The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Those Were The Salad Days

I sailed many a mile across stormy seas aboard this fine ship. A lot of changes made to her since then. This picture was taken around 2004 in San Francisco (I believe). The first time I saw her in drydock was the first time anyone had. We blew the port turbine fuel pump on our way to Alaska patrol. During patrol we had a crank bearing failure on the port main, then had a crankcase explosion in the starboard main that destroyed the block. We limped back from patrol in the Bering Sea on our last remaining turbine and spent close to a year in drydock at the Todd Shipyards in Seattle getting that main replaced.

It was like a giant game of Operation/Jenga using an elaborate series of hoists and chains loosely based upon a Fred Garvin design to simultaneously lift, slide, twist, lower and rotate the 12 ton block, then cutting a giant hole in the starboard side of the ship to slide it out.

Of course once you take it out, you gotta to put one back in and replace all the stuff you cut out of the way while you're at it. These Fairbanks Morse diesels are huge, 2 story tall beasts and nobody ever expected to swap one out when they built the ship around it like they did with the gas turbines. Those were expected to fail. They were encased in a box with quick disconnects and a clear path to a giant hatch above. It was a well thought out design and we could swap a turbine in a matter of hours if we had to.

To make a long story longer, those were some of the best times I ever had in the service. We couldn't stay onboard the ship during the overhaul and received a special BAQ. We had a good bunch of guys on our crew that pooled our money rented a 3 story house adjacent to the University of Washington. I'll never forget the morning commute from the U District to West Seattle in Dave Neiderman's 72 Ford van listening to Eric Clapton's Cocaine. Seriously, it was on every freaking morning no matter what station we listened to. It became a challenge to get there before it played.

We split the rent 8 ways, but it seems there was never ever less than 12-15 people sleeping there. We'd have to make squatter sweeps from time to time. Guys would come over to party and never leave. Some of these unscrupulous individuals would tend to blow their housing allowance on alcohol. Hard to believe, I know.

We made our own Coastie Frat house and it was awesome in it's glory. Those were some fantabulous times, even if I can't remember what happened more nights than I care to admit. Step out the back door and 27 steps away across the alley was the back door to O'Banion's Tavern. Ahhh, Those were the Salad Days.

There's also tales involving mescaline, tequila, a Yamaha dirt bike and a sticky throttle cable that I still refuse to fully divulge regardless of the statute of limitations. But I have to wonder what that guy thought when a riderless dirt bike came at him full speed.


el chupacabra said...

To be so legendarily iconic Cocaine is one vapid, vacuous song.

And now it will no doubt be a 48 hour ear worm.


el chupacabra said...

PS- cool story nonetheless.