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Gunboat1

Sea Stories: Secure For Sea

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Sea Stories: #44. Secure for Sea

One of the lessons sailors learn quickly is that their home upon the ocean is rarely if ever still. It moves in three dimensions, and when underway in any sort of weather at all, it moves A LOT. The smaller the ship, the more pronounced the motion. And just when you get used to the motion on any given day, any change in course, speed or weather and sea conditions changes the pattern of movement to something else. The disconnect between the inner ears' motion sensors and the eyes seeing the seemingly-fixed structure of the ship results in the violent nausea of seasickness. If you are prone to it, it is an awful sensation, and it goes on for day after day. It can even be lethal if dehydration sets in because the sufferer cannot hold down any food or drink. And in the Navy, you still have to attend to your duties and stand your watches, seasickness or no.

Another aspect of all this movement is that anything that is not tied down or stowed in a proper rack or cabinet gets thrown around by the motion and gravity. If you know a sailor, you have probably noticed that they adhere pretty firmly to the motto of : “A place for everything and everything in its place.” They have learned this lesson early and had it deeply ingrained in their daily routine, for good reason.

I remember an early object lesson in this imperative dictum of sea service. I was assigned to a guided missile cruiser for my first ship after I was commissioned. And unfortunately for me, that ship had just begun a year long shipyard overhaul. I wasn't going anywhere but to a drydocked hull for some time. But the USN still expected me and every other junior officer to learn our ship and our maritime trade, and to qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer in a reasonable amount of time. Imagine trying to learn how to fly a plane, drive a car or play golf simply by reading about it in books. You actually need to go to sea to learn how to be a sailor. So my ship arranged for me to go aboard a sister ship of a very similar class for a week or so, to help acclimate me to my new career. And I reported aboard USS HORNE (CG-30), with a crisp new seabag over my shoulder and shiny new gold Ensign's bars decorating my collar points. I was looking forward to seeing how a cruiser operated.

As I was not permanently assigned to the ship, they did not have an individual officer's stateroom vacant for me. In fact, there was only one bunk open in any officer's stateroom; that of the ship's Chaplain. This kind gentleman was a Lieutenant of the USN Chaplain's Corps, and as he occasionally needed a private space for counseling crew members, he had been assigned a two-man stateroom all to himself (until I came along and borrowed his upper bunk for a week.) He had gotten used to the stateroom being his personal space, and had filled it pretty full with various tools of his trade. We had to move a bunch of books, tracts, a guitar and other miscellany off of the bunk so that I could move into it. He graciously did this, but in a pretty haphazard fashion by my way of thinking. Still, I was an Ensign, he was a Lieutenant, and I kept my own counsel. The ship got underway from San Diego late in the afternoon, and I was assigned the midwatch (Midnight to 4:00 AM) as an observer on the bridge. After eating dinner in the wardroom, I decided it would be a good idea to get some rest before watch. So I hoisted myself up into the upper bunk, bid the Chaplain good night, and went to sleep.

After passing Point Loma and entering the Pacific, HORNE had initially set a comfortable course and speed en route to her designated operating area. Her motion was smooth and steady and not particularly vigorous. But within a couple of hours, she encountered the California Current, and the weather deteriorated somewhat. And once she got where she was going, she changed course and speed and set about her assigned operations. And her motion increased exponentially.

About 11:00 PM, I was awakened by a resounding bang. A whole shelf of the Chaplain's books came crashing down onto the steel deck of the stateroom. Then a collection of religious tracts came fluttering down off of a cabinet top, like crazed bats in a howling wind, sliding to and fro as the ship rolled madly. Out of his bunk sprang the Chaplain, resplendent in only his underwear, as he tried to scoop up all the materials and restow them. Then his guitar crashed down, with a cacophonous jangling of its strings in protest. And on hands and knees, fighting for balance and purchase, he chased after all this stuff as his somehow now-unrestrained roller desk chair chased him back and forth across the stateroom on its casters. It was all I could do to keep from bursting out into laughter, as it was such a comical sight from my safe vantage point in the upper bunk. (I knew better than to offend a Lieutenant, and a holy man at that! Nothing good could come of that indiscretion. But who knew that Chaplains knew those particular sailor words?) I stayed out of his way and let him get on with the business of securing his stateroom for sea, about six hours too late. And I never forgot the lesson. “Secure for sea.”

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50 minutes ago, railfancwb said:

Keep the stories coming!

Thanks, hope you are enjoying them.  I've still got 5-6 more to write, working on them when I find the time.  

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2 hours ago, Gunboat1 said:

Thanks, hope you are enjoying them.  I've still got 5-6 more to write, working on them when I find the time.  

Got a book in you? 

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Well, 52 stories, written or planned.  I don't intend to publish, just writing for enjoyment.   Glad you like them.

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