Anchors aweigh

My father served in the U.S. Navy in the Second World War. For most of the war he was in the Pacific, serving as the radio officer and then the exec of a tanker. In general he had a “good” war; no fighting and a meal and a place to sleep.

One day the ship was to anchor in a bay on a Philippine island. My dad was on the bridge. They brought the ship to the appropriate place and the crew on deck dropped anchor, under the instruction of the deck officer, who was a new Lieutenant JG.

Ship anchors are big, and so are their chains. The anchor had to go down quite a long way in this case because the bay was deep. Everyone stood well clear as first the anchor and then a very thick chain (about two feet thick) roared through the port on the deck while the anchor hurtled toward the bottom.

Then it stuck. A tremendous amount of swearing ensued. With the anchor part way down, the people on the bridge had to keep the ship roughly in place with the engines at almost zero power, while the people on the deck tried to figure out how to unhook the anchor chain. One of the links had flopped crosswise and was being held in place by the anchor’s huge weight. What to do?

The sailors stood around arguing about the best way to handle this; it didn’t happen often. Finally our young lieutenant got tired of all this meat-headed yelling and decided to show his mettle by fixing the thing simply and quickly. He walked up and kicked the stuck chain-link loose.

With a tremendous bang and roar the link popped loose and rushed into the depths, and once again the chain was speeding through the port and they were on their way to anchoring. But where was the Lieutenant? They looked overboard, and around, and up and down. He’d just disappeared!

But my dad, from above, had seen what happened too fast for the sailors to see. The lieutenant had caught his foot in the chain link and been forced at incredible speed and pressure through a small hole on his way to the bottom of the sea.

That’s the story my dad told about safety with tools when I was growing up.

8 thoughts on “Anchors aweigh

  1. bad times=good stories
    I read the last sentence as “That’s the story my dad told about safety with tools when I was throwing up.”

  2. When I was at the Maritime Academy, studying to be a deck officer (before I changed my major), we were made to sit for a few safety instructional films produced by the U.S. Navy. My favorite was the one showing a couple guys getting obliterated by a parted hawser. They had to slow it down to a frame-by-frame for you to see them get cut apart.
    When a hawser parts, it sounds like a bomb going off, and usually results in a lot of twisted metal near the bitt on the deck. I would imagine the anchor incident your father witnessed was a bit easier to clean up. Sucks about losing that lieutenant though— I bet he was a bitch to replace.

  3. My dad is a captain in the merchant navy. He told me of the cadet who was caught in the gangway mechanism as the ship was about to leave port.

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