In the Navy…
>The Defence of NZ Rests With This Guy…
At the time of this ditty I was posted on HMNZS Waikato (F55), and ageing Leander Class Frigate of the RNZN, and we were participating in a joint exercise in the South China Sea called Operation Starfish (so called as five nations are part of this pact, NZ, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, and UK).
Normally a lot of it was boring passages through expanses of water with intermittent fictitious war games involving warplanes, subs, carriers and other surface craft. On this particular night I had the Morning Watch (0400-0800) and was Second Officer of the Watch (2OOW) to a Sub-Lieutenant. He was a pretty good bloke and didn’t pull rank on us juniors (in fact I was the only Junior Officer Under Training – JOUT) on Waikato so had to carry out a lot of watches, and some OOWs were complete dickheads, and some were OK…anyway, back to this Subby, he was an OK guy, however he tended to stress and was always trying to make an impression on the Captain (CO), whose rank was in fact Commander (just one of the many oxymoron’s in the forces) and came across sometimes as what we call a ‘crawly bumlick’.
So, where was I? Right…so we had this watch, and we were cruising the waters in silence as reports were about that ‘hostile’ forces were in the area and we were to see if we could locate them without being traced, so he thought he would make an impression by finding one. Soon enough, he had his chance when he sighted a masthead steaming light (the white light at the top of the tallest mast on a ship)…the conversation went something like this;
|“Captain – Captain! Trouble at the pointy bit!”
OOW; OPS, Bridge, contact bearing green 15 range approximately 12 miles. Report.
Now the Navy is full of abbreviations, slang, and terminology, so to make it easier, this sentence to a landlubber would read; Control Centre (a place in the guts of the ship where all manner of radar and sonar plots are kept, and is where all warfare is controlled from). I have seen something, a possible ship, 15 degrees left of our direction, on the horizon. Can you please tell me what it is? Savvy?
OPS; Bridge, OPS. We have nothing on the plot (a big mapping table that shows any and everything out to about 50 miles). Please confirm.
Translation; Are you sure you can see something?
Me and the OOW scan the area with our binoculars, and I am at this point trying to figure exactly what he is looking at, as I don’t see it. I prided myself on my night vision and ship and recognition.
After a couple of minutes, the OOW is still looking at his masthead light, and its height above the horizon is increasing, indicating it moving closer to us, or we were gaining on it.
OOW; OPS, Bridge, please report contact green 15, range closing.
Translation; C’mon guys, I can see it, and it’s getting closer.
OPS; Bridge, OPS. No contact on that bearing, plot clear.
Translation; Is our plot working? We ain’t got nothing, and there is nothing within cooey.
By now, the masthead light is separating faster which would indicate that a ship was headed towards us, and seemed to be on a converging course, i.e. it could collide with us if we both kept course. By now I am double guessing my sight, as I still couldn’t see anything. It was dark, but not so dark in these areas that even minimal light would show silhouettes.
OOW; OPS, Bridge, contact is closing fast, bearing green 10. Report!
Translation; Shit guys, this could be embarrassing if I have to call up the CO, stop dicking around down there!
OPS; Bridge, OPS. Please provide bearing and inclination of contact.
Translation; Oi, can you please tell me where it is, and how high above the horizon the light is?
It was at this point I could see what was happening, but there is one thing you don’t do (unless life is at risk), and that’s correct a senior officer if it had an embarrassing outcome. I passed the details asked for to the OOW, and he relayed them to OPS. After a few minutes, during which the OOW was starting to worry (in his calculations, the contact was within 5 miles), OPS came back. The Subby had his hand on the comms to the CO, ready to get him out of his ‘pit’.
OPS; Bridge, OPS. We have details on contact bearing green 5. I swear, I heard a hint of a snicker here. Contact is the Morning Star, Venus.
Translation; You’re a dick.
The remaining three hours of the watch was dead quiet. And for the record, the ‘contact’ was not recorded in the Ship’s Log.