Okay I was drunk!
Gibraltar 1987, USS RAY SSN 653. Mission (CLASSIFIED...I think) Following a classic just like in the movies bar fight in which a local bar tenders was tossed none to gently through his own front window, it was decided the good ship USS RAY, might feel a little safer if she were anchored offshore rather than tied to the pier.
Although I had nothing to do with the above mentioned activities, (really...trust me...well maybe a little...alright, alright...I held the bar tenders feet.) all who made it back to the boat were guilty. The COB who had not slept in what seemed a month, was none to happy to be shaken out of his rack with this bit of joyful news.
Once we puttered out from our once nice mooring and the anchor let go, the COB decided that we should now suffer. Some were sent to the mess decks to scrub decks, polish bright work, some were sent to the head where they found new uses for their own toothbrushes. COB had a mean streak. I guess I looked the less drunk of them all. How that happened I have no idea. Oh my punishment was to be a good one.
If you have seen DAS BOOT, (If you are reading this the chances are about 100% that you have.) the fog comes in like billows of gray cold cotton. Since we were a small ship compared to the tankers, freighters, and warships, it was decided that an extra watch was needed. Guess who drew that?
Up the forward escape trunk I went, COB on my heels bitching up a storm. I was assigned the forward fog watch. I had with me a whistle, and a light jacket I managed to grab. Still feeling the effects of new drink I had discovered (Jagermeister) I asked the COB just how long was I supposed to be on watch. I never did find out when exactly hell does freeze over. Another blast of professional time honed profanity marked the COB's leaving me alone in the fog only feet from the cold sea.
I was to be on the watch for any ship that might pose a threat to our submarine. It was damn spooky up there! After about an hour of standing and freezing, my legs ached. It was then that I noticed the forward capstan was up. COB never said I couldn't sit down. So I perched myself on the capstan, hoping beyond hope that the COB would have some mercy on me. Another hour came and went.
Suddenly I looked up and to my horror; I saw the bow of the largest ship I had ever seen bearing down on us and me in particular. Everything went into slow motion. I fumbled for what seemed days for the whistle. When I did find it, I blew that whistle till the ball almost shattered. Then I screamed, and I must admit none to much like a man. "COLLISION IMMINENT!"
I never thought the collision alarm sounded so good. Below me, I could hear the footsteps of my shipmates who I hoped could do something and fast. The ship loomed up closer. It seemed a black wall of steel.
"Where is it?" A voice called from behind me.
I pointed to the ship knowing that any second the bow of that ship would either cut us into or at the least knock into the next world.
Well something did hit me. As a matter of fact, it hit me again and again. It told me what a stupid bastard I was and that this would be my last day on Earth.
A little lesson in the operation of the 637 Class (Short Hull) capstan. If the valve to the hydraulics is not shut, off. The capstan turns ever so slightly and oh so quietly.
As I had been sitting there atop the capstan, it had slowly rotated till I was facing, yes this is true , our own sail. Between the Jagermeister, the fog, and the capstan slow rotation, I had mistaken our very own sail for a ship. I didn't get any sleep that night, and the COB, well he made me his personal test subject. I discovered areas of that boat that I had never seen. I leaned to clean things that I thought never needed cleaning. But the most important lesson I learned and one I still adhere to is JAGERMIESTER IS EVIL!!