By David Robb
Reposted by Permission of the author and the Tugboat Association
New Years Eve 1966-67-68. We moored to the foot of Broadway Street in the Milwaukee River behind a 4 story warehouse about 5 ship lengths up river from a Navy reserve DE, the DANIEL JOY, moored on the same side. We never socialized with them much but would answer their silly semaphore signal practice to help them out. They would send us intricate military style messages and we would answer with things like, "Donald Duck was an egg sucker," or something really stupid. It tied them in knots.
I always managed to get off for
Christmas but then volunteered for duty every New Years which seemed to mean
more to the guys. The skipper never came down to the ship on New Years Eve.
Probably didn't want to see what was going on, anyway. We were frozen to the
dock and the river was all white usually but we would invite several
"guests" aboard for company as the clock struck 12:00 Mid. Somehow, and I
personally wouldn't have the slightest idea how this would happen, right
around midnight, there magically appeared several bottles of vintage
convenient screw off caps.
The clock struck eight bells and we would
have a very enthusiastic time of it for several hours. The first year, we
charged the compressor and blew the "open bridge signal" followed
immediately by the frantic international danger signal of 5 or more blasts
for the bridge tender who was by then sound asleep. Our ship was about 50
feet away so the first thing he thought of was that there was a ship about
to crash the bridge and he blew it. It was great fun watching him stumble
around trying to get
the gates down and the bridge up until he realized what was going on. Having just seen his career and lucrative city pension pass before his eyes, he shut everything down and cussed us a blue streak and went back to bed.
Great sport. Tee-hee. Anyway, after we had finished off the various bottles and the evening came to an end, we had to get rid of the evidence so we chucked the bottles out into the river thinking they would break through the ice and sink.
They didn't. We figured they would work into the snow and ice and be gone by the next morning which they were. The next morning, during rounds, we noticed all of the Navy guys in P coats out on deck enthusiastically doing PDUA (Physical Drill Under Arms in case you forgot.) They were running around and doing push ups and jumping jacks. It was great fun to watch them as we rested with one foot up on the rail and nursed our mugs of steaming hot coffee.
Later, at the USO after the police had been called to break up an impending riot between us, we learned the the bottles had floated down abeam of their ship on the ice where their OD spotted them. Convinced they were theirs, he restricted the whole ship for a week until someone would fess up. No one did so there were lots of little skirmishes around town that year.
Reservists never had any sense of humor. The next year, we chopped a hole in the ice and made sure they sunk. And the bridge tender didn't think it was any damn funnier either when we blew the horn again that year. Great fun.
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