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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  April 27, 2009
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Topic category:  Other/General

Just another day at sea.

What with the political flap recently generated by a Department of Homeland Security report (soon to be parodied as: “You might be a right-wing extremist if...”), I thought this might be a good time to take a breather from it all. And tell another sea story.

You do know, don’t you, that whenever you watch those commercials for cruises, they never take you behind the curtains on a ship at sea? I thought, therefore, that I’d give you a peek behind those curtains. Here’s a description of one day at sea that stands out for me.

That day started well. I showered without having to grab hold of anything, but the first hint of trouble came while I was dressing.

The bridge watch called to say that the wind and seas were picking up. Even so, they thought we'd still be able to perform scientific operations. "Fine," I said.

Things went downhill from there.

At 0730 (7:30 AM), breakfast was served to the crew and scientists. After breakfast, I toured the ship to check on our preparations for the day. Things still looked good.

Prior to starting scientific operations, however, I had to secure all overboard water discharges so as to not contaminate any water samples the scientists were taking. Believe me, there’s nothing like a little laundry soap in a sample to get the scientific party really cranked up.

Securing the overboard discharges, however, meant that the stewards couldn't finish cleaning the breakfast dishes. Usually, this isn't a problem.

At sea, "usually” is an ominous word, fraught with meaning.

Generally, when we’d put instruments over the side, we’d also stop the ship and try, by using the engines and rudders, to maintain the best ride possible. That day, however, the seas were coming from one direction and the wind from another. In such conditions, at very low speeds, keeping the ship pointed correctly can be difficult.

Well, things got a bit squirrelly and we (I) couldn't hold the course required. We (I) ended up in the trough (sideways to the waves) and this quickly led to a series of 25 - 30 degree rolls. This was dramatized by the sounds of all of the breakfast dishes hitting the galley deck.

Witnesses later told me that the explosion from the Chief Cook was Olympian in proportions, titanic in volume, and unmatched in duration for non-repetitive profanity. Portions of it could be heard on the bridge without benefit of a radio. The problem was, of course, that it's never a good thing to have an angry Chief Cook.

Lunch was a disaster. At sea, food is important and the poor lunch didn't sit well with the crew - especially the Chief Engineer and the Chief Bosun. The Chief Engineer went below and, shortly thereafter, "found" a problem with the hot water system. He notified me that hot (dishwashing) water would have to be secured several hours.

The Chief Bosun decided he "had" to paint the intake vents that supplied fresh air to the galley. In so doing, he "forgot" to turn off the galley fresh air supply fan. The fumes were truly impressive.

By mid-afternoon, the entire crew was mad at the scientists who’d caused the ship to be stopped in such bad weather. The Chief Cook was mad at me for sloppy shiphandling. The Chief Engineer and the Chief Bosun were mad at the Cook for the abomination that had been lunch.

         Dishes were piling up, the galley smelled like the paint locker, and three departments weren’t talking. Mutinies spring from less, so I called a meeting to let everyone get it out of their systems.

It took some doing, but after some very animated finger pointing and general griping, people went back to work. The hot water problem was "fixed” and we opened the portholes in the galley to clear the fumes. This allowed the Chief Cook to get his area squared away and prepare a decent evening meal.

There was a good movie that night and the Chief Cook even baked cinnamon rolls for the crew. Things were looking up.

Later that night, though, I was in my room when the Chief Scientist called to tell me that his instruments had picked up an interesting change in the sea water temperature and he wanted to stop and collect some samples. The weather hadn't changed a bit.

Floggings were instituted the next morning.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

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Copyright © 2009 by Larry Simoneaux
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