A Chief’s Version of the 1959 Cadet Cruise

By Charles L. Umpstead

 

The 1959 cadet cruise has several memories that I enjoy recalling today. The regatta included the YAKUTAT, ROCKAWAY and the EAGLE. After picking up a supplemental crew of cadets, we headed to the Caribbean for training exercises. I mention a supplemental crew because at that time the procedure for learning was for a cadet to shadow a crewmember. Each cadet reported on watch with an IBM card used to record his evaluation for that period.

Gung Ho, as the B-1 engine room Chief, I gave all . . . for a while. Speaking, talking, teaching over the noise of the two Fairbanks diesels plus whatever else was running was a chore. About the 4th day out I was glad when one of the cadets was a no-show and there was no IBM card for evaluation—consequently no mark for that period. This caused quite a commotion. When the cadet showed up with a card and insisted he be given a grade, I did—it was a zero; he wasn’t there so he got a zero. The cadet was insistent and applied pressure for a grade. First it was “Please,” then it was, “You have to,” and then it was, “You better.”

My boss and his boss decided a grade would be given somewhere in the middle. An incomplete carried more weight than a zero, so he received an incomplete. The cadet and I never hooked up again; he tried to intimidate me with glaring eyes anytime we passed aboard ship. I don’t know who he was or what happened to him—maybe that’s how I got orders to GITMO years later.

As all cadet cruises are, the ship was crowded. Taking a topside break from the engine room and watches. I happened to run into LT Stewart, the operations officer, who was also relaxing from the norm. Finding him on deck at that time of day was unusual, so I asked what he was doing there. LT Stewart was disturbed and explained that it was so crowded with this cadet buddy system he couldn’t do his job. “But I fixed them,” he said.

He told how he had gone around the ship directing any cadet he saw to report to the bridge. Then he said that when he looked in a bridge porthole, there they all were, packed like sardines, shoulder to shoulder. He smiled as he turned and walked away. Too many cadets, not enough space.

One lecture to this day I do not understand: They told us that VD in one port was 110%. Did that mean as soon as I stepped ashore I had “it.” Did it mean 10% had it twice or 10% had two kinds? Ball players claim they give 110%, but how do you get 110% of something when there is only 100%?

Louie Rosato was the Chief Quartermaster on that trip and we shared a good bit of humor in the Chief’s Quarters. While in San Juan we would take different cabs to the Navy CPO Club to swim in the afternoon and always haggled for a few cents off for the ride. Rosato spoke a little Italian that passed for Spanish for the natives. The last time we rode the cab, we hopped in and asked, “How much?”

The cabbie said, “Come on you guys you know how much.”

As we departed San Juan, Louie was bragging he had gotten a ride for only $1.50, indicating it was because he spoke the language. His bubble was broken when we told him we always rode for $1.00 and didn’t even speak the language.

The last port of call on the cadet cruise was Quebec. As we entered the St Lawrence River, we took on a barefooted pilot, a little fellow, and he may have even been shirtless. Fog rolled in and visibility was almost zero; even so we rolled on about 2/3 speed. Steaming in fog makes everyone alert, concerned, and scared. When our captain questioned him about the speed and visibility as we approached an oncoming ship, the pilot remarked, “I know the pilot on that ship and he knows me. I know what he is going to do and he knows what I am going to do.” After we arrived, we had to lay off so the SOPA on the EAGLE could tie up first. Speeding to the dock has been a needless waste of our nerves.

Keeping my mouth shut is a problem sometimes. One of the stops on the cruise was Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. As we sat around the Chief’s Quarters, someone decided we should go to the El Presidente Hotel and shoot craps. Married CPOs are the brokest of all servicemen, well at least at this particular time. We pooled our money, showered, dressed, hailed a cab and headed for a short liberty if we lost, and maybe a full liberty if we won. I was impressed with a machine-gun emplacement on top of the wall where we docked, I was not impressed that the cabbie needed 50 cents in advance to buy gas for his car before we could go anywhere. As we entered the casino we noticed it was vacant, not a soul, but the pit crew had seen us enter and immediately surrounded the crap table.

I was chosen to throw the dice. At one point the dice did not hit the back board and the pit boss made the comment, “That’s all right, you don’t look like a shark.” There are people who can make the dice do things in their favor if they don’t hit the board and bounce off. This venture was short-lived and we were soon broke and bored, so we wandered around the hotel taking in the sights.

Sitting at home about a month later, they were showing the inside of this very hotel on the TV. Look! Look! I said to my wife, That’s a place we were in on our trip.

“Yes!” she said, “You’re running around in places like that and I’m stuck here taking care of the two children.”

I never elaborated about my travels to her after that.

 

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