In The Navy…The Captain’s Chair
There is no more sacred place on a warship than the seat on the bridge where the Captain sits on watch…this is generally off-limits to anyone and everyone else unless by invite (as my ‘little brother’ was). Sometimes on night watches when I was on the bridge as Assistant Officer of the Watch (AOOW) and required to maintain visual from the front of the bridge, the officer of the Watch (OOW) used to sit in it giving off the impression he had seniority to do so…lazy pricks…you should have seen them jump on those occasions the Captain did pop up to the bridge unexpected!
Anyway this story is leading somewhere…
Alongside the chair, the wheelhouse was another place onboard where it is considered the place to have a ‘knee-trembler’ with a certain someone (be it girlfriend, or boyfriend as the case was, but I don’t remember too many wives!). I am proud to say I had achieved my ‘stripes’ in the wheelhouse, but one night while in Sydney the Captain’s Chair welcomed me with disastrous results!
We had just held a Cocktail Party on arriving in Sydney for HMNZS Waikato’s SATS (Sea Acceptance Trials – sort of naval Warrant of Fitness) but the Gunroom (Junior Officers) had lost leave privileges due to failing to secure properly for Action Stations (prep for war) which while it had gutted us not being able to hit the town that first weekend, at least we were still allowed at the party. So these parties normally start out somewhat stuffy, but after the dignitaries have left and most of the Senior Officers have as well, the rest of us would retire to the Wardroom down below for a party with those guests looking forward to a bit of a do as well as sampling Kiwi hospitality…this more often than not consisted of more women than men which is by no means a coincidence.
After I had escorted some guests off that I had struck up a friendship with during the night, I retired downstairs as well for a few more casual drinks. The Wardroom was in full swing, the stereo blasting, and the duty-free piss was flowing freely. No sooner did I have a beer in hand (bloody Waikato Draught!) and sat down when a woman started making eyes at me…not the ‘Come hither” types as such, but more a “Please help me get away from this guy” kind, and when I saw who she was insinuating I had to be the gentleman and do so – my nemesis and a right fuckwit, Brendon. I stood up, put my beer down and moseyed over and she immediately flung her arms around me and loud enough for him to hear said “Where were you? I’ve been looking for you all night” to which dickface obviously took the hint but had the look of dark death…well, he was no doubt going to take it out on me with some bullshit chores or tasks, and watchkeeping was certainly about to have some sting in it too. No fear, I hated the guy and he could dish the worst…
So sometime later on that night me and this woman ended up on the bridge-top of the ship (this is the exposed upper works of the bridge itself) where we had thought we had some privacy except for a fellow JO (Junior Officer) who didn’t seem to get the hint we wanted to be alone. We ditched him somehow by going onto the bridge and soon had the Captain’s Chair fully reclined and made ourselves suitably comfortable…however again we were interrupted by someone coming by the bridge, who didn’t see us but we decided we would go elsewhere. Climbing off the chair I went to set it back in the upright position when it wouldn’t budge!! Shit! We had broken it and it wasn’t something you could just hide under a carpet, or in a closet (in saying that, many in the Navy had been hiding in the closet for years!). I panicked, but hormones got the better of me and we finished what we had started – it was while she was kissing me at the base entry she pointed out her husband “probably wouldn’t be too happy about her coming home at this time”…right, sorry about that.
So back on board I located the on-duty Engineer and had to rouse him from his sleep, and outside his mess explained (in not too much detail) what had happened. He grabbed some tools and proceeded to work on the offending chair while I kept watch…the noise, and luckily most of the senior officers still appeared to be out as their cabins were mere metres away from where this fellow was banging and crashing. In the end, he got the seat back going up and down again but this was only achieved by dismantling the gearing that made it do this…only one thing for it…weld the seat into place. Risky, but seemed my only option…in saying that, throwing myself overboard crossed my mind, but in the middle of Sydney Harbour someone was bound to fish me out. Desertion came to mind but I didn’t fancy a firing squad. And I doubted that there was any shops specialising in Captain’s Charis either…
Welded back into place we looked over his handy work and all seemed OK…mind you, I was still drunk, he was tired, and the mind sees what it wants to see in these situations. But amazingly I seemed to have gotten away with it as there were no ‘pipes’ (broadcasts” for me to go to the CO’s cabin “at the rush” (which indicated a reaming, without Vaseline!).
But, and there is always a but…we sailed from Sydney on the Monday (we had been in over the weekend) and worked up off the NSW coast for most of that week. It was while carrying out some manoeuvres with some Aussie warships which required the CO on deck that he went to adjust his chair. I was on the bridge at the time as AOOW and went pale but pretended not to notice his struggles…until I heard “Something’s wrong with my seat…do you know anything about this Alf?”
I looked at him and he was smiling as was a couple of ratings also on the bridge…shit, he knew all along! “Guess you won’t be entertaining up here again will you?”.
Buggar…but talk about kudos!