by Scott Hemphill



Old Guard - New Guard - 'tis the same I say - Jack

They say you’re not a sailor unless you’re a breaker sailor.

If this story hadn’t happened to me, then I would have had a hard time believing it, but it did!  That’s what makes “sea stories” sea stories!

We pulled into St. John’s, Newfoundland in the summer of ’85 and it sure didn’t feel as if it were summer at all!  That didn’t curb our efforts of carousing and getting into trouble in the slightest!

We were headed for Thule, Greenland to escort the merchie vessel the Greenwave for resupply of the airbase. 

Being it was the last night of partying and carrying on as sailors are known to do, we were making the best of what little time we had left our last night there.

Don’t remember the name of the Pub we were at, but at last call at around 2am or so, my buddy, Bruce, the little redheaded stepchild, and I decided we just weren’t ready to stop our carrying on.  So, we bellied up to the bar one last time and ordered up a bunch more beer to hold us over on our walk back to the ‘Sea, the Polar Sea that is.

Having stuffed all these extra cold ones into our Levi jackets we took off, bid our last farewell’s to all our new found friends and proceeded to hit the streets.  Being that it was about a 3-mile jaunt back to the boat, we were in no hurry to get there.  Ship didn’t get u/w till 6am, so we had plenty of time. 

Being the Radiomen extraordinaire that we were, we were not concerned about walking right through the middle of town in the least.  Remember now, beer in hand, it’s cold out and in the wee hours of the morning!

We had walked maybe a mile or so, talking about the good time we had while there and were oblivious to our surroundings.  At that time a huge Paddy wagon comes screeching up maybe a 100 yards in front of us.  You’ve all seen the UPS trucks; this is what it looked like, with PD plastered all over the sides.  We look at each other and mumble something to the effect that, oh oh, we’re screwed.

All of a sudden a cabbie comes screeching up in front of us, the cabbie is between the Paddy wagon and us.  The cabbie rolls his window down and hollers, “Come on guys, get in”!  Now you know, any good sailor will take a free ride to get out of trouble right?  We jump into the taxi and he throws it in reverse and screeches the heck outta there.  Now you think the Paddy wagon is going to blow this off?  Not in the least!  Now, the Paddy wagon is in hot pursuit of us, in the taxi, with the driver racing down the streets.  We figure we’d better get rid of the evidence and pound the last of the open beer and throw the cans under the seat.  All while the driver is tearing down back streets, and alleys.  He even took out a couple trashcans!  Seeing the newspapers flying and us trying like all hell to lose the Paddy wagon.  We look back only to see the wagon still in hot pursuit.  Finally after a few miles of high-speed chase does the driver tell us, “Guys, I tried to lose ‘em, but I can’t, I’m gonna have to pull over”.  We told him no problem and appreciated him trying to save us.

Having pulled over can’t remember the explicitives the cops were yelling at the driver, but the other cop had us get out and proceed to the wagon.  I remember climbing into what seemed like a cage on wheels, equipped with a nice hard wooden bench.  By now the taxi was gone and it was both cops chewing into us.  They asked us if we knew it was against the law to drink in public.  Heck no, we played dumb, but they weren’t buying it.  They had intended to haul us downtown, but we were already downtown.  Then the redheaded stepchild, remember him, he says something to the effect that we had just gotten off the phone to our wives and were depressed about being gone for another four months on patrol.  We were already into the trip by one month.  Now get this, the redheaded stepchild isn’t even MARRIED, he had them buffaloed!  Guess that’s why we made such good Radiomen! 

Evidently the cops bought the sob story and must of felt bad for us so they decided to let us go and of course we were not to do it again.  Of course we agreed to their wishes and they let us outta the mobile cage on wheels.

As soon as the Paddy wagon was outta sight, we looked at each other in a way a typical Radioman whose always getting into trouble would, smirk, reach into our Levi jackets and pull out yet another cold one!   I can still hear the “Psst” of them opening up! 

We laughed at what had just happened, and were yet again on our journey back to Big Red.

Ironic though, we had to re-walk that first mile we had previously walked.  Oh well, we didn’t care, we were living in the moment!

Oh yea, we did walk the “whole way” this time, no taxi’s or Paddy wagons, AND we didn’t see the inside of another cage!

Ah, the life of a Breaker Sailor!


Return to Coast Guard Stories