I have a confession to make. In the early seventies, I was a young seaman at a great lake
station that will go unnamed. Looking back through the prism of wisdom, I
suppose I was a bit of a problem for my Officer-in-Charge, a BMC from the heart
Although it was an accident, the act that
preceded my Captain’s Mast was a technical violation of the stations rules.
The booking, charge and proceedings were all pretty tidy.
Before I knew it, I was in dress white
uniform, standing before the Chief while he mumbled something about the
"General Article". That, as all of you know, is the Kafkaesque
"offense" enumerated in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that
conveniently covered anything that the other articles couldn‘t.
After a lot of posturing, the Chief
announced me guilty of the infraction but quickly, and mercifully, let me off
with a warning. Considering all the bother over something that was an accident
and not a willful or intended act, I took umbrage. I even took revenge.
A few days after the mast, I was standing
radio watch one fine summer’s evening when a landline telephone call came in
from a person reporting a "floater" in the water.
The Chief was just over my shoulder
listening. I decided to have some
fun. I announced in a loud and clear voice, "A FLOATER? WHERE?"
The Chief’s eyes bugged out. In a
flash, he and his exec were throwin’a wake as they pulled away from the
station in our 30 footer, all the while barking questions to me over FM channel
I gave him the location. I also tried to
The Chief bellowed over the roar of the
30‘s diesel engine, "Contact the state police, the sheriff, and the
coroner and have them standing by at the location".
Once again, I tried to explain ......
"Have them turn on their emergency
lights so I can see them on shore. It’ll be dark soon. I need a better fix on
where the floater is,” he commanded.
In the background of the Chief’s radio
call, I could hear the sound of the 30’s diesel engine. It didn’t sound
good. In all the excitement of
their fast getaway, the exec had forgotten to open the 30’s sea chests.
Without cold water coming in to cool the engine, it soon sounded like pots and
pans down a ladder. The engine overheated, stalled, and the boat coasted up,
unceremoniously, to the "floater".
When the Chief saw it was a dead cow
floating off shore, he overheated. "Cancel the coroner " came the
dejected and embarrassed Chief's radio message a minute later.
I was way ahead of him. After all, I had taken the farmer’s call.
Return to Coast Guard Stories