Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, February 7, 2020

Watch-ing

Mark. Keeping watch.
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 incidentally 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...you know...'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. Also keeping watch. Ahem.


6 comments:

  1. Excellent advice. And Mark seems to have taken the watching lesson to heart if the second photo is anything to go by.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Such a sweet story. As someone who is myopic myself, I can relate!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lucky it wasn't any worse than that, but poor Bill, that's the kind of story that follows you around for life.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's hard to know how the instructions could have been any more clear! lol

    Poor Bill, though. I feel sorry for what undoubtedly was remembered by his mates for a long, long, long time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Poor guy. I bet they teased him from then on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, dear. Well, yes, if you are on watch, being myopic is certainly a bad limitation to the ability to accomplish the job!

    ReplyDelete

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