I'm from West Virginia. (Okay, go ahead let me hear the jokes. If you have none then here: West Virginia is the home of the toothbrush. Anywhere else and it would have been called teethbrush...hahahah. ) Now with that out of the way I continue.
For some reason I was always fascinated by submarines and knew it was my calling. One writer tells of people who are born as "water people" people that have to be in or near the sea. I must have fallen into that category.
Finally, when old enough I joined the Navy specifically for the Submarine Service. After graduating (As honor man) from Sub School I reported to USS RAY SSN 653. Four days later I was at sea, throwing up, mess cooking and wondering, what the hell I had gotten myself into.
It was day 21 of our mission when I realized that I had never seen the ocean. I was in it but had never seen it. It bothered me and I was determined to get a peek one way or another.
My duties in the galley were something from which nightmares are made. 18-hour days feeding men I though for sure hated me. As a non-qual, air breathing, water using heat load, I had yet to earn the respect that submariners demand. I was forbidden to go to control when the boat was at PD, and the thought of a look out the scope was indeed a dream, but see the ocean I would.
30 days into the mission, it was announced that the boat would make a port call in Toulon France. Finally, the day came and we surfaced.
Some communication problem or misunderstanding occurred and we were in early. Only the Tugboats came out to meet us. The harbor pilot was an hour away, and was the only one who spoke English.
To this day, I do not know what happened on the bridge of USS RAY. I do know that word was passed down that anyone who spoke even a little French was needed on the bridge.
My chance! My chance to see the ocean! "Here, Chief!" I lied. "Three years of French in High School."
He shrugged. "Well come on, get your ass to the bridge."
I followed hoping my smile was not to bright. I was going to see the ocean!
Five minutes later, I was atop the sail. The flag fluttered and whipped proudly, and the ocean! My God, this was really the ocean! I could not have been happier. All my dreams were now true ; I was on top of the world----until. I then heard the Captain's voice.
Now this Captain was a cross between Darth Vader, and Cujo. He had a habit of slobbering when he yelled, and he yelled a lot.
"Meadows! Stop sight seeing! Here take the bull horn!"
You've all heard of and some my have had the phenomenon called "pucker factor. Mine that moment was off the scale.
"We're drifting down to that wharf, and the water is too shallow to use the SPM (Secondary Propulsion Motor)." The CO snapped at me. "Tell the tugboats to put the lines over the cleats."
Now the only French I had ever known in West Virginia was French Fries, and Christina Hill introduced me to a French kiss, but that was it.
I had seen the ocean and if God were merciful, he would kill me now. I would not have minded.
“Now Meadows!" the Skipper screamed.
I brought the bullhorn to my lips, and using the best French accent I could I let go with "Put Ze Linez Over Zee Cleats!"
Those on the tugs looked up at me dumbfounded, but the CO...The CO. I for the first time in my young life saw what hate looked like.
His screaming and yelling, he even kicked the bridge hatch as he stuffed me down the bridge access. His booming tirade echoed from all points of the harbor.
I descended back to the control room, and found the helmsman in tears from laughter. The Chief of the Watch could not even talk, and contact coordinator looked at me from around the periscope as though he had just seen Elvis.
The next morning the Commanding Officer of the USS RAY SSN 653 held a special Captain Mast just for me. I was the first enlisted man to be charged with Hazarding a Vessel. Those in attendance at the mast were somber and serious. I was scared shitless.