“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Lieberman’s Law: Everybody lies; but it doesn’t matter since nobody listens.

Goofy guy’s relatively serious comment on Lieberman’s Law:  This is one of my all time favorites, but seriously, it fits with a  recent New Yorker article on a Stanford study where folks given the truth contrary to what they believe will continue to believe what they did before and ignore truth, and i no longer wonder why our politics and many other facets of living are so screwed up.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Spenser’s Laws of Data:
1. Anyone can make a decision given enough facts.
2. A good manager can make a decision without enough facts.
3. A perfect manager can operate in perfect ignorance.

Goofy guy’s comment of Spenser’s Laws of Data: Unfortunately, i have known way too many perfect managers.

Chapter 6: The Red Sea, The Indian Ocean, and Crossing the Line

Chapter 6: The Red Sea, The Indian Ocean, and Crossing the Line

The ten days transiting the length of the Red Sea was rather uneventful although I was concerned about a relatively unarmed U.S. Navy ship in a less than friendly area. The Gulf of Aden transit was no less traumatic although it felt more like being at sea than anything in the Canal or the Red Sea.

Looming ahead was a significant concern of mine. I decided not to discuss it with anyone, even the captain. It was going to be what it was going to be, and my discussing it would not change it. On Wednesday, October 12, Yosemite would cross the equator. The ship would experience “Crossing the Line.” “Crossing the Line” was a rough initiation in my old Navy. I was concerned it might get out of hand, and that could become a huge problem for a ship with 106 enlisted women, two female chiefs, and six female officers.

In general, the Navy had been cracking down on hazing, which for centuries was a major part of the initiation of “pollywogs” (those who had not crossed the equator) by “shellbacks” (those who had crossed the line and gone through the initiation). I knew. I was a shellback.

In 1979, I flew to Hobart, Tasmania to join the staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five as Current Operations Officer aboard USS Tripoli (LPH 10), a helicopter carrier. Our staff numbered about thirty, the ship’s complement was just short of 700, and the number of embarked USMC personnel on the landing force commander’s staff and the marine air unit also numbered just less than 700. The ship had crossed the equator en route to Tasmania. The number of pollywogs was significantly more than the number of shellbacks. It was a raucous two days.

The number of personnel, i.e. pollywogs, reporting in Tasmania included about 100 enlisted marines and one lieutenant commander, aka me.

Tripoli departed Hobart and went to Sydney, Australia for a week. Following Sydney, we made a port visit to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. After New Guinea, we headed for Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippines, and crossing the equator en route.

The officer I was relieving, Lieutenant Commander Conrad Bormann, knew “Crossing the Line” could be very rough for me. Out of 100 pollywogs, I was the only Navy type and the only officer. The 900 or so brand new shellbacks were excited about being on the giving part of the initiation, especially to initiate the one Navy lieutenant commander. Conrad gave me the low down on what was going to happen, how I should pick out my shabbiest working khaki to wear backwards and inside out for the ceremony, and how to act. He went an extra mile by promising to escort me through the initiation line to prevent some overzealous new shellback from hurting me.

After getting up an early hour, I dug out my oldest and most stained khakis (having been a chief engineer, I manage to soil a number of working khakis), turned them inside out, and pulled them on. I reported to the mess decks and was met by Conrad. I pretty much faked eating the “green” eggs and other supposedly gross breakfast fare. I figured I didn’t need anything on my stomach for what was going to happen next.

Conrad escorted me to the gauntlet of eager new shellbacks excited about getting to lay on to a lieutenant commander with their shillelagh’s (lengths of fire hose cut to be flexible paddles). The shillelagh-wielding gang did not disappoint. I was amply whacked as I crawled along the flight deck, confident and assured Conrad was watching to make sure it would not get worse.

On my knees, I was ushered to the boatswain, one of the…how shall I say this, ahh… most stomach-ample sailors on the ship. It was time to kiss the “Boatswain’s Belly.” He grabbed by ears and forced by head into the folds of his grossly greased belly. This could have been really bad, but Conrad had it stopped before I completely lost my breath.

Still, it had not been unbearable, and I was confident as I approached the last two steps. It would soon be over. Conrad’s escort was a blessing. Then, as I approached the chute filled with garbage we had to crawl through, Conrad, after a messenger had run down to him from the flag bridge nudged me and said, “We just received a top secret radio op-immediate radio message. I have to go read it, brief the commodore and chief staff officer, but I’ll get back as soon as I can.

As I faced the jury rigged tube stuffed with the previous night and morning messes garbage, my confidence dimmed a bit. But it was only about fifty feet, and one more event. I made it through and was spitting and trying to clear gunk out of my eyes and ears. I saw the final event was being hoisted in a cargo net along with three or four other pollywogs and being blasted by a firehose stream. Considering all of the slime I had all over me and filling most of my pores, that didn’t sound too bad.

But as I headed, again on my hands and knees, to the cargo net’s final indignity, they stopped me. I was informed as an officer, especially a lieutenant commander, the only officer on the ship who was a pollywog, I would have to kiss the boatswain’s belly and traverse the chute again.

Being a good sport, I went through the ordeal again. This time with that unholy garbage mess now filling the pores of my pores, I once again headed for the cargo net. Once again, I was stopped. Once again, I went through the line. I was beginning to wonder, but Conrad finally came back, saw what was going on, and took me to my cleansing.

Back in my stateroom, I stripped out of my inside out khakis, violated the Navy shower rule with a non-stop fifteen minute drenching, trying to wash as much as I could off of me. Finished and dressed, I gingerly held my initiation uniform away from me, walked out to the weather decks and tossed the garments into the sea.

So I was very aware of what could happen at the Crossing the Line initiation.

We used every way of communicating to keep things under control, including a POD note:

  1. CROSSING THE EQUATOR: (THE INITIATION)

GENERAL SAFETY GUIDELINES: “CROSSING THE EQUATOR” IS A TIME HONORED TRADITION IN WHICH AN INITIATION CEREMONY IS PERFORMED TO INTRODUCE THE SLIMY, GREASY POLLYWOGS TO TRUSTY SHELLBACKISM. IT CAN AND SHOULD BE FUN FOR ALL HANDS. IT CAN ALSO BE UNNECESSARILY INJURIOUS AND HUMILIATING IF COMMON SENSE IS NOT APPLIED TO TONE DOWN THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL ACTS WHICH ARE INVOLVED. SHELLBACKS MUST GUARD AGAINST BEING OVERZEALOUS WHEN APPLYING THOSE WELL-DESERVED WALLOPS TO THE HIND SIDES OF THE SLIMY POLLYWOGS. THE SAFETY REGULATIONS SHALL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED AND ANY PERSONNEL VIOLATING THOSE REGULATIONS WILL BE REQUIRED TO FORFEIT ANY PARTICIPATION IN THE CEREMONY. THE WOGS WATCH COMMITTEE HAS THE OVERALL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SAFETY OF BOTH POLLYWOGS AND THE SHELLBACKS ON THE FORECASTLE. ALL SENIOR PERSONNEL ON COMMITTEES HAVE OVERALL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SAFETY OF BOTH THE POLLYWOGS AND SHELLBACKS IN THEIR ASSIGNED AREAS. THE FOLLOWING GENERAL SAFETY GUIDELINES SHALL APPLY:

    1. FIRE HOSES SHALL NOT BE USED INSIDE THE SKIN OF THE SHIP.
    2. FIRE HOSES SHALL NOT BE SPRAYED DIRECTLY TOWARD POLLYWOGS.
    3. NO FOREIGN MATTER OF ANY KIND WILL BE RUBBED INTO EYES, EARS, OR NOSE.
    4. WALLOPS, TO THE HIND SIDES, SHALL BE MADE WITH CARE TO AN AREA BELOW THE WAIST AND ABOVE THE CROTCH AND SHALL ONLY BE ADMINISTERED IN THE DESIGNATED “SHILLELAGH LINE.”
    5. CARE MUST BE TAKEN TO AVOID DIRECTING WATER TOWARD ELECTRICAL BOXES AND OUTLETS.
    6. ACTIVITIES INCIDENT TO “CROSSING THE LINE” WILL BE CONDUCTED ON WEATHER DECKS ONLY. ALL AREAS INSIDE THE SKIN OF THE SHIP ARE OFF LIMITS TO INITIATION EVENTS.
    7. POLLYWOGS WILL WALK UP AND DOWN LADDERS.
    8. SHOWER SHOES OR RUBBER PADS WILL BE TAPED TO THE KNEES.

I considered adding some comments to the above note concerning sexual abuse of any kind being cause for NJP. I remembered our watchwords of not having men and women but sailors aboard and decided against such a warning.

Captain Boyle, Command Master Chief Weaver, who would be King Neptune in the ceremonies, and I had numerous meetings on security and how to handle any misconduct. The word got out. It was not a patty cake initiation. It was pretty much the way I remembered them. It just happened to be some women pollywogs who became shellbacks that day.

The ceremony, I thought, was really good for morale. Everyone had gone through the ordeal or meted out the initiation requirements together. Everyone was proud of getting through the two days, and everyone on board was a certified shellback.

Now it was time to get ready for Diego Garcia.

As we approached Diego Garcia, the captain and I wanted to be sure our sailors understood our rules. After discussing liberty on Diego Garcia, I published the following note in 4 October Plan of the Day and it ran daily in the POD until we reached the lagoon:

  1. Fraternization: The following USS Yosemite regulation is provided for the information of all hands: Fraternization between crew members of the opposite sex is prohibited on board or on the pier controlled by Yosemite. There will be no displays of affection, physical contact, or other type of conduct except that which is normally expected in a military environment. Off ship, public display of affection between Navy members in uniform is prohibited.

The morning of Thursday, 13 October, we went from pollywogs and shellbacks to sailors a day out of port. Not counting the Suez Canal transit and the refueling stop in Augusta, Sicily, we had been out of port since leaving Palma de Majorca 27 September, the longest continuous time at sea, 16 days, for the vast majority of Yosemite’s crew.

We began our preparations for entering port in earnest. A fresh water wash down of the entire weather decks was conducted that morning. A navigation brief for entering port was held in the wardroom in the afternoon. We took a break when the captain cut the cake on the mess decks to celebrate the Navy’s 208th birthday and then held a brief on boat operations, especially liberty boat runs, presented on the ship’s closed circuit television in the evening.

1425, Friday, 14 October 1983: USS Yosemite (AD 19) anchored in the middle of the lagoon of Diego Garcia. Known to sailors as the “Footprint of Freedom,” Diego Garcia had a significant U.S. Navy presence in the British Territory, the largest island in the Chagos Atoll Island chain

There is not much there. However, I had said during my previous stop there in 1982 on USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3), it was my vision of the island I would like to be on if marooned. It was still that enchanting.

Curmudgeon Ramblings

Seems to me we used to do complex things with simple tools and now, we do simple things with complex tools.

Not much difference in the people though. There are still good un’s,  and mostly good un’s with a little bad thrown in, and bad un’s with a little good in ’em, and worser un’s, and some that just need to be wiped out with no resort to a legal system. Pretty much like people have always been.

And we keep trying to fix it, coming up with ideas that will fix it for us but pretty much screw it up for a lot of folks who aren’t us or like us.

Seems to me we need to get back to fixing complex things with simple tools, like behaving ourselves. Like dealing with people with compassion and understanding, not drawing lines in the sand, not throwing rocks over the wall.

Now that would be different.

A Pacific Kind of Day

Easter.

The old curmudgeon finds it appropriate the most holiest of Christian holy days falls on a noteworthy day for some guy 2,053 miles away from me this morning.

When i woke up in my early mode, i decided to celebrate privately up on the hill. The guy i’m talking about who lives so far away from the Southwest corner is a bit special to me, and he and i spent about fifteen Easters together. If you can believe it, they were in church, the First Methodist Church South in Lebanon, Tennessee although they dropped the “South” sometime during our tenure there.

It’s all changed now: air conditioned white on white sanctuary in neat, geometrically straight rows in two sections running the length with a maroon carpet on the center aisle with a modern art, symbolic stained glass window behind the pulpit, with teleprompters hanging from the ceiling, all one level.

Our church sanctuary was wood and stained glass windows of biblical scenes on the side, which raised up and down for the weather conditions outside, and the rows were in arched across the sanctuary in three rows, no center aisle, and a balcony in the back where the Castle Heights cadets marched in for the 11:00 service.

That sanctuary is where we held the church services except on early Easter of course. We called it the “Sunrise Service,” although it wasn’t really sunrise. It was held at 7:00 a.m., Easter Sunday outside in front of the McFadden Auditorium on the Castle Heights campus. It was a community thing with a bunch of churches participating. i wrote a column about it in The Lebanon Democrat once and George Harding was quick in letting me know the Kiwanis had organized the event, being a most dedicated Kiwanian.

So when i woke up this morning, i arose with the thought of doing something akin to the sunrise service and, oh yes, akin to that guy celebrating a significant life event 2,053 miles away. So about a half hour past first light, i climbed my slope with my bible in hand. It is the bible my parents gave to me for an early birthday. Below the title “Holy Bible” on the black fine cloth cover my name is embossed in gold, “James Rye Jewell, Jr.”

As you should know if you read much of my stuff, i’m not a formal practicing Christian. i will not go into all of that stuff here except to say, i have my belief about God and much of the New Testament is a guide for my living. After about 400,000 hours of discussion about everything on earth with this guy who is 2,053 miles away, i suspect he is pretty much the same way.

So i climb to the top of my hill, turn on my phone flashlight and read the sections of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John concerning Christ rising from the grave.

It is quiet up here on the hill before the world of the Southwest corner begins to stir. i hear a dog bark in the distance, a crow flies over my head and caws, a dove coos, smaller birds chirp in bunches, but it is quiet to me. Peaceful: perfect for to the west of my hill, opposite in direction of where the sun will rise for my service, is the Pacific. You know, Pacific as in peaceful in nature. It looms below the clouds and beyond the bridge lights and the city proper.

i turn slowly counter-clockwise and view the mountains and mesas of Mexico:

Yes, it was cloudy this morning, a condition i love in my seaport towns, but not today. i turn toward the east. It is 6:10, sunrise. The sun will rise in a minute but still be below the mountains. It will rise from there in ten minutes or less, but it is also behind the clouds. i shall not see it today.

i stare out nevertheless. i know…no, i feel it rising below Pisces and the planet Mercury. The light, the hope is lighting the sky of clouds. It is risen.

i gather up the stuff i brought up the hill, the bible and the phone and the cup of coffee, and look at the Pacific one more time. Then i walk the ridge down toward the stairs i made out of railroad ties. i think of that guy back in Tennessee. George Henry Harding, IV, forever Henry to me. You see, Henry, who as close as anyone will ever get to me, becomes officially old today as i already am. i decided about three months ago, my 75 would be officially old for me. So now, Henry is also officially old.

Happy Birthday, old man. You look a whole lot older now than you did in 1961.

Wish we could fly fish a couple of creeks today.

And Happy Pacific Easter.

Some Folks Just Never Learn and That Ain’t Necessarily Bad

“Stiff.”

i had been trying to discover a word that would describe my feelings this morning after i woke up. It came quickly.

“Stiff.”

Yeh, yeh, i know: too old, me, to do things i probably should have never done to start with.

It all started Monday when i received the annual unexpected call from Pat Neal at Pacific Tugboat Service. Steve Frailey, one of the two principals at the company and a close friend of mine is an incredible athlete: a swimmer, a diver, a runner who is now moving into triathlons but doesn’t play golf except maybe once a year. i write “maybe” because that once a year is about when i get the annual unexpected call from Pat as i did Monday.

You see Steve is also a past president of the Propeller Club. Pat is the current president. Pacific Tugboat has a foursome entry every year. The Propeller Club holds a golf tournament every year in April. The annually unexpected phone call usually comes the week of the tournament. Steve, who has dutifully signed up, has a work obligation or another event pop up, preventing him from playing. He is a busy man, but i sometimes suspect he knows i’m willing to sub for him and reasons for him to have me stand in for the tournament just happen to find him.

The tournament is usually played on a Friday at noon. For a number of years, it has been held at Admiral Baker’s North Course in Mission Valley. This year was no exception…except my FMG (Friday Morning Golf) bunch was playing our usual early round at North Island, not in Mission Valley. Unwilling to miss our traditional FMG round, which has been going on for 29 years, i agreed to Pat’s request, but advised him my arrival for the start might be tight.

So yesterday, i woke up about forty-five minutes before my alarm set at 4:00 a.m., not enough time to go back to sleep. Don’t know why but it happens every Friday. i performed my morning ablutions that continue to lengthen as i age — oh how i long for those days when i could be out of the house in five minutes after awakening — and drove to North Island for our FMG tee time of 7:03. Fortunately, golfers in front only held us up a little bit. We finished in just under four hours. i paid off my bets, passed on the ritualistic pitcher of beer at the nineteenth hole, saddled up the hatchback, and made it to Mission Valley with time to spare.

It was slightly over a sixteen hour day between leaving and returning home, with way too many golf swings. Not the advised routine for an old man. Stiff is my punishment.

But i’ve gotta tell you, it is one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf every year. Why? i’m playing with guys from a place that allowed me to go down to the sea again. Pacific Tugboat’s pier is between the Coronado Bay bridge and the Port of San Diego’s Marine Terminal. The pier juts into San Diego Bay on the  working waterfront. i walked that pier for two years two, three, sometimes even four times a day. i rode tugs. My office was on a barge surrounded by boats and cranes. Heaven if one likes to live in memories as i do. It was a wonderful way to end my official working career.

There was also the people, men mostly, at Pacific Tug. They were the working kind. They all began, if not still involved with hands on labor. Getting things done. Living with the roar of diesels in their head and able to detect problems with minuscule frequency changes. Handling lines and block and tackle, heavy gear. Living in cramped quarters with mess of their own devices. And yes, it’s dangerous work, even when done safely.

They are good men with sea stories to share, laughs to make you feel good.

i like being around men of the earth. My father was one. My real down-to-earth labor has been limited to four summers of grave digging and things devised of my own need to put my hands to the plow, so to speak. But i appreciate the value, the goodness of these men. It is good for me to be around them. It puts my feet back on the ground, brings balance to my thoughts. i don’t get back to it enough.

So then there is the Propeller Club tournament every April when i get the annual unexpected phone call.

Thanks Pat, Steve, and all of the folks at Pacific Tugboat Service who always seem to make me feel a little bit better about life.

Pat Neal, Cole Crafton, and Todd Quinn of Pacific Tugboat Service with the goofy guy on the first tee at Admiral Baker North, sponsored by Pacific Tug.

Chapter Five: The Med and the Suez Canal, part four

When we moored in Palma, I had been the executive officer for forty days. The Yosemite had been on deployment for two weeks. I was still learning how to be an effective executive officer. After Palma, we had an overnight of steaming to Augusta Bay, Sicily. Our stop in Sicily was brief. We anchored in the bay.

It was difficult being number two, essentially subjugating my natural inclinations to the captain, and in many ways, adapting my behavior to most effectively lead and manage all of my subordinates while demonstrating the behaviors he expected and deserved from me as his number two. I expressed my frustration in a long letter to Maureen:

Lady,

i almost lost it somewhere in mid-Palma until tonight {October 14}. I could feel the edge creeping in, the desire to not be where i was, the frustration, the lack of confidence all waxing toward the surface. There was no place to breathe, no one to talk to. The box (cassette tape) i spoke into was only a box, did not respond. The letters i placed on the paper were cold and flat, dull nothings that said less. I perceived all around me shrinking into their protective envelopes, not working together for the whole, lobbying for their interests, and i could feel all of those good feelings ebbing, not gone, but i could feel myself sliding back into the mire.

(Another day). But i caught it, stopped it, put the world in perspective, thought of you, loved you, thought of how long it would be before i saw you.

Then came another malady. Plague immunization came for me as we readied for entering the Navy port of Augusta, Sicily. The shot slowly went from having the expected sore arm into a touch of the plague, driving me down into a slight fever; my work hours caught up with me and the combination demanded sleep as retribution. i yielded amidst the silly mast cases of drunks, malcontents, malingerers, and young, good sailors losing their heads over their first piece of bona fide foreign tail and explained to me at XOI: “I met this girl and my friend and hers went back to her apartment and accidentally fell asleep. She didn’t have no clock, and I didn’t have no watch.”

So i see this twenty-year old sailor, and i try to imagine the inept, drunken groping and all else that went on, and i wish i could tell him some things but i know he would never understand even if he listened and most likely will never learn.

(I should point out not all male sailors followed the women sailors as I claimed earlier.)

*     *     * 

One of my goals after taking over as XO was to update the ship’s instructions and eliminate duplication of instructions issued by higher authority. The first night after Commander Sheffield had departed, I hung my photograph of Maureen, arranged the office to my liking, and began to examine my surroundings. There was a built in bookcase behind my desk, about six feet tall and about five feet wide. It held two-inch and three-inch loose leaf notebooks. They were filled with Yosemite generated instructions, some dating back probably to when she was commissioned in 1945. I wanted to leave after my tour with a set of ship instructions that were current, logical, and built upon existing instructions from our superiors, not parroting or duplicating them.

I didn’t think I could complete them in what I anticipated to be a two-year tour, at the longest three years. But I was going to try.

The only time to work on this revision project was each evening underway after I had briefed the Captain following 8 O’clock Reports. This meant I would usually start around 2200 because after my meeting in the Captain’s cabin, there was always a department head or someone else who wanted to talk to me. I enjoyed these conversations at the end of the day and didn’t discourage them. Chaplin Poe was a great confidant. We would share stories and discuss potential problems and complain to each other. George Sitton was another frequent visitor in the evening. George and I respected each other’s knowledge of the sea and deck seamanship, and he was an old style sailor like me with a caustic humor.

There were others, but I most welcomed Frank Kerrigan, the doc. As mentioned earlier, Frank was brand new to the Navy. The powers that were then had not sent him to “knife and fork school,” which we laughingly referred to an indoctrination period for officers who had no prior Navy experience like doctors, attorneys (JAG), and chaplains. Frank graduated from Michigan State on a basketball scholarship. Although he never made the varsity squad, he scrimmaged against Magic Johnson. That made him a superior athlete in my analysis. We both loved sports. Frank was the one person on the ship with whom I could talk about things without my position of number two having any impact on my duties as executive officer. For Frank, I was able to explain many things about the Navy no new officer without any indoctrination would know. We were both recently married. It was a great relief to spend a couple of hours with no pressure.

But the doc and the others had lots of things to do and all were gone most of the time before taps. That’s when I would pull down a notebook from the bookshelf and begin shredding it, checking it for being current and for duplication. Arduous work. But somebody had to do it. Actually no one had to do it, but I thought it should be done.

*     *     *

Other than the crypto destruction and the drug case, the two-day journey to the southeastern part of the Mediterranean Ocean was mostly uneventful. The ship arrived at Port Said, the entrance to the Suez Canal at night. It was confusing immediately. The anchorage held an uncountable number of ships with their standing lights shining like a sky with thousands of stars. I don’t recall seeing any other area of the seas with more ships other than the entrance to the Malacca Straits near Singapore. For some reason, this mass of every kind of ship and vessel imaginable struck me as more ominous.

The next morning, ships began entering the canal at 0400. Yosemite’s turn in line came early, getting underway at 0100. We steamed to the entrance and took the pilot on board. The Navy had warned us about taking on board other parties, even if recommended by the pilot. The other parties usually claimed extra lighting was required and then charged exorbitant fees for essentially useless floodlights. Even though we had briefed the key sea detail personnel on this warning, a team of five Egyptians were allowed to board with the pilot. When the captain and I were informed, we instructed our personnel posted at the entry to the ship on the port quarter to quarantine the Egyptians in a small compartment for the duration of the transit.

Captain Boyle quite rightly was very conservative in his view of foreign nationals being aboard the ship. He was very accommodating to guests but also very protective of his ship and his crew. His recollection of the Egyptian pilot:

My most vivid recollection is the pilot. Somehow I became aware that he had been disrespectful of our female officer, (Linda, I think) as she escorted him to the bridge. I was furious and had as little contact with him as possible. He was less than worthless foisted on us by the Egyptians. As I recall I directed him to your chair on the bridge and for him to remain there and that he had no further interaction with our women crew members.

Having spent lengthy times in Subic Bay, I was very aware of the deceptiveness and the thievery of foreign natives boarding Navy ships. I was quite angry our personnel had allowed the Egyptian floodlight team aboard. The Egyptian pilot blustered his indignation at our not allowing his team to have free access aboard the ship, but we remained adamant. I too recall the pilot sitting in the executive officer’s chair (mine) on the port side in the pilot house.

*     *     *

Captain Boyle remained on the open bridge through almost the entire transit of the canal. Although he relied heavily on the experience and expertise of Lieutenant Sitton to serve as Officer of the Deck and conning officer, he allowed others to conn the ship under his or George’s oversight. I suspect when our female officers, Lieutenant Kathy Rondeau, Lieutenant Sharon Carrasco, Lieutenant Junior Grade Noreen Leahy, and Ensign Emily Black to take the conn, they were the first females to drive a capital ship in the Suez Canal.

If I can get past the hubris of the pilot and the unethical, if not illegal boarding of the floodlight team, the passage through the Suez was remarkable and thought provoking.

Even though I had witnessed the conglomeration of ships waiting for entry into the canal, the never ending line of large ships of every type was just incredible. For example, the number of languages used in the necessary communication with the canal transit operators was astounding. Once in the transit, I was not only staggered by the numbers but concerned about safety. The distance between ships was 500 to 1,000 yards. I worried about another ship’s going DIW (Dead in the water) due to engine malfunction or, because of a language barrier, a miscommunication between a ship’s master, the pilot (especially if they were as all incompetent as ours), canal operations, and another ship creating a potential collision. It was not a comforting thought. I was positive my concerns were echoed by Captain Boyle.

When I could divert my concerns about the shipping, the canal itself was stunning. The engineering effort required to dig a watercourse 120-miles long and a width that easily can accommodate the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carriers was nothing short of amazing to see.

My everlasting impression of the journey was sand. There were other emotional reactions. Shortly after clearing the passage through Port Said, evidence of the Six Day War and Israel’s sudden victory was evident, even twenty-six years later. Destroyed tanks and armored vehicles partially jutted from the sand. It was sobering to consider how swift and deadly the Israelis took the Gaza Strip. Not too much later, we passed small villages. The citizens, especially youths, sat on the canal wall with their feet hanging over the edge laughing and yelling as Yosemite passed by. It was a different world than ours, almost as if they were from an earlier century, at that moment only yards away.

At 0900, eight hours after beginning our transit, the column of ships anchored in the Great Bitter Lake. It was a salt water lake, and it was barren. Ship columns would anchor there to allow the columns transiting in the other direction to pass and reenter the one-way canal on the other side. Four hours, we stood at anchor, getting underway headed south again at 1343.

The rest of the transit was uneventful. But when we dropped off the pilot and the band of thieves and cleared the canal, we all breathed a sigh of relief, especially the captain and I.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Weinberg’s Second Law: If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

Goofy guy’s experience with  Wienberg’s Second Law: With the latest experience i’ve had with my computer, i believe; i believe.