Ground Hog Day at Sea

by Charlie Spencer

Another 255 Yarn - They must have been the most interesting ships the Coast Guard ever had - Enough stories have come out of them. This time it is the Klamath.

Holidays don't turn me on much. Farmers usually work anyway. Post offices, banks, and parts stores close. Damn nuisance. But there is one I have a peculiar fondness for. It comes at a dreary time of year and does not disrupt things too much.

It is Ground Hog's Day and I recall a memorable one.

I was the CRM [Chief Radioman] on the 255-foot Coast Guard Cutter KLAMATH in February 1948. We were on weather and rescue station about a thousand miles west of Seattle and a thousand miles south of Kodiak Island.

Just to keep up steerage, floated weather balloons and kept bow headed into sullen seas for 28 days.

There was not much to celebrate and one of my radiomen lamented that we couldn't even watch ground hogs on that memorable day.

"Never fear," I said brightly, "Tell you what we are going to do. . . ."

Happens we had a Chief Machinist Mate aboard named Dubin who was about ready to retire. Crusty old cuss, his domain was the tool room which was about three ladders deep from the main deck. Way down in the bilge. He and I had sort of a feud going ever since I had let a big adjustable crescent wrench slip overboard. We were polite about it, but whenever I would send a radioman down to get a tool, he would lecture him sternly about the sanctity of government property and chew him out.

So I had to tell one of my minions to go down to Dubin's Cave and get me an electric drill and a quarter inch bit.

"Aw gee, do I hafta, Chief?" he whined, "Dubin will want to know what you need the drill for and I gotta listen to all that business about the wrench."

"Just go, and tell him I am going to bore a hole. Whadda ya think I am going to do with a drill?"

Now once a week it was customary for all hands not on watch to muster on deck to count noses to see if anyone had disappeared overboard and to tell a few to get a haircut, wash their underwear, shine their shoes, etc.

I assembled my radiomen.

"OK men, pass the word. Tomorrow at muster we will all watch Dubin to see if he sees his shadow."

So the next morning we were all standing at attention on a rolling and pitching deck while our Captain reviewed his troops.

"Spencer, aren't you supposed to be wearing two hash marks?"

"Yessir, I'll get right on it."

Shoulders were starting to shake and Dubin muttered, "Why is everybody looking at me?"

Someone whispered, "Can you see your shadow, Chief?"

"Sonsabitches!"

"What was that Dubin?" the Captain asked.

"Nothing sir, just sneezing."

"Humph," the Captain said.

Well Dubin did not see his shadow. Nobody ever does at 150 degrees west longitude and 50 degrees north latitude.

 

Return to the Coast Guard Stories Page