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1976 porteverglades 002Editing photos for “Up Scope!” the other day, I was working my way through “The Seventies” post-processing and writing captions for twenty-or-so galleries of images submitted by Neal Degner for the years 1974-1977. I stumbled across a photo of an unusual ship, a haze gray catamaran with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) stripes on her stacks. Curious, I decided a little research was in order, partly because those twin-hulled catamarans were as rare as the Pegusus class hydrofoils during the 70’s and 80’s.

Thank you internet. A few clicks later, and the ship was identified as the USNS Hayes (T-AGOR-16). Named after Dr. Harvey C. Hayes, a pioneer in underwater acoustics and the former head of the U.S. Navy Sound Division of the Naval Research Laboratory, the “Hayes” class oceanographic research vessel was re-purposed in the mid-80’s as an acoustic research ship...

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Well, it was just another rare day in port and I was standing Below Decks during the mid-watch.  This was a Catch-22, since having to stand watch during the night or early morning could be EXTREMELY boring if there was nothing to keep your mind busy.  On the other hand, at least on the mid-watch you could count on the various daily activities that had to be performed which helped the time pass much more quickly.

I had reached that critical point as a watchstander where you knew everything you needed to know to perform the required duties and had an air of confidence that made you feel that no challenge was too great.

On any given Below Decks watch, I had no trouble blowing San #2, bringing on potable water and checking in with the Torpedo Room security watch every 30 minutes, all while making my normal rounds to record the endless readings on the log sheets. On this particular night, I decided to push the bar a little higher by performing a number of these activities simultaneously.  This wasn't an uncommon practice by the more experienced watchstanders and I felt I was ready to join their ranks.

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Great sea stories have many things in common. They are all based (at least loosely) on some real event. They all hold the listener's attention (not usually too hard to do on day 58 of the 'Sea of None of Your Business' hostage crisis). They all generally start with the expression, "This is a no-sh___er."

The title 'Sea Story' can be deceptive. That name comes from the fact that they are usually shared at sea, when time, distance from friends and family, and general boredom coalesce into a fertile ground for the emergence of the shared community experience we called a 'sea story'.

Not every sea story, however, starts at sea.

This is one of those stories. And it's a no-sh___er!

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quarters 05Duty in Subic Bay. Just another day on the Bates. In fact, just another night on the Bates. Sometimes you just wanted to scream.

I wasn't a big fan of the night life in the 'Po, but stuck on the boat was stuck on the boat. I'd rather be sipping an icy San Migoo' and buying skewers of mystery meat from a street vendor's grill by the metric ton. Or a bucket of shrimp fried rice.

But I took my turn like everybody else. I was the Engineering Duty Petty Officer, and it was after midnight. I'd been back aft on a casual tour, and engineering, like most of the boat, was deserted. I shared coffee and stories with the Shutdown Reactor Operator, found a lighter for the Roving Watch, and then wandered up topside.

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I left Sub QM school in Groton for San Diego the last week of October of 1981. The QMCS at the school had said that the Billy Bates was a very Special Boat. I was one very excited QMSN.

My orders said to report to COMSUBRON on-board the USS Dixon or Sperry (I can't remember which one had our Squadron), for the William H. Bates at SUBBASE San Diego. So like a newbie, I walked down the pier and went right by the Bates, as my orders said report to COMSUBRON.

The minute that I requested permission to come aboard the tender, they had a Security Drill. I was stuck on board for about 2 hours!

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