The Chief was a stickler for safety and he always stressed .....
STAY INBOARD OF THE BIGHT
I boarded the buoy tender MANGROVE in February 1942 right out of boot camp. Because I was small in stature I found myself in the wheelhouse as part of the quartermaster's gang. The commanding officer and most of the leading petty officers had come over from the Lighthouse Service when it was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1939. They had been civilians until that time and they were well along in their adulthood. For the most part they did not accommodate well to the military way of doing things. The one exception, CBM Stanley Meagus. He had been in the service for many years and the clash between his military philosophies and the other's civilian habits was painfully evident.
Chief Meagus was a fair man. He was also an abrupt, no shilly-shallying, brusque, demanding individual. He was serious about his work and he could generally be found on the buoy deck supervising operations when we had a buoy alongside. To one-quarter of the crew, who like myself, were entirely new to the scene, this appeared normal. (Meagus was also the Exec.) To the ex-civilian old timers this imposition of leadership by a "Johnny come lately" to the buoy tending business was cause for disgruntlement. Meagus was highly safety conscious and one of his principal rules while working a buoy was, "stay inboard of the bight."
With a buoy alongside, one line was led and secured forward on the tender ... another line was led aft and secured. This kept the buoy alongside the buoy pad where the work was done. The buoy was usually kept toward the forward end of the pad and thus there was a long line leading aft across an unprotected stretch of the pad. As the ship and buoy were moved by the sea, sometimes the forward line would be taut; sometimes the aft line would be taut. When the after line was slack it would lie on deck ... as the slack was taken up the movement of the ship and the buoy, anyone outboard of the line was susceptible to being pushed overboard. Thus the ... "stay inboard of the bight."
It was a hot, calm morning in the late spring of 1942 ... Chief Meagus was on the buoy deck.
The event took no more than 30 or 40 seconds. Amid the bustle of activities, Meagus stepped outside of the bight. With his attention claimed by the work on the buoy, Meagus failed to notice the line tightening up. Everyone on deck watched. The Captain and I could see it coming ... nobody said a word or lifted a finger to help.
As the line contracted, Meagus was ever so gently but irresistibly, caught in the small of the back and pushed towards the edge of the buoy pad. He turned to face toward the crew with a look of amazement coupled with an unspoken plea for help on his face ... no help came ... Meagus went overboard.
Aside from a damaged ego and ruined watch, Meagus wasn't hurt ... but he got along much better with the everybody afterwards.
From "This - *?#!@*? Was The Coast Guard" by Esther Stormer ©1985
Reprinted by permission.
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