Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Please hotlink to ARFCOM. I finaly got it sent out

This is a long post

because it is a conglomoration of the posts I wrote when I was out of internet range. Some will be boring, some may be repititous, some will be off the wall but they are the fruit of a bored sailor on a long run and it might give some insight as to what it is like being somewhat of a supernumerary on a somewhat long trip on a tug. If someone here is an ARCOMMER please post a hot link to it on GD.



Over the years I have worked with lines and cables under strain on a daily basis. A few times I have seen them part and fortunately I have seen nobody hurt too seriously in a while. That is a good thing. Years ago I had a guy I knew inviscerated by a nylon line that parted and whipped back on him.

These days we do not use a whole lot of nylon simply for safety reasons but a poly-dacron line can still do considerable damage when it lets go and comes in contact with flesh.

I won't go into missing teeth here.

One of the things that I oftentimes do is stand by overhead while the guys on the deck of the tug make the cable up to put us into tow gear. I don't have to do this, but I do because I do not want to see anyone injured.

Anyone that has worked with me for any time knows what to do if I ever shout, "Hit the deck!" They respond without asking why or even looking up at me. They go down like they have been shot.

I seldom raise my voice anymore about much of anything, but when I see the tow cable starting to slide across the bulwarks I generally break my rule and shout out a warning.

Cables and ropes do not care who they slice in two. They do not make exceptions for nice guys or people that go to church. A moving cable can injure that nice little boy that was an altar boy at the 8:30 every Sunday. They make no exception for race, creed, color, sex or national origin. They will kill a man without mercy, without compassion and without remorse.

In a sense they are pretty good about the way they hurt or kill people because there is no Al Sharpton or ACLU you can run to if you get hurt. That's just too damned bad. Most of the time it is your own damned fault for not paying attention. I have never heard of the Southern Law Poverty Center protesting the deeds of a cable or a deck line. The Ku Klux Klan doesn't say a whole lot about it, either.

One of the biggest things I have to do out here is make it clear that there a few times where there is no room for discussion whatsoever. There is only room for action. That's just the way it is. In that respect working with things as cut and dried and simple as heavy lines is a joy.

A while back I shouted "Hit the deck!" when I saw one of the pair of guys look up at me confused. His shipmate grabbed both of his feet and yanked them out from under him. He hit the deck, all right and got back up in outrage not noticing that a 2.5" cable had slid across a foot over his head. While it most likely would not have done serious damage to him, I'm sure it would have been painful.

He was a newbie, of course. Old hands would have not gotten up so fast and they would have simply hit the deck. He looked up at me with the most confused look I have ever seen and turned to his fellow incontrite deckhand wondering what happened.

Some time later I took the young man is question aside and explained to him in no uncertain terms that I was looking out for his safety and that I really didn't give a damn if he sat at home his entire time off hating me. It was a pretty good humiliating ass chewing in a conversational voice.

He could hate me all he wants just so long as he is alive to do so.

The next time I saw him was a year or so later. I asked him if he still hated me and he was salty enough to say he did but that he was glad to be alive to hate me.

"Glad to hear it," I said, and walked off. I was amused, he had spunk.

It's been a sort of inside joke between us for the past few years as he has learned. Some people don't. Some get hurt and every so often someone out and out dies out here.

Which makes me wonder what most people would do if they were walking into a building and a wild-eyed person was walking out, arms spread, telling everyone, "You don't want to go in there! Stay out!"

I would simply make a 180 and walk out. While he may simply be a nut, there very well may be a damned good reason for his actions. As far as I am concerned I can go in a little later after I was sure it would be safe to enter.

I contend that most people are idiots and would stop and ask why and many would get all huffy and simply walk in past him, possibly to their demise.

Personally I tend to heed warnings and figure that is a part of why I have made it this far.

I just watched Joran Van Der Sloot getting sentenced and like most things governments do there was a whole lot of the general pomposity that goes with such gala festive occasions. This proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the United States of America does not have a monopoly on windbags, although most of ours wind up in governmental positions of some sort or another.

The proceedings as I write have been going on for about an hour and a half. He still has not been sentenced yet.

Now, according to the rules the police generally play by in this country when they stop someone, they generally give a guy a lecture OR a ticket.

If they play by the same rules in Peru that they play by here, I sort of figure Mr. Van Der Sloot is going to skate off scot free.

Judge Piccolo would have spared everyone else the hot air.

"Thirty years! Adios! Bailiff, take him away!"

Then again, I am known for my warped sense of humor. I might have entertained the court with, "Go to jail for thirty years. Go directly to jail for thirty years. Do not pass 'Go'. Do not collect $200."

Either way I wouldn't have wasted everybody's time.

Hammering the Morse code into my head is a gold plated chore.

I have a pretty good program I got for free on line and I am going to donate a couple of bucks to the guy that made it because he did a good job and only asks donations.

Still, this is going to be a long effort and I can see that I will be working on it for the rest of my life if I keep up my pursuit of excellence in this area.

Right now I am trying to work all fifty states by any means necessary whis is basically Single sideband (SSB) and I've got about thirty five knocked out right now and I have to give compliments to the Young ladies SSB Society for their generosity in giving me Utah and Alabama. I actually have worked Alabama but I do not think the old goat I QSO'd with is likely to send me a QSL card from the way he sounded, but a very nice lady from Alabama is certain to.

She asked me to send her a bunch of snow COD and being a mischevious elf I am tempted to send her a styrofoam contained marked 'Snow' with a QSL card in it.

Anyway, learning morse is hard on the head as you get older. I think I am doing OK and even though I have made a pair of QSOs with Morse it doesn't mean I am anywhere near competent. Both of the hams I have QSO'd were repeating themselves several times very slowly so I could stop and recognize the letters.

I send a lot better than I receive.

Learning to read Morse (CW) is just one of those things that takes repitition and there is no other way. I am at sea as I write this and I have to say that I suppose it is a good place to school one's self in such a topic because this particular trip is a long and otherwise boring odyessy.

All I can say is that I am damned glad I bought a cheap pair of headphones to plug into the combat laptop because if I didn't I would have already been thrown over the side. I rate listening to someone learn to receive CW as about a half-step below listening to someone learn to play the fiddle.

I tried to practice sending a couple of trips back and God knows, I was lucky I didn't cause a mutiny. I put the key away after a couple of tries.

I am theorizing but I think any good Old School CW punching ham will tell me that by learning to read code that sending it will come easily. Time will tell.

Sitting through too much of it tends to turn it all into a mush in the brain, but the Army used to train guys to read code by just soaking themselves into it for about 14 hours a day for about 8 or ten weeks. I guess there is a pattern in it so that after you turn your brain into mush with a massive overdose that all of a sudden it all seems to clear up.

My dad told me that he had to learn code as a bombardier for some reason and he said he got pretty good at it so maybe I will, too. He said there were little plateaus in the learning curve. It doesn't surprise me.

My Uncle Fred was an Old School ham to the point that during WW2 they refused to let him get drafted as there was a shortage of people to train high-speed radio operators at the time. It's really a funny story because the old war widow that ran the draft board refused to understand what special skills were and kept trying to draft him.

Finally I guess a brigadier general and a colonel stormed into the draft board and told the old witch that Uncle Fred was 4-F because they said he was and if she ever tried to draft him out of the OSS that she would spend the rest of the war doing something unpleasant.

Uncle Fred told it that they took her aside and let on he was involved in some hush-hush thing or another and told her that she'd be shot if she said anything. He wound up working for Bill Donovan's OSS for the duration, training radio operators.

Fred had an early mobile rig and a key he could strap to his thigh and could drive along carrying on a conversation with me in the front seat, and another ham on the rig, sending CW at about 40 or more words a minute or more. He was that good.

Talk about texting today, a cop stopping him would probably have a cow but Fred didn't have to take his eyes off the road to do any of this. I would imagine that as he was listening to CW he wasn't hearing letters but complete words. He was far safer than any texting soccer mom out there because he wasn't distracted. The code was beyond second nature, it was etched into the essence of his being.

The Old School Master sergeants and Navy Chiefs were pretty much the same way after about 25 or 30 years of doing little but code.

Anyway, my first goal is to reach 13 words per minute because that's the old General amateur operator's standard that they changed a few years back.

To those reading that are not hams you may wonder why I am so adamant about code because you probably think it is outdated. It isn't and there is a resurgence of people taking it up because it is pure unadulterated radio wave. CW will punch through when notheing else can because when you modulate radio waves you lose something. CW is nothing more than pure radio wave so it loses nothing and can sort of squeak a signal in when nothing else will do the job.

Besides, I try and learn Old School basics because that's the name of the game.

There's an old saying I like to use. "Don't learn the tricks of the trade, learn the trade."

That means basics.

When you think about it it makes sense because you have to learn how to read before a computer makes any sense. There's no escaping learning the basics if you want to learn the whole trade and I would imagine that's true in any field of endeavor.

So now I have written a bit it is time for me to put the headphones back on and make my brain get mushy again.


Ok, my brain just got mushed again so I guess it is time to write in normal letters and clear my soggy brain that can't understand a damned thing. You have to take a break.

Then again maybe I ought to do this every waking hour and immerse myself in it to the point where I go totally mush and see nothing but a big mental blur.

One of the things I see in the crew is one of the guys who is a Filipino. He speaks three languages, the dialict he grew up, of which there are 86 in the Phillipines. Then he speaks Tagalog, which is the Phillipine national language and on top of that he speaks pretty damned good English. Wondering which language to curse in when he hits his thumb with a hammer must be a lingual vertigo.

I just asked him and he told me it is Tagalog.

I figure if this guy can deal with linguistic vertigo I can learn Morse. I'm back at it.

Well, another day has passed out of internet range and I am still here doing my daily post which will go on line because of the miracle of being able to cut and paste.

Not having the web nearby is something both annoying and refreshing. I can't post which is annoying, but it is good in that I will appreciate it a whole lot more when I get back into range.

Every now and then you have to go without something to appreciate what you have. It's well past time for me to grab a sleeping bag and sleep under a bridge or something and freeze my ass of for a night and wake up all gummy-eyed and beat up so I can appreciate the nice place I live in. Maybe not sack out under a bridge, but at least do something along those lines.

We get spoiled pretty fast and start taking things for granted and it is not until you lose something even for just a couple of days that makes you appreciate what you have.

I often think our elected officials ought to me required to live under a bridge every so often to slap them off of their high horse. I could picture President Obama trying to camp out under a bridge somewhere and the results would probably be hilarious. He'd lose his dignity pretty quickly. I'd pay good money to see the conniption fit the first lady would throw.

On the other hand, I figure Ronald Reagan would simply dig in under the bridge and not lose anything but a comfortable bed. He used to love going home to his ranch in California and be active running around in an old Jeep doing normal things like cutting wood. I have seen pictures of him in an old pair of jeans and he still looked like a president.

I read that JFK sneaked down to Quantico a couple of times to practice with his M-1 that had been given to him by the then DCM.

There are guys that can go anywhere and still stay dignified. Betcha it's just be another bump in the road for Prince William and Prince Harry. They seem to have the touch. I've seen pictures of Harry in Afghanistan and he looked like he fit right in. I'll admit I am a fan of the two brothers and as an old artilleryman I like the fact that Harry was calling in artillery fire in support of US troops.

Anyway, when I get back into internet range I will appreciate things a little more.

Stand by.

There is one of those dumb puzzles on the galley table consisting of the triangle with the holes and golf pegs. The object of which is to jump the other pegs until there is only one left. These little games show up from time to time on boats as well as at hokey diners out in the country. The kind with a busty waitress named Madge.

I've seen them around for fifty years and have not tried playing one since I was a little kid but tonight I tried it and after a couple of tries I beat the damned thing. Needles to say I can't say anything about it to anybody because they will demand that I show them how I did it and of course, I didn't take notes.

I'm pretty good at crosswords and not all that bad at sodoku, either. I generally buy a newspaper just for the puzzle page, especially when I travel on an airplane as it helps pass the time and I feel it's good for keeping the brain hard drive spinning freely.

When I go to work I generally look pretty well put together, and generally I do the same when I travel home but sometimes crew change getting off turns into a hash and I find myself in stained khakis when I get on that big bird headed home.

One time I was assigned to a seat next to some woman that was obviously some kind of a professional and she paid me no attention, most likely because she thought I was some kind of ignorammus because I was traveling in somewhat oil stained work clothes.

Figuring we had nothing in common I simply put my crossword on my knee and worked it before we were even in the air. When we went gear up, I folded down the table and worked the sodoku, both of them, actually as the paper I had was 'USA Today'. It has a pair of sodoku puzzles and a crossword in it.

I whipped through both sodokus and then opened the magazine the airplane had and dug out the puzzle section and went to work. The woman interrupted my chain of thought.

She looked thoughtfully before she spoke. She commented on how I seemed pretty good with puzzles and asked me where I went to school. I replied I was still attending graduate classes at Hawsepipe University.

She explained she wasn't familiar with that school so I explained to her that I had gone to sea and was still learning on the job and that I was a hawsepiper Merchant Mariner, having come to sea as an Ordinary Seaman and working my way up through the ranks. Up through the hawsepipe, so to speak.

She seemed surprised and told me she thought I might have been some kind of an engineer on a job somewhere. I figure it was the khakis I had on. What probably threw her off was the way I whipped through the puzzles. When I first sat down I think she had thought I was a bum.

She asked me if I had been in the Navy (a lot of people ask sailormen this) and I told her I was a former soldier. She explained that her youngest had done quite well in high school but did not want to go to college yet. He was leaving for Marine Corps boot camp in a few weeks.

Of course, she was a concerned mother and asked me what kind of people her son would be with. I simply asked her what kind of kids he hung out with now and she said they were pretty good kids.

I told her that he'd meet the same type of people in the Marine Corps. She seemed relieved.

I also told her that he'd also learn to live with all kinds as the services mash everyone into the same pot. He'd be rubbing elbows with all walks of life. Had he chosen college he would have probably had to live with mainly college kids.In that respect he'd get a better education.

Then she asked me when I was going to finish school. I told her it would be the day they buried me at sea. She looked a bit confused.

I explained that a hawsepiper never finishes school if he has any brains because he is always learning. Unlike most schools Hawsepipe University never closes its doors. It runs 24/7/365. She took a second but seemed to understand.

Then she asked what the other guys I worked with were like.

I told her to look at the skinny kid a couple of rows up and told her he's quite an AB, he can catch a line on a dock from 35 feet and hit a cleat every time. In addition to that he speaks three languages and is a gourmet chef.

I told her to look at the guy next to him and told her he is one cool engineer under fire. When we got hit by lightning all of the electronics in the machinery blew out and he had the systems bypassed and we were underway and running for home in minutes with no fuss whasoever. (While he was doing this I sat in the galley reading a comic book.)

I then pointed out another guy. That guy is a mate and can wrestle 400 feet of floating steel full of gasoline into a dock when it is blowing 40 and bring it alongside without cracking an egg between the boat and the dock.

I then pointed to another AB and explained to her that he was a damned good world class photographer and a first class gardener in addition to being able to maintain the entire boat and that he is presently building his own home.

She asked me where the rest of the guys had gone to school and I thought a moment. I told her we were all hawsepipers and she seemed somewhat surprised. Then she wanted to know how I could whip through puzzles so quickly and I told her that I had been doing them for years as a way to keep my brain functioning during periods of boredom.

She thanked me and returned to her paperwork.

A few minutes later she asked me how I came to choose working on the sea as my career. I told her simply that I had just found something I liked to do and I'm doing it.

"Oh, and one other thing," I said. "Your son will turn out just fine."

She seemed relieved.

Right now two of the guys are playing with the puzzle. I have to stay quiet because for the life of me I can't figure out how I beat it a few minutes ago.


Well, here's another watch and it looks like it ought to be a pretty good one in that we're in pretty good weather and not getting the living tar beat out of us.

The last time I made a run like this it was 9 straight days of misery because the weather was barely good enough to keep us from holing up somewhere. Nine straight days of bouncing around like a cork. It wasn't fun.

One of the guys when he wasn't doing his job would spend the entire watch curled up in the fetal position on a corner of the galley deck curled up like a junkie in a blanket. The poor bastard. I felt for him, unable to eat a whole lot.

Still, he did his job and that's what counts.

From time to time out there things happen and nobody really says a whole lot about it. It is pretty much a case of what happens here stays here. This certainly ain't Vegas and there really isn't a whole lot of Vegas type stuff that goes on out here.

At sea I've seen situations where men are truly men and things happen out here.

While nothing out of the ordinary happened on that long, rough trip, it was interesting watching how everyone dealt with it. Everyone stayed pretty cheerful and carried on.

The guy that does most of the cooking improvised and managed to get a halfway decent meal made almost every day in spite of having to clamp his pots and pans to the galley stove.

This is a somewhat odd world and Martha Stewart would probably come unglued out here with some of the things we occasionally do. Shoreside you never see a pot attached to a stove rail with a C-clamp. Then again, shoreside stoves do not have rails, either.

Cooking under these circumstances requires long pants and a long sleeved shirt as a splash can be painful. Chowing down is another interesting thing to behold, too. Even though most boats have mats that keep plates from slipping around on the table, most guys keep one hand on their plate and use the other hand for their entrenching tool, be it pitchfork or shovel.

A couple of times I ate standing up wedged into a corner.

So far this trip is quite a bit different. The weather seems to be carrying on with a kind, gentle nature and I hope it stays that way.

In a lot of areas I am a minimalist.

Back when I was a young man on the road seeking my fame and fortune I would basically carry a razor, bar of soap, a shower head and that was about it for cleaning supplies. As for a towel, I'd improvise or air dry.

These days I suppose I've changed. I also carry a can of deodorant and a towel.

The shower head was one of those things they used to make that would fit over the end of a bathtub spigot to allow the bather to rinse their hair. It could turn just about any water supply into an instant shower. A gas station men's room with a floor drain became an instant luxurious hot shower. A hose bib became an instant cold shower, and those square key required to turn on the water were child's play as I carried a hose bib key on my key ring.

I used to do a fairly passable job of keeping my hooves in good shape with a knife, razor blade or sometimes diagonal cutting pliers. I remember back in the army when my CO walked in on me cutting my toenails with a razor blade. He rolled his eyes, grinned and walked out. Then he stuck his head in again and told me that I ought to borrow a pair of wire cutters from one of the commo guys.

When you think about it, when was the last time you had your toenails inspected by anyone? Wire cutters used to work just fine.

I often think that people are easily fooled into thinking they need a whole lot more than they do need. We get roped into coughing up for all kinds of crap because we are told that we need it. I think I have a can of shaving cream somewhere that is just sitting in the medicine cabinet waiting for the bottom to rust out. I use soap in the shower and get a better shave.

At home I use Dr Bronner's Castille soap, the peppermint kind and come out of the shower smelling like a peppermint drop. It's great for shaving. On the road it is whatever soap the motel supplies.

When you look at the things you use on any kind of a trip it generally comes down to the basics. I suppose a businessman on a trip might want to toss on a little after-shave in addition to the deodorant but having to carry an entire case of stuff with you when you travel seems pointless to me. Most of us never use a lot of the crap we haul around. Although these days when I travel I suppose I carry a few more odds and ends than I did years ago.

I have nail clippers now, for example. The days of being my own blacksmith are over with.

Still, it all packs into a shaving bag with room left over for other things like a cell phone charger and other odds and ends.

I keep saying it doesn't take a whole lot, and I suppose it doesn't. I'm a whole lot happier traveling light.

My code is coming along and I have gotten to the point where I am bored with three, four and five word groups. They take 4 or 5 letters and put them in random order and beep them and you hit the appropriate key on the keyboard. It doesn't take long before you can do a small group in your sleep at 15 words per minute.

Of course, that doesn't mean squat when you think about it because that is nowhere close to real world CW. This little program had a thing in it where you can slew in letters and make your own groups which is good for letters you have problems with, in my case about 25 out of 26.

What I have done is slew in all 26 letters of the alphabet and boy, did my scores drop down to the bottom. I knew that would happen. Right now I am going to simply go the alphabet route until I get my scores up and then we will see what happens.

This ain't easy. It does not come natural to me so this is a case where I have to persevere.

I would imagine that if I keep at it I ought to get good enough to send the Gettysburg address to someone with few mistakes.

Even fifteen words a minute really isn't all that fast when you consider how fast a person can type and when you think about how fast a person can read it is pretty slow.

I can see why back in the old days it was expensive to have a telegrapher send a message.

Now on the news they are beating the case of the 4 Marines urinating on a Taliban corpses to death.

It makes you wish someone else woud do something awful to make this entire stupid thing go away. They have some former Marine talking head saying something on Fox News now, but I can't hear it very well.

They ought to interview me instead. They won't, though because I would simply ask the news people why they don't have anything better to do than make life a little more miserable for the Marine Corps over absolutely nothing.

What was that line in a few good men?

It was something about sitting in comfort while the Corps provides your security and then having the nerve to question the way the Corps provides it.

As far as I am concerned, if our Marines decide to eat dead Taliban that is just fine by me. It might send a message out to the Taliban that you might just wind up getting a trip through a Marine's digestive system on your way to meet the 72 virgins if you don't behave yourself. I don't think any of the 72 virgins are apt to be much interested in a guy that has just gone through such a trip. He probably won't smell very good.

Besides, it might just shave a couple of bucks off of their grub bill. While I don't object to making sure the Marines are well fed, a couple of bucks of grub money saved ain't nothing to sneeze at.

The Marines are always telling everyone how frugal the Corps is and how they save the taxpayers money. Here's one more way.

The code is coming along and I can read a little more than half of it, about two thirds, acutally at about 10 words per minute. I figure that once I get into the mid to high 90s I'll take it up to 11 wpm and so on until I can comfortably read 15 words a minute.

You have to remember that one letter in a callsign that I goof up on could mean no QSL, either electronically or on paper unless the other guy initiates it.

Some of the other guys have told me that I ought to have gone straight to 15+ word a minute and said that I would top out at 15 wpm if I did it the way I am doing it, but I see things differently.

What is going to get my speed up is confidence and use.

While I do not see myself getting to the speed my Uncle Fred had, which was incredible, one has to realize that he started into ham radio that way probably in the 1930s and by WW2 he was so fast he got snagged by the OSS to train people.

I have gotten into this late in life and I'll do what I can.

Who knows? Maybe after I work all states with SSB I might try it with code. That would be quite an accomplishment as I see it.

One of the drawbacks I see in this program is that you have to use the keyboard of the laptop to run the program. I wish it would print the letters out after the session was over so I could use paper. I want to be able to take this out into the field with me and not be chained to a laptop to read code.

I guess that writing the code down on paper will come pretty naturally, though as in effect I am doing the same thing with a keyboard. I have to recognize the letter before I hit the key and I suppose that instead of striking a key I can scribble it down.

Another thing I can see myself doing is putting on the cans to work CW. I think I tend to focus better with the headphones on.

There are a few frequencies where I can use both code and phone. Maybe I can find someone to correct me via voice if I screw up. We'll see.

No use getting ahead of myself, though.


I just remembered something.

Just about two days before I left for work I sent about fifty QSL cards out in one fell swoop.

Probably the day after tomorrow they are going to start coming in. One of the people i spoke with during my time off was a pleasant woman in Alabama running a mobile rig from the roof of someplace in a town that I have forgotten the name of but I can look it up later.

She told me that she wanted me to send her a bunch of snow COD to her in Alabama.

There is a thick walled styrofoam box in the forepeak and I wonder what it would cost to send it to Alabama full of snow. Of course, I would not ship it COD because I knew she was kidding, but it would be a funny thing to do and not too difficult, either. Simply put some dry ice in with the snow, seal it up and send it by some kind of fast freight.

I'l see if it would be too expensive. If it isn't, I just might do that.


Right now I am busy writing another post, the purpose of is to escape the code for a little while. Listening to a countless stream of little beeps is hard on the brain and like I have said before they start to string together after a while. I have figured out that there are a several characters that I need to work on so I scribble them down, load them up and pound them into me a little more.

Some of which are semi-opposites like F and L. For some reason they sound a little bit too much alike and I get them a bit mixed up.

Also there is going to be another problem of sorts to deal with when I get into the real world.

Most guys out there do not send CW with a straight key anymore. My IC-718 has an electronic keyer built in to it and I had to get the book out and spend a couple of hours figuring out how to disable is so I can go with an old fashioned straight key.

The electronic keyer is designed to be used with another kind of key and what happens is that the dits and dahs are all perfect. Once the radio operator gets used to the key and the keyer he sends out pretty recognizable Morse that can be easily read.

All of this is fine and dandy but there are still quite a number of Old School guys out there that still send with a straight key. I have added to the number of Old School types when my Chinese Army key came and I plugged it in.

With a straight key the codes dits and dahs are controlled by the operator himself and not by an electronic device. This means imperfections and I am going to have to learn how to deal with that.

Some guys are pretty good in that they make their dahs run a little longer and hence are recognizable. Some guys do not and it makes it a little hard for a newbie to understand.

A dah is supposed to be three times longer than a dit.

Another thing is that an experienced operator will sometimes be asked to slow down so a newbie can keep up with reading his code. The older ham will simply slow down by putting more space betwen his letters and words, but he will send the individual letters quickly.

Uggh! This is one of those things that sometimes proves frustrating because the operator may not realize what he is doing and the newbie is hard pressed to explain that he wants the individual letters slowed down.

All in all it will be interesting when I get back home and go in the air with code.

Yet more talk about the four Marines that urinated on the Taliban corpses.

It is like watching the Jerry Seinfeld Show that used to be on the air. This is an entire issue over nothing.

This made me wonder for a minute if the media got the idea of doing something like this from Jerry Seinfeld or Jerry Seinfeld got the idea from the media. For a second I was wondering about this like it was the chicken or the egg.

Then I thought back to the time before Seinfeld.

The media has been doing this for years. Decades, really.

I was once taught that if there wasn't a good story out there that a good reporter made one.

Made one up is a more likely scenario.

I was thinking about writing the Commandant and offering to do something big to take the heat off the Corps. Something like renting an airplane and dropping a huge urine bomb on a Philadelphia Eagles game or something. However the Commandant is too much of a decent man to take me up on the offer so I'll save myself the ink and the price of airplane rental and a fortune in beer.

I would imagine he would appreciate the offer but he's in a position where he can't really say so, even tongue in cheek.

I can see why it took the army 8 to 10 weeks to make a good radio operator back in the day.

Incidentally before I served, a neighbor's dad was a radio operator and went through the school. Eight or ten weeks learning the code and if he is even remotely like his son he was pretty good at it.

My neighbor said that as soon as his dad deployed to Germany the entire army switched to single sideband and he never even looked at a key for his entire hitch.

The CW hams I knew as a kid are the ones that kept the art alive after the early to mid 60s.

Even now with the code requirement gone there are few people that still take the time to learn it unless they are serious DXers, which I think I will become after I get profecient.

I have listened to hams yakking away on the airwaves in different languages and can not understand a single word they say because I do not speak the language, but code is different because of all of the Q signals.

There is a Q signal for just about anything and they work. Signal reports can be requested easily that way. There is even a Q signal for asking someone to marry them. It's QWM, followed by a question mark. To reply that you will the answer is QWM followed by a period.

One of the things that happened to Uncle Fred many moons ago happened a few years after WW2 ended. Some Japanese businessman that was also a ham got into a pretty bad traffic accident and the local police couls not understand him.

I guess they found something on him that was ham radio related and one of the local officers took whatever it was to Fred and Fred told him it was some kind of a ham radio thing and asked what was going on. The cop explained that they could not communicate with the hapless guy so Fred went to the hospital and the two of them communicated in code enough to find out that he was Japanese and not Chinese or Korean.(the police didn't know what he was) I guess that got the ball rolling on getting him squared away.

Fred told me they whistled to each other in code to establish communication.


One of the neat things about being the oldest son is that I got to meet a lot of older relatives while they were still around to be met. Some of them were pretty colorful characters.

My baby sister is 48 now, which is 12 years younger than me. She didn't get to meet a lot of the people I got to meet or if she did, they died when she was too young to remember them.

Uncle Fred was one of them. He was about 70 or so when he showed me how to ride a bicycle backwards. He said he was too old to use a boy's bike as it had the crosssbar on it.

My oldest (not older, she was simly the first of my 3 sisters) had gotten her first bicycle and hadn't learned to ride it yet. I broke it out and I'll be damned if Uncle Fred didn't sit on the handlebars and put his feet on the pedals and ride the thing around the front yard.

He didn't even come close to falling on his ass when he got off, either.

His wife, Gladys was shaking with Parkinson's at the time and smiled and asked Fred when he was going to grow up.

Not long after that Gladys was gone.

Another thing I have is that I remember a lot of town characters as a child. Bo and Charlie Phillips were a pair of brothers and they were both cut from different bolts of cloth.

Bo ran a general store of sorts and I used to buy popsicles from him for a nickel. He was one of those squinty eyed sober New England merchants but I recall he was pretty good to kids. He and his wife who to this day I only knew as Mrs Phillips lived upstairs in the building that housed the store as was common at the time.

After he died a few years before his brother Charlie, the neighborhood kids looked out for her to an extent. One Halloween someone soaped her windows and a group of us hunted the perps down and beat the hell out of them. I think I was about 12 at the time and we were not kind to the vandals.

Charlie was much different than Bo, he was a colorful New England lobsterman with a taste for cheap rye whisky and Rupert's Knickerbocker beer. He kept his boat at Damon's Point and drank quite a bit if I recall. Just about everything he owned, his house and boat, always seemed to need a coat of paint or three. The house really was sort of an eyesore if my memory serves.

I do remember that people said that Bo was always after his big brother to clean up his act and of course, he outlived his sober clean living brother. I don't recall if Charlie was married or not.

The store is now a residence and it would be fun to knock on the door and tell them about being six or seven years old and buying Popsicles in their living room. I remember the smells, too. There was an aroma of axe handles and twine in the place and I wonder how long it took to make the place smell like a house after it was sold when Mrs. Phillips died.


Right now I am doing worse than I was several hours ago.

This is not surprising as learning curves are not really straight lines. They are full of little dips and plateaus. What matters is persistance. You have to keep after it.

You also have to know when to back off and regroup. I've had enough for one watch so I think I'll bag the code for the rest of the watch.

Nobody here is going to steal it so it will be there when I wake up in the morning.


One of the things I would like to do is go for a long walk through the woods of my childhood and see how much it has changed since I moved out in the very early 70s.

I would want to do it right but I fear I can't. The proper uniform for this is a pair of WW2 combat boots, the 2 buckes on the flap kind and a surplus trench knife stuck into the boot but in this day and age someone would go into a dither. This is a joke because I was often seen packing a 12 gauge shotgun going down the street back in the day.

I'd like to look at the old well house foundation I used as a safe place to blow things up and wander down through the soggy ground through the skunk cabbage to Bare's Brook. From there I'd climb the old tear drop shaped hill left over from a retreating glacier and walk along the ridge and down to where Bare's Brook farm was. I don't think the woods between Bare's Brook Farm and the sand pit has changed.

Many a battle was fought there between warring factions of neighborhood kids and after I comb the battleground for relics of childhood wars I would mosey on through the woods to the waterfall which I believe is still there. It is the source for Bare's Brook.

I believe it is Steve Tyler of Aerosmith lives in the area and I wonder whose house he lives in. I very likely may have played in it. I do not know for sure. While it may not be Tyler, one of the Aerosmith guys lives there unless he has moved recently. I think it is Tyler but I am not 100% sure.

After I emerged from the side of the pond I would walk up the street and hook a right and wander into the post office and look at the wanted posters. 'Wanted by the FBI'. If you have a minute, Google 'One-eyed Bobby Wilkcoxson'. I remember his poster. Maybe it's Wilcockson or even Wilcox but I do remember the face and the poster for certain.

Then I think I'd wander down to the pond at the bottom of the street and if if was summer I'd sneak into the bushes and put on a pair of cut-offs and swim out to the island and back and dry off and switch back into jeans and wander up the hill behind the pond and follow the ridge back to where I come down to where I grew up and sneak through the backyard and get back into my truck and leave.

After that I'd go up to the cemetary and visit my parents.

I used to bring a nip of pretty good hooch, generally scotch, with me and split it with my dad, pouring half on his grave to give him a little taste for the afterlife. Now that my mother is there I am going to have to think twice about it to keep the old man out of hot water with Ma.

I'll think of something.


One of the things I did today was reset my damned watch. It's a Timex Expedition and somehow, somewhere along the line the alarm got set to 1305 and for well over a year now I have had to push the off button every weekday at 1305.

It was one of those minor annyoances that it really wasn't worth stopping what I was doing to reset the damned thing because it would be a hassle.

Anyway, today I had nothing to do so I sat down and figured it out.

While I was at it I somehow managed to reverse the time zones so I had to figure that one out. Now I have it right. One good thing is the second time zone is UTC and that never changes but every 6 months I have to move the hour setting for local time up or down an hour for the EST/EDT conversion after which I replace the batteries in my smoke detector.

It was a hassle and to tell you the truth, if I wasn't so damned bored I would have simpy left it alone. There are often some things that are not really worth dealing with and that was one of them. Unless, of course, you are totally bored to tears and are desperate for something constructive to do.


Someone just asked me if I was writin' a *&$%in' book.

I told him I was writing a mystery and when he asked my why, I intentionally misunderstood him.

"It's going to be a mystery because I am going to leave your chapter out," I replied.

He seemed satisfied.


Larry the Cable Guy sometimes amuses me.

While I really don't care much for his bathroom comments, (childish) I do get a hoot out of his History Channel show about how we do a few things in this country.

I wonder how people overseas look at some of the off the wall things we do in this country like have trailer races and frog jumping contests.

Back in '77 I took third place for accuracy at the Cripple Creek , Colorado tobacco spitting contest during their annual 'Donkey Derby Days' festival. A lot of people afterwards said I should have been declared the winner because the majority of my wad went clean into the spitoon.

The guy that won for distance got his picture on page one of one of the Colorado Springs newspapers. It was a pretty good new picture. The photographer's timeing was perfect. He caught the guy with about a foot long string cjust exiting his mouth. It was pretty nasty when you think about it but so was the entire contest when you think about it.

I could see Larry there right in the middle of things interviewing people.

He'd be a natural for that one.

I wonder if he can spit tobacco with any sort of style?


Well I entered my morning CW lesson late as I opted for an old Clint Eastwood movie to wake up on. I didn't sleep for sour apples last night.

I broke 50% at 10 wpm which isn't QUITE as bad as I expected. I'll run through the alphabet a couple more times and put it up until the evening watch and then see if I can get it up another point or two. My plan is when I hit 75% I am going to pick up the speed a word a minute and when I get 80% at 11 wpm I'll bring it up another and so on until I can read 15 words a minute.

Maybe I will try working all states in CW. Who knows.

I didn't watch the news this morning because I get angry and I figured I could use a break. I could use a day away from stupidity. Most of the news is nothing but one big daily stupidity report.

Well, I just spoke and sure enough one of the guys just clicked on the boob tube and went straight to the news. Apparently there is some ship that went aground in Italy and as usual I'll bet that the crew panicked and ran for the boats and left the passengers. Third world crews are world famous for that.

If you decide to go on a cruise, check up on not only the flag of registry but the nationality of the deck and engine crews. If the flag os Panamanian of Liberian, stay clear and if the crew-either engine, and especially deck crews are third world, stay away.

I am trying to remember the captain that ordered 'abandon ship' as the lifeboat he was in was being lowered. The man belongs in a tuna can. Chicken of the Sea.

Now there is footage of Iranian gunboats zipping along. I think the Iranian navy is about to realize that when they contract out for new boats that they should have glass bottoms so they can look at the old Iranian Navy.

The US Navy is not an organization anyone wants to have mad at them.

Oops...There's the presidential race. I guess I'll just skip that part. I am not in the mood for politics. It is just a bunch of talking heads that are opining about what they think will happen.

Who can beat President Obama?

Right now, if from what I have heard several liberal Democrats have said, just about anybody can. Then again look to the RNC to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They are doing what the Democrats did 8 years ago.

They shouted 'Anybody but Bush!" Then they ran an anybody and he lost. Watch the RNC do just that this year.

What it is time to do is make it clear to our representatives that if they do not shape up they will either be in the unemployment line or be handed a blindfold and a cigarette.

Dammit! I just watched the news and I'm miffed again as usual.

I just hit a 59% which does not mean a lot. I still have a lot of letters that make me draw blank and I guess I am going to have to go back to the book and hammer it into my head a bit more.

Up a bit early for this watch as I could not sleep for very long. One each catnap and that's about it. Back to the grindstone.

I just looked at this tug and noticed that because of the tonnage I could easily run it on my license. There are a number of reason I licensed even though I do not currently need if for this job. I am one of a very few in this business with a sailing endorsement on my license and that is part of the reason. I can give sailing lessons on it.

Another reason I got it was to be able to shut a few people up. There are a very small percentage of wheelhouse people out there that think that their licenses give them a monopoly on the brains of the world simply because they have one. Mine is an inspected license and although most of the better mariners out here also have an insected license it sometimes seems that the most of jerks run on the old operator's license.

Over the years I have humiliated a couple of skippers in front of their crews by simply stating, "MY license says U.S. Merchant Marine officer on it. Why don't YOU start addressing ME as Captain, Mister uninspected Operator!"

The very, very few times I have done this the crew working for the man has hailed me as a hero. That tell you anything?

One pompous ass had to put up with his crew referring to me as 'captain' to remind him of it for quite some time. Needless to say they didn't like him a whole lot.

You really have to work on getting me riled, but when I do it's like Krakatoa going off.

I also got the license simply for the sake of having something to show for my time out here. When my mom was alive she was constantly yapping at me to go back to school. When I sent her a copy of my license I pointed out that it took me a lot more time to earn it than id would a degree and that a degree wasn't marketable but a license was.

There are other reasons I got licensed but we'll get into that later.


This little CW program has another setting, one for tones.

CW seems to arrive in different tones, from a low tone to a pretty high tone that listening to it for long will probably give me a headache but I'm swapping the tones around every so often to get used to the real world.

I shot a mid 60s a on code while ago but this last time I dropped to a 56. Ups and downs.


There is some movie going on in the background. Bruce Willis is beating up a bunch of people while clad in Army Mess Dress, which is a very formal dress uniform. He looks stupid fighting in such an outfit.

I don't recognize the movie, but that's nothing new.

Incidentally I want to see the movie 'Red Tails' when I get off and see how historically accurate it is or if it is another one of those 'Lookie what we did' movies.

For years I have screamed that the truth is enough and you don't have to make bigger heroes out of guys than they really were. The Tuskegee Airmen did fight predjudice and overcame and set one very special combat record. They never lost an enemy bomber due to enemy fighter action. I think that says enough. As a matter of fact, I am probably here today because of them. My father as a bombardier and had his bacon saved by them somewhere aong the line.

While the Tuskegee Airmen were a fine organization they were not the entire Army Air Corps, but a small part of it.

In the mini-series, 'Band of Brothers', one can get the idea that these were special guys and in one sense they were, but the series only covers one company. There were nine such companies in a regiment and there were four regiments in the 101st Airborne Division. That's 36 companies in a single division and there were an awful lot of divisions fielded into the European theater.

Many people who saw the series know who 'Shifty' Powers was but they often seem to forget that there were an awful lot of small town guys just like him.

I'd like to say that by pointing this out it doesn't belittle the deeds of these men in any way whatsoever, it just brings a lot of other unnamed people up to the proper level of admiration and respect. Betcha Shifty and the rest of them would be the first to agree with me on this one.

Recently Major Dick Winters died and he had a humongous funeral with people from all over in attendance. I honestly wonder how many like him were simply buried quietly by their families, or even just wound up in a potter's field somewhere.

Somewhere along the line I read where some Pacific Marine with a Navy Cross and several other decorations was saved from obsurity because of a police record. He died alone somewhere in a room of some sort and the local police ran a check on him to try and find a next of kin they found nobody but discovered a long forgotten note about a drunken fight (or something along these lines) back in 1946 or around then. It mentioned that the police let that one slide because he held a Navy Cross.

The local American Legion threw a hasty burial party together for the guy and made sure he was laid to rest properly.


One of the things this code business is going to do is probably help me improve my typing. There are quite a few errors in this blog and it is not that I can't spell. Truth is I am a lousy typist. This code business is going to be pretty helpful any way I slice it even if I do not get good at it.

I'm 60 now and I heard that memory loss and stuff like that starts around 45. I figure that keeping the old mental hard drive cranking regularly will pay off in the long run.

The more you know the more you can lose and with Alzheimer's running in my mother's side of the family I think I am going to need all the help I can get.

I am going in for my annual physical when I get off and this doctor is pretty good. He has at least half a brain. It got back to him that I told the cardiologist that my 83 year old mother died in a knife fight at a strip club on wet t-shirt night. When I explained to him why I did that he agreed that it didn't make a whole lot sense for them to even ask about what killed someone in their 80s.

Actually the cardiologist didn't throw a fit, he laughed. It was the Big Nurse that threw a fit.

He did chew me out when I told him he ought to buy that nurse of his a set of antlers, but I think that was just to appease her because when she wasn't looking he looked at her for a minute and turned to me and snickered as she was walking off.


Speaking of doctors in the earlier post, mine once asked me about life at sea and I explained to him that as far as I know the physiological changes are different in each individual.

Of course, my sleep patterns change, they do for everyone out here except a lucky few that are true night owls. I know a mate that sleeps until the afternoon when she is home. (Yeah, it's a woman. She's damned good at what she does.) She generally lives most of her life in darkness. I was like that several years ago. A lot of people used to call me 'Doctor of Darkness'.

But for most people they go through a change in sleep patterns when they return to work.

I think the biggest change I go through is in my digestive system because my diet on the beach is markedly different than it is out here. At sea things to a certain extent reduce to the least common denominator and it is hard to eat right out here when the cook tends to make too much comfort food.

The night before I crew change and come back aboard I have a huge salad and iced tea for roughage to help the first day or two back.

The first couple of days I tend to bind up a bit unless the water is bad then all bets are off. The salad the night before I come aboard helps make the transition easier.

Adapting to life on the beach and getting back in sychronization with things is pretty easy. I stop off on the way home and snag a couple or three of slices of Sbarro pizza and a 4 pack of Guiness and when I get home I down the entire thing. If it doesn't seem like it is going to knock me out I'll add a snort or two and drop right off.

When I wake up in the morning my innards are back in sync and so are my sleep patterns. It doesn't take a whole lot when I get home to get back on schedule. Just some greasy pizza and Guiness.

It's probably the same for guys in the Navy except they get more options come mealtimes. I'd say it's true for GIs, too as they switch to an MRE diet when they deploy. I'll bet every GI has his own little set of tricks for making the transition to a different lifestyle.


I am halfway through another watch and I think I will stick my nose back into the code for a bit and then take another break. Shower and shave tomorrow morning.

Because we are on a long trip basic water is rationed to a certain degree. Long showers are out of the question and we are expected to hop in for a shower every other day and lay on the deodorant. On shorter trips I am not on the tug, but the guys can use as much water as they want as we can fill the water tanks a whole lot more often.

Some of the guys gripe about this but I do not. While I would like to be able to take long warm showers once or twice a day I know what water rationing is. I crossed from Honolulu to Tacoma once back in '89 and the only thing we had for an entire 19 days was a gallon's worth of sun shower each about halfway across.

I did manage to sail us right into a squall and get naked and soap down and rinse off. The whiner was too good for that, though. He looked disgusted in rain gear as I stood in the cockpit bollicky base-assed showering off in the tropic rain. He griped about the squall, which I had intentionally steered us into.

When I confided with the skipper about that later, he confessed that sometimes he did the same thing.

I think I also managed to get several gallons of fresh water out of that squall that I caught in a pail and stored in a water bladder. We made coffee out of it but before I collected the rainwater out of the sails I made damned good and sure they first got a good rinsing to get the salt off of them.

Of course, we smelled pretty ripe but only one of the four of us whined about it. Most of us figured we smelled at least as bad as the guy next to us so we simply shut up about it.

I caught the whiner using water when nobody was looking and twice I came down rock hard on him. Most of the guys out here that have had no sailboat delivery or long haul commercial fishing time behind them do not really understand true water discipline. We still use water and run the dishwasher but when I was sailing blue water we used seawater to clean dishes and boil spuds.

You even brush your teeth with seawater. However, you can not bathe seawater it because it causes salt water boils. Ouch!

Fresh water was only used for making coffee and drinking. That is because sailboats have very small fresh water tanks. If I recall we arrived at Tacoma with about 5 gallons of fresh water. That was what was left over for four guys. It got a bit dicey toward the end, yet the idiot that griped the whole way never seemed to get it.

About halfway along the fresh water tank ran dry and we had to break out 5 gallon collapsable water bladders. When that happened the captain was pretty cool about it. He and I had a quiet chat and we both decided to act like we were out for a full day to make things sink in with the whiner. It did until he broke out the first of the 5 gallon bladders.

While I suppose nobody would say anything if I hit the rain locker about 12 hours early because I would like to, I won't just for the sake of discipline.

Over the years there have been a lot of people that have asked me how I could stand living that way. Truth is you don't. Nobody likes running around smelling bad enough to knock buzzards off of gutwagons. You simply have to decide in advance that you are going to let your sense of adventure over ride your desire to stay clean. It is a sacrifice you make to be in the ranks of Blue Water Sailors.

I wonder how much griping would go on with my present crew if they had gone along on that trip. A lot of guys that have entered this business in the last couple of decades have not experienced primitive conditions at sea. It would be interesting to find out.

Frankly, I enjoyed my trip from Honolulu to Tacoma as a celebration of life and am certainly glad I did it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat but you can bet your seaboots I wouldn't want to take another whiner aboard.


There are 12 sets of opposites in the Morse code.

The letters H and C are leftovers and have no opposites.

I just sat down a minute ago and figured that one out. While Iknew there were a bunch of opposites, I didn't know that out of 26 letters that 24 of them were opposites.



Speaking of interesting, there's one more thing about The Most Interesting Man in the World.

When he flies, the TSA goes through every item in his bags because they find them...interesting


Right now the news is covering the shipwreck in Italy and a couple of the surviving passengers are telling everyone how terrible it was to go through such an ordeal.


Who would have ever thought such a thing!

Frankly I a mildly surprised this does not happen more often.

It isn't so much the grounding that upsets me as it was the conduct of the officers and crew, who seemed to take to the boats before the passengers. While I heard that there were individual acts of heroism on some of the crew the fact that the captain abandoned ship ahead of many of the passengers really did not surprise me very much.

I am hazarding somewhat of a guess that the man was given the job for the wrong reasons.

While the captain of, for example, a tug or fishing boat is hired for his ability to catch fish or move cargo, a cruise ship captain is often hired for his ability to schmooze the general public.

Seamanship is likely often secondary to hiring a cruise ship officer. To be an officer on such a vessel charm school is often times put ahead of radar school as far as the shipping companies go.

In our business we are often forced to change course right in the middle of a trip for various reasons, weather being one. An awful lot of crybabies would throw a hissy fit if they didn't get to go to their little special port and see the sights there. People do not realize that you cannot change the weather and it is far better to be flexible.

Cruise captains know this and are somewhat loathe to change plans on their passengers unless they absolutely have to. They also have to stay on shedule and and keep both their bosses and the passengers happy. A cruise boat captain has to be the master of illusion.

Passengers are pretty quick to demand a refund if their little dream vacation doesn't turn out to be just so and because of this the ability to smoothly schmooze the public is a top priority when it comes to hiring a captain.

Then you also have to look at the rest of the crew, which are generally hired based on their willingness to work for whatever wages the shipping company decided to pay. Generally this does not mean the best and brightest are likely to show up.

Quite frankly if I wanted to go on some kind of a cruise I would take a different tack. I would try and find a berth on some kind of working vessel like a container ship of maybe even a car carrier.

Years ago tramp steamers as they were called used to take a few passengers. It was pretty informal and you simply ate with the crew. The accomodations, while fairly plain were reasonably comfortable and you were pretty much on your own for entertainment. You often didn't even know where you were going in advance because the rest of the crew didn't know, either. They went to where there was a cargo to be had.

On good days you took a book out on a chaise lounge and enjoyed both the book and the weather.

One thing you didn't have to deal with was the incessant flow of pretentious crap about how my son is at Harvard Law School (While the little thug is really sitting in the can pulling 2 years for B&E)

What is more important is that the officers and crew are generally hired on the simply basis of competence and you didn't have to deal with a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

All of this is fine and dandy until something happens and then it becomes catch as catch can and you are pretty likely to find yourself left to your own devices.

When Titanic went down Molly Brown took charge of the lifeboat she was on and ordered a number of people to man the oars. One man tried to beg off, pleading a heart condition but Molly proved to be a capable leader for the situation. She simply pulled out a pistol and gave him the choice of heart conditions. Everyone on her boat fared well.


Today is Martin Luther King, Jr Day

which is, in my opinion, a day set aside to appease 11% of the population.

While I won't smear the man and I truly respect him, I do not rate him as being as worthy of a holiday as George Washington.

Of course the talking heads on Fox are babbling about how Brothers Jesse and Al are claiming his memory is being smeared.

I don't think it is being smeared by most of us. I think it being smeared is by Brothers Jesse and Al.

King pushed for self reliance and accepting responsibility for one's life. He fought against an awful lot of what we see today in what is often referred to as Black culture.

Brothers Al and Jesse seem to busy trying to keep a pretty good sized chunk of a race shackled in the golden handcuffs of welfare and dependency. Both of these two idiots are doing the memory of Dr. King quite a disservice.


Sixty-two percent. Getting a little better. Earlier I wrote the whole code out by memory to figure out which were opposites. Writing it out and reading it are two different things. I know I can send it well, but I still can't read it very well at all.


In the background. More information about the ship cruise. As is to be expected by poorly trained crews there were what passengers call multiple acts of cowardice.

Panicky untrained third world crewmen. That'll do it every time.

Incidentally, if this tug rolls I am most likely dead, but if it is holed and sinks there is an excellent chance that all hands will survive because we have been pretty well trained. We can deploy the raft in seconds and everyone knows how to don a survival suit, along with a boatload of other things.

While there are a few training items we gun deck, for the most part we take our training seriously. We did a lifeboat drill when I came on and I got a pretty good briefing from the mate. The skipper also taught me a few basics on driving this rig.

Of course, I know how to steer but there are a lot of differences between boats so I got a crash course on how to switch the steering over to manual on this particular rig. It's only a switch but knowing that can make all the difference in the world. If something were to happen to either the skipper or the mate I would be able to step right in and at least be able to spell him and give someone at least some sleep.


More news is in the background but it is on politics and is nothing more than a bunch of hot air. Most of them simply deserve a cigarette and a blindfold simply because of who they are.

For those which do not like gun violence I suppose a short rope and a long tree would allow them an option.

I suppose it really doesn't mean a lot as to who gets elected. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

We'll get fooled again. We always do.


Now Iran is sticking their twisted little head up.

Twist it off right off the bat.

Being a prick to places like that and hammering them right off the bat would save us a lot of long term grief. A couple day rolling air bombardment on Tehran simply for the hell of it would do wonders for keeping them in line. Hell, even one pass with a couple of carrier based aircraft.

"We're going to block the strait!"

Two days later contractors show up to start rebuilding their capitol building, power plant and a few other odds and ends. Meanwhile back in Houston Boots and Coots are loading an airplane with their oil well fire puter-outer stuff and are planning a flight to Tehran airport, counting their incoming money as they load up.

Washington: "Having second thoughts about the strait?"

It sounds cruel but in the long run it isn't. We won't have to wind up having to deal with their crap for quite a long time after that.

Remember how Reagan plastered Tripoli?

We didn't hear from Khaddafi for an awful long time after that, now. Did we? In fact, after that he got somewhat tolorable.

The attack on Tripoli didn't take a whole lot, basically just some target practice for a carrier group when you look at it that way.

Another thing we have to learn to say to people is "That's just too goddamned bad."


I just got upset with myself and decided to turn up the heat and set the code program from 10 to 15 wpm and I'll be shipped in dit. I got the same (60%) score I did when I was running 10 wpm.

I think it was because I didn't have time to overthink things and simply started reacting.

Several years ago at Camp Perry during a Springfield match a similar thing happened. I lost some of my time because my glasses broke and it stook several seconds to fix them. I played catch-up with my first five shots and on the reload my stripper clip fell apart and I lost more time stuffing the rounds into the mag by hand. I played catch-up again, getting my last shot off as the targets were going down.

I scored a 96 with 5 in the X-ring. Go figure. Two nines and an eight at 12 O'clock. The last shot was the eight that I cranked off as the targets were going down. My scorer opined it would have either been a ten or an X.

Later on I checked in with the Marine rifle team and a grumbled about it and listened to the Marines laugh because all of them have had similar train wrecks on the firing line.

A senior gunny overheard it and came up to me and asked my score. When I told him what it was he asked me what rifle I was using. When I told him I was using a 1903 Springfield his eyes grew wide and he said he didn't think any of his guys could do any better under the circumstances.

He then proceeeed to comment that I must have trained well with it because it was obvious I had simply fallen back on my instincts and training.

I think the same thing just happened with the code. I didn't stop to think, I simply reacted.
I actually found that the part that I had to think about was the keyboard. I have said before I am a lousy typist and maybe I can get myself to type 20 wpm while reading code and maybe a bit faster eventually but I think my limit on writing it down will eventually be determined by my ability to type. That's years from now so we'll see what happens.

Earlier today one of the crew that is an academy guy mentioned that he had to learn (and has since forgotten) the code for the flashing light part of his license exams. ( think they did away with this, but I am not sure)

Anyway, he looked at me and said that the military did away with using code because people in other countries knew all the characters. Duh. I looked at him feigning shock.

"You mean to tell me that people overseas understand the International Morse Code?" I asked.

It took a couple seconds. Blush.

Afternote. After I finished this post I went to the head and on a whim cranked it up to 25 wpm. I scored a 52%. Go figure. From now on I think I am going to work at 15 wpm, at least for a while.


Background: DiNiro and Pesci in 'Casino'. I'm not watching it.

I discovered a great feature of this 'Just learn Morse Code' program and this is what I am doing. You can set it to send entire words and they will print them out for you as they beep them out.

I just put on the headset and turn 90 degrees from the screen and with a tablet and pen on my lap I write down what it says. I an still nowhere near good enough to go on the air with any but themost patient people in the world as I am still nowhere near close enough to be considered much more than a VERY rank beginner. I keep having brain farts and have an awful lot of upps and downs.

Still, this writing things down brings code to the real world because when I go on the air I am going to have to do just that. Besides it is too difficult to type when the answers are in your face. Better to turn away from the computer screen.

During WW2 most of the radio operators used to sit in front of a typewriter and type out what they heard. While I suppose I could use this laptop I think that I am going to learn on paper as paper needs no batteries.

Incidentally, on a certain shooters website I am thinking of forming an Amateur radio club for the sole purpose of petitioning the CMP for a special events call sign for the summer National Matches at Camp Perry.

Maybe by that time I might be good enough to do a little CW on 30 meters or something. We'll see.

Sorry for all the boring talk of CW but that is what I am doing out here for a good part of my watch as we can't work outside underway.


We can see land in the offing but there is still no cell service and as such, no internet. We must be close to BFE. There are pretty good sized chunks of the coast off of Florida that have little or no cell service. We may have some come tomorrow but that is most likely not going to last too long as we are probably going to be running offshore in this good weather to take advantage of the Gulf Stream up the east coast.

I do not see posting for several more days.

Earlier one of the guys got a 2 minute call out by holing up in the upper wheelhouse, but it was a fluke. I hope he didn't connect with one of the oil rigs as if he did he is going to get a nasty surprise when his bill comes in.

My cell bill is a flat rate no matter what so even if I did go through an oil rig that wouldn't cost me anything. Of course, the Wally World people are smart enough so that my phone won't get through on oil rig towers.


My cell is running between no service and one bar. Key end result is I cannot post yet. This is as close as we will be to shore for a while. By the time we get there I very well have written a damned book.


The Italian shipwreck seems to have taken some of the heat off of the 4 Marines that supposidly urinated on the Taliban corpses. I suppose that is a good thing for the Corps but it ain't gonna save the skins of the 4 Marines.

My guess is that somewhere along the line you are going to find a US serviceman with religious beliefs that is going to say a prayer over enemy dead and some $hit-stirring athiest is going to start some kind of an uproar and babble that it is unconstitutional.

This has happened before. I read somewhere that there was a Pacific Marine that had a knack for killing Japanese. After he'd kill one he would bow his head in prayer.

I'd be pretty careful about doing that in this day and age.

Incidentally, the news just showed a picture of the captain of Condordia whatever.
One glance and it looks to me like he was hired for his good looks. While I don't have any access to his records I'd just bet he was one of those Italian models you see in the body spray ads, or at least he looks it.

Incidentally, cowardly skippering is not necessarily and Italian thing. When Stockholm smacked Andrea Doria back in the 50s the skipper of Andrea Doria was a good officer. He tended to the passengers and if I recall he was the last one off.

For what it is worth, my aunt sailed SS United States to Europe when she was in her 20s.

Background: Politics.

One thing I have to say about Newt Gingrich is that he supports the 2nd Amendment.

That tells me that if he was elected he would probably behave himself because when you think about it most politicians are probably scared of people having the right to keep and bear arms.

After all, the 2nd Amendment ain't about duck hunting. It was put there to give the people the tools needed to boot a bad government out. If a politician opposes the 2nd Amendment it tells me that he's got some kind of bright ideas about something I don't want in my life.


The engineer decided to bake a pie last night. He baked it 2/3s of the way and will finish baking it this evening. I think the reason he did that is because he got a bit miffed over what happened to the brownies the deckhand make a few nights ago.

Everyone had a brownie after dinner except him for some reason. I think he only had a small piece of one, which is somewhat foolish. he general rules of leftovers is that after the meal is over the leftovers are anybodys.

Needless to say, after the night watch tore the leftovers up and when the engineer got up the next morning they were gone. What did he expect?

Baked goods go fast on any boat.

News. Barbie dolls are being banned in Iran for some reason or another. They showed Barbie dolls in Muslim dress and I suppose by Iranian standards they looked decent.

If the Iranians want something to gripe about they can block the strait.

Then the US Navy will cheerfully give them something to whine about.

I wish the Iranians would simply go away. They can go away mad if they want or they can go away happy. I don't care. I just wish they would go away.

Maybe it is a good thing I am not president because my answer to a lot of this whining would be to give them something to whine about.

"Sergeant, I don't like it when a soldier reports to me out of uniform. Get the hell out of my sight, get rid of that Spec-4 device, sew on some sergeant's stripes and report back to me tomorrow in the proper uniform. Have someone cut the orders and I'll sign them myself. You've been doing one hell of a good job!"

"What? Some jerkwater little hell-hole somewhere is threatening us with what? Which one, not that it matters. Oh... Them... No problem."

"Hello. Joint Chiefs of staff? Guess what? Job opportunities! Get a carrier group or three on it...Yeah, the usual. Just plaster all power plants and don't forget to drop a coupla, three bunker busters into the Royal palace or whatever they call it. Just get their attention, that's all. You know the drill. Just make them an offer they can't refuse."

Two days later: "They want to return all the hostages?...More than they took?...OK, but they can keep the French ones....They don't want them? Oh, well... Just tell them to send them all to Stennis and send a check for their airfare and we'll fly them all home...Hey, when you're done let's hop into Marine One and buzz on down to Quantico and we'll have a couple at the NCO club. I like drinking with sergeants. Sergeants do a pretty good job of keeping the stuffy generals and other riff-raff out."

The other side of the coin: "The Grand Caliph of where? Where the hell is that place?...Wait a minute... That's the dinky little place that saved our two Air Force pilots last year and took damned good care of them... They want to open trade relations and sell us coffee? Hell, why not? Bring him up here and we'll talk about it. Send Air Force One down to pick him up! Watch what happens when I offer him his choice of a return flight. He can either fly back in Air Force One or in the back seat of an F-16. Betcha his face lights up when I offer him a ride home in an F-16!"

"Why is there always a half-full bottle of Jim Beam on the podium when I speak? It's to remind Americans that they ought to buy American products. For everyone else it is to let them think that the nuclear football is in the hands of a drunk!"

"So some group of athiests wants the memorial cross the Marines built taken down? The ACLU is getting involved? Lease the 10 foot by 10 foot spot of land the cross is on to the local church for a buck a year. Yeah, I know. They're like everybody else. It only takes a couple whiners to give the rest of them a black eye. They don't have to have a religion if they don't want. This ain't Iran. Hell, when's the last time you saw me in church? Saint Matteresses don't count."

"Tell that Corpsman that got the Navy Cross pinned on him last week that I'd like to have him over the house for a backyard dinner and a couple of pops. Find out what he drinks...No, not the White House, MY house... And tell him jeans and a T-shirt are fine and that we're out of school. Dry cleaning uniforms costs money and he's only an E-4. Besides we're probably gonna get dirty. Half the fun is getting barbecue sauce on your shirt. "

"Four Marines urinated on a Taliban corpse? ...So?...What is going to be done about it? Just take away their beer for a week...They don't have any beer? Deliver them a case apiece right this instant and as soon as they open one up let them have one single swig and then take it away from them...No, don't put anything on their record. Taking a Marine's beer away is more than enough punishment. Oh, and make sure the beer you give them before you take it away from them is ice cold. I want this one to hurt. Next!"

"Hey, here's a good one! Some kid made Eagle Scout with a pair of artificial legs. I was planning on pinning a DSM on that GI that lost both his legs sometime next week. Let's make it a double ceremony!"

"Ever since I ordered that the prisoners in Gitmo eat what the Marines eat I've noticed an awful lot of letters of thanks coming in from the pig farmers. When I had a beer at the NCO club in Quantico one of the sergeants mentioned that the Marines down there are demanding an awful lot of pork...What am I gonna do about it? Nothing. I don't care what the Marines in Gitmo want to eat. Give them what they want."

"Yes, I am taking Air Force One... Not that big lummox that can't get out of its own way, the other Air Force One...The little one that goes like the hammers of hell... Yes, the F-16. The fishing is pretty goood in Pensacola and I figure I can get some in this afternoon...No, don't tell them I'm coming because if you do that every sailor down there will spend the next three hours picking up cigarette butts."

"No, I am NOT taking that diamond incrusted gold sword the Caliph sent me. He sent that to the President of the United States and it stays here when I leave office. What I AM taking are some of the gifts that were given specifically to Piccolo, like the rifle the Marine armorer made me. He told me specifically he was gifting it to me personally. I'm also taking the bracelet that busted up GI, Specialist Cinzano made me in the hospital after he got torn up."

"Get five or six cases of cold beer. I got me some politickin' to do! Seems up in Alaska the fishermen and loggers are tangling over a couple of salmon streams again. I'm gonna meet with them both at once and settle it once and for all. The loggers are going to keep their slash out of the stream and not drop any trees into it so the salmon can swim upstream to spawn. If they will agree to that, they can log. Then I'm going to get a deckhand job on one of the fish boats. Alaska is nice that time of year and you can bet your ass the loggers won't put a single matchstick into the stream if I'm fishing in that area!"

"Whaddya mean I can't go fishing out of Kodiak? I can run the country from the deck of a fish boat. That's what they make satellite phones for. The nuclear football? ... Yeah?... So?... It'll fit under the bunk."

"Now let me get this straight. You have lost both legs and one arm, you can pass the PT test and the bastards still want to discharge you but you want to stay in...You want jump school and to go back to the grunts? You asked for it! Good luck!"

"Yeah, I saw on CNN where the crew of Stennis was heard singing one of those nasty sea chantys while I was on board. Now go let it slip to them that I was singing right along with them! After all I was a merchant seaman long before I got elected. What's the big deal?"

"Go ask that idiot senator from Massachusetts why he's raping the taxpayer by having a staff three times bigger than mine...No, I'll do that next week when I address the Union. It'll rile everyone up a lot more that way. Maybe he'll get recalled and I won't have to listen to his crap anymore."


"No, when Stennis crossed the equator King Neptune did NOT give me a pass. He didn't give Harry Truman a pass so why should he give one to me? For the record, I am already a shellback. In fact if you took the time to notice I was the guy wearing a diaper getting my belly kissed. In fact, that's the reason I brought Al Sharpton along. You shoulda seen the look on his face when he was told to kiss the baby's belly! His jaw dropped and he started running his mouth about dignity until Chief Benson shouted, 'Quick! Before we turn the baby over!' Sharpton was too late. I rolled over just in time."

"No, I did not have sex with that aide. I wouldn't because she's just too damned skinny. I like 'em built like Anna Nicole Smith! Now that lusty looking zuftag that works in the kitchen is one I'd nail like a Mexican roofing crew if I ever got the chance!"

"Remember when the State Department recommended that I did not take the Prime Minister to my house for the weekend? Guess what? He wants my recipe for chili. Oh, yeah. He also sent back the rotten sneakers I loaned him when we went fishing."

"So some guy in Massachusetts shot and killed SIX home invaders?...The Mass AG is prosecuting him for six counts of murder? ...Get the AG himself down to the governor's office and tell him we're going to make this terrible crime a Federal example and we're prosecuting it and not him. Then have the AG botch the case so he walks. I feel like pinning the Presidential Medal of Freedom on someone and he sounds like a pretty good candidate."

"Thanks, Corporal."

"Pirates are working out of the port of...Oh, who cares what port it is. Just flatten it. Maybe that will make that little backwash nation police itself a little better."

"Gunnery Sergeant!! Gunny!!! Run over to 8th and I and tell your boss that there's work comin' up!"

"I don't give a damn what he says about the President of the United States, but when he drags my kid sister into it he stopped picking on the president and started picking on Piccolo. Tell the son of a bitch to meet me at the gym in one hour. Get me the boxing gloves! Oh, and don't forget to thank Gunny Ziccado for sewing the horseshoes into them!"

"Re-election? I dunno. Haven't I pi$$ed off enough liberals in the past four years? ...Oh, why not! Maybe next term I can make Sarah Brady cry!"

"Come to think of it, I WILL run for re-election, but I need a new campaign manager. Get Gunnery Sergeant R.Lee Ermey on the horn, MOST riki-tik!"

"So they want how much money for foriegn aid? Hah! Fat chance. We got no money for that crap. Of course if they don't behave themselves I'm sure the Joint Chiefs of Staff can dig up a few bucks worth of missiles and stuff to make them wish they HAD behaved themselves!"

"Tell him I told him to and he was working on my explicit orders...No, I didn't give the order but tell him I did. Then ask him what he's going to do about it...Yeah, I know. I'm just tired of listening to him bellyache."

"So what if he's the head of state? He knows that $hit rolls downhill...Or he's going to find out damned soon. Tell him that if he doesn't like it he ought to move out of the valley!"

"You dumbasses would arrest someone for shouting 'theater' at a crowded fire. The Navy sunk 6 Iranian gunboats. Big deal. You don't wake me up for that. It's like waking me up to report that the janitor swept the floor. You wake me up if someone sinks one of ours!"

"No we are NOT going to tell the public which one of our military units pulled off that raid. It will endanger our service people by making them suceptible to retaliatory attacks."

Two weeks later on nationwide TV: "The man that replaced Usama bin Laden is dead. I am not going to identify of our people that took him out for their protection from vengeful retaliatory attacks. In other unrelated news I will neither confirm nor deny that the Boy Scouts have just awarded a number of marksmanship merit badges to a number of Scouts. To those forces of evil out there that wish us ill, my advice is to take a tip from the Boy Scouts. Be prepared."

" What do you mean why am I putting a stamp on that envelope? It's a card to my kid sister, that's why. Piccolo is sending it, not the President. It's not official. You seem to forget that some poor bastard has to wake up and go to work to pay for all of this and it isn't right to abuse it. While we're on the subject, quit taking pens and stuff home with you."


Hey, this is pretty good and if you have read this far you ought to read what I just did to the pie the engineer has been guarding.

He baked it in a cast iron skillet and it is covered with tin foil. When he made his last round I carefully raised the tinfoil around the whole pie about 3/16th of an inch and collapsed a wedge shaped section of the raised up foil.

It looked a little like someone had swiped a piece of it. Not obvious, but just subtle enough to really raise a red flag.

He came in and looked at it and furrowed his brows and looked suspiciously at me. Then he lifted the foil and looked. Nothing was missing. Then he looked at me suspiciously but I was buried in my code thing busily writing away. Then he looked around and walked off wondering if it was coincidence or someone was jerking his chain.


Incidentally a couple of days ago there were strawberries in the fridge. They started going bad so the deckhand ate the few that were any good and threw the rest into the trash. I dug them out and threw them into a trash bag that was already in the trash bin so as to hide them.

Then the skipper decided he wanted strawberries. Of course they were gone and looked up in surprise. He saw me typing and looked at me.

"What happened to the strawberries?" he asked.

"The mess boys must have eaten them," I replied.

It took a second but he caught it.

"I suppose now I'm supposed to collect all the keys?" he asked.

I looked up, "They simply went bad and got tossed out," I replied.

He smirked. "I was wondering if I needed to get some steel balls," said and walked off.


Another watch begins and I am up early for it. I see that the evening meal is going to be oven baked flounder which is a good deal for a change as I love seafood of just about any type. We eat a bit too much beef on this tug for my choice.

During my shore time of about 2 weeks I only eat a steak maybe two, eating chicken or a lot of fish instead. I like fish and there is cod in the freezer for when I get home.

The deckhand is sitting in a corner reading as the evening meal bakes and I am here posting. In the background is the TV, as always. Neither of us are watching it but I think it is some kind of food program and now that I have written about it, let's turn around and see what is on.

National Geographic. A Leopard is eating something so I guess I am close, or at least I am in a way. We're all part of a food chain.

There is a rumor that I will be back in internet range about 0200 and I have instructed the deckhand to wake me up if it looks like we have a good signal and it looks like it will last for over 20 minutes. If so I will post this entire thing in one fell swoop and then see if there is anything really important in my email.

After almost a week it is going to be pretty full. Most of it is probably stuff that I do not really need but there is a chance I might have something in there that requires attention. We'll see what happens. If anything of a true emergency comes up they can always get me via sattellite phone it ift is a bona fide emergency. For now, back to some code.


Code is sloooowly starting to come together. I have swapped out the little timer thing so that the messages run three minutes and I am staarting to be able to make words out of it.

The evening meal has interrupted things and the flounder was good. We had the apple pie the engineer made and it was pretty good. He hasn't even looked at me after I diddled with the tinfoil earlier today to make it look like someone swiped a piece before dinner so I guess I got away with that one.

While not imperative, I do want to post tonight if I get the chance.

This blog means something to me in that it is a good feeling to get the word out even though I am not some kind of big shot correspondent. This really is more of a labor of love than much of anything. It is just a place where I can speak my peace and express myself in a semi-civilized manner.

While I don't have much of a sizable readership I feel I owe it to them to do the best I can to post daily.



And so begins another watch.

I am getting tired and I am beginning to burn out on things to a certain extent.

I am doing a lot worse on my code. It seems like I forgot everything, but I guess that is the part of the learning curve.

We got a little cell signal for a few minutes which was just enough for the boys to get a call home with but not enough so I could get on line and post this. I did manage to check my email on my cell phone and I am grateful there wasn't anything that requires an immediate response.

I can tell by the eating habits what phase of the trip we are on by the way the crew eats. I had leftover fish and eggs for breakfast and the guy next to me just heated up a bowl full of leftover corn.

Tonight is steak night and we'll see how that one plays out. The problem with steaks is that they are not all the same and there is sometimes quiet griping. These are all good so I will quietly take the small one to preclude anyone saying anything. It's really a pretty good chunk of beef anyway.

my other blog is:

1 comment:


    Have fun Pic...