A Tale of the Sea and Me (for Sam), 002

After reading my first post on my serial book, several folks have asked me about the periodicity for publishing. i was astounded, even felt complimented that there are folks out there who think i might have a plan, and if i did, i might just might stick to it.

Well, that ain’t the case, folks. My plan is for this to be my top priority in writing until it’s finished. They may come out daily or every week or so. i hope this does not disappoint you, but i am retired (except for this, you see), and i really do things when the mood strikes. We’ll see. i hope you enjoy.

And Sam, you don’t have to enjoy. You don’t even have to read, at least right now. But these are for you.

You Are In the Navy Now, Chapter 002

My Navy sea stories at Vanderbilt are limited except for the third class midshipman cruise in the summer of 1963. But to give Sam of an idea of how i got to my sea stories, here’s a very truncated recap:

i made several bad decisions. i partied and i drank, too much of both. In two years and one summer semester, i flunked out. That venture and the ensuing ones are stories of their own. But the summer after my first year, 1963, served as my introduction to sea stories…and there were several doozies.

The first began before i actually boarded my first ship for the third class midshipman cruise, the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764). i had unwisely taken the travel money to get to Newport, Rhode Island where i would embark on the Thomas. Most midshipmen took the paid airfare to arrive. I ended up not making any money as was my plan. My choice was traveling by bus. i left Nashville on a Trailways at noon on Saturday and arrived in Newport at 0700 on Monday morning. It was 42 hours of travel in an unseasonably warm early June with stops for travelers departing and boarding and meals. It was all in the only service dress khaki uniform i had. It was a dress khaki shirt with black tie, gabardine khaki trousers and blouse, black shoes and socks and a combination cover, again khaki.

When my bus reached downtown Newport, to put it politely, i stunk.

Things got worse. When they offloaded our seabags, mine wasn’t there. After some lengthy confusion, the bus agents told me my seabag had not been transferred when we changed buses in Providence, adding it should arrive on the next bus and would be delivered to my ship before we got underway.

It didn’t.

i was stuck with no uniforms. None, not my other dress uniforms, not my midshipmen working khakis, not my dungarees, not my middie dixie cup caps with the blue fringe, not my underwear and socks, not my toiletries.

As the Thomas got underway, someone sent a message stating my seabag was just delivered to another ship on the cruise and would be transferred by hi-line, which should occur soon. “Soon” turned out be three weeks.

i was not distraught, but “concerned” is too mild.

When we all met the executive officer in the wardroom, he greeted us, gave us some ground rules for being part of ship’s company, then told us we would muster on the 02 level forward of the bridge above while we stood out of the channel to sea. Before we left the wardroom, he directed the ASW officer, the midshipmen coordinator, to see if they could get some enlisted dungarees for me to wear until my seabag arrived. He also directed the supply officer to open up ship’s store and let me purchase toiletries…after we were secured from sea detail.

We filed up to the 02 level where Mount 52 had been removed during the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization Program the year before i came on board. She was a “FRAM 2,” which meant she did not get an Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) launcher and her torpedo tubes remained amidships unlike the FRAM I, which had the ASROC launcher amidships and torpedo tubes where Mount 52 had been.

The 18 third-class midshipmen and the 3 first-class midshipmen fell into formation in full view of the bridge a deck above and aft of us. For the duration of the approximate six nautical mile transit to the sea buoy, we stood at parade rest with an occasional at ease. For the first 10 minutes, we were at parade rest.

Now midshipmen were considered “fresh meat” for pranks by the crew. We were even better than recruits for the sailors could yank the chains of college students. They delighted in such fun, and the chief petty officers were the champion pranksters. One senior chief was the star. His target was the formation of midshipmen.

He grabbed one of the small paper “seasick” bags hung on hand rails around the ship when the ship first got underway for those who had to adjust to the sea, getting their sea legs, and likely getting sick several times. The senior chief struck below to chief’s quarters and the galley. He grabbed a large handful of graham crackers, crunched them up in the seasick bag, and then filled the bag with milk. He shook the bag until he was sure the mixture was complete.

Then he went up the port ladder to the deck where we were in formation. the senior chief was under the port bridge wing so anyone on the bridge could not see him. But by cutting our eyes while at parade rest, all of the midshipmen could see and hear him.

He was seemingly ignoring us but proclaimed, “Yep, every time i have gone to see for 18 years, i have to get sea sick before getting my sea legs.” He paused and said in a distressed voice. And it’s happening again.”

With that, he began to gag and choke and leaned against the safety lines. He leaned his head over the safety lines and brought the seasick bag up to his mouth. For about a half minute, he feigned retching, gagging, and, as we called it, chucking up into the seasick bag.

By now the midshipmen had dropped their parade rest and were earnestly watching the drama unfold. The senior chief raised the bag in his hand up to his mouth again and tilted it up again as he announced, “And there is only one way to cure it.” He began pouring the mixture down his mouth making sure most of the contents missed and poured down his face and uniform and on the deck. He crumbled the bag and threw it over the side, turned and struck below.

That did it. Only three of the midshipmen remained in formation. The rest had rushed to the sides and were barfing like crazy, some too soon to make it to the side. The bridge was amazed to watch what they must have believed were the greatest collection of pansies in midshipmen uniforms that they had ever seen.

To this day, i will never understand why i was one of the three who did not get sick. i didn’t feel that good, but i made it through that ordeal, little realizing the worst was to come before my first day at sea was completed.

Perhaps it was an omen about my Naval career long before i had any intention of making it a career.

(Chapter 2 to be continued)

4 thoughts on “A Tale of the Sea and Me (for Sam), 002

  1. OMG. You sound like a bunch of frat boys and I hate to admit it but some of those hijinx seemed very familiar. lol

  2. I will never forget that day I watched them run to the side. Reading this made me laugh. I was in the forward fire room came up to see it

  3. I will never forget that day I watched them run to the side. Reading this made me laugh. I was in the forward fire room came up to see it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *