Fire Fire Fire

26 04 2016

Fire is one of man kinds oldest tools. We cook with it, we heat our homes, forge our tools…. the list goes on and on. A controlled flame is an amazing thing.

An uncontrolled flame, not so much. A beautiful thing to watch, but the raw destructive force in front of you can be a deadly piece of beauty.

As a race, we have worked hard to kept the flame under control and failing that, someway to kill the beast if it gets out of control. On shore if a fire breaks out, we can call 911 and have the fire department show up. When the ship is 100 miles out to sea, calling 911 is not going to net a whole lot of usable results so it is up to the ships crew to do the duty. With the reality of it being either get the job done or start swimming.

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6 Times 22 = Good Eats

13 01 2016

At the end of the day, it is time to fish, at least that was the general thought pattern in the Navy.

It seems that when ever the ship drops her anchor forward, there are always a few fishing lines dropped aft. Frequently such droppings produce a salmon, some cod or once I saw someone catch a shark (a small one) but the one that I remember the most was just off of Kitamat.

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At the end of the day

25 11 2015

“Hands to clean, into night clothing”

After a long day of painting, chipping old paint, painting and the other assorted things that make a ship survive another day, this pipe rings out as a relief.

The ships crew has been fed, cleaning stations have been done, the Captain has inspected his ship and deemed all is well. The pipe is made and anyone not on watch may break into a slightly less formal/operational mode of dress. For the lower deckers, that means a tee shirt instead of a work shirt. The mess is open for business and mates will gather round and play some euchre, swap some salty tales or express their displeasure at Chief so and so…..

For me, I tried to be on the upper deck for this pipe, as it was frequently made just before sunset. Sunset at sea was always a peaceful time for me,  at least those days we weren’t going through a freaking hurricane. The sea would be calmer, the wind would be calmer, people on the bridge would be a little more mellow and then there was sunset.

Sunset at sea is a beautiful thing. You stand there and watch as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon, changing in colour from yellow, to orange to red. Millimeter by millimeter Sol would lower behind the edge of the earth and, if atmospheric conditions were just right, you would get to experience the emerald flash just as the sun disappeared. I do not know what it was about that flash, but every time I got to see it I knew that all was good in my world.

A brief moment of peace to mark the end of the day



His Majesty

14 09 2015

The sea is a vast and mostly unknown part of our world. There are mysteries tucked away in the deep dark corners of the sea that will remain unseen and unknown. As a collective, we know far more about our immediate celestial neighbours that we do about lies a meager 1 mile below the surface of the waves.

The one thing that is known by all sailors, no matter what race, colour or creed, is who rules below the waves-

His Majesty, King Neptune

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The Mark I Eyeball

13 05 2015

Back in the days of Iron Men and Wooden Ships, naval gunfire was a matter of point, shoot and pray. Most of your guns were cannons that fired out of a whole in the side of your ship, aiming meant having the side of your ship pointing at the other guys ship. While you were lining up to do this, the other guy was usually doing the same thing. The order to fire was held until the very last second to ensure that as many of your guns were pointed at him as you could and the closer you were to him, the better. I wonder just how many times a naval gun battle turned into a game of chicken with the winner being the man who fired first.
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10 05 2015

ZWC is one of the codes I became very familiar with during my stint as a Naval Signalman. While at sea, any signal passed from ship to ship was taken as From the Senior Officer onboard (usually the Commanding Officer) to the Senior Officer. It did make it a bit harder to deal with when you forgot that the Admiral was aboard but doo doo does happen.

The ZWC code meant the signal was operator to operator – we could chat about anything and it would go no where. The standing operating procedure in the Canadian Navy was that all junior signalman would practice their semaphore skills whenever ships would do a RAS with another vessel.

Semaphore is a very old method of passing signals using the angle of your arms to delineate letters. See here for the lexicon of semaphore. With a whole lot of practice, I was able to send and receive at a very respectable rate.

When I joined the RCN in 1987, females were just being permitted to join in the hard sea trades. I struck up a friendship with one of the ladies in my first trade course and when we graduated, she was posted to our supply vessel as I was posted to my first ship, HMCS Quappelle.

My first major trip was to Ecuador, 1989. On the way home, we were scheduled to stop in Los Angles. The day before we arrived at LA, we were scheduled to do a RAS with our supply ship. When our ships were connected the order was to get out there and practice your semaphore, so I did.

ME – waving my flags around giving the calling signal

THEM – C (the answering signal)

ME – ZWC BT INT LUCY BT K (operator to operator, where is Lucy?)

THEM – AS AR (wait)

I waited

LUCY – BT DE LUCY  INT BT K (this is Lucy, what do you want)

I then launch into a blistering torrent of saying hi, how are you, wanna go on a date. She watches me and comes back with Who the hell are you? After 10 minutes of back and forth I remember that I had grown a beard and was thus unrecognisable to her. Once I cleared up exactly who I was she got all happy and said oh yes, lets make it a date.. We chatted for another 10 minutes and I signed off with a See you later.

I put my semaphore wands in my back pocket and walked toward the bridge. I noticed that a lot of people had been watching my conversation with something akin to awe. As I approached the bridge, the Capitan pulled me aside and said

“Johno, this (holding his arms out widely in semaphore position) is Unclassified. This (holding his hands together closely in semaphore position) is for personal traffic.”

My only response discovering that the Capitan could read semaphore was  “Yes Sir” as my face went beet red.

Ah well, all is well that ends well. I did have that date, and was immediately known as the first signalman to ask another signalman on a legitimate date in close to 40 years.

Getting groceries

10 05 2015

Life aboard a warship is pretty much the same as life ashore. We all eat (mostly it was food), we all sleep (well sometimes) and we all get to enjoy the good life of leisure  – okay the leisure is a bit of a lie. One of the really nice bits, at least when I was aboard, was going to eat. Yes I had to line up to get it, yes I had the choice of  three flavours of grease, yes I had to eat it in 10 minutes with 50 other guys in a very small room – all of these negatives could be overlooked because I didn’t have to cook it, nor did I have to worry about what there was to cook, that was someone else’s problem. The chief cook told the junior cooks to make it, the junior cook told the stores man what to get, the stores an went to the storeroom got the stuff and dinner was created. How much simpler could it be?

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