*- I took the liberty of placing Lee and Chip in their first year at the Academy in 1976. I’m sure there are heaps of inaccuracies, but I write fiction for pleasure, mine and hopefully others.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow...
SSRN Seaview, and her loyal crew, were currently
enjoying a bit of well earned R and R whilst the visiting scientists onboard
correlated their most up-to-date data on the latest research project the Gray
Lady was conducting in the
The submarine floated calmly on the water just off a pristine looking beach off a stunning bay surrounded in thick colourful flora. Trees and shrubs of various sizes could be seen as far as the eye could see encompassing both the beach and the bay. Unfortunately many still had a charred surface, testament to the terrible fires that had ripped through the area last year at the height of the summer’s bushfire season.
Seaview was a hive of activity. Men were throwing various bits of sporting equipment and picnic items into the inflatable rafts and heading off to the beach. The Admiral had only been issued one rule, before dismissing his men.
“Men I know you need to stretch your legs and feel the sun on your face, even if here it is the end of winter, but you are not, under any circumstances to enter the bay area, either by water or land. That whole area is a no-go zone” Admiral Nelson explained in no uncertain tones. “You have the entire beach and the coastline waters as well as the bush beyond it to explore. Enjoy!” he continued.
A chorus of happy “Aye Sir” rang back at him.
Before the men had a chance to disburse their Skipper called for their attention warning them of the native wildlife that flourished in this area.
“Be very careful of the many forms of wildlife that live in the bush here. Especially the Kangaroo’s, they may look like cute furry animals but the larger ones can kill if agitated enough, now I believe there are no Big Reds here but still don’t try and cuddle any, Okay men?” Lee Crane urged them with a bit of a smile crossing his face as the image of Chief Sharkey going all soft over a Kangaroo and trying to cuddle the beastie only to have it rear up on it’s tail and giving him a swift kick in the pants came to mind. Not that he wished his Chief any harm, far from it; it was more the exasperated look that he knew would cross Sharkey’s face until he himself saw the funny side and began to laugh himself silly at the situation. Of course by the time he would reach home base the size of the animal would have doubled, maybe even tripled and the confrontation would have taken on biblical proportion, that’s what brought the smile to the skipper’s lips.
Giving the last two men remaining on the Bridge a brief grin Nelson returned below to grab a quick shower before returning to the lab and his research
“Well Lee that just leaves you and me. The watch is set, the rest of the guys are off to play, and the old, old man is in his element, what does that leave for us to do?” Chip Morton cheekily asked his friend, knowing only too well what his captain was going to say.
“I don’t know about you Chip, but there is a small mountain of paperwork threatening to overwhelm my desk if I don’t get some of it done.” came what was the standard Lee Crane answer to any similar question.
“All work and no play makes Lee a dull boy you know, just ask anyone?” Morton quipped as he ducked the open palm that was headed for the back of his head.
“No, seriously Lee, you need to unwind as much as the rest of the crew. Why don’t we grab a couple of wetsuits and check out the marine park?” the blond asked, seeing the interest reflect in his captain’s eyes at the thought.
Crane was just about to answer when movement on the wharf in the bay caught his attention. Lifting his powerful binoculars for a better look, he noticed the Frigate that had been anchored in the bay had moved it’s position and beyond it an orange and yellow survival raft could be seen bobbing up and down on the water, obviously empty. Looking back to the wharf itself the dark haired man noticed a group of thirty or so Australian sailor’s, officers by the look of their uniforms, coming to a stop at the end of the wharf. All looked toward the raft floating quite a distance away. Crane suddenly knew what was about to happen as his memory stirred to a day many, many years ago.
Handing the binoculars to his friend he pointed in the direction he wanted him to look as he called down for a second pair, so they could both watch what was about to unfold.
Crane and Morton watched with amusement as what appeared to be a Chief pointed out to the raft and bellowed a set of instructions. The assembled officers did not look very pleased as they contemplated what they had to do for a few moments. Suddenly in one and twos at first, then the rest of them all jumped off the end of the perfectly good wharf, in full uniform, shoes as well. Off they headed towards their waiting raft.
The two man audience both gave a little shiver in sympathy as the water was only about 8 degree Celsius which equalled 46.4 degree Fahrenheit, and the wind chill factor on the wet clothes would add to the icy temperature they would experience. Looking at each other, their eyes twinkled identically as they both remembered that day in 1976 when they were first year Midshipmen at the Academy.
Midshipman Lee Crane and his friend of three months, Midshipman Charles Morton, better known as ‘Chip’ stood on the end of a wharf a short distance from the open sea on a cold wintery morning, at some unknown area, with the rest of their company waiting for the order they knew was going to come.
“Do you all understand what is required of you?” The Commander asked
“Just to make sure I’ll go over it one more time. When I give the order you are to proceed into the water - do not remove any part of your uniform or even take off your shoes – then swim out to the survival raft and climb aboard, put on a life jacket and then you will stay there for the next eight hours. Questions?” he asked gruffly not really expecting any.
“Uh Sir. Where is the females raft?” a young Middie, Mark Marsden wanted to know.
Not quite understanding the question, the officer repeated what he said and pointed to the single raft afloat in the water.
Not wanting to make his feelings too obvious the young man continued, trying to get across what he wanted to say without actually having to verbalize it.
“But Sir, well the ladies sir, we... what if...how can...” he mumbled saying a lot but saying nothing at the same time.
“Midshipman, I realize this is the first intake that has accepted women into the Academy, and as such your company has three of them. But surely you do not expect them to be supplied with their own raft do you?” The older man demanded. Looking around at many of the faces gathered he could see that many of them did expect just that.
“Sir, to be honest yes... I mean, eight hours, that is a long time to go, you know, watching what we say and stuff. ” Marsden said indignantly, his words accompanied with quite a few heads nodding in agreement.
“Well excuse me Mr Marsden, but are you telling me that if your ship was torpedoed and the call to abandon ship was given you would want all the ladies onboard to run to their own lifeboat, even if it was out of reach in an emergency? You wouldn’t share yours with them?” But before the Midshipman could answer the Commander stepped forward, invading the man’s private space while jabbing a digit into his chest. “Now get this Mister, this is a fully integrated navy, and as of this class these ladies will be your fellow officers. They will work and live on the same ships as you. Learn to see them as sailors, as officers, understood?” He heatedly told him, but including all the other dissenters with his glacial glare.
The expected answer rang out as they all answered. “Aye Aye, Sir!”
“Right, in you go. Jump!” he ordered.
The first in was Lee Crane followed very quickly by Chip Morton. The others all took the plunge into the cold water, many losing their breath momentarily. Some of the more pretentious Midshipmen turned the swim into a race, whereas Lee, Chip and others of their little group just swam the distance with a leisurely stroke. After a few minutes the water did not seem to be as cold, of course that was because their bodies had gone numb, but it wouldn’t hurt for this swim. Those who started out as if they were in the Olympics were now starting to flag a little as they started to realise what Lee, Chip and cohorts already knew, that over the coming hours they would need all their energy reserves and to waste them now would not bode well for the long hours ahead.
Finally reaching the raft, one by one they either pulled themselves up or were aided onto it by those already within and keeping the light raft stable. The next step was to correctly put on the lifejackets, a difficulty in itself with this many people shuffling about at the same time. Of course the raft having a survival cover over the top to help protect its inhabitants from exposure did not help matters with so many climbing in. Once everyone was aboard it soon became obvious to the wet and cold Middies that there were just a few more people on the raft than it was supposed to house. So if some of the young men were a little put off at the thought of just sharing a raft with the young women, they were even more aghast at the thought of having to be so close to them, without actually being affectionately close to them.
Noticing that trouble was on the horizon, well in the raft anyway, Morton spoke up trying to get everyone’s attention.
“Okay, let’s get organized here and work out our game plan” he said trying to involve everyone. “Suggestions anyone?” the blond asked
Lee Crane opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it as he realized his friend’s strategy. This was Chip’s way of inducing the boys and girls to work together, as well as getting people to stop worrying about how cold and miserable they felt. They were in for much worse yet, of that he was certain.
“We should really set a watch, and work up a watch roster, shouldn’t we?” The smallest of the female Middies, Jackie Carne asked a little timidly.
A couple of the lads sniggered at her suggestion and someone mumbled “why bother” from within the group.
“That’s a great suggestion Carne, we don’t know what might be out there, and of course we need to watch where we may drift to. We don’t want to end up miles out to sea, do we?” Crane answered while most of the Midshipmen laughed at the thought of them all getting lost at sea, how would that look for the future of the navy to need rescuing like that... How embarrassing.
Ideas were coming in now that the ice had been broken. Most of what they came up with was just plain common sense and which they had covered in many of the lessons they had been given.
If the crowding wasn’t a reason to forget gender and huddle up to the person next to you, trying to keep the cold out by sharing body heat was. After spending an hour or so singing every latest hit on the charts and a few golden oldies as well as the obligatory navy anthems and such the Midshipmen came to the conclusion that they were only going to make themselves thirsty, and they were without any drinking water, so the community sing song came to an end. As quiet fell on the crowd Lee Crane decided that there was only one thing to do, so he shifted a little so that he was sort of lying over a bit and placed his head on his best friends shoulder and almost immediately went to sleep. It was a knack he had; he could sleep just about anywhere, catching up on lost sleep.
Chip smiled down at the dark head resting against him, the warmth from the body matched only by the warmth in his heart as he contemplated this unusual young man who had insinuated himself so rapidly into Chip’s life, who was more like a little brother than a mere friend. Without knowing it Lee had led the way yet again. Others began to make themselves as comfortable as they could under the circumstances and drifted off to sleep, aided no doubt but the slight movement of the raft upon the water.
Sometime later the red headed Midshipman who had the watch yelled out to the others that there was a frigate bearing down on them and she wasn’t crawling either. Heads popped out of the canopy to see what the alarm was about. Sure enough there she was heading their way, but it was obvious she was not on an interception course. Unfortunately, a few Middies began to panic, none of whom happened to be female. Two young men were out of the raft and into the water before anyone could stop them. Calling them back was useless.
The frigate went right past them, not close enough to harm them but close enough for the momentum to set the raft rocking in the disbursed water. Everyone held on until the raft or the nearest person until it ceased rocking. The two young absconders headed back to the raft, their faces bright red with embarrassment. Suddenly one of them screamed out.
“Something just brushed past me, it was big and slimy. I saw a fin, it’s a shark! Get me out of here!" he panicked as he began to hyperventilate. A series of shouts and yells and orders snapped out, which only served to cause more confusion and absolutely nothing to help, especially to the two terrified men still in the water. Just then a fin did broach the surface just a few feet away from the raft but as luck would have it the cooler heads onboard noticed the shape of the fin and were able to calm their raft mates and the swimmers with the revelation that it was not a shark but rather a dolphin that was by now swimming away having lost all interest in the strange craft on its home.
As the pair was pulled back onboard water drenched the near dry Midshipmen, wetting those close to the two once more. No one wanted to hear the two Middie's apologies; they didn’t want to talk to them period.
About forty minutes later, as everyone had settled back down to sleep or rest, it happened all over again. This time, at least, no one left the raft.
Four times this happened in all. As a few of the Midshipmen were discussing what the frigate thought it was doing so close to them Lee looked up at Chip and as their eyes met it was as is they were having a silent conversation.
“What are they worried about?” Lee thought to himself
“Are they stupid or what?” Chip thought, after interpreting Lee’s look
“Don’t they realize it won’t happen again? That was the last pass.” Lee wordlessly indicated
“The first one was to see how we reacted; the other three were to help us to drift back toward the bay.” Chip agreed with what he knew would be going through the other man’s mind. After all, to him, as to Lee, it was so transparent
“The tide is turning. We’ll be alright now,” they both thought simultaneously, both men shaking their heads on cue.
Crane and Morton were not conceited as to think they were the only two in the group who had figured this out, but it was clear that there were a few who had not. And that was beginning to worry the young men.
It was not much longer before the next problem that needed to be overcome arose.
People were becoming fidgety, and it did not take a nuclear physicist to work out what the problem was. Midshipmen were becoming in need of the head. In previous years this was no trouble, there was the obvious answer, just go over the side. But this time there was ladies present, and although most sailors often say that they are not embarrassed of their ‘equipment’, saying it and meaning it are two different things.
“What are you complaining about, it’s worse for us” Leanne Baker berated her fellow Midshipman who was making matters worse for many by constantly broaching the subject.
Not immediately getting her meaning, he spread his two hands, palm up to show his lack of understanding.
She shook her head in disbelief “You only have to unzip and point that’s it. It’s not that easy for us.” And to punctuate her explanation she promptly slipped over the side of the raft and swam off a short distance. A few minutes later she swam back to the raft and pulled herself back in, once again adding fresh water to the semi dried off occupants. At last the male she was addressing understood. The ladies just politely turned their heads to accommodate the men. Although there was one fellow who was not as lucky as the others. Andrew Dunlop was a very shy young man and everybody teased him about it. When it was his turn to relieve himself, one of the other lads had to have a dig at him. Waiting until the poor victim had unzipped, he calmly spoke up.
“Hey, Andy, I hope you realise that if anyone on the shoreline is looking through binoculars they will be able to see you... all of you, if you know what I mean?”
Before he could even draw breath to laugh at his own joke Andrew had spun away from facing the shore too fast and his feet got caught up with the entwined limbs all around him and before anyone to grab him, into the water he went. He came up spluttering which only seemed to add to the amusement. Chip tried to keep a straight face, but he knew he was fighting a lost battle. He turned to look at Lee hoping to find a tranquil harbour there until he was able to pull himself together, but the sight of his dark haired friend in similar trouble was enough to push them both over the edge and they too broke out laughing, at the same time apologizing for it to Andrew. Luckily he saw the humour in the situation and joined in holding no malice towards his temporary ship mates.
Again a long lull overtook the Midshipmen as boredom led to eyes closing once again. No one had a watch on but the next and last obstacle thrown at the group came in the guise of a helicopter. As helo’s had been passing by all day no one thought anything of it as they heard yet another one approach. That was until the noise got louder and louder and the raft began being tossed about on the water as if it were a mere scrap of paper as the down draft of the rotors churned the water up all around them. Peeking out from their canopy it was like being in the wake of a hurricane. Wind was tossing them about and water sprays were soaking them all, yet again. It hovered over them for what seemed an eternity and then it was gone again, leaving behind the group to face the hardest part of this test.
The sun was getting ready to go to bed for the night and as a result the temperature was dropping. Once again wet and cold and now very hungry and thirsty this last stretch was trying on them all. Still, they all knew it was nothing compared to what they could face one day, so with that in mind and knowing the finish line wasn’t too far away, they once again started singing together as a group.
When the bells were heard onboard the frigate it sounded the end of their trial, now all they had to do was to be ‘rescued’ Morton lifted the flare pistol and fired off first one, then a second flare... It was over and he and Lee had passed with flying colours
Lee Crane only knew a couple of Midshipmen really well, being a private person himself, and at the head of that small list was Chip Morton, of course, but he had learned an awful lot about some of his fellow classmen today, not to mention what he learned about himself. But then, the steadying factor all the way through was Chip. He had never really depended on any one before, but now he realized that with Chip by his side to counterbalance his occasional impulsive behaviour just about anything was possible, that he could overcome any problem, any hardship with his friend; no friend didn’t go far enough to explain what they had ...his... brother... that was it (he finally realized what already knew)... his brother at his side.
Back to Jervis bay
The two Seaview officers knew that Nelson had made the bay off limits, which they thought was a little inconsiderate of the R.A.N not to offer its base to visiting US submariners, but now they understood. Still watching as the 29 Australian Midshipmen, both male and female began their Sea Survival Training both young men remembered the main personal lesson they had learned on that day long ago. That they shared a bond, a brotherhood that had surprised them both and surpassed anything either had experienced either prior to or since with anyone else. These memories also awakened a realization in the young skipper’s mind, when was the last time he and Chip played hooky and just did something for the fun of it? Lee cast his thoughts back but couldn’t remember, it seemed as if duty always got in the way; his duty to the Admiral, to the boat, to the men, to the paperwork and occasionally to O.N.I (the one that Chip hated more than anything else in Lee’s life). Coming to a decision Lee reached out taking the binoculars from Morton’s hands. The blond threw a questioning look at the brunet, hoping that his friend was going to say what Chip thought Lee was going to say.
“Didn’t you say something about going out for a dive?” Capt Crane queried as he leaned casually against the bridge.
“Well yes sir, I did, but you have all that paperwork that so desperately needs your attention don’t you?” the exec asked so innocently that he almost had as much trouble keeping a straight face today as he did back in that raft in 1976. And again, as then, looking at his friend was his undoing. The laughter that echoed down to the men below was infectious. As the two men descended the ladder to prepare for their dive the men knew their XO had once again pulled off a miracle and had cajoled their overworked skipper into taking a break.
As he walked on Crane let it be know to his diving partner that the only reason he had time to indulge himself now was that he had decided that his Exec had such good organization skills that he would gladly pass on half of his paper work to his loyal First Officer.
An over exaggerated groan was the only reply that Morton gave to this comment, thought the smile on his face told a completely different story as he was already undoing the buttons on his shirt as he was really in need of some down time himself and what better way to relax than to do what you enjoy most with the friend you enjoy being with the most.
Chip had a final thought in his head before the dive took all his attention.
“Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, my friend."
Survival At Sea
A prerequisite for joining the Navy is serving at sea requires being able to abandon ship correctly. Such knowledge includes how to: wear a thermal suit, enter the water from the side of a ship, use the life jackets, enter a standard RAN life raft as well as attracting rescuers' attention.