Friday, February 5, 2016

'Signal Shack'

On most ships above the bridge and forward of the superstructure there is a tiny little realm known as the Signal Shack! It’s ruled by Skivvy-Wavers and heavily populated with raggedy assed deck seamen hiding from the knuckle draggers down below!! It was usually safe from Bos’n Chiefs and First Class Deck Apes for they rarely ventured that way as the ill effects of high altitude would set in!!!

The realm was cradled between two sets of halyards and firecontrol gear… directors, radars and the like! And surely no snipe could have found it without an oxygen tank and some navigational help from the North Star!! Even CIC types rarely made the journey as the sun was too bright outside the blue light zone!! But fresh air twidgets were always within close proximity of the Signal Shack!!!

All you had to do was make a bit of racket, flap the shutters on a signal light, or pretend like you were practicing semaphore to look busy… these fellas were rarely engaged in any real productive work! There was only so many inanimate objects and superfluous crap they could do!! Besides, nobody important liked to go up there… it was too easy to get a nose bleed!!! 

There was nothing like heading up on the midwatch and having a smoke and a cup of jo while bullshitt’n with a Skivvy-Waver! We spent hours professionally critiquing the art of bullshit and the finer points of breast size and the game of Rochambeau!! Coking and Joking while trading tribal knowledge on porn and how ugly Chief’s wife was, and all the other quandaries, questions and philosophies as we rummaged through a percolated pot of fresh coffee… the tonic of the Gods underway!! Let’s face it, we operated on coffee… morning and night pouring the black sludge down our gullet strong enough to wake the dead!!!

Sitting in the shack late at night listening to music off the coast, telling lies and Sea Stories while flipp’n the new kid shit for being a pain the hip pocket! Who remembers swing’n the halyards like giraffe testicles in the wind!! It was just a chance to air out the armpits, and see what the world was like under a million stars at night!! Take a second and close your eyes… do you remember it?!?

Something about that nighttime steaming, exchanging meaningless trivial dealings and developing all-hands collusions and conspiracies under a red light! Topside clown car circus acts were abundant as we took lunatic tomfoolery to buccaneer proportions!! Devious and resourceful as we were… you’d be amazed at the kind of shit we pulled on a midwatch!!!

The days though calmer under visibility of light were no less entertaining! Everyone seems normal until you get to know them!! SMC Clayton used to joke and tell us…

“Never be afraid to try something new… you know, amateurs built the Ark but professionals built the Titanic!”

Characters were plenty like SM2 ‘Meth Head’ eventually getting booted for failing Operation Golden Flow! SM2 Butcher always had troubles with the ladies!! And who could forget SM1 Musser who always had a good joke to tell!!!

Then there was the young female SMSN who enjoyed keying other peoples cars and starting trouble! Or what about that young Skivvy Waiver right out of school not onboard more than a couple of weeks...

He’d been sent down on a fool’s errand to blow the MPA, that’s Main Propulsion Assistant to all you non seafaring landlubbers out there! Yeah, that fella was about as smart as bait… The poor lad didn’t know any better and the DCA was on watch!! He looked at the little feller while unzipping his drawers and said…

“Well the MPA isn’t here but will the DCA do?”

The kid came back to the Signal Shack shaking like a dog shitting razor blades!! ‘Panty Shields up Captain’… this one went to the chaplain and ended up in a rubber room off the ship after that little fiasco!! Some are born to take it on the chin and some aren’t!!!

And in the mornings shortly after Quarters as SMC would come around…

“What are you chuckle fucks doing, posing for animal crackers? Get the fuck out of my Signal Shack unless you’re doing something useful!”

But FC2 Henry rarely took head… his boat didn’t have all the oars in the water!

“Henry, if I throw a stick will you leave?”

“What’s a matter Chiefy Weefy?”

If you ever want to see what the burst radius of a Chief Petty Officer is, just call him ‘Chiefy Weefy!’

“You… what are you a Dipshidiot? Off my bridge! Better yet, off my Planet!”

Chief was on him like a bum on a baloney sandwich…

“Henry, you’re stuck on stupid ain’t ya? Proof evolution can go in reverse!”

Henry walked away with his tail between his legs looking like a crow shit him on a fence post and the sun hatched him out!! I asked him once…

“Henry, how do you make it in life?”

… He’d say…

“The lord works in mysterious ways!”

Poor fella, took a lot of verbal abuse, especially by the SMC and he was never the wiser!!!

Sometimes those fellas would take strikers from the lower elements of the bottom-feeding enlisted types down below! They said the Skivvy-Wavers were a much nicer bunch then them knuckle draggers down below!! I remember a Seaman Sharp who made his escape to the Signal Shack after his incessant whining down in Deck!! This little fellas nose was snottier than a frog in a blender!!!

He always walked around writing in this homemade looking comic book he called a ‘zine!’ One night underway I woke up to the sound of heaving from the bottom rack… there was Sharp looking as though he had too much liberty!! I dragged his ass to the deep sink for a 0200 hour swab & shower party while swinging the hook outside of Hong Kong!!!

I should’ve known all the fun was going to end when SM1 was keelhauled for telling inappropriate jokes! They said it was unprofessional behavior unbecoming of a First Class Petty Officer!! No amount of lube could prepare him for the ass hump’n that would inevitably come as a result… kept him from ever making Chief I reckon!!!

You ever wonder why men have issues with women onboard… the writing was on the wall! One thing I learned in the Ol’ Canoe Club… someone will find a way to fuck it all up!! Lord help me to know what’s cooking before it boils over!!!

And before you knew it, between the ‘Right Sizing’ and all that other Hoo Yah… they diminished the history of the ol’ Canoe Club by getting rid of the Skivvy-Waivers! Those ‘Save A Dime Boat Jockeys’ had systematically destroyed all the things that made the Navy Great and started merging out the best rates!! Why did they have to get rid of the Skivvy-Waver?!? Why did those sterile bastards have to shit can one of the most traditional rates around?!?

I know nothing is Ad Infinitum… but what happens when all the computer doo hickeys and gyro gadgets hooked up to the GPS zippity dooh dahs run out of juice or get taken out by and EMI flash or whatever?!? Will our Crackerjacks be up to the task of Dot-Dot-Dash or a bit of semaphore?!? I know Quartermasters are somewhat trained but how lubricated are those skill sets when they’re trying to figure out digital chart tables and simulated sextants over a 4D screen?!?

One day we’ll find ourselves without the power to make our whizbangs go boom and get set a hundred years behind the times! Just look at our young’ns now… can’t last five minutes without burying the heads in their phones!! Sometimes it’s hard to tell the ways of the new Canoe Cabaret from a bunch of bad ideas that just happened together!! No matter how technologically advance today’s fleet becomes, it’s still all about ships and men… oh, and wimmins too!!!

The Signal Shack had a very select group of members… Sosbee, Pohowpatchoko, Musser, Spear, Butcher, Sharp and all the like… they were engaged in the national security of horse manure and grab ass! We all remember it!!!

If you ever hungout topside on the signal bridge late at night, you could always tell when it had been a good night of shoot’n the shit by the number of cigarette butts and coffee cups left sitt’n around them Skivvy-Wavers would be bitch’n about!! And you were damn proud to have been a part of it all…!!!

And so it went with our butts parked in a warm Signal Shack drinking jet black tarred coffee and sort’n all kinds of bullshit!!!


  1. So that's what you did up there! Didn't know you were a great joke teller. Love you.......Dad

  2. As a Nuke, I strolled to Signal Shack once, nicest bunch of sailors I ever met. Treated us like any other visitor (ya know, same insults, didn't even make up any new ones for Nukes).

  3. Don't forget going up and using the "big eyes" to scan the hotel rooms at night while in port.

  4. Don't forget going up and using the "big eyes" to scan the hotel rooms at night while in port.

    1. Big Eyes were the shiznit! Unreps, lookouts went from the bridge wing to the signal bridge (on account of there were toock many officers all crowded out on the bridge wings "supervising" the Unrep. You did an unrep with a USNS oiler back in the day, you might get a good look at some fair to middlin' female crew members. Better view with the big eyes, but then you always had to tear your eyes away, b/c if you stared too long the captain would remind you to keep those eyes roving!

  5. Those were the days (and nights(

  6. I remember when the SMs were split from the QMs. I made third as a QM. My first Crow faced aft on my port arm. I maintained both quals for the remainder of my long career.

  7. Pohowpatchoko ya say? That fella was a reservist in our shack aboard Sacramento (#1 on the hull, #1 in your heart) in the mid - 90's.

    1. He was active duty on the Bagley in the mid to late 80s...

  8. Great memories hanging around the signal shack. I was one of those fresh air twidgets you spoke so highly of. Stars were always bright and watching night flight ops while the ship was doing plane guard duty was always a pleasure.

  9. SMC Retired.. Thanks for the flashback..

  10. I was proud to be a skivy waver on a small boy Guided Missle Destroyer before snagging orders to the Nimitz. I used to love balls to 4 watch laying out on the flag bags' canvased over rocking with the motion of the motion of the ocean while blarring Bee Gees or Eagles music. I even threw some Styx and Foreigner in the ol boom box a couple times. Met one of the loves of my life hanging out in the shack she was great fun till she got detted out to another command. Missed her like crazy for a couple years. Man reading that post brought back some great memories.