Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas--Submarine Style


As promised, here's the second of six Navy-ized versions of this popular poem. Incidentally, this December 2012 photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Steven Khor shows the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Tucson (SSN 770) decorated for the holidays while moored at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Author Unknown
'Twas the night before Christmas, and what no one could see,
The men with the dolphins were under the sea.
Most of the crew was flat on their backs,
Snoring and dreaming, all snug in their racks.
Those men on watch were making their rounds,
Some manning the planes, or listening for sounds.
Back in maneuvering or down in the room,
They all hoped the oncoming watch would come soon.
I'd finished some PMs, whose time was now due,
And hoped for some sleep, even an hour or two.
Against better judgment, I took a short stroll,
And found myself wandering into control.
The Nav had the Conn, the COW was in place,
The COB had the Dive and a scowl on his face.
The helm and the planes were relaxed but aware,
The QM and ET were discussing a dare.
To comply with the orders, the Nav told the Dive,
To bring the boat up with minimum rise.
The orders were given, and soon they were there,
At periscope depth, with a scope in the air.
The QM confirmed our position with care,
The broadcast was copied, we brought in some air.
The Nav on the scope let out a small cry,
He shook his head twice and rubbed at his eyes.
He looked once again to find what it was,
That interrupted his sweep and caused him to pause.
Try as he might, there was nothing to see,
So down went the scope, and us to the deep.
I asked what it was that caused his dismay,
He sheepishly said, "I'm embarrassed to say.
It could have been Northern Lights or a cloud,
Or a meteorite," he wondered aloud.
But to tell you the truth, I guess I must say,
Whatever it was, it looked like a sleigh.
And though it passed quickly and never was clear,
I almost believe it was pulled by reindeer.
We laughed and teased him, and I got up to go,
When our moment was broken by "Conn, Radio."
They told us a message was just coming in,
We looked at the depth gauge and started to grin.
"Radio, Conn, I feel safe to say,
Your attempt at a joke is too long delayed.
If it had been sooner, it might have been neat,
But I doubt we're receiving at four-hundred feet."
"Conn, Radio, you can come down and see,
We're not playing games to any degree."
I headed aft, with nothing better to do,
Surprised by the fact it was still coming through.
It stopped and was sent to control to be read,
The Nav read it slowly and scratched at his head.
Then again, he began but this time aloud,
To those that now waited, a curious crowd.
"To you Denizens of the Deep and men of the sea,
Who risk your life daily, so others stay free.
I rarely have seen you on this, my big night,
For far too often, you are hidden from sight.
"But purely by luck, I saw you tonight,
As your scope coaxed the plankton to glow in the night.
And lucky for me, I've finally won,
The chance to say thanks for all you have done.
"I know that you miss your families at home,
And sometimes you feel as if you're alone.
But trust what I say, and I'll do what's right,
I'll take something special to your families tonight.
"Along with the gifts, I'll take to your kin,
I'll visit their dreams and leave word within.
They'll hear of your love, and how you miss them,
I'll tell them that soon you'll be home again.
"It might not be much, I know that is true,
To thank you for all the things that you do.
But I'll do what I can, while you do what's right,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight."
(Courtesy of "The Goat Locker," 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Season's Greetings One and All

Along with my holiday greetings this year, I'm including the first of what will be a total of six different U.S. Navy variations of the "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem. I plan to post one each day between now and Christmas Eve. I'm also considering the possibility of including a similar poem each holiday season henceforth--but only one, not the six I'm using this introductory year.

As a Navy retiree and writer for many years now, these poems always have warmed my heart, and I truly hope they'll be a source of inspiration and enjoyment for all my readers, too. With that explanation out of the way, here's the first poem:

Sailor's Christmas
Author Unknown
'Twas the night before Christmas, the ship was out steaming,
Sailors stood watch, while others were dreaming.
They lived in a crowd, with racks tight and small,
In an 80-man berthing, cramped one and all.
I had come down the stack with presents to give,
And to see inside just who might perhaps live.
I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings were hung, shined boots close at hand,
On the bulkhead hung pictures of a far-distant land.
They had medals and badges and awards of all kind,
And a sober thought came into my mind.
For this place was different, so dark and so dreary,
I had found the house of a Sailor, once I saw clearly.
A Sailor lay sleeping, silent and alone,
Curled up in a rack and dreaming of home.
The face was so gentle, the room squared away,
This was the United States Sailor today.
This was the hero I saw on TV,
Defending our country, so we could be free.
I realized the families that I would visit this night,
Owed their lives to these Sailors, lay willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each day of the year,
Because of the Sailor, like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve, on a sea far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The Sailor awakened, and I heard a calm voice,
"Santa, don't cry; this life is my choice.
"Defending the seas, all days of the year,
So others may live and be free with no fear."
I thought for a moment, what a difficult road,
To live a life guided by honor and code.
After all, it's Christmas Eve, and the ship's underway!
But freedom isn't free, and it's Sailors who pay.
The Sailor says to our country, "Be free and sleep tight,
No harm will come, not on my watch and not on this night."
The Sailor rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent, so still,
I watched as the Sailor shivered from the night's cold chill.
I didn't want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor, so willing to fight.
The Sailor rolled over, and with a voice strong and sure,
Commanded, "Carry on, Santa; it's Christmas, and all is secure!"
(Courtesy of "The Goat Locker,"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Man on the Back Seat--What's Expected of Him?

That's anything but a new question, and based on some situations I've been privy to over the years, has been the source of some very uncomfortable moments for both parties involved. Many choose to lump this question and other similar ones under the heading of "unwritten rules" or "code of ethics."

These "unwritten rules" apply to all boaters, non-boaters, and tournament fishermen alike. They usually aren't included in the rules promulgated by the tournament director, which govern the tournament itself. Rather, it's up to the anglers to become familiar with the generally accepted do's and don'ts.

Not for a single moment do I purport that the following list is all-inclusive, but it should provide a basic understanding of things you, as a non-boater, can and should do to foster a friendly atmosphere with your boater partner come tournament day.

Sharing gas expenses. Generally speaking, you should expect to split the gas bill for both the tow vehicle and the boat 50/50. In some cases, the boater and non-boater agree on an up-front cash settlement. Other times, the boater starts the day with a full tank of gas in both his tow vehicle and boat and then, upon returning home at day's end, pulls in and refills both, at which time each angler simply covers half the bill. The non-boater also would be well-served to pay at least half of the boat-ramp fee.

Amount of tackle a non-boater should bring. This often can depend on the individual boater. Your best bet is to talk to the boater ahead of time and find out how much room he will have available for you, then plan accordingly. When talking to the boater, you'd also be wise to ask what kind of fishing he expects to be doing. And when preparing your tackle, wrap the lures so they don't accidentally hook the boat seats.

Help in launching and recovering the boat. Again, the non-boater involvement often depends on what the boater prefers. He may only want you to hold a rope. Some, though, want you to operate the tow vehicle. If you're not comfortable with backing a boat trailer, let the boater know immediately, so he can find someone else to help. Show that you're well-intentioned by offering to help up front, rather than waiting for the boater to ask you.

Lunchtime. When packing your lunch, strive to keep it simple. Try to avoid messy sandwiches (with mayo, mustard and such), as well as carbonated drinks, because the latter can explode in rough water.

Treat the boat as your own. Before getting in it, wipe off your feet--no boater likes to have mud or sand tracked from one end to the other. If you're fishing weedy areas, make sure you toss all weeds you hook back into the water. Be aware that you're near the motor cowling, and it'll probably carry a mark nearly every time you happen to whack it with a hard bait.

If you accidentally hook a fish deep and cause it to bleed, have the courtesy to unhook it beside the boat so you don't string blood across the seats or carpet. And, at the end of the day, remember to remove all your garbage from the boat.

Here are some other good things for a non-boater to know:

     * Never fish in front of the boater unless he tells you it's OK. There's no quicker way to incur a boater's ire. Instead, concentrate on where the boater's lure hits the water and try to hit different spots.

     * Fish a bait that moves at a speed as fast or faster than the one the boater is throwing. You'll be wasting your time with a worm or other soft plastic if he's throwing a crankbait or spinnerbait. And if he's catching fish and you're not, you're likely better off changing to the same bait or something very similar. (I well-remember a couple of occasions just this past season when my partner said, "I wondered how long it was going to take you to get the message.")

     * Show up with lures already on your rods. If you're not sure what to rig up with, just go with your favorites and be prepared to change as conditions may dictate. First light often is the most productive part of the whole day, so you don't want to be wasting that time tying on lures. The best time to do that is while the boater is running.

     * Read the tournament rules carefully, paying special attention to whether they allow non-boaters to run the trolling motor and/or to fish their choice of water part of the day. If the boater needs to do something like take care of a backlash or change lures, and you have experience running the trolling motor, ask if he'd like you to take over for a few minutes. Just remember that you'll be assuming responsibility for any damage to the boat or trolling motor, so don't offer your service unless you're totally comfortable.

     * Finally, be patient. Get to know your partner early in the day, so you have a feel for whether he seems open to listening to suggestions you may have. Be willing to adapt as necessary and focus on fishing the water where you're at, not the honey hole on the opposite shoreline or farther up the creek.

Communication and mutual respect can go a long way in most situations involving etiquette or the "unwritten rules" of the sport. If you're concerned about violating tournament etiquette, there's a way to test the situation before you act. Simply ask yourself this question: "Would I like for that to be done to me?" You'll have your answer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Catchin' Reds Is a Blast!!!

So says my friend, Eddie Sapp, who makes it a point to play every bit as hard as he works. He loves spending time on the water, and he's anything but content just to concentrate his skills on one species. If they have fins, swim, and like to feed at least occasionally, there's a better than average chance they'll sooner or later appear on Eddie's radar scope.

And, as I learned just today, these redfish, or puppy drum, as he says they're known around here, are among his latest pursuits. "There are tons of them locally, and they usually are big," he said.

"You fish for them just like bass," Eddie continued. "You flip docks or throw jerkbaits. The only difference is in what happens when a giant red--weighing upwards of 20 lbs.--hits that bait. It's a blast!" he exclaimed.

As you can tell from this photo, Eddie goes after those giant reds with the flats poling skiff he bought this year--the same boat my friend, Skip, photographed for me in the previous post. "It's designed to float extremely shallow--about 3 inches of water--and will plane out in 5 to 6 feet of water," he said.

While the reds really get Eddie's adrenaline to pumping, they share his focus this time of year. He also likes to go pan fishing on the river when it gets really cold.

"The Northwest has been good to me," he said. "I've been catching some big white and yellow perch the last couple of outings, as well as my fair share of bass.

Incidentally, if you're one who enjoys looking at pictures of nice redfish, you're in for a little treat now, 'cause Eddie was kind enough to email me photos of several he's caught the last couple of months. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fishing Highlights

Congratulations to Sean Vitovich for landing this citation 48-lb. 8-oz rockfish yesterday. This completes his requirements for laying claim to an Expert Angler Award from the State of Virginia.

In the last 365 days, Sean has boated citations in all of the following six different saltwater species: speckled trout, redfish, cobia, blue tile, sea bass, and striper.

In case anyone doesn't already know, Sean is the son of Chris Vitovich and helps his dad put on the annual Steve Gambill Cancer Classic at West Landing Marina.

Eddie Sapp probably is best known locally for his bass fishing prowess, but as I learned a couple weeks ago, he's spending at least part of his time nowadays in pursuit of crappie. And, as a result, he has gone out and gotten himself a second boat, so he can do the job right.

Here's the new craft, as photographed earlier today by my friend, Skip, that Eddie is running around in these days when chasing crappie.

Skip and I shared a good laugh about how long either one of us probably would last standing on this boat's raised platforms. I jokingly told him they'd probably find both of us floating belly-up on the water near an old carp or grindle.

"They're bitin'," was the word I got from Bob Glass when we stopped and chatted for a couple minutes while I was at the marina earlier today. Bob told me he had gotten five in only a couple hours on the water. On one other recent day, he boated a dozen.

In case you're wondering, crankbaits have been Bob's go-to lures during recent trips, and that has been standard fare for nearly everyone I've spoken to in recent weeks. Crankbaits are hard to beat this time of year around here.

I sincerely envy everyone who has been getting out here lately, 'cause Bob is spot on--they really are bitin'. Now that I've got another boat to get set up like I want, though, it's likely to be a spell yet before I get to wet another lure of any kind. My first priority is to get the boat ready, so I'll be able to go come spring.