Big Bunny One
From Doak Walkers 255 Site
This is too good a sea story for the author to go unrecognized. Mr. Author will you please identify yourself! - Jack
Sometime in 1971, USCGC Winnebago was assigned to patrol duty on Ocean Station "Victor". Since we ported out of Honolulu, it took about a week to get to that tiny spot in the Pacific, about two thirds the way to Japan. A normal rotation would be seven days out - twenty-one days on station and seven days back to homeport.
I knew this wasn't going to be a normal weather patrol from the very beginning. The signs weren't right. As a recent ensign out of the Academy, I had lots to learn, but instinct was not one of them. Shortly after arriving on "the spot" and relieving the previous cutter, word came from Honolulu that our relief ship, another 255, had blown up her boiler at the dock-hmmmm
We did our duty. We logged the seabirds in the oceano database. We recorded the position reports from the aircraft going to and from Japan. We sent up the weather balloons. We played low stakes poker till we were bored to death. Then came the BAD news.
The District was having trouble rounding up another vessel to relieve us, so our Captain "volunteered" us for "double duty"! His reasoning was simple. We would actually save a round trip to our next station(which we would gladly skip). Sounded fine till we looked at our supply stocks and fuel. UNREP (underway replenishment) was just a drill. Right?
After the District approved our patriotism, 1/3 of the crew requested leave and transferred off the ship during UNREP with a Navy supply ship. The rest of us spent a total of 42 days on station. FINALLY, a 255 cutter, the same one with the previous boiler problem, comes over the horizon to relieve us! After the usual formalities, we say adios and steam towards Midway Island.
After a few seconds have passed, the radioman pulls me into the passageway. He tells me that the CIC gang on the relieving ship was acting kind of uppity about the whole bizarre episode and deserved a one-upper. Since nobody left behind knew my radio voice, I had been chosen for the "master of ceremonies".
As most coasties know, the primary purpose of ocean station keeping was to track commercial aircraft over the big oceans. We knew that their navigation was superior to ours and that ditching a 727 or 747 was not very successful.
However, talking to the aircraft and keeping file cards on their flight plan was an everyday job on board the 255's. We plotted their passage on radar, if possible. Several of the great circle routes to Japan were beyond the radar horizon; this was the foundation of our "payback".
Approximately 30 minutes after our departure from OS VICTOR, the new cutter received the following "bogus" message.
"OCEAN STATION VICTOR. THIS IS BIG BUNNY ONE, OVER"
The CIC gang had filled out a dummy data card and my job was to convince the other crew that I was a real pilot, flying a famous black bird to Japan.
'ROGER, BB1, THIS IS VICTOR, PLEASE GIVE US YOUR FLIGHT DATA, OVER"
Over the next 60 seconds, I proceeded to pass on the usual flight parameters of a jet enroute to Japan from Honolulu following the northern route. They would look on the radar for our "blip" but wouldn't be concerned when we didn't show up because that happened all the time.
After the formal stuff, the chitchat begins. It is not uncommon for the CIC gang to ask how many flight attendants were aboard ("stews" in the old days). It was always a thrill for a young kid to talk with a lovely lady when stranded in the middle of nowhere... because of this special aircraft, the anticipation aboard that cutter must have been overwhelmed with testosterone!
"BIG BUNNY ONE, ARE YOU THE PLAYBOY DC-9, OVER?"
"VICTOR, BB1, THAT'S AFFIRMATIVE, OVER"
The quiet at the other end of the radiophone was deafening. On our end, the laughter was awesome. We had to send several guys out of the area so as not to give us up! I was winging it by now on the dialog, but it pretty much fell into place...
"BB ONE, THIS IS VICTOR. ANY LADIES ON BOARD WHO WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK WITH SOME OF THE CREW TODAY? OVER."
The hook was set. Now was the time to really have some fun. Whoever said that paybacks were HELL must have been looking over my shoulder.
"VICTOR, BB ONE, THERE ARE 3 FEMALES ON BOARD TONIGHT. MISS JANUARY, NOVEMBER, AND JULY. THEY ARE SERVING DINNER TO THE GUESTS BUT WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET AT LEAST ONE OF THEM UP ON THE FLIGHT DECK IN A FEW MOMENTS. OVER."
Again, dead silence from the crew on station. Uproars from our little cubby hole in CIC. This was TOO easy. How gullible were these guys?
Over the next ten minutes or so, the radioman tweaked the dials and made funny noises into the mike. Any rational person on the other end instinctively knew that Big Bunny One was now out of radio range! This happens pretty quickly at 500 MPH. We laughed so hard that tears were streaming down our faces. Maybe that "Double Victor" wasn't so bad after all.
A month or so later, a few of us were at a party in Honolulu, enjoying the sunset in paradise long before Tom Selleck came along. Out of the blue, one of my classmates for the other ship pulls me aside and says:
"You're not gonna believe who I talked to right after you guys took off from VICTOR!"
I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth about Big Bunny One. I didn't want to get beat up...besides, the fantasy of having talked to a Playmate may have been the only thing that helped him finish that patrol!
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