Sea Stories

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.” - JFK

 US Navy seal

I am proud to have served from July of 1979 until Christmas Eve, 1992.

"Thirteen years, two months and two days, but who was counting?" is my standard answer to the question, "Did you serve?"

And even today, over 25 years later, I still miss the Navy, two or three times a day, every day.


Fairy tales always begin with the phrase, "Once Upon A Time..."

Sea stories always begin with the phrase, "I shit you not, this really happened..."

I thought I would add some of the stories that I experienced and heard during the time I served in the Navy. For those who have never served, I will try to explain why things operate the way they do onboard ship or in the military in general. WARNING: this page is NOT "sanitized." In the Navy, the "F-bomb" is used as a noun, pronoun, verb, adverb and adjective, sometimes in the same sentence. You weren't a sailor until you could use the "F-bomb" at least 4 times in a single sentence, doing something as simple as describing how clean a section of curb is on the street.


A complaining Sailor is a happy Sailor. It's when they stop complaining you need to worry

because that's when they've worked out who's doing what during the mutiny.


"The Skating Captain"

I was in "A" school, learning to be an Electronics Technician. I was in Great Lakes Naval Training Center, in the 530's set of Barracks. We had an annual room inspection due by the Captain of the base. We were told a maximum of one room per floor, per building would get an "Outstanding" rating, earning the four occupants of said room an extra day of liberty.

When your room is inspected, you are graded on the neatness and cleanliness of the room, as well as the condition of our bunks and lockers. This is where toothbrushes came out to scrub the floor. In Navy Boot Camp, the biggest things drilled into you are cleanliness, tidiness and attention to detail.

Well, the room next to mine, those four enterprising Seamen (we hadn't been advanced to 3rd Class Petty Officer yet) spent the proceeding weekend cleaning their room. They actually purchased several cans of car wax, where they polished the floor to a shine that hurt your eyes when you walked into their room. Then, in order to make their room a little more "at home," they put a small (2' by 3') floor throw rug just inside the door of their room.

The day of the inspection, and these guys (we all were) petrified. Scared shitless even. We had never been in the close presence of an actual 0-6 Captain. Well, I and my roommates survived the inspection with a "satisfactory" rating. We had just relaxed off the full attention we had been at for like 30 minutes, when we heard a scream, crash and resounding "thump." With a Captain on deck, we didn't dare stick our heads out of our room to see what had happened, lest our heads be removed from our shoulders by one of the Chiefs accompanying the Captain. We only found out later what had happened.

The four guys who had used car wax on their floor for that "extra shine factor" had polished their floor to a near frictionless surface. Slick floor + a throw rug, and you might get the idea.

The Captain boldly strode into the room, ready to have some Seamen for lunch. His foot hit that throw rug, and his inertia did the rest. He skated the 15 feet across the room, one foot on the rug, the other up in the air. He continued in this condition until the Captain impacted a floor lamp up against the wall. The sudden stoppage of his inertia rebounded the Captain upon his ass, then back, resulting in the resounding "thump" we heard. The Captain stood up, brushed himself off, put his cover back on, and walked straight out of the room, telling the Command Master Chief who was tallying the results of the inspection, "outstanding." He didn't look at a single thing.


Sailors and Marines have always fought each other,

until they unite against a common enemy: Shore Patrol.


"A Miscommunication"

I was in Guam, at NCTAMS WESTPAC. If a Navy ship sent a message outside of a tactical ship-to-ship communication anywhere West of the International Date Line until you got to the East Coast of Africa, it went through the building I worked in. You needed a security clearance just to be able to enter the building, and there were certain rooms where you had to have very high clearance to just to be in there. Needless to say, there was an armed Marine in an armored box inside the building, and he had a button that if pushed, would scramble a platoon of Marines and put Base Security on high alert. This building had more than just the front door, for fire exits, loading docks and the like, but they were alarmed and the Marine was under specific instructions that if a door in this building was ever opened without prior clearance, he would push that button immediately and before doing anything else.

Well, I was working in the ADP division, and we were replacing the old 75 baud mechanical teletype orderwires with actual PC's. This was 1990, so state of the art was a 386 running at 20Mhz. Well, we were receiving two pallets of them from Supply, and they were being delivered to the cargo dock. I instructed one of my junior Petty Officers to "Tell the Marine at the Main Door that we were opening the main door on the loading dock in order to receive equipment."

This 3rd Class didn't either tell the Marine, or the Marine didn't hear or misheard. No matter what, me and the rest of my work crew proceeded to the loading dock and we opened the big door. The first pallet landed, and we were in the process of loading the boxes into the interior of the building.

All of a sudden, a squad of Marines with loaded M-16s came around the corner of the building yelling at us "GET THE FUCK DOWN! GET THE FUCK DOWN NOW !!" I am not one to argue with 5 Marines with locked and loaded M-16's and I was especially not going to argue with the muscle-bound knuckle-dragging gorilla in camouflage toting an M-60 machine gun, the belt flung over his arm. So, I proceeded to kiss and make love to the patch of cement that was under my feet. The stupid guy from Supply tried to flee. On a forklift. He was quickly caught, roughly pulled off his forklift and proceeded to have the muzzle of an M-16 pressed forcefully into the back of his head.

Once the Marines had "established control of the scene" and pulled one of the other First Classes off his face to find out what was going on, we were allowed to get back on our feet, and they departed the scene. I don't think any of us took a shit for three days after that.


Overheard in the Chief's Mess: "You can lead a horse to water,

but I'm not going to pull suction on his ass to make him drink!"


"Shit For Dinner"

In the Navy, when you are aboard a vessel, be it a harbor tug, a submarine or an aircraft carrier, you do things in a certain order and in a particular way at the proper time or men die. It's as simple as that. Sometimes, however, you just wish you died.

While I visited on a sub, I was never a crewmember on a sub. Sure, you have to be crazy to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, but when you put yourself into a HY-80 steel tube, and go far enough under water that the cord you tied tightly from Port to Starboard bows when you hit in excess on 1,000 feet underwater, that's a whole special breed of crazy.

Anyhow, all of the human waste and grey water in a ship or sub ends up in what is known as the CHT, or Collection and Holding Tank. On a surface ship or submarine when it is inport, the vessel is usually hooked to the "hotel services" which is electrical power, telephone lines, fresh water and sewage. Underway in the open ocean, a surface ship just pumps it over the side whenever the tank gets about 3/4 full.

On a submarine, it is different. Inside the sub, it is near sea level atmospheric conditions, 14.7 psi air pressure. Outside the hull, 1,000 feet under the surface, it's more like 425 psi. You don't just "pump the CHT tank over the side." You have to secure (close off) all of the heads (toilets) and other pipes that lead to the CHT. Once all those valves are closed and checked, then the CHT tank is pressurized and the contents thereof are forced out into the open water. There is zero room for error in a submarine underway. One screwup and 80 men will die.

Our protagonist, a seaman fresh aboard this particular sub either didn't see or understand the sign on the head that clearly stated "Head secured due to blowing of CHT tanks." Our intrepid sailor proceeded to plant himself on a head and enjoyed a rather large bowel movement. Now, it's part of a man's DNA to marvel at such a product of his efforts. The bigger the better. But here's where things went wrong. You see, the toilet on a sub uses a ball valve, similar to that of an RV toilet.

Imagine the scene. On the lower side of this particular ball valve, several hundred gallons of human waste, pressurized to about 750 psi. On the top of that ball valve, a bowel movement any man would have been proud of. A little higher, the Seaman responsible for said product. A submarine toilet has a foot pedal you must force down with your foot while you stand in front of the toilet to operate it. Considering the pressure on the inside of the tank, this took considerable force.

When our seaman finally successfully "flushed" the toilet, he found out what it's like to eat his own waste product and the rest of the crews as well. He spent a fair amount of time cleaning and disinfecting that head. After getting enough shots in the ass to make sure he didn't get cholera or anything else from what was force-fed to him.

Lesson learned. Read and heed all signs.


Navy equipment: "Works fine, lasts a long time, doesn't bust, rust or collect dust!"


"Morning Quarters"

You know it's a shop full of Electronics Technicians when at 0700 and it's time for Morning Quarters, you hear about ten seconds of "beep-beeps" from everyone's watches. You see, the ET's have a "time standard," a cesium clock that is accurate to less than one second in 23,000 years. It was used to calibrate the test equipment we used and make sure the navigational equipment had the proper time. All of the ET's about once a week or so would walk by the time standard and set their watches. This being the early 80's, these relatively newfangled quartz watches were good to "+/- 15 seconds a month." Thus, the several seconds of beeping because everyone's watch was a second or so off everyone else's.


Naval Surface Warfare Officer to Naval Aviator:

"I see what you do to earn your flight pay, but what do you do to earn your base pay?"



This was related to me by a "Bubblehead" I used to game with.

It seems that the Captain of a submarine had a visiting female Lieutenant in his control room. Why she was there I was not told. Anyway, he was showing her around and she was suitably impressed with all of the equipment. They were getting ready to get underway, and one of the Nuclear ETs thought he would tell the Captain that the nuclear reactor that powered the vessel was on-line and ready to go. So, he runs through the Control Room at full speed, yelling at the top of his lungs, "THE REACTOR IS SUPERCRITICAL! THE REACTOR IS SUPERCRITICAL!" before diving down a hatch to make his way back to the reactor room.

Well, this visiting Lieutenant totally lost it. She started screaming and crying, thinking they were all going to die. It took the Captain 20 minutes to calm her down to the point where he could explain, "That's how we get underway. The reactor goes supercritical to provide power."


"Radio Two"

A shipmate of mine, during a prior WestPac, his ship was pulling into Singapore for some Liberty. He just so had to go to Radio Two to get something, and he panicked as he walked through the hatch.

Radio is where all of the Radiomen are, and they do their Radiomen thing. Radio Two is where the actual radios are. In this case, this shipmate had a half-dozen HF radios and receivers in this space. When he walked in, all of the receivers antenna alarms were going off. So, what does he do? He gets on the 22MC and tells Radio, "I'm shutting the HF radios down!"

About thirty seconds later, the 1MC (ship wide announcements) blares, "Perry Officer McNamara, report to the Captain on the Bridge, IMMEDIATELY."

Now some technical talk. HF radio is for communication long distances. Hundreds of miles, if not thousands. So, an HF radio usually transmits in the 50,000+ watt power scale. On the other side of the ocean, a radio that is tuned to the same frequency will receive milliwatts (one one-thousands of a watt). If an HF receiver is not tuned to the same frequency, it won't receive anything at all. Now, imagine that same 50,000 watt signal, and the receiving antenna 25 feet away is tuned to almost the same frequency. The receiver will be overloaded with a signal level hundreds of times what it is designed to hear. Imagine a highly sensitive microphone used for picking up the sounds of a bee flying a hundred feet away used at a Led Zeppelin concert. That's why the antenna alarms were going off. And if my shipmate didn't turn the radios off within seconds, the receivers would have burned out from the overload and he would have spent the entire time in port fixing these radios rather than enjoying the local scenery and cuisine, and all of the other things sailors enjoy in foreign ports...

Anyway, our intrepid sailor runs as fast as he can up to the bridge, where he is greeted by the Command Master Chief, pointing to a spot on the deck 6 feet in front of the Captain, who already had his service record in his hands. For those who haven't served on a ship, this is an impromptu Captain's Mast. Capatin's Mast (known to other services as NJP, Non-Judicial Punishment) never ends well for the one not holding the service record.

The Captain closes the service record and calmly asks, "Perry Officer McNamara, why did you shut down my radios?"

He tried to explain, but about half way through, the Captain suddenly advances up to our sailor, toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose and clearly asks, "Petty Officer McNamara, do you know what it's like coming into the busiest port in the world,




The language of the Military, the Navy especially, is rife with acronyms. It drastically speeds communication and prevents you from saying a bunch of multi-syllable words multiple times. But in the Navy, every acronym has two meanings. You have an Admirals interpretation, and then you have the Seaman's version.

Case in point, the Close-In Weapon System, or CIWS (pronounced sea whizz). That's the Admirals meaning. It refers to the "R2-D2 with a Gatling gun" used onboard ships to kill incoming cruise missiles before they hit the ship. It is literally a last-ditch defense, and the ship will still take minor damage from the debris of the missile hitting the ship. Which is much preferable to the missile delivering the warhead deep into the ship and exploding, possibly sinking said ship.

Anyway, in order to best deliver the warhead deep into the ship, the missile will do what is known as a "terminal pop-up maneuver." This is where the missile in the last few seconds will abruptly climb from just above the ocean to several hundred feet altitude, where it noses over and dives down into the ship. The early software versions for the CWIS would read the terminal pop-up maneuver as "target is departing, it is no longer a threat" and it would stop shooting at the missile.

Which leads to the Sailors version of what CIWS means, "Christ, it won't shoot!"


"A Shitty Event"

An Aircraft Carrier is an inherently dangerous environment. On average, at least one crewman will die during a six-month deployment.

A shipmate of mine did a tour on the USS Constellation (CV-64) and he related to me this story:

"One day, we were doing flight operations. An A-6 Intruder was coming in to land on the deck. Now, when I say 'land,' I actually mean "controlled crash." You are literally snatching a 35,000 pound tactical aircraft out of the air and stopping it in less than 300 feet. You did this by a tail hook on the aircraft who hoped to use said tailhook to snag one of four steel cables stretched across the deck.

During the approach, the A-6 was given an "abort" call, or an order to quit trying to land, loop around and try again. So the pilot throttles up and pulls back on the stick to gain altitude.

Imagine, if you will, an A-6 at a 45 degree angle, barely off the flight deck. His tailhook catches the #4 arresting wire, and is held stationary in the air for a second, before physics and gravity slams it to the deck. The aircraft hit hard enough that it bent the landing gear..... And overpowered the sphincters of the pilot and bombadier-navigator. I was heading up to the Bridge when these guys were coming off the flight deck. They were waddling in a half- crouched/sitting position, you could see the brown stains in their flightsuits because the sudden and massive G-forces from landing like that forced everything in their large intestines out their ass and into their flightsuits."


"Patrol 1, Fighters 0"

I cannot confirm the veracity of this story. Nevertheless, it is plausible.

A P-3 Orion (4 turboprop submarine hunting patrol aircraft, crew of 6) was tooling along hunting submarines one day, when a pair of F-14's (two-seat fighter aircraft) buzzed by it. The F-14's did corkscrews, high G-turns in front of the P-3 and were generally showing off, as fighter pilots do. The F-14's then pulled up in close formation to the P-3 and called over the tactical radio, "We'll bet you can't do what we just did!" The P-3 pilot calls back over, "I can out do you guys, no problem. Watch."

So the F-14's pull far away from the P-3, because it is a patrol plane and not very maneuverable. After 15 minutes of the P-3 flying straight and level, the F-14's called over, "Hey, what are you going to do?"

The pilot said, "I already did it. I went aft, took a shit and ate a steak. Top that."


"Who NOT to piss off aboard ship"

There are three specific rates you do not want to get angry at you while onboard a ship. The first group is the Corpsman, because he will "accidentally" send your medical records to Naval Hospital Guam while you are in the Med, which means you have to undergo the 37 immunizations you need, again. You never get the Dispersing Clerk mad at you, else he might send your pay record to PERSUPPDET Adak, Alaska and you can't get paid until those records are "found." The third one is the Electronics Technician, as he has to certify your personal electronics (laptop, tablet, etc.) are safe before you can plug them into the ships electrical system.


"Same Words, Different Meanings"

All of the branches use the same terms, but can mean different things. For example, a simple phrase, "Secure that building."

An Army soldier will take that to mean, "Bombard that building with artillery, mortar fire and airstrikes until it collapses."

Giving the same order to a Marine will cause him to lay down a fusillade of precision rifle fire, then charge the building and engage in Close Quarter Combat, killing or capturing all occupants.

A Navy Sailor will turn out the lights and lock the doors of said building.

An Air Force Airman will sign a three-year lease on the building.

"A little on the strong side"

When I was at NAVCAMS EASTPAC, before the duty crew could go home, they had to set up the coffee pots in the division office for the next morning, so all the Chief Petty Officers had to do was plug them in when they opened the office. We had two 15 cup pots and a 40 cup pot, all percolating pots. A young lady, new to the division (first duty shift) standing all of 4’ 11”, got the honor of hauling the 40 cup monster 200’ back to the head to dump out the old coffee, dispose of the grounds, refill the pot with water and drag it all the way back to the office.

The next day, I just so happened to be in the office for something when one of the CPO’s walked over and poured a cup from that 40 cup pot. He was walking back to his desk when he took a sip. His head snapped back, his eyes got as big as saucers, his face gave a look of “AAAAAHHHHH!!!!” surprise and his whole body went stiff for a second. Once he recovered, he looked at the cup, then at me and said, “WOW!! Better cut that shit with some water!”

Upon inspection of the pot, our young lady, unsure of how much ground coffee to load into the basket, had filled the entire basket, thus putting about eight times as much coffee as there should have been to brew. To call this coffee “strong” is an understatement on the scale of “Noah had some rain.”

As we do in the military, when you royally screw up, you get to do what you screwed up multiple times to make sure you have the proper procedure down. For the next 6 months, she had to take care of that 40 cup pot… but we got her a wheeled table to transport it.

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