Monday, July 25, 2016

'Sea Legs'

Remember over the 1MC “Standby for Heavy Rolls” or “Batten down the  Hatches” and “Tie down all unnecessary Missile Hazards and Secure for Sea?!?”  Imagine coming out of the rodeo chute on a Bucking Bull Ride in an 8.0 Earth Quake!! Yeah, it can get that way at times!!! 

Sometimes the sea can be a soft lullaby and other times she can pitch and roll something fierce! Bouncing around from trough to swell could take its toll on the feet… like a gauddamned jackhammer!! But you know what they say…

“Smooth Seas Never Made for Good Sailors!”

I loved bouncing around in a bust your ass kind of storm! There isn’t a roller coaster out there that can come anywhere near the ride of a sea state of five!! No one could invent a ride like a heavy weather storm… imagine the meanest amusement park ride coupled with the tilt-a-whirl and a high gear running rapids water ride all rolled in to one!! Anyone with an inclination toward motion sickness would take one look and shoot their lunch!!!

Like a master chess player, a true Crackerjack hones his skills of meandering about the deck like an ol’ salt… Always figuring the angles! In heavy swells when the boat was jumping all over the place sometimes pitching so deeply you could go forward near anchor windless and jump a foot or two in the air and fly like superman!! Just to earn your sea legs you had to be tossed around in the storm for a couple of weeks!!!

On my first ship, the old man loved to ride the trough in stormy weather! This was not your granny’s recipe for domestic tranquility… in the apparent disregard for the laws of gravity we’d find ourselves soaring down into the trough, then suddenly rollicking in the waves up above!! If you like insane gyrations of the third degree, you get it in big heavy doses!!!

I spent many a day and night in the MK68 Director as I watched a wall of green water come a smashing down over the bow and crashing above into the signal shack overhead! We’d become damned near subsurface!! It was like being a flea on a hula hooper’s ass!!!

You can imagine you could move through the passageway pretty gauddamned fast at this rate… except when you ran across one of them secured spaces with the taped jigsaw maze… It’s like tap dancing through flypaper!! And we had our fun with the weather… yes we did!! The crew would have soap box derbies with torn up pieces of tri-wall in the port and starboard passageways of the maindeck!! When plowing through heavy swells jumping all over the place… you had to make the best out of it for a couple of days!!!

In rough seas, rubber mats were form fitted over the mess tables to keep trays from doing some salsa, mambo, merengue, Rumba Tango onto the deck! Hell, I remember loud crashes from the vicinity of the galley followed by loud cursing and swearing!!!

You also got rocked to sleep like a lullaby in those formative years! All you had to do was find a cubby hole and lay back!! The ship rocked and rolled in a tender motion that put you right into some ZZZZs’!!!

After a month or more underway you just didn’t feel quite normal with solid ground under your heels & toes! And guaddamned it wouldn't you know it.... that was the time to pull in and hit the beach!! As soon as the brow hit the pier we’d be inclined to offer Grade AAA American US Crackerjack stud services to the local ladies!!!

I remember a night on liberty after a good stint underway… walking the track at Horton Plaza downtown San Dog! There I was on solid ground and I felt like I was rock’n & roll’n all over the place!! That’s when I realized I’d earned my sea legs!!!

When you’re out with a rowdy crowd of sea going idiots, you tend to get laid and get drunk… less of the first and more of the latter and never in that order! I remember late nights coming back to the ship still steering my sea legs and coming up the Quarterdeck, I could barely navigate the brow… all capsized drunk and ‘Pirate Eyed’…!!  My shipmates were all loud talking, good-natured men I shared shit shows, beer and plenty of stories with… and this was just how it was done!!!

Then there was the Chucky ‘V’!  While sharing coffee and trading lies with fellow dungaree wearing salty bastards some son-of-a-bitch got the wonderful idea to tackle the wind up on the CIWS Sponson!! So up the Mount ‘22’ ladderwell we went like a bunch of hellions!!!

The wind was hauling ass at 65 knots as the Chucky ‘V’ plowed through the waves and fellas in foul weather jackets and worse for wear dungaroos were hollering stupid comments back and forth as we leaned forward at a 45° angle, letting the wind keep us from falling on our faces! I realized long ago that when it comes to 'games of chance' your better to sit this one out… but when you’re young and dumb and full of shit… well, there wasn’t a challenge or dare we wouldn’t defy!!  If I knew then what I know now, I sure as hell would’ve saved a lot of time and embarrassment and a gross amount of ass whoop’ns!!!

One would take a fly’n leap in the air and wind up twenty feet back from where he’d started… trust me, when I say this was a dangerous game at forty to fifty feet above the foam and choppy waves below! When the ‘Big Brass’ was looking for a more serious ‘Leave It To Beaver’ kind of horseshit sailor they got us hormone active scallywags lighting off a hot foot or two keeping the ol’ Canoe Club alive and well!! We were stupid and sometimes borderline dangerous… but we survived another day to tell about it!!!

I guess the big lesson was being a sailor requires saltwater savvy of the seas that we must master on a daily basis… and boy did we! That’s just how it was back in the days of pissing up wind at 65 knots and rubbing shoulders with the best band of brothers you could ever wish for!! As a young’n I never fully understood what the big picture was... I was just along for the ride enjoying the experience!! It was part of wearing the rough edges off our horns!!!

In today’s Canoe Cabaret you don’t get to ride the storms like you used too with all the sophisticated, highly technical, state-of-the-art GPS and other storm chasing thing-a-majigs going on! Riding Stormy Weathers was about as close as it got… Ha-Ha… that’s a play on words for any who know ‘Stormy’!!  Yeah, it was the life we came to know and love… and look at us now… what great memories!!!  


  1. Man what memories. I served my time on a Tin Can. USS Henderson DD-785. 1964-68

  2. The two fellas in the picture.retired as a Master Chief and a Ltcdr respectively...