Heavy Weather II

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
 
 

At Sub School, they explained that some enterprising gentleman had invented the vane-like strips that damn near ran the entire length of the ship below the waterline, called "rolling chocks." They prevented heavy rolls. Whoever sold that load of horse manure, could sell Wonder Bras in a convent... If the Requin was an example of how those things worked, someone should have revoked the patent.

Someone would come over the 21MC with, "Stand by for heavy rolls... Batten down all unsecured equipment, secure all gear adrift."

In E-3 talk, this translated into... All hell is about to break loose... In five minutes, the entire crew will be reeling around like a bunch of drunk lumberjacks at a log-rolling contest... Stuff you haven't seen for six months will appear from under bunks, fall out of vent lines, or slide out of cracks and secret rat holes. The after battery head would take on the distinct aroma of gastric juice mixed with partially digested chow... And grown men would start making intermittant contact with stationary objects.

Our Old Man liked to ride the trough... He must've loved the sound of busted crockery and grown men cussing... The two most prevalent sounds during heavy rolls. If you want to hear grand master level profanity, call for 'preparations for heavy rolls' when a cook has his deep fat friers' full of hot grease.

Torpedomen are slobs... I know, I was one. Anyone who wants to debate that declaration, never saw the inside of a torpedo room when they turned the white lights on for a returning to port, "turn to..." A "turn n' burn." A Greyhound bus station men's room at Thanksgiving looks better than a lived-in torpedo room.

Torpedomen should come with a federal warning riveted to their chest:

'PROSPECTIVE BRIDES SHOULD KNOW THAT THE ATTACHED SONUVABITCH IS INCAPABLE OF PICKING UP DIRTY SOCKS, STINKING T-SHIRTS, OR SOUR TOWELS AND CANNOT BE TRAINED. ON THE ONE-TO-TEN SLOB SCALE, THIS INDIVIDUAL SCORED 9.8'

We were in some kind of exercise where we shot a lot of 'pyrotechnics.' Remember, I was an after battery rat... I have absolutely no idea what the point of the exercise was. Hogan's alley left those details to the skipper and the wardroom. Our immediate concern was all the wooden boxes that the flares and star shells came in. In keeping with the "To be expected level of sensitivity, consideration, and common courtesy exhibited by torpedomen," the bastards carted their industrial waste aft and deposited it in the after battery. What delicate reasoning did they give? I've always loved this one... Get this...

"If we surface to dump one and two-way trash, the dumping party won't have to pass this stuff through the forward battery and disturb the sleeping officers."

Well, in the end we ended up with busted wooden crates, twisted metal bands, and sawdust... And thinking we were assembling for an immediate dump, the enginemen and motor macs sent their contribution forward. One little surprise package the snipes put together was a cardboard box full of oily rags, covering a burned out electric motor half the size of a tank turret.

We appealed to the diving officer to put us on the roof for a quick two-way... Or at least a one-way, surface dump. The U.S. hadn't invented the term 'human rights' at that time, so we based our plea on the Geneva Convention, the Bill of Rights, the Calcutta Health Code, the 14th. Amendment, regulations governing typhoid epidemics, and threw in a couple of Biblical references.

We hit the surface... I was the dumper... That's how you will be able to find me in the National Cemetary when I get my pine peacoat. Look for,

'DEX - - MASTER DUMPER (SS)'

I put on my master dumper badge of office... One life belt... One dog chain belt. It was too rough to pop the sail door and toss the stuff over the side, so we passed it up by human chain to the bridge where I tossed it out far enough to clear the tank tops... Clearing the tank tops is the singular requirement for Master Dumper's Mate.

Well, I was doing great until the little surprise package from the engine room arrived... The one with the oily rags covering an electric motor the size of a small bank safe. When I held it over the side to toss it, the bottom of the box opened up like the bombay doors on a B-25. The electric motor appeared, rapidly decended, and bounced off the tank tops with a very resounding CLANG, you could hear from the bridge.The skippers' stateroom was right next to the impact point. For those of you who missed the pleasure of riding petroleum-powered submersibles, an electric motor bouncing off an empty... Make that blown main ballast tank, creates a not too pleasent sound. Crawl into a 55 gallon drum and have your next door neighbor take a whack at it with a sledgehammer... That's the sound.

We all looked at the 7MC...

"Bridge, Captain... What in the hell was that?"

"Captain, Bridge... What was what? ...Sir?

"That gahdam racket!!"

"Didn't hear it, sir"

"Christ Mike... Sounded like we hit a floating barn."

"What side sir?"

"Right here... Starboard side... After end of the fwd. battery... In line with my stateroom."

"Can't see anything... Everything looks okay, sir."

"Very well... Keep an eye out, gentlemen..."

LT Mike Owens owned me. All he had to do was reference my stupidity and I would be the late dead master dumper. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,any form of electric armature sleep interruption of the skipper due to crew stupidity calls for the guilty party to be publicly beaten to death with a sock full of stale doughnuts.

Wherever LT Owens is now, he still has my "Good for one kiss on the butt" I.O.U... Small debt for having ones' life saved... And never again did I trust anything originating in the forward engine room... And just another thing on the long list of reasons I wouldn't have lasted ten seconds in Rickover's Navy.


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