It was about three days into my first time underway on the "Billy B". I had only been in the Navy for about five months. I had not chosen a rate, (my recruiter said it was not important. Yeah, right.) so I was assigned to the boat directly out of sub school. Everything about the boat and being in the "REAL NAVY" was still quite a lot to handle and a little overwhelming to a new nub like me.
I was told Deck division and mess-cooking were extremely short-handed, and was welcomed with open arms by my fellow shipmates. You can imagine my surprise when my Division Officer, Lt. Coatsworth, told me that Deck division was responsible for retrieving the mail buoy and that he thought that I could handle it.
Being new on-board and eager to make a good impression I immediately asked what I had to do.
He told me that the weather was bad topside and showed me where the orange foul weather gear was stowed and helped me put it on. Then he helped me into a safety harness and line. He escorted me to the after escape trunk and asked me if I remembered from my sub-school lessons how to operate it. "Of course," I said, "I did very well in sub-school." He said that was great, and told me to wait there until the boat surfaced. I would then get a phone call from the bridge telling me to open the hatch and go up on deck to retrieve the buoy.
For those of you not familiar with foul weather gear on a submarine, it can keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures and is water proof. As I was waiting by the after hatch in the engine room, I started to get warm fairly quickly. After around 15 minutes a couple of guys I didn't know passed by and asked me what I was doing. When I told them they nodded wisely and wished me luck as there was a pretty heavy sea state topside.
I waited for at least another half an hour and started to get worried that the phone was broken, or that I had screwed up, or for some reason we didn't surface and the bridge had forgotten I was back there. Keep in mind, after 45 minutes of waiting in the engine room wearing foul weather gear I was drenched in sweat.
Finally, I started to get the feeling that something was not right. I had not seen anybody in what seemed to me like hours. To this day I don't know why I left my post and went forward. Lt. Coatsworth was just coming out of the radio shack. When he saw me holding the life-line and dripping with sweat he burst out laughing! Just then, I finally saw the light and knew I had been had, there was no such thing as a "mail buoy"! The Lt. was doubled over with laughter, holding on to the railing to keep from falling on the floor while a couple of other guys came over laughing also.
I was pretty embarrassed and started to get mad until I realized that I was now part of the crew. Then I started laughing too. Lt. Coatsworth put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Welcome Aboard".