Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Tales from Davy Jones Locker

All these stories (or as we called them in the Navy - Salty Dits) are real events experienced by the author whilst serving his nation between 1975 and 2002. Some are very rare occasions, some far fetched but believe me all are real and unimagined.

Tale One - The Sea Lion

Now in my job as a young Hydrographic Survey Assistant ( we were the chart makers) one of our jobs was to set up tide poles in locations where the ships were working to provide up to date and valid tidal records for the final survey sheets to have the data reduced by those tidal records. This meant setting up Tide Poles and Tide Gauges around the shoreline (about ten miles apart) and utilising Survey and other ship's staff to monitor both. The reader would record a visual reading on the pole every 30 minutes and every ten minutes over the high or low waters so an accurate record was achieved.

Now as I said, these were always on the coast and the tidal stations would all be manned right through the day (and sometimes overnight) and records either handed back to the ship or radioed depending the urgency of the records. And yes any weather we were there happily reading away. On one such occasion, on a brilliantly fine Cook Strait day, I was the lucky recipient of the task (it was always a great day when you got this plum job) I was stationed at the Port Underwood tidal station, which was solely a tide pole erected offshore amongst some rather large rocks and the day as I said was beautifully fine, no clouds, no wind, just primo. Since these jobs meant being well out of the public eye we toughened men of steel would strip down to jocks (some further) and just sit the day out catching the rays and working (of course).

Anyway, I managed to sort out a rock for me to sit on. I had a choice of two both right beside each other. I chose the northern one due to the fact it was flatter and slightly closer to the tide pole so was easy to read. Now the other rock had a slight slope towards the sea and I feared my radio, book, or backpack would all slide into the sea. So after about five hours of hard work, hard reading and a few good songs on the radio, the world suddenly exploded. Well not the world, the water in front of the rock I hadn't chosen, and sitting on that rock now was a humungously monstrous sea lion. I shouted as loud as I could, the sea lion then grunted an equally startled grunt or three and promptly dived back into the water. Seriously I wouldn't have a clue who shat themselves most!!

Tale Two - Welcome Back Kotter

Gee it's a hard life in the Navy. Just ask all those fishermen that adorned every ship, all those at anchor moments, those deep sea fishing expeditions, and of course the Ones That Got Away. And especially the ones that got away. I used to fish from the ship (or boats) with two handlines that I had had for years. The rest of the guys used flash rods with shiny reels and brand new nylon. Me, trusty old (and successful) Bert and Ernie (bugger knows why I called them that??) Anyway, one night we were anchored off Russell in the Bay of Islands after a hard days work, and as usual all lines were in the water practically as soon as the prop stopped turning. I had Bert and Ernie set up with double hooks and rubber bands (to let me know if there was a bite on the line) and wasn't having much success. Anyway, been there for a while and my mate next to me said he was off to dinner and could I watch his rod. "Sure" I said and he placed the rod threaded in the guardrails to stop it being dragged overboard.

After about thirty minutes I decided to go get dinner and started rolling my two lines in when out of the corner of my eye I saw me mates rod bend right over and then suddenly the thing started unwinding itself through the guardrails, so I dropped my line and reached out to grab his rod, but a fraction of a second too late. The thing flew elegantly over the guardrails and landed about 45 feet further out to sea. Whatever had it was big and very fast. Then my mate walk out and saw his rod was missing. I told him what had happened and thankfully another guy had seen it too and confirmed my story. My mate was gutted as it was his only rod, and we still had 15 days at sea. Anyway, I packed up and had dinner and couldn't get my mind off his rod.

Anyway, next day and the previous night gone from memory, we worked as usual out in the bay, and that night found us anchored about 100 metres north of our previous anchorage from the night before. As usual, the props stopped and fishing began. I had my line in the water and was preparing the other when I saw the rubber band stretch on the first line. The ship was swinging in the breeze and I thought I had a snag, so pulled on the line and it tightened. I gave it a swift tug and it held so I started my normal hand over hand haul and as the line got closer to the ship, the heavier the catch got. I will admit now it wasn't really fighting, behaving a bit like a Hapuka when caught.

And then it broke the surface. Bugger Me!!! It was a fishing rod, and no ordinary rod, no it was my mates shiny red boat rod. AND he just happened to walk out on the quarterdeck as I hauled it in. Now those stories about the one that got away have new meaning ;)

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