Without Ensigns there would be no comic relief ….




By Dave Moyer




Sometimes ship nomenclature can indeed be a bit confusing. We all know that floors are decks and steps are ladders. Ceilings are overheads, left is port and right is starboard and so on. Pretty basic stuff even for the newest Seaman Apprentice fresh out of boot camp or so we'd all like to think. Occasionally even those wearing fresh OCS khakis and that shiny gold bar need a reminder or two also.


We had just left San Diego after a short refueling stop on our way west to Hawaii. The weather picked up a bit so in addition to those long rolling swells so prevalent in the Pacific we had some wind waves causing the Owasco to go into the pitch and roll common with all 255's. We were on schedule but had to continue making 16 knots to meet our ETA at Sand Island, Oahu. I was QM of the mid-watch with Ensign Bumble (not his real name) as the Conning Officer.


Shipboard duties were routine with the deck force about the main deck chipping and feathering. A small detail was working on the spray shield forward. Just a typical day at sea. I went out on the port wing to check the temperature and wet bulb for the usual 30 minute log entry. When I turned to head back into the bridge I felt the bow rise and hang a bit more than normal and kind of braced myself for the ride down the other side of the swell. Some movement forward caught my eye. One of the Boatswain's Mates had just stood up to recover a chipping hammer. The sudden drop left him temporarily suspended in mid air. Unfortunately when he came down he was no longer standing. He hit the deck hard and flat. You could hear the thump all the way up on the bridge and it appeared that his head hit the steel deck before his body. I'm going to refrain from the obvious Boatswain's Mate comment here about how lucky he was to hit something that couldn't be damaged and the injury it probably caused to the steel deck. I wouldn't go for a cheap shot like that. He was motionless.


I turned to make a dash for the ships address system to get the Chief Corpsman to the focs’l when I noticed that Ensign Bumble already had it in his hand. He was wide-eyed and noticeably concerned. Speed was of the essence. He put the mike up to his lips, pressed the button, and very hurriedly in a high pitched voice announced....."NOW DUTY CORPSMAN...LAY TO THE....AH.....LAY TO THE...AH....AH.....POINTY END OF THE SHIP ON THE DOUBLE!"


The helmsman, messenger of the watch and myself all just stood there with our mouths open staring at the Conn with that same "I don't believe you said that" look on our face. My stare was interrupted by a shout from the focs’l. It was “Boats” shouting that he was okay. Unfortunately Mr. Bumble's ego wasn't. Within five seconds the bridge phone rang. Ordinarily the QM would answer with the obligatory..."Bridge, Moyer speaking Sir." This time I didn't bother. All I said was, "Mr. Bumble Sir, that would be for you." 


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