Thursday, 22 February 2018

What it means to be a Matelot

Roughers - a jackspeak term for Very Rough Ogwash (bumpy seas). All sailors have their own ditty (story) about what nearly saw their end, and Tangaroa coughs up some doozies from time to time.

This jack has seen some and there are those moments I reached into my own reserves, especially around the coast of Aotearoa. There was that momentus drop of roughers coming back from the Tasman on Canterbury and running into a cyclone off the east coast. I was an OD Seaman and we had to close up as Quarterdeck Lifebuoy Sentry on the seacat deck (normally AX) and lashed to the superstructure and yeah I got saturated but I did my watch. Two days was precarious. My first drop of the rough stuff and I hungered for more.

The other moment (also Canterbury) was when we escorted USS Truxton, we were supplying liberty boat crews in Wellington Harbour. We departed in moderate seas in the Cook Strait and flat seas around Marlborough Sounds and millpond in Golden Bay and Nelson. We loaded on 75 sea cadets, and sailed back towards Wellington, We raced into the Cook Strait at full revs the weather had deteriorated. I was Bosun Mate and wedged into my possie Port Side Aft on the bridge. We hit a series of humungous swells and the ship was groaning something chronic as she shuddered to a stop (still burning and turning). The damage was huge. Focsle guardrails smashed off, 3 window wipers gone, duckboards on Bridge wings gone and the biggest, a huuuuugggggeeeeeeeeeeeee dent on the front of the starboard Bridge wing. Seem to recall the Oerlikan on the bridge top was damaged too. The worst though was the smell coming from down below, all 75 sea cadets with natures curse – sea sickness. Not an empty head or bucket anywhere.

BUT there were two others. I'll let Rocky Morell do the Monowai one as he has a video so I'll relate my ISC moment.

We, Takapu and Tarapunga were, as usual, in company heading up the East Coast (Ngati Purou) and we had been playing it calm off the coast. There was some rough weather forecasted when we turned into the Bay (Plenty). As we neared East Cape the weather did turn for the worst but by the time we turned the weather just bombed us. We'd gone about 5nm and the CO decided to turn back but it had deteriorated so quickly it was deemed too dangerous, so plough on we did. Within a couple of hours the crew become struck with only 2 JR's doing the helm (LHA Paul Wattie Watson and myself.) and OOW down to Pete Fowles (CPOMEA) with the CO and Coxn laid low. Poor old Pete, did his whole watches on the bridge sitting on the back of bridge doors, he'd chunder out the back doors and the next wave washed it away. The three of us did an 18 hour stint (18hours for 12 miles, but we progressed.)  We were in company for the whole time and even though we had GPS and no radar and TK had Radar, and they were a few miles apart, we never saw each other.

How rough? ISC's are about 6m high. For 18 hours I was looking up at the breaking crests. And poor old Dave Tatana (RIP) was in his pit fwd and this freaking huge swell smashed down on the focsle and dislodged the forrid hatch and flooded the mess, and Dave wore it all (found later with a few others in the Dining Hall crashed). You came off watch and topped up the soup so the sickbay rangers got sustenance.

1 comment:

  1. Yep - them were the days. Remember many, most common was exiting Sydney heads, calm inside one minute and soon as you as you pass through the heads all hell break loose. Securing the fo'c'sle cable deck for sea was a race against the big greenies coming over the bow.