Gettin Salty


I’d just advanced to seamen III, boot camp and Navy schools behind me
Orders came, It seemed to me that I might never put to sea.
More schools, more drills and killing time,  filling out forms, standing in line.
My home was not yet a bunk and a berth, but  a bachelors enlisted dorm for what it was worth.
A first class bosun-mate named Jones, was the deck ape that I worked for.
Cutting his teeth and making  his bones,on the decks of fleet destroyers.
“So you can tie some knots” he growled“ and even splice a 6 inch line”
you’re a pimple on a sailors ass, till you drop the hook and ya scrape the brine!”You’re a Pogeybait eatin pollywog scum till the pirates flog ya and ya meet Davy Jones
That ole Bosun went and pulled some strings and called in a couple favors
then me and a ship-mate, same rate as me got a set of unusual orders.
For near a fortnight we’d be a steamin the deep on a  Frigate; christened ‘The Ramsey’
she’d seen rust and war and she’d soon be gone.  But her crew was seasoned and salty

Crossing the gangway I saluted the colors “Seaman FitzPatrick reporting with orders!”
A Third class gunner whisked  me below His feet never touched the ladder.. Sliding down
hand rails from deck to deck we quickly reached my quarters. just a hammock really where
the deck apes bunk.  Gruff lookin dungarees splattered with paint. The  place sort a stunk.
“Stow yer gear and git topside an don’t lallygag” a petty officer screamed in my ear.

Up on the foscil, the mooring detail heaved the lines aboard like they were brothers. And after a shrill sounding Bos’ns call blew they announced“Under Way,Now shift colors” It felt like I was standing still and instead, the pier was going away,  “Stop yer gawkin” yelled someone
They were talkin to me! I’d better turn to! and not mess up my first day.

Sometime during the third watch, we came cruising past  point Loma.  On the port side buoy.One S.D. We had cleared the harbor, we were now at sea.  I could feel it in my land legs,. I loved the ocean’s pitch and yaw.  I slid below to the mess decks. The Moody Blues ‘Ride my See Saw’ That tune was the ocean speaking.  It’s funny, now. when I hear that song, it all flies back; .  The  motion, the chattering, the sailor talk and the shiver of the ship’s frame creeking.

I manned a broom when sweepers blew, I swabbed the decks. I felt like crew.. Being new, I weathered some pranks.  The crew can’t drink beer or rum underway. But a Stupid new guys was a bearable trade. “hey go find an electrician,  get a light bulb repair kit.” “I’ll trade you,” the electrician would whine, “Go to the cooks and get a fathom of chow line” Years later I pulled those pranks all the time.

I learned about rigging, both running and standing, Securing and  tripping the  pelican hooks, Manning a  windlasses and the skill it demanded.  Open and closed chalks and capstans, and high lines. Even a vert-rep, I had a great time.. Plane gard and Bridge watch, I stood every station. True North and magnetic; I learned their relation. I learned that the North Star was known as Polaris.     Guaged distance and bearing and true target angles.. But soon the cruise had to end.

For the next four years I stayed at sea On the decks of a proud new Destroyer..I advanced in rank quickly and soon had a Bridge watch, a deck crew and station while traversing the locks of Panama., Crossed equator and dateline Got flogged by the pirates while we defiantly flew Jolly Roger.  No longer a pollywog, a Golder shell back I yam.  Missed ship in Hawaii, drank absence in Okinawaha.. Drank Mojo in Subic, Had a Mamasan too.  Oh I could go on about adventures a dandy; But I’ll never forget the USS Ramsey..