Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Keeping Watch

Mark. In uniform.
1945. Mandatory military training in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia.
To the young man attending college in Guelph, Ontario, it was a two-week adventure . . .
Canada is a big country.
Mark had never been past Guelph, Ontario. Actually, before college, he had never been east of Alberta.
Like millions of other servicemen, the military life was his first glimpse of a wider world.
The highlight was a stint on the disabled destroyer, HMCS Saguenay, on permanent anchor in the harbour at Cornwallis.
While on the destroyer, one of the duties of the young would-be sailors was a turn on anchor watch.
A fairly mundane exercise.
All one had to do was ‘watch’.
You’d think it would be easy.
Two things you need to know:
1.  There was a strong wind blowing and
2.  Mark's friend, Bill, had very poor eyesight.
Back to my story . . .
It was 2 AM and Bill was just coming on watch.
As he stepped up onto the deck, he realized that there was quite a stiff breeze coming in off the water. Quickly, he grabbed the strap of his hat to pull it under his chin and behind his ears.
The wind was quicker.
It took his hat—and his glasses—out to sea.
As his watch was only two hours in length, he assumed he could get along without the extra paraphernalia and didn’t bother to report the problem.
He was wrong.
Remember what I said about Bill’s poor eyesight?
That comes into play here.
Being on anchor watch consisted of keeping track of certain lights on the shore.
If the lights were out of position, the boat was out of position.
Bill couldn’t see the lights.
And when the ship broke loose from its anchor (because of course that would happen now), Bill couldn’t tell.
Until the ship ran aground near the shore.
The men were jolted from their bunks and the call for ‘All Hands on Deck’ brought them topside.
The tide was high and the ship had to be refloated before it went out.
Fortunately, there was a tug nearby and the job was accomplished quickly and with little problem.
Still, to the land-bound sailors, it was an adventure.
And they learned something:
Turns out, if someone is on watch, they need to be able to 'watch'.
Sooo, if for some reason one can’t do a job, even for a short time, one can’t do a job.
Good advice.
Another picture of Mark. In uniform. Ahem.


6 comments:

  1. Yeah, it seems like the name of the job, being "on watch" should have been a hint as to what was expected. Of course you had to know that ship was going to break loose exactly at that time, whatever the odds. Good thing this didn't end up a worse problem than it was.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Eeek - good thing all of Bill didn't blow away!

    And that life vest on top of that long wool (=heavy) topcoat? I'm thinking the coat might win, once it got wet ...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well now, I wonder how the rest of the tour went? Just askin'!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This was a great story. So happy to read around here at your blog today :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mark looks v happy in the second photo. And a bit chilly in the first.

    ReplyDelete

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