Chapter Three, part two

i have received numerous comments on the book installments being posted here. This feedback makes me feel good. Many of those comments point out errors i have made, both grammatically and factual. i feel good about that too. i am going through each correction, each piece of advice, each opinion and filtering them with my XO perceptions. After all the story took place thirty-five years ago and each of us have different perceptions of what happened. i think all of these comments will make the final book better. When i make changes (or not), i will acknowledge the people who contributed in the final draft. i am now considering this a group effort. In fact, i am considering reclassifying the author as “jim jewell with the officers and crew of USS Yosemite during her 1983-1984 deployment. Your contributions are welcomed…and thanks.

On with Chapter Three:

On Tuesday, August 30, the Yosemite got underway, not to deploy, but for “Sea Trials.” Shortly prior to deployment, Navy ships go to sea for a short period, one or two days, to check all equipment, insuring all is running correctly, and, just as importantly, get the crew used to going to sea. Yosemite’s sea trial was one overnight trip into the Atlantic. This new XO was ready. I would be just as glad if the ship didn’t come back to port and just keep heading east except for one thing. For as long as I could remember, I found one of the best things about deploying was having no phones and no brows. Deployment meant the ship was operating as a sole unit, even with other ships in a group, separated by lack of phone lines (before satellite communication and GPS came into existence). It was where a ship was meant to be: at sea. But this time, I was anxious for the one-night cruise to end.

Maureen and I had been married on July 30 followed by ten wonderful days of honeymoon in San Diego. Then I flew east to pick up my car and head to Mayport. Maureen and I thought we wouldn’t see each other until the deployment was over in late April, but we decided Maureen should fly into Jacksonville on Friday and spend the labor day weekend with me, before flying back to San Diego and work. She had rented a seaside cabin. To say I was anxious to see her was a huge understatement.

But that rendezvous would have to wait. Sea detail was set at 0800. I took my position as navigator next to the chart table on the bridge as Yosemite got underway. Navigating a ship out of port and standing out of a channel was one of my favorite evolutions. For sea detail, the only thing better for me was being the Officer of the Deck and having the conn in an open sea.

Mayport had one of, if not the shortest and most direct sea details of all Naval bases, just over a mile from the Mayport basin to the sea buoy. My navigation duties ended quickly. The pilot had left the ship. I joined CAPT Boyle and LT Sitton, the OOD and conning officer on the open bridge. The captain became a bit agitated as a number of sailboats appeared from the south crossing the end of the channel. Sailboats were not a usual problem in Norfolk where CAPT Boyle had spent most of his shipboard time while hundreds of sailboats in Long Beach and San Diego fouling up the channel were business as usual. The captain knew well the rules of the road, which included the rules for power ships and boats. He knew the rules for sailboats as well, but he had not had a great amount of experience with them and was not comfortable with those tacking ships bobbing on the water dependent on the winds. He knew I had not only had to deal with innumerable sailboats but also had crewed several while steaming out of and into Long Beach and San Diego.

There was some question as to whether Yosemite in this case should maneuver to avoid any collision. With the sailing vessels a mile or more away, CAPT Boyle asked me my opinion as to what to do.

“Don’t worry, captain,” I replied, “They will maneuver and avoid us. They normally don’t want to mess with ships this big. It is the law of gross tonnage.”

In less than a minute, the sailboats began to tack and disperse, giving Yosemite a clear shot east.

I felt relieved and good about giving my captain correct information.

Underway felt good. The day went better than I expected. All systems seemed to be in working order. Then after the evening mess in the wardroom, something occurred to set the tone for the entire deployment and for all of my tour as XO.

Being navigator (and shortly before LTJG Noreen Leahy became the real navigator even though I kept the title, an added duty for being executive officer), I walked up to the bridge with the intent of checking out the equipment and the quartermasters for shooting stars. The sun had set. It was twilight, the perfect time to shoot stars. As I came on the bridge, I walked past the chart table and quartermaster’s station and over to the starboard bridge wing. I looked down and was surprised to see the standing lights were on.

One of the primary Rules of the Road is from sunset to sunrise a ship must not have any lights visible except for standard “running lights.” Standard running lights consist of a green light on the starboard side, a red light on the port side, a white light as a stern light, and two forward “range” lights above and in line. This is to allow other ships to ascertain a ship’s aspect or an idea of her comparative direction in which she was heading. This aspect determines which ship is the privileged vessel (required to remain on course), and the burdened vessel (required to maneuver to avoid a collision). Other lights would make it difficult, if not impossible to discern the ship’s aspect. In my time at sea, any ship showing more than navigational running lights would be denigrated and called a “cruise ship.”

I called to the Officer of the Deck, “Why aren’t the standing lights off? Recognizing the OOD had much less experience than I had and it was the first time in a while since any of the watch standers had been to sea, I added, “Don’t you know the Rules of the Road prohibit standing lights to be on after sunset.”

“Yes sir,” the OOD responded, “But it’s in the captain’s night orders to leave them on all night.”

“What?” I almost shouted in disbelief.

“Yes sir, would you like to see it?”

“No, I believe you,” I responded as I walked over to the sound powered phone and rang the captain’s cabin.

“Captain,” the commanding officer answered.

“Sir, this is the exec. Have you finished your evening mess?”

“Yes, why?” CAPT Boyle responded.

“Well sir, I was wondering if you could come up to the bridge?”

“Certainly, be up in a minute.”

When the captain arrived on the bridge, he asked, “What’s up, XO?”

“I’d like to show you something,” I said and directed the captain to the starboard bridge wing.”

As he peered over the bulwark and saw the lights, CAPT Boyle shouted, “What the hell? Officer of the Deck, get those damn standing lights off right now. What kind of watch are you running?”

Before I could explain, the OOD repeated, “But sir, your night orders direct us to leave them on.”

“They aren’t my night orders,” the captain responded angrily, “Now turn those damn things off!”

“Aye, sir,” the OOD obeyed and ordered the standing lights off.

“Dammit, Jim, I forgot to rewrite the night orders,” Captain Boyle explained. “Those are Captain Roberts’ night orders. I’ll write mine tonight and you can edit them so we have them ready for deployment.”

“Aye sir,” I agreed, relieved the violation of the Rules of the Road was a product of the previous regime, not Captain Boyle.

He and I stayed on the bridge. The captain took his seat on the starboard side, and I stood next to him discussing how the day otherwise had gone and getting any input for Eight O’clock Reports.”

In about five minutes, Command Master Chief Weaver ran onto the bridge demanding, “Who turned off those standing lights off?”

With both the CO and I amazed at the Master Chief’s reaction, the captain beckoned him over.

“What in the world are you talking about, Master Chief?” the captain asked, “Why do you think the standing lights should be on?”

“Well, sir,” Master Chief Weaver responded, “With CAPT Roberts and CDR Sheffield, we kept them on and we created a roving security patrol. We wanted to make sure no one was sneaking out onto the weather decks at night for a little hanky-panky.”

There was a moment of silence. I was shaking my head in disbelief when Captain Boyle, with obviously controlled anger said:

“Master Chief, I want you to be sure that every person on this ship knows by tomorrow morning we don’t have men on board this ship; we don’t have women on board this ship. We have sailors aboard this ship. And we are going to act like that.

“We will observe all of the Rules of the Road as long as I am the commanding officer. And we will all act like sailors.

“Understood?”

“Aye, aye, sir,” the master chief responded and then quickly left the bridge.

I smiled and told the Captain I had to get below to get ready for Eight O’clock Reports and left the bridge.

There is no doubt CAPT Boyle’s philosophy so well stated that evening became the watchword for how the ship did business for the rest of the time I was the executive officer. I used the captain’s direction that evening as my first guidepost in any situation requiring judgement about male and female personnel, officer or enlisted that arose during my time aboard the Yosemite.

*     *     *

Upon returning to port, activities increased even more. In addition to the loading of supplies, significantly more than a combatant as the Repair Department required an incredible amount of material, like steel in large sheets and other supplies for repair and maintenance during customer ship maintenance availabilities.

Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 was having a change of command, which not only meant the captain would be gone that entire day, but there would be another admiral’s brief on board. The discrepancies from the sea trial and a zone inspection needed to either be fixed before getting underway or put in a long range plan for correction. Yosemite also took part in the change of command. She was charged with firing the gun salute during the change of command, a 13-gun salute as is due a rear admiral. At the ceremony, Captain Boyle was sweating during the salute while I was sweating with each round from our saluting battery. After an initial glitch from our battery, the gun salute went fine. No one, except us, noticed the glitch.

But it was time for a respite. It had been over three weeks since i had seen my new bride. I got the respite. Maureen had decided she should fly into Jacksonville on Friday, September 2, and spend the Labor Day weekend with me. While I was trying to find a suitable and inexpensive hotel for us, Maureen located and rented a small cabin on the beach. We had a wonderful weekend even with ship’s business frequently distracting me. We did have one moment that cut into the romance (pun intended). Saturday twilight, we settled into the cottage for an evening together alone and sat down on the couch looking out at the Atlantic past the sand and the small picket fence. I had opened up a bottle of sauterne while Maureen prepared a wonderful cheese and apple plate. After sitting down, Maureen went to slice the apple, but missed and cut a deep gash into her left palm. The rest of what had been planned as a romantic evening was devoted mostly to first aid and laughter.

Even though that Monday was a holiday, I had to do some work. But the newlyweds had some wonderful moments together before I put Maureen on a plane back to San Diego that Monday evening.

The clock toward deployment was clicking.

*     *     *

With days winding down, two more major difficulties arose, one impacted by Navy policy and the other older than the hills. Both involved with sailors trying to avoid deployments.

The first problem arose when the doctor advised me one of the female sailors was pregnant. In these early days of the Women In Ships program, Navy’s policy stipulated any female enlisted would be immediately transferred with Temporarily Additional Duty (“TAD”) to a shore command. One of the immediate repercussions of this policy was a number of women who didn’t want to deploy on a tender would get pregnant in order to avoid the deployment. I felt this policy was a product of politically correct, but misguided thoughts. The Yosemite had a capable doctor on board trained in family practice. If there was a problem or health issue, then the crew person should be transferred, but the blanket policy produced a lot of unwanted results. It didn’t matter. That was the policy, and the seaman was transferred to shore duty. As i recall, only one or two women were transferred due to pregnancy before we got underway for good.

This policy would come into play in a major difficulty with the Navy policy and women on board during the deployment.

 

1 thought on “Chapter Three, part two

  1. Great read! Many thanks. My dad was XO of Shenandoah AD26 in the mid ’50s. I’m sure the two of you would have had a lot of shared experiences, less the lady sailors at sea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.