What's The Visibility?

By Harry Sadler


This goes back to the days of Ocean Stations.  On board CGC Absecon out of Norfolk, Va in  1968/69.  Not sure which OS it was either B, C or E.  Anyway here goes.

As an RM3 I would visit with QM3 on bridge watch after I got off mids and yack about absolutely nothing. In most cases nothing happened on Ocean Stations anyway. One of our Ensigns who we would label today as anal retentive stood OOD watch. This guy had to know about the rust spots on the fan tail when he relieved.  It was sometimes a half hour ordeal. The other Junior Officers hated it when he relieved the watch. The crew always sat around amused until it was announced
[*]Mr. Atholl had the watch. This time after he relieved he turned to the QMOW and asked what he logged for visibility. The QM3 responded, "eight miles, sir."  Mr Atholl said there's now way the visibility could be eight miles.  Fred then explained curvature of the earth and height above sea level and yes he was probably right. The figure had "fudged" a little just to "CYA," that indeed it might be more.  Let me digress a little, on ocean station we used to give fixes to transoceanic commercial and military flights. Mr Atholl pointed out that he was aware of a recent position fix and that he saw this particular plane. The fix was 25 miles away. He ordered the QM3 to enter visibility as 25 miles in the ship's log. The Qm3 then explained to Mr Atholl that when he logged visibility it was along line of sight not air line of sight and again explained curvature of the earth etc.  

All the while Mr Atholl was spitting and sputtering about his observation.  This went on for a few minutes back and forth when as usual the Ensign won out over the QM3.  Stating, "I'm the OOD and in charge of the bridge, log visibility as 25 miles." 

Fred not to be out done responded, "Aye Aye sir. And tomorrow when the sun comes up, I suppose you want me to log visibility as 93 million miles because I can see the sun." 

Game, set and match!

The whole crew on the bridge immediately went below because they couldn't hold the guffaws.  I thought the helmsman was going to do a 180 he was laughing so hard.

This actually happened- I was there. Ensign Atholl was always coming up with stupid stuff. How he made it through OCS we'll never know.  He was later a Group Commander on the East Coast-OH BOY.

[*] One true name was not used so as to protect the guilty.

Harry Sadler is a retired CWO-4(COMM)


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