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And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, "Editor Emeritus"

... that I don’t understand why Navy ships keep having accidents with commercial vessels at sea.

As a member of the air group aboard our carrier, I did not spend time on the bridge, but did visit a few times. Mostly it was to see how the air officer kept track of where our planes were aboard our carrier. But I was tangentially aware of radar operations.

We traveled with destroyer escorts, and they were usually visible from weather decks. But once in a while, we had to rendezvous with an oiler for transfer of fuels, and the two ships always seemed to find each other.

I remember at officer candidate school, some training with a simulator. We operated controls which caused ships depicted on a screen to maneuver just as we directed. It was eye-opening for someone used to operating a light weight 15-foot cedar strip boat powered by a 5 h.p. Johnson! An aircraft carrier requires a lot of ocean just to turn around, and any course change takes time. We served as navigators and plotted courses to obey all rules of the seas, and we failed as often as we succeeded at first, crashing into other ships or shore or piers! But we learned, as we learned which ship had right-of-way.

One phrase has stuck with me, the ship “underway with no way on.” That was a vessel which had lost power, and so was helpless, and was to be avoided. That could happen on the Mississippi. Another rule which applies to rivers is the buoy colors, “red right returning.”

And something we learned there was demonstrated with our carrier. It’s the drill for a man overboard. I think it is called the Williamson turn, but that could be wrong. But if the ship moves a set time before making set turns at prescribed degrees, it will wind up coming right back down the course it was traveling when someone went overboard. Sort of like completing a cul-de-sac. We did that once, but the “angel” helicopter found the guy first.

I feel for those folks in Texas and Louisiana affected by record floods. One thing I don’t understand is why so many refused to heed warnings to evacuate. Weather forecasters can be wrong, but just like seeking shelter with the possibility of a tornado in Iowa, it is best to err on the side of caution. Instead, other folks risk their lives to make life saving efforts. I hope each person saved is at least given a little card that says “we told you.”

It is always a pleasure to read about the state fair prize winning dairy cows from northeast Iowa, and winning dairy products.

I used to dread the county fair because it required us to be present to photograph all the winners, and the weather was often hot and humid. But I did learn to identify all the different breeds popular in northeast Iowa!

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