Seagoing Snapshots

A Sea Story

Tom Grabowski

Originally Appeared in “THE HELM” Duane Association Newsletter – Spring 2003 – Republished by Permission.

Remember how the storekeepers used to carry all that extra milk on cold ocean stations, lashed aft of the 29 radar shack on the 01 deck, so that the crew could avoid drinking so much "bug juice" on patrol? I remember a Charlie in September of 1970, when it was very rough, and the weather decks were secured, lifelines rigged. Being an adventurous sort and a photography buff, and, might I add, also a pretty stupid young sailor, I decided to venture out the back door of the 29 room, so as to be unnoticed by the bridge watch, in order to snap a few pictures. I can remember seeing milk running in rivulets along the deck from a "leaker" somewhere in the pile of milk boxes, then the sight of the fantail being entirely underwater, awash to the gunwales from the waves breaking over the main deck, port and starboard. It was then that I had my brainstorm to descend the ladder to the main deck so I could snap a few pictures.

Thinking I could time things so as not to get (very) wet, I peered around the port side of the deckhouse, looking for my shot! Luckily, I didn't get wet, but didn't linger too long before retreating to the relative safety of the 01 deck. The pictures I still have are a little blurry, either due to the motion of the ship or the shakiness of me. I guess I was lucky not to have repeated the experience of my 29 radar instructor, who went overboard from a 311 while on ocean station, who had the good fortune to have been spotted, then recovered from the sea. On this patrol I also believe we lost our quarterdeck shack and a few other items.

Tom Grabowski ET2, served on the CGC Duane between Nov.'69 - Feb.'72  

Return to Coast Guard Stories