How Sea Story Thursday was born:
My Uncle & Dad. That’s the plain and simple reason. While on leave they both kept bringing up stories I had told them over the past few years at sea. My Uncle told me that he loved to tell my stories to anyone who would listen. hmmmm… I’ve got plenty more where that came from, maybe I’ll make it a weekly rendition. Done!
It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote #SST and it isn’t my intention to skip weeks but I’ve been just slightly busy. I knew it was time to get back on track when my dad called to tell me that his week hasn’t been the same with out #SST.
This week you get to hear about the saga that is the 0200-0700 watch, whether on the bridge in the pilot house driving the ship, in combat, or down in the engineering plant running the show for main engines, its always a daunting thing to stay awake and alert on the 0200-0700 watch. Why you ask? Because most of the time you have little to no sleep beforehand. So what are some of the things we do to keep entertained? Well if I told you that I’d have to kill you, but if I can manage to not fall asleep standing up and pitch over (like I’ve done multiple times on the bridge, a very bad thing when you’re in charge up there!) then your goal is achieved.
On the good old Destroyer we had an LDO (guy who was enlisted and then has become an Officer in his specialty so is considered to be pretty salty) who had been stationed in Japan for 9 years before coming to Norfolk. On a quick side note: His stories were pretty much the reason I decided I just had to go for my second tour. He had been all over Asia and loved telling Ghost Stories. I will prelude the previous sentence with the fact that I freak myself out… alot. I hate scary movies and literally every time I watch one I have nightmares. Plus my dad was always the best ghost story teller when we were little. He would have my sisters, my friends, and I on the edge of our seats when he would tell us stories to the point where he would scream and we would all jump and scream and run and it was just ridiculous.
On the night watches, this LDO was on my bridge team and we would all huddle together with our red flashlights on the bridge wing, out under the moon and the stars, as the ship crashes through the water, and tell ghost stories about ghost ships. Pure entertainment.
On one particular night there was no moon and you couldn’t see the stars under cloud cover and he scared the shit out of us. He fabricated this Ghost Story based on the events of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, an ocean liner built in 1938. After surviving the wars she was sold and in 1968 and a fire broke out causing her to capsize in the Hong Kong harbor where she still lies today. If you have seen the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” then you would recognize the Queen Elizabeth as the covert HQs for M16.
I’m pretty sure I had trouble sleeping for a week after that, and I would jump up out of my rack, head filled with tales of Ghost Ships, (It didn’t help that I was underway on a ship).
Fast forward a couple years later and I’m standing EOOW (Engineering Officer of the Watch) down in main control and it was one of those watches that was just a struggle. I’m pretty sure I’d had a 1 hour nap before the 0200-0700 that day and I was doing everything in my power to just keep my eyes open. Which is why I put on my hearing protection walked out of main control and started walking down to the lower level of Main Machinery Room #1. I was very sluggish and still struggling to stay awake while walking (I don’t drink coffee, energy drinks, or soda) and this was one of those times I probably should have.
As I was meandering down on the lower level walking by the running pumps and engines I saw one of the fireman kneeling down on the deck taking a sounding from one of the lube oil tanks (measuring the depth of). Its very very loud out in the space when the engines are running, in this case they were, so I didn’t stop to chat because I didn’t feel like I had the energy to even talk, let alone yell, so I kept on my way. She was very engrossed in the sounding so I didn’t wave either.
I continued walking around, and walked up a ladder well on the other side of the engine room and back to main control where I continued to struggle the rest of the watch. As soon as I got off watch I hit my rack. Later that day I saw the fireman again and she looked spooked. I asked her what was wrong? She told me she had literally seen a ghost last night on the lower level and had been freaked out ever since. I was immediately freaked out too and I asked her what the ghost looked like. It wasn’t like her to be superstitious. She said she had only caught a small glimpse because she was in the middle of a sounding and had looked up to see a shadow and had immediately got up and ran to the upper level.
I burst out laughing. I told her she had seen me walking down there as I was trying to stay awake. She was immediately relieved when I told her that I was the ghost on the lower level. We laughed about quite a few times after that.
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