The Witch of '83

 Wind Speed 28 mph (SW)    

 Max Wind Speed 34 mph    

 Max Gust Speed 58 mph    

Visibility 4 miles    

Events Fog , Rain

Recorded on Nantucket MA. 11/24/1983…..we were a little further off the beach.

 

Call me Ishmael, or not…..Walker works.

Seems to be a bit of confusion on the history of the “Last Lightship”, so perhaps we can clear it up.

If you’re not on station, you are a United States Coast Guard Cutter. On station, you are indeed a Lightship, hence the 613’s designation of “Last of her Kind”.  Under the command of CWO Larry Cully and yes I call him Larry, not only because he is one of the most proficient sailors I have ever met, he is a genuinely good person, who like Alan West said, “Would walk through Hell with a can of gasoline for his men”.  And yes, it is the one moored down the street from Smurf, at the Sterling  Narrows.

 

Well.....Boats  [ BM1 Lake]* called me as I was having Thanksgiving dinner with my young bride and 3 year old son and said “Skipper needs you back in 20 minutes.”   Three hours away, I had to ask…..why…..why?

 

Seems a dragger hit the mooring for the brandie-spanking new 40'w and 40' tall LNB and took it off station and we needed to provide relief to the 612. BTW, L stands for LARGE. Perhaps we should have dropped a FLNB out there. Hung up and no one was happy but all I could and needed to say was, “It’s my job.”

 

Fast forward to the real story. Castoff at dusk, get on station about a day later. Those on duty for Thanksgiving had a full blown turkey dinner with all the fixings. At that point we were no longer saving lives and property on the high seas (aka a target / hazardous and arduous duty) but we did eat well.

 

Well…..the wind blew and the shit flew. The galley was trashed; dinner for 16 plus The Skipper, (always cooked for an army), was all over the place. Step in mashed potatoes and peas and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Coffee decanters became projectiles on the mess deck.

 

Now mind you, if memory serves me correctly, we were on a 128’/600 ton ship with 30’seas and a constant blow of 60 kts. Beat the snot out of us. After I got out, I ran a 55’Bruno and lost electronics in the same neighborhood, [Ambrose Shipping Lane]w/ zero vis and DR’d home safely because of what I learned on the bridge from this guy; “Get the crew home safe!” So if someone tells you “This is a no shitter, 80’ boat and 50’ seas….caveat emptor.

 

But I digress, things got even uglier. Majority of the crew was suffering from motion sickness.  So if you are prone to seasickness, what are you doing on the ocean? Anyway, the Skipper, one other non-rate and  I were still walking erect. Now, the  EO , "Jack Peterson" [another good one] and his crew kept the show rollin', never missed a beat. Being a deckie, I couldn't imagine 4 hrs down in the main room but they did it. Captain Culley was too seasoned to be scared, I was too young and dumb to be scared and we had a hoot in the wheelhouse. When you are up there all day, decorum somehow disappears and all men are created equal. The “Old Guard” stories were incredible. "Wooden Icebreakers," he tells me,  I said, “GTFO, what are you doin’,  goosing butterflies Kermit?” Looked it up…..TRUE!

And never play Trivial Pursuit with someone of that caliber. It’s a lose / lose situation.

 

So to make a long story even longer, we had been eating junk all day, both cooks were prone & gaking and he turns to me and says,” The Captain would appreciate a real meal,  if you can handle it.”

 

10 lbs of broiled rib eye and mashed potatoes later, the crew came back to life. Walked into First Class and asked, “You guys want to eat or sleep?”Never saw them move so fast.

 After that it was just another day at the office.

 

Now don’t go making no hero out of me..... his demeanor instilled the confidence in me.

Semper All!

 *(Pound for pound, the toughest Boats, aka BM......I ever met!)

Story related for uscglightshipsailors.org

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