at Chuck E Cheese!! Besides, I would’ve done anything to get away from the inane, vapid, nuttiness inflicted by some of those low-wattage Troglodytes from down under the deck plates and in the pits!!! Some of those sons-a-bitches had real personality disorders…!!!

But really… The guys in the hole were funny, irreverent, caustic, and once you got in good with them dirty bastards, you made a friend for life! They made weirdness piled on improbability poured over the incomprehensible seem as ordinary as breakfast!! And that’s just how they rolled!!!

That was my first encounter with the Pit Snipe in his hollowed layer… and I never did get my ESWS onboard that ship! It took me two more tours before I took it seriously!! She was an old ship the Baglady was… Old, Stunk, and falling apart at the seams!! One of the Engineers told me it only had three leaks down there… Air, oil, & water… But they loved every minute of it!!!

But that was looong ago… so many ships and so many Westpacs in this here Canoe Club! It was like an Ice Cream Cone… ‘Enjoy it before it melts’ so they say!!!

And to those old school snipes I met so many years ago? It’s said that Snipes are the first aboard and last ashore when liberty goes down… their job, truly is never done!!!