97. Alphabet Sea With White Paper Crests

In the wee hours of the dark sea morning, we were already on our way to France before my necessity to be awake.  

Up and at it, for Skip’s breakfast needed serving.  I tidied up the Captain’s quarters after having my breakfast.  Then priority duties and my cabin were the remainder of the morning.  

Now while it was known that I knew the ins & outs of my job like the back of my hand, Phil must always inspect everything to cover his own Chief Stewardly butt.  Did I stock the upstairs saloon with fresh everything for the normal day’s wants?  Are the Captain’s quarters exactly as it should be?  

Last post I mentioned the main bulletin board just outside the Bridge; there was a second board just outside the mess hall … posts were consistently on white paper and it wasn’t long [the days in & out] before black type-written words were like a sea of alphabet,  just floating around an ocean of white papers.

About 9:30 that morning I got a surprise … well really, we all did.  I was walking out of the mess hall towards my morning deck time when an outstanding colored piece of paper on the bb caught my attention.  

I read the words.  There was my surprise, a change of destination; France was scrapped.  Now instead of due west, a slight adjustment due northeast was already being made by the time I finished reading the notice. 

Just as this was sinking into my brain, I heard Skipper’s voice over the P.A. announcing our new destination to be …Yokohama.  Japan 35.4434°N 139.7024°E 🇯🇵

Wow!  Well considering I’d never been neither to Europe or Japan, an adventure was still in my forecast.  I went about my stroll on deck knowing I’d have to get back inside real soon.  Lunch duties were close at hand.  

I noticed the waves seemed a bit busier than they had been the past couple of days but hey, isn’t that exactly what the ocean does, keep one guessing?  I’ve always enjoyed anything I’d experienced on the open sea, so, bring it on!

The rest of the day went along as my usual routine always did.  All of us, we were rather excited to be going to Japan, so much so that we held a little party later that evening after dinner and duties were complete.  

What fun would a bunch of guys have, enclosed together on a moving ship?  Well let’s see, we’re negotiating the South China & Philippine Seas, set on to yet another voyage and this time,  just over 1700 nautical miles!  

We were most prepared with excellent meals and lots of cold beer, exchanging plans about what we would possibly do in Japan, and most importantly thankful we safely left Vietnam behind.

I turned in a little later than usual and slept solid for about 4 hours.

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96. Office Furniture From France?

While I was busy vacationing at the Air Force Hospital, our remaining cargo of napalm had been unloaded.  There was of course no reason for us to be in the war zone any longer and within 24 hours of my return, we were on our way back to Subic Bay.  

I was already feeling better and looking forward to once again enjoying the beautiful people of the Philippines and possibly, just maybe someone would say, “We’re on our way back home.”  

The next morning after wrapping up breakfast, I was making my rounds about the ship when I discovered we’d just received orders to leave Subic Bay… first thing tomorrow.  Europe.  Whaat?

My ship had a bulletin board on the wall space just outside the Bridge.  The real important information would always be found here and that included our next destination.  There it was, freshly posted up on the board:   🇫🇷 France.

Guess it wasn’t in the cards for me or any of us this time … and it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing my family anytime in the near future.   

Our now empty and -ready for whatever was next- cargo ship was in for a very long voyage.  Our ship’s mission was to retrieve remaining military equipment left behind after France withdrew themselves -formally that is- out of NATO’s integrated military structure, sending the headquarters over to Belgium.

As I understood it, France was the host country since 1952 and their President, Charles de Gaulle, gave foreign forces the ol’ dismissal letter; all were given one year to depart France.  

Based on whatever news tidbits I’d picked up here and there, de Gaulle wanted his country to be completely independent of any foreign military influences; such a sensitive issue to be sure.  

As we had a lot of American [Air Force] stuff over there, to include tons of office furniture (?) our cargo ships were empty, ready to repossess those jeeps and what-nots!  

As I stood on deck after lunch, I was looking out over the sea in gratitude, acknowledging that I was still alive and yes, in good health.  Well then, tomorrow shall bring on a new adventure and I’m ready!

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85. Open Sea Routine

First full day out on the ocean and with the Golden Gate’s disappearance into the now, east, so too had to go my thoughts of what’s to come.  Well, at least on hold in the back of my mind.

It was time to go full steam ahead in the expected routine of my job which has only slightly varied from when we were at docks.  The transition was smooth enough as far as I was concerned, demonstrating to the CS I knew my assignments very well.

After breakfast our Chief Steward calls a meeting of kitchen staff, chef included.  “Things change a little now that we’re out to sea, you’ll find the law is different than when we were at dock.  Trash of any kind and especially cigarette butts will never be disposed of overboard, is that clear?  There is a proper place for everything and I do mean everything!”

He went on, “It’s now time to get dressed up real warm ’cause we’re gonna stock the deep freeze and the main refrigerators.”  Coats, beanies and gloves were provided and we quickly bundled up.

The supplies that were loaded prior now had to be put away in orderly fashion; items must be readily available.  Bottled water, juices, milk, meats, veggies, etc., no hassles and wasted time trying to locate anything.

“Consider one of the engine room guys coming into the kitchen for a drink or snack, they shouldn’t have to waste time searching for anything in the refrigerators, so organization is always priority,” the CS spoke as he pointed out where to place the various items.

The boxes were opened, the large freezer and fridge shelves were stocked and the empties were broke down flat, bundled and placed in the holding spot.  At the next port they’d be removed.  The dry pantry was handled the same way minus the coats, gloves and beanies of course!

3rd day – our Chief Steward calls everybody to gather.  We would now receive instructions for handling a case of emergency.  An alarm was sounded. “Line up on deck and wait for the 1st or 2nd Officer’s instructions.”  

In each of our cabins there was a life jacket for every individual.  “Do not stop to put it on.  Grab it and get topside asap!  You can put it on as you go or once you are up on deck.   We will do this drill every third day.”  

I realized quick enough we’d be eating real good on this ship.  You say you feel like having a pork chop, the kitchen obliged by sending out a hot plate with about a half a dozen of ‘em!  There was no chance of anyone dining alone because someone would catch a whiff and be beside you in no time flat, sharing in the delights.

Away from the kitchen CS had the linen closet key so I always had to ask for that; seems like we had greater concerns than to worry about linens disappearing – oh well.  At least three times a week I’d change out the sheets and towels I used, all of us being responsible for our own.

Making certain the Skipper’s quarters were always clean and amply stocked with the necessities for his comfort was another factor of my duties; remember he was my personal assignment.

Daily routine breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Once in a while the Skipper would make casual conversation with me.  I was the only Hindu person on board his ship and he asked me if I was actually from India.  I shared with him the short version of being born and raised in the Fiji Islands.  He was kind enough and for his liking, our Captain soon nicknamed me ‘Fiji’.

Coming out from one of the cabins, Nancy Sinatra’s hit single, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” sounded throughout the corridor -other tunes too but that one several times a day.  

Two of the deckhands, a middle-aged man and his son from the southeastern U.S. were the occupants of that cabin and this seemed be their favorite song.  It didn’t take long for that tune to stick like flypaper in my brain and to this day, it surfaces at the funniest of times.

My break after the lunch service was always a breeze, kickin’ it on the aft deck.  Often I’d get to see various fish leaping from the water and capturing my attention.  Otherwise I gave in to a sea of thoughts.  And in the evenings I anticipated with great pleasure, the sunset.

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These Boots Are Made For Walkingreleased in November of 1965 and was written by Lee Hazelwood.  By the end of January, 1966 it had topped the charts taking over the  #1 spot in both the U.S. and the U.K.  Cinema utilized the song in Full Metal Jacket, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and most recently in Ocean’s 8, just to name a few.