Stories In One
C.W. “Bill” Bailey
From His Autobiography, "You Can SO Eat Your Cake and Have It Too - ©2002"
Reprinted By Permission
In my tour of duty on COOS BAY, we were on Search and Rescue Standby in Bermuda, when we suddenly got orders to get under way to rendezvous with the Coast Guard Sail Training Cutter EAGLE -- which was racing with several other large square-riggers to New York -- as an escort.
embarked a media cameraman with all his gear. As we approached EAGLE, the
Admiral on board ordered us to sail up alongside close aboard, to pass some
equipment. This we did, cautiously. It was quite a thrill to see a full-rigged
nineteenth century-style ship cut through the water under full sail.
was standing out on the bridge wing handling my ship. The Chief Quartermaster
was standing by the engine order telegraph, a qualified first-class seaman was
on the wheel, and my yeoman talker was manning his phones to the engine room, as
we eased up alongside, only seventy five feet off. You don't take any chances
when you handle a large ship in close proximity to another ship. The transfer
was going well when the Admiral suddenly called "Sheer off, there." It
seemed that he was alarmed at the two large vessels being so close together at
full cruising speed. I had no problem with the situation. We had, not long ago,
been at Guantanimo Bay Naval Training and were quite accustomed to doing
replenishment drills with Navy ships at close quarters. Our cameraman was in
Seventh Heaven, shooting movies like mad, and was constantly urging me to come
in even closer. However, one never argues with an Admiral, so we eased off to
125 feet abeam.
we noticed that the flying (outer) jib (sail) was tangled around the forestay,
and that a cadet had been sent out along the bowsprit to clear it. Our cameraman
urged me to go up close aboard the bow so he could shoot the kid gingerly
crawling out on the bowsprit. We went to Two-Thirds Ahead on the engines; I
always kept some engine power in reserve whenever I maneuvered in tight
AMBASSADOR rescue happened in February of 1964. The Admiralty Wreck Hearing took
place about a year later, and I was requested to be present to testify. HQ
granted me leave and I received a first-class ticket for travel aboard the QUEEN
ELIZABETH. Dorothy was up in Portland with the children, so Mother Jean came
down to the ship to see me off. As we were pulling away from the pier I reached
into a pocket and there were her house keys. Hightailing it up towards the
bridge I was not allowed to enter but I did get a message passed to the pilot,
asking him to return the keys for me.
had not been a passenger on a ship since childhood when we took a coastal
steamer from Savannah to Boston the summer my Father won his prize to study in
France. At dinner I was at the ship's Doctor's table. There were ten of us,
including a pretty young lady traveling alone. It was a compatible group. Their
favorite sport was gossiping about, "I wonder where she is sleeping
tonight?" each time the young lady didn't show for meals.
ship had a daily distance-made-good pool. The second day I won
fifty Pounds by
betting against the Captain's estimate. We had a strong quartering wind and I
just figured that the ship would go further than the
famous concert violinist was aboard who went up on the bridge deck every day to
an unoccupied cabin to practice. He was so good that I used to go up and listen.
I never did get invited to tour the bridge but I did go through the engine room.
Passing through the galley and food storeroom areas, I was appalled at the
unsanitary conditions -- almost didn't feel like eating dinner that night.
at Southampton, and taking the boat train to London, I found myself booked at
the stylish Hyde Park Hotel. I was met by a Mr. Cockburn, a solicitor (lawyer)
for the government who squared me away regarding the proceedings the next day.
The Admiralty Court was convening to learn the facts concerning the loss of the
AMBASSADOR, a British steamship of 7,000 gross tons, with a crew of thirty-six.
She was actually propelled by a diesel engine, but all her auxiliary equipment
was run by steam. The ship was about 10 years old and was loaded with grain for
a voyage from Philadelphia to Newcastle-on-Tyne in England. The Captain was
making his first trip as Master, having previously been the Chief Mate. The
Court found that the cause of the disaster could be the fact that: (1) locking
bars had not been placed over the removable hatch boards of No.3 hatch, located
abaft the bridge, and that when heavy quartering seas came aboard and tore away
the tarpaulin hatch cover, water was able to flood the hold; and (2) the fuel
tank vent covers had not been properly maintained and that had allowed water to
enter the tanks to contaminate the fuel when the ship listed. This resulted
in the engine stopping. The ship then broached in the seas and the flooding
the hearing, the Italian liner that had been standing by was I
for doing nothing as a life raft of AMBASSADOR's crew had drifted right
alongside their ship, and no one had tried to help. Their lawyer came to me,
asking if I would be willing to testify that conditions were such that they
could not have been expected to help. Of course, I refused. I was not present at
the time, and no Coast Guard officer would ever testify that, "There was
nothing he could do."
week later Dorothy was able to fly over to meet me. I was waiting by the Customs
at the airport when I saw her walking through the crowd. She was wearing a
powder-blue suit she had made herself, and it was, to me, like seeing an angel
come down from heaven. We had been married 18 years and had raised three
children, and were more in love than ever (and
that, dear reader, is the way it lasted until that fateful day in January 1996,
when she was taken from my arms and "Promoted to Glory".)
and I rented a car and planned to drive north to Newcastle, not far from the
Scottish border, doing sightseeing on the way. We had been invited by the owner
of the ship to come and spend a weekend with them. Stopping off at Hampden
Court, not far from London, we had to get the rental car company to replace our
car for lack of adequate brakes. They sent us a larger (and more comfortable)
car, and we went to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, and Shakespeare's
birthplace. Looking for an inn to spend the night, we saw a sign "Please
Park Prettily", and turned in there for a most fabulous dinner by the
fireplace and a comfortable bed. It was just like another Honeymoon.
concluding our visit in Newcastle, we returned to London so we could fly over to
Amsterdam to start a Continental trip through Holland, Belgium and France. We
were making up for the fifteen years of raising kids with
no real vacation except when traveling between duty stations.
home, it was almost time for the usual change of duty station that governs the
life of every Coast Guard family. We got orders to go to duty ashore at the
District Office in New Orleans. So, hitching up our trusty (and rusty) sports
car (TR-3) behind us, off we went to the deep South.
before we go on, here's a bit about family
life in Falmouth Foreside, a suburb of Portland. I mentioned our beautiful home
on Casco Bay. Being almost next to the Yacht Club, naturally Bill and Brian
learned to sail, and for most of our time up there we had our own sailboat, the
"DARYA" ("Dorothy" in Russian). She was a Thistle Class
sloop, and was very fast. Many times, although starting in a race a class or two
behind the Star boats, we would sail through them to the fmish line. When it
came time to leave, we sold her regretfully.
I was in port, I played in The Portland Symphony Orchestra, and in
two concert bands, one run by an old Italian tailor, Mr. Romano. He took
ten-year-old Brian in as 3rd cornet.
left our life in Portland and Falmouth Foreside behind and began out trip to our
new duty station in New Orleans.
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