About, What is this guy doing here?

Safely aboard Gridley
Safely aboard the Gridley

That’s basically the same question I asked myself when at 20 I found myself in the Pacific, swimming as fast as I  could, as the Gridley drifted toward the far horizon.

Maybe that story says something about why I write, why I blog, who I am.

I had grown up in a Navy family, traveling here and there. Picking the wrong entry into higher education, then the Daytona Beach Community College, when I fancied myself a surfer, ended with the first semester. So, a couple of short stories later, finding my employer’s business seized and padlocked, hitchhiking to Ohio, I was avoiding the draft in the Navy. Naturally, see my blog, Teacher’s Pet, the key is in there, I’d choose the Navy.

I was a young Boatswain’s Mate, the ship’s swimmer, and we were on an exercise off the coast of Hawaii – way off the coast, even from the bridge you couldn’t see the island. We’d ended the exercise because the seas, while calm, – it’s a Pacific thing – were running 10-15 feet and we needed to recover the small unmanned remotely controlled boat that had been part of the exercise. As the swimmer I got to go aboard the Boston Whaler and attach the  block (a technical bosun’s term) to the whaler so it could be hoisted back aboard the USS Gridley (DLG 21). I won’t take the time to fully explain what was happening or why self-compensating davits are important and will just tell you that with 10-15 seas Gridley was rolling 15 degrees to starboard then 15 degrees to port. That 60 degree difference would dump the block, a lot of heavy metal cable into the whaler on the roll to port and then yank it and the whaler up and out on the roll to starboard. Not what Boston Whalers are built for!

So when the whaler starts to break apart and I see that my safety line is hopelessly tangled in the block and cable I had cut myself loose and went overboard. It seemed a smart idea at the time – considering the condition of the whaler when it was recovered it still seems a smart idea.

But I was upwind of the Gridley and she was presenting a lot of surface area to the prevailing wind, actually leaving a shadow of wake as she sailed downwind. Being young, strong, a good swimmer, doesn’t mean you can out swim a situation like that. And, that’s when I started asking myself, ‘What am I doing here?’.

And that’s about 1/50 th (a wildly unsupported statistic) of who I am.

18 thoughts on “About, What is this guy doing here?

  1. My grandmother was started in the WAVES and ended her Navy career as one of the first female Lieutenant Commanders (in fact, her certificate has all male pronouns). We love the Navy around here. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!


    1. Thanks very much for taking the time to share with me, especially the information about your grandmother. I served with and for many female sailors during my career and she sounds like another of those special shipmates.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, she was super. She passed away in 2007; I was crushed. I loved listening to her stories of Guam and the ships. She was actually going to leave the Navy because she’d gotten married (to a Navy guy), and they told her if she’d stay, they’d make her LC. So she stayed. 🙂
        After she retired, she had her oak leaves made into earrings and always wore them. One time, we were at a Blue Angels airshow, and didn’t have tickets–we were just going to watch from the parking lot. A young man in uniform stopped, stared at my grandmother and then asked, “Are your earrings what I think they are?” She smiled and nodded, and he said, “Wait right here.” Ten minutes later, he returned and we were ushered into front-row seats. The airshow was cool, but seeing her be recognized was even cooler.

        Liked by 1 person

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