The Power of Two

15 01 2015

Two is such a cool number. Many things usually come in sets of two, eyes, ears, arms, legs, parents, all very useful to have working together to accomplish a task.

The sort of pairing can be seen aboard ships,  pairs of things or places or ideas to make the ship able to accomplish its tasks, port and starboard, forward and aft……  the list goes on and on. One of the major differences that I found between Canadian warships and US warships of the same size was that the US ships generally only had 1 propeller to drive the ship forward while our ships all had 2. Having that second propellor was a beautiful thing, not only did we have a “spare” but if you had some skill, you were able to make your ship do the hokey pokey if you so desired.

The CO of my first ship, the Qu’appelle, could make his ship do the hokey pokey. That man could drive. I spent about 3 years aboard Qu’appelle and I only ever saw the CO permit a tugboat to help him to jetty. In sharp contrast, every time I ever saw a US warship come alongside there was always a tug. The first time I got to visit Pearl Harbour was a beautiful look at just how big a difference a second propellor and some talent can make.

Steaming into Pearl Harbour from the open sea is a very cool experience. The naval base is huge and it is sectioned off into specific areas – subs go there, cruisers and heavies around the back and then there is destroyer row. Destroyer row is a mile+ long stretch of jetty that you have to traverse down a narrow channel, pass battleship row and then salute the Arizona before you can proceed to your assigned berth. Most destroyers make the passage, do the salute and then have a tug boat hook on and get pushed to their parking spot.

On my first visit to Pearl Harbour I was an excited bundle of nerves. I was looking at everything – this is where the Pacifc Part of WWII started and I wanted to see it all. We made our way down the passage, paid our respects to Arizona and made the turn toward our assigned berth. As it turned out, our parking spot was right at the far end, closest to the Enlisted Mens club and the gate to the rest of Hawaii. We cleared the saluting point for Arizona and right on cue, the tug boat came out to meet us and asked permission to come alongside to “help” us to our berth. The CO picked up the radio mike and said something to the effect of No assistance is required, thank you, have a nice day. He hung up the mike and got the ship turned around so that our stern was pointed at our berth and then he backed his ship down destroyer row.

What was the problem here? The ship went straight as an arrow down the entire length of destroyer row, stopped exactly at the right spot, all lines out and secured, gangway put in place and that was that. No big deal as far as I was concerned but apparently this was an unheard of thing. On the upper deck of every ship we passed all we could see where US sailors looking at us in horror as we backed into position. Fingers pointed and emergency services were put into place as they were sure we had suffered some sort of emergency The entire trip to our berth the tug was right beside us, begging to be permitted to hook up.

Really, what was all the hub ub about. We came, we saw, we parked the ship and went ashore. When we got to our berth, there was a car waiting for us. The US Admiral had wanted to see the CO at his earliest convenience. When we were safely back out to sea, we were told that the Admiral had “requested” the CO to never do that again. Apparently some of the commanding officers of the ships we past got their feelings hurt when they saw someone who could drive with two propellers.

And is why two can be a whole lot cooler than one

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