Saturday, December 9, 2006

Haze Gray and Underway

For you guys that have reader this post (and subsequent older posts I'm putting back in the blog after they were wiped out) will appear as if new, but they are just oldies.
I did Benitorialize and add to this one though, in case you wanna read it again. I also found a much easier way to locate my lost posts, so this process of replacing my old posts back onto OCAS should proceed at a much faster pace.

Securing for sea isn’t difficult, but it’s time consuming.
The law of gravity is complicated out at sea. Not only can stuff fall down, but the sea can make stuff go sideways…and indeed, every which way it can possibly go. Even up!

“Cut me about three feet of that line,” said the Chief, pointing to the roll of white, quarter inch wide line.

I took the new buck knife I bought the day before from its brand new leather sheath and unfolded the blade until it locked open with a metallic snap.
I sliced cleanly through the line, in one easy motion.

“Damn! Think you got that buck sharp enough?” The Chief said, obviously impressed.

“My Grandpa taught me years ago how to use a whetstone,” I said.

“Hell! Most newbies don’t even know what a whetstone is for, let alone how to use one,” said Chief, tying off some Navy pubs (publications) so they wouldn't fall out (or fly) from their shelves which were bolted to the bulkhead in the wardroom.

It was a busy day for everyone, with Reservists checking in all morning for the training mission, and the crew getting the ship ready for sea.

“Alright, you got the idea,” Chief said. “I have to check on things in the main galley and mess decks, so yer on yer own,” he added.

“Aye aye, Chief!” I said, cutting another length of line.
At 1330 the ’sea and anchor detail’ was called over the ship’s 1MC (loudspeaker).

1400- “Underway. Shift colors,” was announced. The Ensign was simultaneously lowered on the stern, and hoisted on the mast.

The line handlers on the pier freed the mooring lines, and the Bos'n Mates hauled them in as fast as they could, to avoid getting them wet.
Wet mooring lines weighed alot more than dry ones.

I was on the 01 weather deck, watching the show.
I wanted to go to the bridge but it was too crowded, and only essential personnel were allowed.

In Combat, short for Combat Information Center (CIC) where I would normally be working, they were keeping an electronic eye on surface vessels with RADAR, performing RADAR Navigation, manning radios, logs and status boards, and making shipping and navigational recommendations to the bridge.

I stopped by CIC earlier, but it was crowded too, so I opted for the scenic view from the uncrowded weatherdeck.
Soon we entered the shipping lane, and proceeded at 5 knots (nautical miles per hour). A nautical mile is 2,000 yards or 6,000 feet, so it's a bit longer than a standard mile.

A few minutes later I noticed a small, green boat heading towards the Henderson from our starboard beam, about 300 yards out.
As they got closer, I could hear some guy on a megaphone yelling something about nuclear power and whales.

There were 8 people aboard the small craft, holding cardboard signs that said “Give Peace a chance”, “Save the Planut”, “Whales have rights!”, “Nucler power kils!” and “USN=Sea nazis.”

Must be protesters, I was thinking. Bad spellers, too.
When they got within 20 feet or so, they dropped their signs and picked up…
Water balloons? What the hey? I watched them intently as the Captain warned them to give way over the ship's loudspeakers after honking the loud horn. We had the right of way, but it was apparent the Captain didn't wanna sink the small boat if he could help it.

The hippy pukes were chanting “no more nukes!”

Thing is, the Henderson wasn't a nuke. Even a newbie like me could see the two boiler stacks the Henderson sported. Either these idiots didn't know we were a conventional ship, or they couldn't find a nuclear ship to harass. At any rate, it wasn't as if the officers and crew of the henderson were gonna suddenly start singin' kumbaya with these greenpeace morons.

I wondered also why they thought we were killin' whales. I sure hadn't heard about it, and could see no reason why we would ever kill whales, even if we wanted to.
We were kinda busy doin' other stuff, like keeping the sea lanes open, fightin' a cold war, training, and...well, you get the picture.

All the greenpeacers stood up and hurled the water balloons at our ship.
Splat! Sploosh! Splat! Only 3 managed to throw far enough to hit the Henderson’s hull.

That ain't water! That’s paint! I thought. Yellow, red, and green paint! These scumbags were vandalizing our ship!
The driver of their dingy turned and paralleled our course and speed.
The protesters picked up more paint balloons, with hate etched on their faces. They ought to change their name to greenhate, I thought. Or greenimbeciles.
They threw the balloons at our ship. Assholes! Fortunately they threw like little girls with lazy eyes.

I heard a ruckus on the main deck, and looked down. Someone was seriously pissed!

“No, Kilwaski! You’ll end up in the brig!” Yelled BM2 Sanchez, with his arms around a big guy waving a spanner wrench.
Must be Kilwaski, I deducted.

“I won’t hurt them, dammit! I just put hole in their boat!” Yelled Kilwaski.

“Then they’ll sue your ass, ‘Ski,” said Sanchez, struggling to hold the big man back.
"And you will get into trouble."

“We spent hours painting hull! They pay!” Kilwaski shouted, dragging Sanchez behind him as he moved towards the rail.

“Those scumbags aint worth it ‘Ski! Now give me that wrench!” Ordered Sanchez, breathing hard.

“Okay,” said ‘Ski, looking down and giving up the wrench. 'Ski glared down at the greenpeace bozos, who were pointing up and laughing at him as he shook his fist at them.

“Alright, big man. Don’t let them get to you buddy,” said Sanchez, leading Kilwaski away from the rail and into the ship. “C’mon, I’ll buy you some coffee.”

“But coffee free,” I heard Kilwaski say as the hatch closed.

I could feel the Henderson speeding up. According to the charts I saw earlier, we should be going 10 knots now, or perhaps 15 since visibility was good.
Now the wake our ship was making was bigger, and the small protest boat was skipping up and down, trying to stay close.
As one protester began to throw her paint balloon, their boat jumped and she fell in the water.

I heard loud applause and laughing from the fantail and foc’sle, where many sailors had gathered, to practice hand signals on the protester scumbags.
I joined in the festivities. The look on her face as she realized she was gonna be swimmin' in Long Beach harbor was priceless.

And it only got better. The small boat turned around and went to pick up their angry comrade.
The applause and laughter picked up as we could see port security closing in to make their bust. Bye bye scumbags! I thought, grinning. It felt good to see a bit of karmic justice administered to those vile hippies.

Later, I could feel the ship hitting the breakers as we left the harbor and entered the Pacific ocean.
The weather was fair, with only a few clouds in the sky, and the winds were nearly non-existent.
I could feel a new sensation as the ship rose up and came down in rythm with the swells.
I later learned this is called pitch, while the side to side rocking movement was called roll.

I could’ve spent hours watching the sea, but it was time to get back to work. So, reluctantly, I returned to the galley.
Chief was there talking with a reservist.

“If you have any problems, just ask Conrad,” Chief said. “I gotta run. Duty calls,” he said.

I heard a “brraaaappp!” sound and Chief laughing as he left the galley.
Gas attack!
Unfortunately there were no mark V gas masks immediately available.

“Chief! You really should get that checked out!” I called after him.

“What died?!,” said the reservist, with his arm over his nose and eyes watering.

I saw no stripes on his left arm sleeve, so I knew he was a Seaman or lower.

“Must’ve been the corned beef and cabbage,” I said, trying to wave the smell out of the galley with a towel.
“Whatever you do, don’t light a match,” I warned, chuckling.

“Good advice. He reminds me of my uncle Lenny,” said the reservist. “Uncle Lenny lived to ask us kids to pull his finger. It was a good way to get us to play outside. He wasn’t popular at Thanksgiving,” he said, grinning.

"I can see why," I replied, laughing. “I’m Ben,” I said holding out my hand.

“Mac,” the reservist said shaking my hand. “I’m actually an MS3, but I couldn’t find my old uniforms,” Mac said. “My wife…ex-wife, probably burned them. She’s so vindictive,” he continued, shrugging.
“I would appreciate it if you kept this on the QT,” he said. “The Chief already knows."

“No problemo,” I said. "My lips are sealed."

“Cool,” said Mac. “Do you mind if I start the dinner?” Mac asked.

“By all means,” I replied, glad to get some help since the last cook decided to go UA (unauthorized absence). After 30 days he would be AWOL, which was a much more serious offense.

After the meal, we went to the fantail to have a smoke break.

“How long have you been in, Mac?” I asked.

“About five years. Two of those in the active reserves after three years regular Navy,” he said. “You?”

“Going on an entire eight months now,” I said, laughing.
It seemed like longer somehow.

“We all got to start somewhere,” Mac said.
“You must be a good cook, to be promoted to the Captains cook so soon."

“I’m not a cook!” I laughed. “I’m an OS. The cook went UA,” I said. “You see, the Captain liked my coffee, and the Chief is short of cooks, so I got elected,” I said.

“That’s weird,” said Mac grinning. “You aren’t BSing me are you?”, he asked, suspiciously.

“No, I can hardly believe myself,” I said, shaking my head. "Believe me, I would rather be doing the job I was trained for."

“Welcome to the Navy!” Mac said, laughing.
“Hey, the Chief said tomorrow, at 0900, they are having small arms quals.. Are you going?” Mac asked.

“Sure! Sounds like fun,” I said, wondering how they did that at sea.

Later, as I was lying in my rack, I listened to all the ambient noise. The humming of the ships engines, pipes shaking and sometimes making the oddest sounds, the water slamming against the hull, and the steady, low roar of the sea, with an occasional crash on the bottom or sides of the ship!
The sea made me feel small and humble. I hoped the hull would stand up to the pressure. The Henderson was commisioned in 1945.

There were straps on the rack, and I asked about them on my first day. I was told they were to hold you in during heavy seas and storms.
I looked around and nobody else was using them. So I decided not to. Not the wisest choice I ever made.

I woke up with a strange sensation of weightlessness.
Then I realized I was falling, and it wasn’t a dream!
I was wrapped in my blanket and sheet, and I couldn’t get my arms or legs free!
Boom! I hit the cold, hard deck, landing on my back!

"Oof!" Was the sound of the air leaving my lungs.

I struggled to breathe, because the landing knocked the air out of me.
Short breaths, oww! That hurts! But I couldn't even say "ow" until I could catch my breath.

“You alright man?,” I heard someone say, from far away.

I struggled to free myself from the tangled blanket, hurting everywhere it seemed. Nothing appeared to be broken though. I still couldn't talk so I kept on focusing on taking short breaths.
When I was a kid we spent a few years in Hollywood, Florida. Some of the bullies there liked to punch me in the gut, so I learned even at that age how best to breath again. Tryin' to breath deep at this point would hurt a lot worse, hence the short breaths.

“I said, are you Ok?” The voice was closer this time.

“Yeah, I think,” I croaked, as I slowly got up.

“You really should wear the safety straps,” said the voice.

That’s good advice, I thought. A bit late, and now I know, but thanks anyway.

“Yeah,” I said feeling something wet on the back of my head.

What? Did I fall in a puddle? Puddles of water are constantly forming on ship decks, from leaky pipes. Especially in older ships. It felt warm.

“Oh man! You’re bleeding...really bad! Don't move, I’ll get the Doc!” The voice said.

"Don't hold nothin' back," I muttered, amused at the panic I had heard in his voice.

I still couldn't see who the voice belonged to but I heard it run away. I felt somewhat giddy now, like I was drunk, or well on my way to getting that way.
For some reason I thought it was hilarious to hear a voice run!

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