Sea Stories

This is a no s___ter (Navy speak for this really happened) and as I remember it.

I was the off-going TMOW (Torpedoman of the Watch). It was deep in the middle of the night after mid-rats was cleaned up and the movie probably didn’t interest me at the time.

Being qualified in pretty much everything it was easy to get bored underway. I would usually find myself hanging out in control with the QMOW (Quartermaster of the Watch), often Tom ‘Spot’ Johnson, or in the Equipment Space aft of Radio conversing with the RMOW (Radioman of the Watch), usually David ‘Harry’ Harrison. These two gents were also my roommates in the barracks when in port in San Diego.

Tonight found me hanging in Control and so I had to be either visiting ‘Spot’ or studying to qualify as COW (Chief of the Watch).

As a TM2 I thought it was ridiculous to have to qualify COW as we would never get to stand the watch, so most likely I was hanging out with Tom. The COB (Chief of the Boat) was Master Chief Clyde Zortman and he was currently the DOOW (Diving Officer of the Watch).

Master Chief Zortman was the senior enlisted man on the boat and one of those guys who knew what you needed. If you needed a kick in the pants, he would deliver it. If you needed a confidant, he was the guy; a rare combination of hard-ass and best friend rolled up into one.

Now, I’m writing this for both fellow submariners and the general uninitiated so I’m going into more depth than any of us ‘bubbleheads’ need, hopefully enough for some of the more general population. I’ll do my best to stray into both lanes to make it enjoyable.

Anyway, the DOOW sits behind the two guys driving the boat (Helmsman/Planesman). These guys sit on watch for an hour at one station, then rotate to the next, and interchange with a 3rd guy who is the duty Messenger. I am pretty sure the Messenger during this event was SN Gannon. Other parties in the vicinity are the COW (Chief of the watch) the FTOW (Fire Control Technician of the Watch) and the OOD (Officer of the Deck). I’m not sure of any other parties but I think the OOD was either LT Dreher or LT Reed or maybe LT Ahumada. How’s that for memory?

Ok, as I’m hanging out in Control, the phone rings and the Messenger, SN Gannon, picks up the phone. It’s the middle of the night and the cook, MSSN Richard Toby, I believe, wants to ask the DOOW about anticipated depth changes.

Gannon says, “COB, Toby wants to know if we are going to be doing any angles.”

“Why does he want to know?” the COB responds.

Gannon on the phone, “COB wants to know why you want to know,” he asks Toby.

Listening for a moment, “COB, he says he is putting cakes in the oven,” Gannon reports.

“Tell Toby we have orders for straight and level,” replies the COB.

Gannon relays the message and hangs up the phone.

Control is very quiet. Everyone, including the QMOW, FTOW, OOD, Helmsman/Planesman and the Messenger (oh, and moi, the off going TMOW) are all looking at COB.

Waiting…waiting.

The COB just sits there staring into space with his a cigar. He takes a puff.

Waiting.

The COB takes another puff.

Then another.

Waiting. For what seems like a long stretch of time.

Finally the COB speaks.

“Messenger?”

“Yeah, COB?” Gannon queries.

“I need some coffee.”

“Sure thing, COB,” and heads out of Control.

“Messenger?” the COB asks, before Gannon disappears.

“Yeah, COB?”

“Don’t come back until the cakes are in the oven.”

Some time goes by, and eventually the Messenger comes back with the coffee and says, “Here is your coffee COB, cakes are in the oven.”

Like before, everyone is looking at COB, and the COB is looking at no one. He has that calculating stare and you know he has done this before. Excitement is in the air and everyone, I mean everyone, knows what is coming next. Control almost vibrates with anticipation and in the absolute quiet nobody says a thing.

And then, the COB barks.

“Down twenty!” he orders, directing the Helmsman/Planesman to dive at a 20 degree angle.

Without a second’s hesitation the planes are positioned full down and we go deep.

After a few hundred feet the COB barks again.

“Up twenty!” and the planes go to full rise. The boat rears up.

The sheer joy on everyone’s face in Control, especially the OOD’s, was priceless.

You can imagine the cook, our shipmate Toby, you remember Toby, trying to keep his balance in the kitchen while the boat alternates between down and up angles holding the hot oven door open and trying to keep two or three large sheet pans of cake batter level during all of this.

You could hear an angry scream coming from the Galley, finding it’s way up the ladder and along the passageway to where we were in Control.

After “porpoising” a few times for good measure, we finally leveled out and the ventilation system quickly delivered that distinctive “burning cake batter” smell.

The COB speaks. “Messenger?”

“Yeah, COB?”

“Ring the Crews Mess,” the COB directs, “and ask them what is burning.”

It is important to know the phone is in Crew’s Mess, not in the actual Galley, so the next message must be relayed person to person.

Gannon on the phone to the Crew’s Mess, “Ask Toby what is burning.”

There is a brief pause, and then we heard the second angry scream, all the way up here in Control.

We had the thinnest cake with the thickest frosting the next day for dessert.

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U.S. Naval Institute News

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