A FEW YEARS AGO NOW
My very most favouritest ship of them all was HMNZS Otago. A modified Rothesay class anti-submarine-come-general purpose frigate she was a second home. But enough of nostalgia: in the tropics she was as hot as hell and in cooler climes we froze our bollards off but everyone who served in her loved her regardless (we sailors are fickle like that).
THE SEA SOMETIMES
can be benign (it means soft and gentle, fluffy, with little sparkly bits) and at other times a bit of a grumpy bitch. You learn to take her as she comes—like having a second Spouse really (don’t tell my Beloved I said that).
At full speed of thirty knots plus (about average for her type) Otago would vibrate and snarl—you could feel the pace from anywhere in the ship—and when she turned you just let everything go and hung on, a deep growling turn that made your very soul sing in sympathetic exultation. If you were down the blunt end you’d see the wake thrown to impressive heights by the power, literally cascading diamonds into the skies.
ON A FLAT SEA
in a benign clime it was great to be on the upper-deck with a hot coffee and just enjoy the scenery—amazing how empty sea can be so expressive—
—if you look to the images you’ll see down aft (that’s the back end) what looks to be two mountings holding three wee tubes each. Horribly outdated now, they were teeth in their time. They could throw a four hundred pound bomb out over a thousand yards, a six bomb salvo intended to sink down to where your sonars told you a submarine was lurking and surround it on all sides, above and below, then all pop off at once. Squelch.
TO FURTHER NOT DIGRESS
on one cruise we were accepted into the Canadian Pacific fleet as one of themselves (even got to wear a big red maple leaf on each bridge-wing) and we became very matey with the Canuks. So much so that they lined up their ships at sea on our departure day for us to sail past, and we were cheered by each ship as we went by. All very emotional and stuff. But—
HERE’S WHERE IT GETS NAUTICAL
a bit like a ‘Party Popper’ writ large, one of the mortar barrels was to be loaded with oodles of unwrapped toilet rolls which would fly up and over their flagship as a solid lump then spread apart as the lump ran out of impetus, with the rolls coming down individually and unravelling as they fell. Just like a Party Popper …
THE TIMING WAS PERFECT
with naval precision, right down to all the interlocks and switches, even tracking the very visual flagship on sonar and using computer-directed aim. The BANG when it came was expected by us but a bit of a surprise to the Canadians; but when the lump—instead of following the script—actually shattered right over the top of the Canadian ship and became an instant foul-and-filthy backened mass of shredded stinking confetti that promptly enveloped the entire ship in a cloud of drifting reeking … bits …
we were part of a well planned manoeuvre that had us scripted as scarpering for the horizon in the direction of home with nary a backwards glance; and strictly in accordance with naval discipline — we scarpered.
GIVE THEM CREDIT
they had a helo airborne within minutes, even before we’d achieved a previously unplanned flank speed. My understanding to this day is that a not word was said on any radio, signal flags, signalling lamps—all we got by way of appreciation as they made their delighted orbit of the ship was this, their last word—
—which sure beats anything I might have said.