A Tale of the Sea and Me (For Sam) – Installment 18

A Mid-Watch Lesson

It was summer school for me in 1968. Andrew, Rob, and i discovered The Tavern, the Black Pearl, and other delights. i was liking my liberty as an ensign. But the learning curve was almost vertical.

Another lesson came one week night when i had the duty. i was assigned the mid-watch (midnight to 0400) as the Officer of the Deck, in port, (OOD). A second class petty officer was my petty officer of the watch (POOW), and a seaman striker from radio was the messenger. It was a cool, comfortable evening and we were tied up pier side, not nested out with one or two other destroyers between us and the pier. We were port side to.

The watch had been very quiet. Liberty had ended at midnight for the crew. It was about 0200 when a very drunk seaman reeled across the brow to the quarterdeck. When i told him he would be put on report for unauthorized absence, the drunk young man went ballistic. He was cursing and threatening me. i was attempting to determine how i should handle the sailor without getting either of us in trouble when the POOW called the duty master at arms.

The duty master at arms arrived several minutes after the call. He was a first class gunners mate. He had on his dungarees but with a tee shirt rather than the chambray shirt. The left sleeve was rolled up to hold his pack of cigarettes above his massive arms.

Without much more than a polite recognition of the officer, me, he put his arm around the shoulder of the sailor and moved him aft. He said, “Sailor, let’s go have a talk in the paint locker.”

The next morning, i slept as last as i could and still partake of the morning mess. After the mess i walked to the forecastle for divisional quarters at 0750 and colors at 0800. The seaman was in first division and was in the second ranch. Chief Jones was laughing. The culprit looked like he might have been through a meat grinder. One eye was black and bruises were showing wherever there was skin.

The MA gunners mate had taken care of the problem. i don’t think the young man was ever UA again and never caused a problem on board because of drinking. The report chit disappeared before making it to the legal officer.

It was an awakening for me. The underground system for discipline at the sailor level worked well, but all of us would have been before a court martial today.

4 thoughts on “A Tale of the Sea and Me (For Sam) – Installment 18

  1. Lucky for this guy you were around and lucky for you that you could call somebody to help him and you! Good story that few would every know..

    1. It was a different world in a different time. There were a whole bunch of career sailors who had managed to not get promoted or busted when they did. They would face mandatory retirement at 20 years. Most lived on the ship. They did their jobs and the Navy took care of them. Today, they would be homeless. Thanks, Howard.

  2. Great job in bringing back my memories of life on a tin can. How can I get installments of your tales that I’ve missed?

    1. If you go to my website, jimjewell.com, there is a item in the top menu bar that reads “Blog Topics.” That should contain all of my sea stories.

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