THE FLOATER

By Jeffrey Maxon

Now it can be told – Thirty years later

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 of Dixie.

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 16.

I gave him the location. I also tried to interject.....

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.  

 

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