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Old 18-08-2017, 23:04   #1
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Break a boat, get a beer

Forewarning, I can get long winded when I've had a few drinks and I'm not particularly good at storytelling.

Things break, most often at inopportune and very unfortunate moments. This isn't one of those stories. Rather, this is a tale of a Skipper and a Chief Engineer that didn't quite see eye to eye. I apologize but a little backstory is in order.

It begins in Hawaii. There were two working boats that took on missions, and there were a lot of them. At sea for 7 or 8 months out of the year, vessel maintenance for the rest. I was on the LSV-2 and we were the workhorse pulling more missions than the other boat (LSV-5) simply because we had the most competent crew and our boat was only deadlined once. The other boat hardly left the pier because there was always something wrong with it and it seemed perpetually in the yard.

We, the crew, were wore out. Day in, day out, 16hr workdays then a four hour watch shift during the night. I wasn't the only one that started having dreams about working the deck in the few hours of sleep I could get. Morale was low and everyone needed a break. There were two more known missions ahead of us in the season. One wasn't so bad, assisting the Navy with getting their sub commanders licensed by letting them shoot at us. The other, 15 day trip back and forth transferring a fresh battalion full of equipment from Oahu to the big island, and a different battalion from the big island to Oahu. Turn and burn every day. The last vehicles or containers would still be getting chained down as we passed 1 and 2. Word filtered down that the 5 boat would finally be able to assist and that would mean it was our final mission and cut the time in half. We were overjoyed. The day that was announced we had steak for dinner on our way to Maui for the submarine exercise. It was Army grade steak, but steak nonetheless.

Some uneventful days happened, we almost hit a few whales, the weather was great. Situation normal. At night we dropped anchor and tried to relax around maintenance on our gear in prep for the last big push. All was well. Another season nearly done. Then I got a text one night while I was smoking on the stern. An engineer buddy of mine who worked the 5 sent me warning that his Skip was trying to back out of the mission because their bow thrusters were suddenly inop. We were officially notified the next morning when the vessel master called a crew meeting. Blah blah blah, complete the mission, support our buddies whose boat broke. Army watercraft is a very, very small field. Everyone knows everyone and has more than likely worked with nearly everyone. It was common knowledge amongst the juniors that our Skip was really good buddies with the leadership of the 5 boat, and that leadership on the 5 didn't want to leave the pier. Hawaii was their final duty station and they wanted to relax. So we can pick up the slack, no problem right? Everyone was pissed because we knew what was really happening but nothing was going to be done about it. Unbeknownst to us, a veritable god took notice of our plight and set forth a series of events that the poets of yore would write about to entertain kings.

You see, our Chief had been around the block a few times and attained a rank equivalent to Poseidon himself. Chief Warrant Officer 5. The vast majority of the Army regards them as mere legends. Whispers in the dark. Stories you tell younger troops before lights out to keep them in line. I got to work with one of them on two occasions. They are real, and they have terrible powers that mortals are not meant to comprehend. Our Skip was a CW3 and pretty good at his job, but he was pretty much in the pocket of the leadership of the other boat.

To become a warrant for the watercraft field you have to start out at the bottom, rank up, then drop a packet detailing how awesome you are and get a recommendation from other warrants. It's technically possible to get your dot without recommendations but very hard. The good ol boy system is strong in the field due to its size. The Skip of the 5 was one of the ones who helped our Skip get his recommendation.

Anyway. Our Chief was one of the few "working" warrants. He absolutely loved getting his hands dirty and training anyone who wanted to learn something, didn't matter if you were a different department, boat, company, whatever. Genuinely good dude. (He even taught me some jive, to give some indication of when he joined and some of the **** he's been through.) So he was pulling as many hours as most of the rest of us and was just as wore out. He also wasn't in the same group of officers as our Skip and the ones from the other boat. He was old Army. Do the best you can at your job and there are no issues. Try to sham, and you will feel the wrath.

I'm almost done, I promise.

Final morning of our submarine exercise, we're steaming towards the operation area when suddenly the whole boat lurches and everything goes quiet. Sudden silence is eerie when you're used to the droning of two huge train diesels. The only thing you could hear were waves gently lapping at the hull, a soft breeze fluttering the flag, and occasional cries of sea birds as we drifted at the mercy of the wind and tide. I quickly got my guys gathered and ready to go back to stations in case Skip wanted us to drop anchor since we just suddenly lost both engines. Over the radio I hear the bridge calling the engine room trying to figure out what happened. Silence. A moment later the starboard main kicks on and I hear Chief on the radio saying that the port main was down, we need to get into port immediately. So we all return to our stations and start prepping our lines while we limp to Kahului. Pulling in and getting tied up was pretty uneventful and took longer than usual since we only had one engine but we got it done.

Some more uneventful time goes by and Skip calls a crew meeting around dinner time. Port main is dead, unrepairable, which means we're deadlined until parts could be flown to us. After dinner we were to clean the boat and then we could have shore leave until 2200. Coincidentally, there was a bar within walking distance of the harbor so that's where everyone not on duty went for the night. Pretty much all the enlisted and a handful of the officers went straight to the bar. Skip and Chief were still on the boat. Queue shop talk. Deckside was trying to figure out what happened and engineside was being oddly tight lipped. When I was asking different guys what broke I heard at least three different things and I'm sure at least one of them was made up. Eventually Chief comes walking in with the biggest ****-eating grin I've ever seen in my life and the engineers started clapping and cheering. Deckside joined in, not sure why now that I think about it, we had no idea what was going on which made the situation even funnier for all the engine guys. Damn bilge-rats.

Chief bought everyone a round and called us out of the loop in close. In a moment of seriousness he told us that he couldn't be more proud to be a part of a crew like ours and he wasn't going to sit by and let us be abused like we were. So he took us out of the game. An LSV doesn't have to have bowthrusters to safely dock, it just makes it easier. The 5-boat was still fueled and mission ready, and would be taking over from there. At this point I became even more proud of my guys when they asked how long our boat would be broken. It didn't matter that we got a well deserved break, our boat was down and we prided ourselves on maintaining an always ready status despite all odds. Then Chief just smiled again and said the only thing that was broken were lazy officers and he was taking care of that. And he did, exceptionally. We missed over half of the next season of missions and the 5-boat was forced to work because we finally went to the yard for a much needed overhaul in Portland. But that's another story.
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Old 19-08-2017, 11:53   #2
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Please, Shark, continue to be long-winded....just what a sailer needs when at anchor in a quiet cove somewhere...GREAT STORY ! ☺
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Old 19-08-2017, 11:56   #3
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Now I kind of regret following my lifer-Navy Dad's advise and "Go Air Force," should have been around the water the whole time, Navy or Coast Guard. How did you manage to get into your little marine Army niche?...never heard they had anything of the sort !
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Old 19-08-2017, 12:44   #4
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

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Now I kind of regret following my lifer-Navy Dad's advise and "Go Air Force," should have been around the water the whole time, Navy or Coast Guard. How did you manage to get into your little marine Army niche?...never heard they had anything of the sort !


I'm glad you liked the story, thanks!

My family has always been close with the ocean. My grandpa was a Captain in the Navy, uncle was a Chief. I was the one that had to be weird about it haha. When I first joined the Army I walked or drove everywhere I needed to be and wanted to find something on the water. When I went to talk to the appropriate people to reclass they gave me a list of options I could switch to if I sign a new contract. Watercraft Operator was one of the options and it sounded way cooler than Watercraft Engineer. We handled the seamanship, they made sure we got there, or didn't in at least three cases I was part of haha. Really small field, a lot of the regular Army doesn't even know we exist. But, we have the vast majority of landing craft in the military along with a good number of tugs and causeway. There used to be hovercraft and LARKS but the hovercraft were given to the Navy and the LARKS were retired.
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Old 19-08-2017, 13:08   #5
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Cool ! Thanks again. Austin ? So no Sail Cruising for you then ?
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Old 19-08-2017, 13:14   #6
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Now that's LEADERSHIP!!
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Old 19-08-2017, 13:38   #7
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

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Cool ! Thanks again. Austin ? So no Sail Cruising for you then ?


There's a few clubs around here that I'm going to be getting in touch with. Lake Travis has a pretty healthy boating community. My current plan of action is secure a marina that allows liveaboard, secure a decent boat for me to work on while I save money. Then trailer the boat to port aransas when I'm ready to sell all land based assets and get open water experience. This part is where I include unrealistic goals that largely center on fishing in the tropics, living off the sea and a little bit of a percentage from the VA for the rest of my days haha.
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Old 19-08-2017, 13:38   #8
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Good story Shark Bait! I am envious of your sea time. Thank you for your service.

I am ex-Army also, but if I had to do it over again, I would have went in the Coast Guard!



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Old 19-08-2017, 14:14   #9
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

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Good story Shark Bait! I am envious of your sea time. Thank you for your service.



I am ex-Army also, but if I had to do it over again, I would have went in the Coast Guard!







meatservo


Right on man, glad you liked the story. Thank you as well. I almost switched over to them but put it off for too long and they wouldn't take me when I finally was ready to go.
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Old 20-08-2017, 09:47   #10
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Thanks for your service and thanks for sharing your excellent story. Please feel free to be long winded any time!
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Old 20-08-2017, 10:07   #11
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Wow - terrific story - I'd love to sit and listen to your "Poseidon" Chief tell some tales...people like that are great to know.
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Old 20-08-2017, 11:20   #12
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Great story...keep it going!
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Old 20-08-2017, 11:36   #13
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Loved it, more please.
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Old 20-08-2017, 13:45   #14
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

Long ago, when I was in Army basic training during the very early part of the Viet Nam build up, one of our NCOs was awaiting assignment to an Army boat unit in Hawaii. I had not known there was such a thing, could not figure out why he did not join the Navy instead of reupping in the Army. Now I see there may have been a reason like he said there was.
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Old 20-08-2017, 13:52   #15
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Re: Break a boat, get a beer

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Long ago, when I was in Army basic training during the very early part of the Viet Nam build up, one of our NCOs was awaiting assignment to an Army boat unit in Hawaii. I had not known there was such a thing, could not figure out why he did not join the Navy instead of reupping in the Army. Now I see there may have been a reason like he said there was.


I'll say this. Nearly every time we passed 1 and 2 fishing lines went out. Army boats is what spoiled me on seafood because half went from the hook to the grill and the other half went straight to the table. And we had a Filipino commo guy who used some sort of magic to make sashimi sauce for us.

We also caught an albatross once, I think that's probably going to be the next story I share.
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