I was pleasantly surprised to
hear from Paul and Dan, two shipmates that were on the U.S.S.
Noxubee with me 30 Years ago. The highlights of my memories of four
years in the Navy concern the comradeship of the shipmates and
traveling to other countries.
Admittedly, I wasn't a very good sailor. I tested the patience of
most of the gung ho enlisted, lifers, chiefs, warrant officers, and
officers. Because of that I spent months, maybe years, on galley
duty. Fortunately, I was competent at charting the ships course, and
a good helmsman. This kept me off of permanent galley duty.
The picture I'd paint of the Noxubee wouldn't be of a glorious
lady of the sea. Reading this site's history of the Noxubee, she had
her moments, but they must have happened when I wasn't there. Maybe
I was busy scrubbing pots and pans.
It's possible that thirty years clouds the memory, or that one
only remembers the good times. I do have good memories of my time in
the Navy. I also remember, after an extended boot camp and
quartermaster school, dragging my duffle bag with everything I
owned, up to the gangplank. There was a gnawing feeling in my gut as
I surveyed a rather dingy, rusty, and small ship. This was going to
be my new home?
This gnawing was
reinforced when I saw that my personal area was a bunk, 6'x3',
basically a metal shelf that opened providing 2 or 3 square feet of
storage. The bunk above me was so near my shoulder would rub against
it when I rolled over. The bunks were two wide, and three high and
squeezed 24 men and a card table into an area approximately 24'x
16'. About half the crew smoked and the other half snored. I later
found out these conditions were a lot better than the Service,
Engineering and Deck Departments conditions below deck. At least we
had cross ventilation and portholes.
The toilet, shower, and sink were so cramped, that if you bent
over to spit out your toothpaste you stuck your butt in someone's
face. Fresh water was precious, and the ship's ability to desalinize
seawater wasn't the best, and it would occasionally breakdown. After
awhile they would pump seawater through the system. Showering was
like a day at the beach without the sun and sand. O.K., there was a
little sand in the water.
department was on the front of the ship the galley and movies were
on the rear of the ship. In between was the dreaded catwalk. On calm
seas there wasn't any problem, but any hint of waves (most of the
time) the catwalk would become a monster wanting to consume you, at
the very least drench you. A veteran would learn to count between
waves, to see if there was time to make it across. Often I would
snack on crackers etc. and miss the meal. Others have written about
this on this site.
When they designed the Noxubee, it was designed for carrying JP5,
black oil, or something else explosive. It wasn't designed for speed
or the comfort of the crew. I believed that the designers used a
cork for its model. The ship did some strange things. I remember
that when the ship would be at the top of a wave it would make a
small circle before heading down. This motion would bring out the
"barf buckets." Even the regular rocking was amplified.
The ship would slam the water and shake the mast when hitting the
waves head on. In heavy seas we would gather on the fantail and jump
into the air just as the fantail would drop. We'd end up with a
pretty good vertical leap.
Eating was an adventure. The trays would slide. There was an
elevated edge on the tables that would stop the trays from sliding
off of the table. Sometimes just making it to the booth with your
meal intact was an adventure. Sometimes the food itself was an
Earlier, I mentioned my ability to acquire galley duty.
Unfortunately, I also witnessed the mutilation of product, later
passed off as food. Many times, my meal consisted of ice cream and
"bug juice. Who could forget "bug juice" a poor
excuse for koolaid. When the ship ran out of ice cream, I would be
given food by Philippine shipmates that cooked for and catered to
the ships officers. One time, the cook asked me to taste coffee cake
batter, it had the texture of cement. The recipe called for one cup
of coffee. He added one cup of coffee grounds.
One redeeming quality of the ship was that it rarely, if ever
sailed with the Fleet. It could be because it was explosive. It
Probably was because it was pathetically slow. We visited wonderful
areas. The Greek Islands, Ibiza, Malta, Nice, Corfu, Istanbul, the
Spanish Riviera, are representative of areas I would have missed if
we sailed with the fleet. One captain loved the Greek islands. Thira,
Rhodes, Mykonos, Corfu, were his favorite sites.
One navy story I remember happened in Freeport, Grand Bahama, I
believe it was more of a vacation than maneuvers. I was walking back
to the ship when two shipmates and an officer in a golf cart stopped
to give me a ride. After I hopped on, they turned into a hotel and
started zigzagging around the parking lot. The officer stood on the
front pretending to be George Washington crossing the Delaware.
There may have alcohol involved, but everyone sobered fast when we
were pulled over by the flashing lights of a police car. The cart
had been stolen from this hotel earlier in the day. In the office, I
remember a serious officer in his white starched uniform, saying
things like, " They don't allow you to steal golf carts in
America, do they?" The Ltjg started groveling and said "
we are very, very dumb for doing this and very sorry." He said
this after everything the policeman said. The policeman would puff
up a little more each time. The Ltjg's tactic worked. I walked back
to the ship.
The antics of Greg, Larry, John S., Duck, Willie, Dan, Charlie
J., Gabby, Polack, Charlie O., Ed, Doug, Ron and more, kept everyone
entertained. It's a miracle of the computer age that we can
reconnect after almost 3 decades, and connect easily. Thank you,
webmaster Paul, for creating and managing this site.