THE CENTER OF BUOYANCY FOR AN ENSIGN
In the late 1960’s the CGC BALSAM was stationed at Adak, Alaska, a Naval Station. Repairs not capable of completion by ship’s force were handled by work order to the proper department at the Naval Station. This often involved a long wait unless the time-honored custom of “cumshaw” was employed. There, as at other places a few pounds of coffee would do the trick, but a much more effective enticement was a small quantity of glass net floats. These net floats, from Japanese fishing boats, would come adrift and wash ashore on remote, inaccessible shores surrounding the Bering Sea. They were highly prized as souvenirs; in fact several are strewn about my back yard now. Some are impressive in size. It follows, then, that an unofficial mission of the BALSAM was to send a boat ashore at likely places to gather these glass balls as we completed our rounds of the Bering Sea servicing the lights and buoys. On one of these forays, an ensign got the bright idea of wearing fishing waders. He could then stay dry, and use the waders as storage for the glass floats that he gathered. He was doing quite well with his waders bulging with floats when he was surprised by a wave and knocked down. Under ordinary circumstances, this might have only resulted in discomfort and embarrassment, but our ensign’s center of buoyancy had shifted because of his “cargo” and he capsized. Luckily some of his shipmates were nearby and were able to right him and recover his loot. Imagine the paper work required to report loss of an ensign due to instability he acquired while engaged in a questionable activity.
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