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My tales are just that, ask my mother. Life now at over sixty is very interesting. These are the many adventures of Captain Benito. I live in Loreto and have many a tale to tell. My wife and I enjoy all our friends and family, especially the ones who visit. I have two grown boys now, my oldest being on a fast attack submarine. I am the proud father as this naval tradition continues. This old sailor still has his submarine dolphins. They hang on the wall in my oceangoing trawler, Alley Cat. She is probably the slowest boat on the Sea of Cortez. These many years later, the old pirate's lore is covered between these lines. Blue Water Adventure Chapter 1 We started cruising the San Joaquin Delta and enjoying it's pleasures. My 1968 Chris Craft twin engine boat was an older twenty-eight foot cruiser, but she made me smile. Life was good. The San Joaquin river and Sacramento river, the island delta around our home, this was the Alley's playground. We had the cruiser for a few years and shared it with family and guests many a time. The day had come. The dreams of blue water cruising lived in my soul. My name is Ben, being forty eight years old, I still loved life's challenges. I was working in Stockton, my wallpaper business kept me really busy. This sailor still yearned for more blue water adventures. The old stories of my navy days were still remembered fondly. In Nineteen ninety nine, the wife and I purchased a seagoing trawler. A thirty-four foot diesel boat, she was older but very seaworthy. This old classic designed trawler was not fast or sexy. Stockton Yacht Club was where the boat was berthed, she was just a few miles up on the Calaveras river. The eleven hundred miles of waterways around Stockton kept us on the move. Our yacht club had many marina and river adventures to enjoy. This slow 1978 CHB trawler was my pride and joy. The boat's hand carved wood doors and teak finishes, would set the boat apart from the newer fiberglass yachts. Jill and I had renamed her, Alley Cat... This was to reflect our last name. Jill was the Stockton Yacht Clubs Commodore, the third woman ever. The Alleys were members of this Delta yacht club for almost nine years. Our thirty-four footer had cruised the rivers and bays around the Delta. We had learned all the bends and curves of many of these small inlets and larger bodies of water. Cruising the marinas and hangouts, alone and with friends, the Alley Cat's river trials and errors kept us amused. The boat and crew would cruise to San Francisco now and again. The Alley Cat had many river adventures to master. Jill and I spent five years in all kinds of weather and sea conditions. The two of us made this old boat a lot more comfortable and safer. The year round cruising kept my seaman skills sharp too. I joined another group that tested my abilities in pinpoint navigation. The dream of mine was to cruise the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. Our jobs and other things always got in the way of a real float plan. That all changed, with the move... Some friends invited us to their home in the lower state of Baja Mexico. A small town called Loreto, it was located on the Sea of Cortez. The village was on the eastern coast of the peninsula. This town was just north of the city of La Paz. That big seaport was over two hundred thirty miles away. The Alleys paradise had airport access to the United States. The deep blue water and year round cruising would be perfect. The year was 2004. That November, Jill and I traveled to this place. Loreto was a dream come true with a protected harbor open to the sea. Port Escondido just south, being the second best “hurricane hole” on the Pacific ocean coast of Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and this small historic village, it was like this "whispering heart” was calling to us. We bought a lot near the old plaza, the very next day. Our seafaring hearts were on the move. The trip to Baja was just like magic. The Alley's journey had been fairly easy so far, the cards just fell into place. Paradise had a price to pay, there were more actions needed. We had to make it real. Our boat, the Alley Cat, was still way up north. It was my dream to move her south, down old Mexico way. Many of our friends and others feared for our safety in this move to Baja. Taking a boat sixteen hundred miles on a voyage south, seemed near impossible to most of our yacht club friends. The Alley Cat was leaving San Francisco and going to the Baja Sur's eastern coast. The town was over three hundred years old. October 25, 1697, this date was Loreto's beginning. The old mission had been founded by the Spanish. My crew was to take the boat to her new home. Skipper, Ben Alley, Cookie, John Omlin and Olive Juice, Larry Mclean made up the crew. This will be my sea log and the thirteen days at sea. It started with the cruise out the Golden Gate. We left South Beach harbor on the bay, a late departure. Alley Cat dropped lines holding us to the slip on the twenty fourth day of the month at almost eleven o'clock. The slack tide that evening was a plus. We hit the blue water outside the Gate just after midnight, October 25, 2005. The dark Pacific Ocean lay ahead. Hopefully, all my preparations were well spent on the voyage. San Francisco Bay was as calm as glass, the night we cruised out. That would all change under the golden gate bridge. The seas came to life, heavy surf and fog made it impossible to make the turn. We were pushed northwest and continued on this tack for an hour or so. We finally made our move to the south. John and Larry had the first watch, the boat speed was 7.2 knots. The practice run to Monterey Bay, two years prior helped settle our nerves. I was below setting the course and auto pilot, watching the radar screen, because we were crossing the shipping lanes. The movement became to much for me, sea sick, I had to retire to the salon couch for some rest. I was not much help as the little boat was pitching side to side. Thank God, my crew was up to that night and well prepared for the passage. The seas around the opening to San Francisco Bay have a history of some of the roughest conditions. It is called the" Potato Patch." This night was no different, the Alley Cat was a toy out there. Our first point of reference south was Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We were just south of Half Moon Bay. The boat was running about eight miles off the coast. Alley Cat seemed to just crawl slowly by it for hours. A black sea and bitter cold conditions lay ahead. The cold weather and this piercing light arcing around us every few seconds. This situation made me wonder why this journey was so important. The lighthouse made us aware of how slow we were moving. I was scared and nauseated. My insides tossed as much as the deck on this small little vessel. What a way to start this voyage. I was the skipper and sick as a dog! Daybreak, thank God! The sun finally appeared and my stomach got better. My sea legs were back. I relieved John on the bridge. He was the only one still awake. John's spirits were high and appreciated. He was ready for a nap, John went below into the forward state room, aka the cook's quarters. Monterey Bay lay in front of us. The daily one man routine would now be two hours on watch and four hours off. The night maintained a two man watch. We did our checks on the engine room and putting things in order. The Alley Cat cruised the Bay at Monterey. Crossing the open water of the bay took all day. The beautiful seas and the added boat traffic welcomed us here. That afternoon six whales were dancing on the horizon. It made us feel apart of the parade of life at sea. These men on Alley Cat, the crew could be a very interesting match. We didn't really know each other that well. The more time alone together would tell the story. This small craft meant the three of us would bond in a special way. The boat cut off from the world and the crew having to rely on each other. Not just anyone could handle that. I being captain and part of this crew had to wear a smile and be confident, in all manner of situations. Life on the moving deck was something to behold. The boat cruising without stopping meant meals and other normal things were anything but. The boat would run day and night for four days before we would reach Ensenada. This would be our first planned stop, five hundred thirty miles away. The next leg of the trip meant many miles without shore radio contact from Monterey Bay to Morro Bay. We would average one hundred seventy miles a day with running around the clock. I bought a new Satellite radio but couldn't figure out how to use it. Our big dilemma was no radio music. I had one cd on board, that would drive John and I mad, but Larry loved it. That CD played non-stop for days and days. Somehow it got washed overboard, which is still a mystery. We felt the pride of conquering our fear and looked forward to the adventure ahead. We cruised into our second night at sea. The last visual point was Pebble Beach, as the sun disappeared into a cold foggy mist. Darkness surrounded us, Cookie and I started our dinner chat about the last full day at sea. John talked about his watch and the waves pushing behind the boat in a special rhythm of its own. The boat was in the Japanese current flowing from the north moving south down the California coast. The wave action of a four to six foot sea kept us moving south. These swells were pushing us to Mexico. Dinner consisted of sandwiches and chips. The kitchen and hot food must wait until Cookie (John), had developed his humming bird skills. John was having difficulty standing at the stove. The salt air was brisk as we climbed to the bridge to relieve Larry for his cold sandwich and nap. John immediately turned off Nora Jones and pulled out his book and flashlight. There was no other boat traffic or radio signals to pick up. The horizon was lost into the black abyss but the old Alley Cat just chugged along. The boat was on its set course due south. I went below to watch the radar and gauges. John and I talk on the radio from salon to bridge. Hey Cookie, you want some coffee? Yeah skipper, that sounds good. I had purchased a new Mr. Coffee automatic brewing system. Seemed easy enough, just add coffee and water and let it happen, Wrong! Hey John can you get your butt down here. We have a problem. Well it seems to make coffee, you need two people. You had to hold everything in place. That was so the pot or maker doesn't end up on the floor. Then you had to put the whole thing in the sink. John and I could then pour the coffee into the mugs. It worked. The process turned into a three man operation later on. I don't want to get ahead of myself. Larry was midnight till two' watch. We got to make more coffee. Nora Jones and Larry were on the bridge watch. Benito being captain, my below deck watch at night was more like catnaps. I would check on Larry every so often, we would talk. Larry was the oldest of the crew and probably the most important. He was a mechanic and a skilled diver. Larry owned a Napa Auto parts store in Tracy, California. The problem was that he was a newlywed and missed his wife Margret already. The fact he was worried about his lawn getting mowed was a bit much. This was amplified more after a few drinks, that would be later on. Lucky drinking was forbidden on the boat, at least until we were in harbor. The weather that second evening started to get more severe as the night went on. The crew not seeing the swell didn't help. We worked out a method of someone coming down from topside. They would call the salon steering station and then proceed down. We'd keep our eyes on each other until safe in the cabin. Man overboard was not an option. Weather was getting more hazardous around midnight. Alley Cat may have to come in to port. The nearest safe harbor was Morro Bay. The Alley Cat at night in a rough water entry, this was a big problem. I didn't have a good feeling about this port due to a big submerged rock at the harbor entrance. The rough water made the entry dangerous. We opted to continue down to Point Conception. The boat would be there at dawn, having an early morning passage around the Cape. We regained our radio contact with a new report from the Coast Guard about small craft warnings. There was a large storm coming in from the north along the coast. It was time to smile and look confident. Blue Water Adventure Chapter 2, The best stories are lived and savored. That's what life is about. This story has been living in my heart for almost ten years. The fact I remember details is because the impression of that experience is with me forever. Point Conception was another terrifying place. Historically, it had a bad habit of sinking ships. In the 1920’s, a whole navy convoy disappeared in the fog and sunk on these rocks. We needed good weather and some luck to make this passage. That didn't seem possible for the Alley Cat and its crew. The morning weather was supposed to lay down and the seas calm. The voyage into our third day seemed to do the opposite. The night before and from Morro Bay south, the seas had built up. The wind was blowing some fog away but we were not safe. My little vessel was tossed about with abandon. The sea swells were well over fourteen foot or more. The sunrise was now scary, because the crew started to see the real situation. Sometimes with our mouths open, the roller coaster ride was insane; everything was being tossed and thrown to the floor. The boat was surfing some big sea swells. The auto pilot had to be retired. It couldn't keep up with the course corrections and wide swings. I had to get out the drill and wood screws. We started fixing all the drawers and small doors by screwing them shut. The helm cabinet chair in the salon had to be anchored to the outside wall because it left the floor. That said, John was struggling with the steering. He asked me to take the helm as the rudder would not turn the boat. The boat locked us into an awkward side way drift (not good.) This maneuver could put us in the trough. The next huge wave could flip the boat over. The confident smiling fool at the wheel was me for the next six hours. I used the stern thruster for steering and to control the drift. Alley Cat was running down the top of a mountain of water, now at break neck speed. Then stall at the bottom, just to crawl up the next wave. No one was allowed to go on the upper deck in these seas. The waves washed over the transom and broke the stern light's two foot high metal post. Sometimes it felt like the sea would push us almost backward. Alley Cat would shutter, listing a full thirty degrees and fall back into an uneasy rhythm. The first hours went by slowly. I said, John can you take the helm for a minute or two? I needed to go to the head and take a leak... His answer was skipper, "I will bring you a bucket." I could see in their eyes nobody wanted this steering wheel. The boat finally rounded the cape into Santa Barbara Channel. We now had to cross to the east still fighting the seas. Alley Cat trying to find a sweet spot, maintaining a sideway drift to the east. The wind was blowing over 30 knots out of the southwest. The three man coffee making was in effect. I just could not let go of the helm long enough, so no hot beverage today. (except from Cookie's log;) "The Skipper was at the helm for hours due to the rough conditions. Alley Cat is very seaworthy. She can surf with the best one armed girls. We would enter a set of waves head down into the trough, then climb up next only to ride at speeds of eleven and a half knots down the wave. Considering our surf board weighed 24,000 lbs, three awe stuck crew had an amazing ride. The seas emptied the cabinets several times and it broke the counter top and a lamp. Everything that was not bolted down flew somewhere." This adventure was starting to look better as a big yacht was making its way north. The vessel was taking white foaming seawater over the bridge. There was another fool. The boat was going into the storm. I said, see we aren't the only ones out here. Then a closer look revealed, it was a one hundred twenty foot Coast Guard Cutter. She was probably out to rescue us or some other idiot. There were no other vessels on the horizon. We hadn't seen another boat since leaving Monterey Bay. The cruise was well over two hundred miles in the open sea. I was glad to see it going by us. The wind chop was coming at us off the bow and a very large sea swell pushing from the stern. This made for an interesting afternoon in the channel. The crew decided to make port in Santa Barbara. We were exhausted and ready to touch land. Three days of open blue water was trying to all on board. Calls were made to home. The crew checking in made us feel part of the world once more. My wife, Jill was glad to hear that I was okay. She told me about the bad storm north of us on the coast. I said, Oh really! we hadn't heard. I didn't want to upset her with the real sea voyage so far. Larry, John and I kissed the dock. Then we cleaned up and headed out to have a hot meal in town. This marina was beaut iful and the restaurants and storefronts a welcomed relief for my motley crew. The fact the ground wasn't moving a great comfort. The crowd started to grow around us as people sat down at the bar. Many listened to the stories of Alley Cat's voyage that night both the blue water adventures and the un- mowed lawn at Larry's house. The drinks flowed freely and the tales grew larger. The three pirates with their wide eyes and full belly's telling the saga. We all slept in the next morning. The boat was almost to the border now only two hundred more miles to go. The end of the month was near. My crew and I cleaned up the Alley Cat, resupplied the water tanks and purchased some goodies. I fixed the bilge pump float that was sticking and checked all the engine stuff. Alley Cat's checkout wasn't till noon at the marina. This place made me nervous because the Harbor Master had thrown dye tablets in both toilets. It was a ten thousand dollar fine if any yellow dye ended up in the marina. "Enough said," the weather had improved, the seas had calmed. It was time to depart. We would have cell phone signals until we crossed into Mexico. This was a good thing, the crew got to talk to their sweethearts. The fog was back, but the visibility was good. The Channel Islands lay to our west. Alley Cat cruised pass the chain of islands on the inside passage. The cruise down the coast, we headed south. The boat ran about five miles off the Los Angeles coastline. My crew was happy with the calmer seas. Larry, aka Olive Juice told us stories of his life in Southern California years back. The sun even came out and life on the boat was more enjoyable. Our fourth day of travel was winding down. The red sunset and the city skyline lights turning on was a wonderful sight. Cookie, aka (John) even had a hot meal made. John and Larry stayed up till late. I finally got to sleep awhile. Life is good again. The watch rotation continued. We were entertained about three o'clock in the morning with dolphins riding the bow. ( except from Cookie's Log;) " The storm stayed to the north, we headed to sea again. We had made it through another day. The next evening, we cruised by the coast. At three in the morning, Juice and Cookie are hanging over the bow watching the mermaids. The dolphins played in our bow wake. It was tempting to jump in and join them. There were five sometimes six at a time each staying for an hour or more. They played and pushed even rolled over on their backs the whole time maintaining speed and keeping inches from the bow. The spray from their exhale fogged my glasses. Just before hitting the boat, they would turn and join the others in the wake. This was an amazing sight.” The next morning, we were approaching San Diego Bay and the temperature was getting a lot warmer. The sea was as flat as a pancake. Then it happened!! I couldn't believe my eyes! A Nuclear Fast Attack Submarine surfaced, five hundred yards off the starboard bow. The moment was priceless. I told my navy submarine stories until they drowned me out with the Nora Jones music. That same afternoon we would cross into Mexican waters. The Alley Cat was running smoothly. My crew entered a new chapter of sea adventures. Mexico was just south of the border. I was homeward bound and was hopeful that the rough seas were behind us. Blue Water Adventure Chapter 3, "Mexico," that afternoon we crossed this milestone and it was a time to remember. My crew was still reeling from the past few epic days. Our move across international waters was almost anticlimactic. The calm sea and the warmer temperatures were very welcome. Alley Cat's cruise down the Southern California coast saw lots of ship traffic and pleasure boat activity. Things seem to change in these Mexican waters. The fishing boats and some yacht movements still kept us on watch. Alley Cat moved south along the coast. According to my electronic charts, we could anchor just across the border at a small island, Coronado. The plan was to continue down the coast toward Ensenada making a night maneuver into an unknown marina. All agreed to this float plan and anchoring in the protected cove just made more sense. We dropped anchor at two o'clock in the afternoon. This was on the fifth day of our adventure south. We called it, "Smugglers Cove." Laughter was a new part of the experience at sea. This seafaring trio was in great spirits and dinner was a special treat. The oven on the boat had never been used until now. Cookie made a four course meal magically appear. The decision was made also to open a bottle of wine or two. Technically we weren't moving and the engine was shut down so I relaxed the rules. This anchorage was the first time Alley Cat was on the hook in the open blue water. That night, the stories and chats were interesting and full of humor, no watch was necessary. The crew retired for the evening, "all was well." Being captain, I did keep an eye on our boat movement, until morning "just saying" catnaps were still in play. I started a beard on this cruise to Loreto, figuring three weeks was long enough to be presentable. We were all looked kind a shabby at this point. The next morning, I made coffee and nobody had to help, " Wow." This was starting out good. Breakfast was another wonderful meal, I ordered sunny side up eggs and got scrambled but who cared. Cookie was standing still but the pan was moving a little. I guess the crew was adapting to the rolling deck. Larry and I started the engine and pulled up the anchor. The sandy bottom in the cove provided excellent holding. Cookie cleaned up the galley and stored anything that would move. It was time to go. The coastline was interesting as Alley Cat continued south. My vessel was on auto pilot and the boat tracked very well. I was looking back at the wake which generated a nice straight line of foamy water. The crew busied itself with small projects. Larry and I tried to fix the broken stern light that would be important traveling at night along the Baja. Only eleven hundred nautical miles to go! That afternoon, we were looking at the next big bay. We had a hard time picking out the entry to the fancy marina. I had called on the radio and everything was good for a slip there. We had a small adjustment to make. The Alley Cat followed a fishing boat into the wrong harbor. Things just didn't look right. The smell was awful, the rusted out fishing fleet here made my crew very nervous. It seems I made a small miscalculation. This was a few miles north of our planned stop. The fish cannery odor could curl my new beard. The angry fishermen were not smiling either. Alley Cat made a quick exit with no further fanfare, another tale to tell. The problem now was the surf and wind came up. Batten down the hatches. We were close to shore with no seawall. This was time test our seamen skills again riding the waves back out to sea. This could get my blood pressure up. Luckily our crew was much better at dealing with adversity. We didn't hit the smaller boat coming in. I had another unpleasant exchange with the other captain. Now finding the right marina in a thirty knot wind was getting our attention. We entered the right harbor. The north breeze reddens my cheeks as we came in from the south. My crew had set lines and fenders. Men were there to help dock the boat, and things improved as we hooked up shore power and water. We then checked all the lines. Laundry and paperwork at the Harbor Master office took up the rest of the afternoon. The date was Saturday the 30th of October. The marina included a large hotel and secure property. That evening after showers and clean clothes, the pool bar awaited us around a gorgeous swimming pool area and outside gardens. The crew watched as the winds diminished and sunset blazed its red and pink hue. The three amigos had pick up crew names. Larry's tag was "Olive Juice", John's tagged "Cookie" and Ben's tag was "Skipper." Dirty gin and tonic was Larry's vice (olive juice in his drink). Larry's cocktail started out in Santa Barbara and this theme continued. We were feeling no pain as we left the pool area. The I may have had some VO bourbon on my breath. The Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada Mexico was grand indeed. After a few cocktails, we went into the hotel restaurant. The feast tonight would be worthy of royalty. The trio had a hard time walking across the floor. We had the sailor's swagger. (except from Cookie's Log ) " Dinner was white table cloth with the waiter at our beckon call. Skipper order the garden salad and Juice and I had a Caesar Salad. I commented about the Caesar being originated in Guadalajara and a Mexican specialty at $8.50 per plate it must be a feast to behold. Skipper salad arrived and we were second guessed our selection. Juice and I were underwhelmed when they delivered our salads on a tea saucer garnished with a two inch square of chicken adorned on top. This midge salad was another first. With our dismay, Juice and I politely told the manager upon his visit to our table, that the salad was wonderful. We could hardly wait for the main course. As the manager left, the waiter returned laughing with our real salads. All of us had a wonderful laugh. They had pulled a prank on the gringo's. The staff was great and the evening was enjoyed by all. The next morning, we shopped at Costco and did the official paperwork (visa for the boat and crew.) Sunday, things moved slowly. We had hired a taxi for the running around and he took us to "The Harbor Masters Office." This being a real adventure and took us a few hours to be legal. Things worked out though. We then went to the store and loaded up on all manner of food stuff. This hustle and bustle of this Mexican city made a big impression on Larry and John. When we got back to the marina, we moved the boat to the fuel dock and began putting diesel in the tanks. The good news, the diesel price was cheap. The first fill up since leaving San Francisco. We took on over two hundred gallons and had traveled over five hundred miles, not bad, less than two gallons an hour made my day. That and twenty pounds of ice, the crew were ready to go and we did. That afternoon at three o'clock, the Alley Cat cruised out of Ensenada. My crew was ready to move down the Mexican coastline and so was their skipper. Part of the reason that we were on the move was because the "Baja Ha Ha". The boating group was leaving San Diego on the first of November. This armada of sail boats and yachts were coming down the same route. My plan was to stay ahead of them. If there was an emergency at least we had backup with seventy or so other boats on their way to Cabo San Lucas. This made the Alley Cat crew feel much safer. Tis a lonely cruise down this desert peninsula with not many places to pull into. The Cat must depend on her crew and the weather. Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum. Blue Water Adventure, Chapter 4, The guys and I left the marina in the late afternoon. The boat was making its way out of Ensenada and the bay. The Alley Cat must travel due west for a long while. We had to run further out, because of the sailors and fishermen that plied these waters, fishing nets, small boats and many a ship. The crew hoped this would not be as crowded after night fall. Islands and boats sometimes without proper navigation lights can be a real problem. The calm water and sunset put us at ease. We shared their feelings about our last port of call. We now had fresh meat and produce from the morning run to the store. Cookie's hot meal that evening was great. The island on the southern edge of the bay was large. The boat got around it, way before dark closed in around us. Juice was on the bridge after dinner, he had Nora Jones playing on the radio. This got John and my attention... Holy Crap! We had forgot to pick up more music CD's, "What the Hell." The standard rotation was in place as Alley Cat turned due south that night. This leg of the trip would stretch us out the longest distance from the coast. The gentle breeze was at our back. This following sea was good. The boat and crew were completely on our own from this point on. I was listening to the engine sounds and had said a little prayer. The captain touching base was always good. The first nights cruise went well. The stars that evening were bright and clear. The worst stretch lay ahead of us. The sea waves were the normal rollers that first night. The difference was the coastline wasn't to our port anymore. That meant the sunrise came up out of the sea. We did have our sea legs back. The blue water was moderately rough as the new day approached. This morning the Pacific was all the way around us. There were no other boats on the horizon. The crew didn't seem to mind, the crazy skipper was smiling like an old sub sailor. The chart on the GPS had a highway drawn to our next way-point. We had one more day and night on this course. The Alley Cat's auto pilot was doing a great job. It had to be adjusted now and then for drift and current. The problem was Cookie and Olive Juice. They didn't always pay attention to the heading. Skipper would come up after a nap, just to find us off the highway. The boat was at times miles to the starboard or port. They both wanted to move the line to compensate. This was my biggest beef with the crew. This zig zagging across the Pacific ate a lot more fuel. Then it happened sometime during the morning watch. The auto pilot decided to change course. Alley Cat was headed due west to Hawaii (this was not good). We had to retire auto pilot and steer by hand. It was broken and so the real work began. We had to stand watch holding the wheel and stay on the compass point. The crew was not happy but did stay on course. The crew was bitching like the lady's sewing circle, about weak thread. Ten hours later, I finally got out the manual and fixed the thing. The course held on the highway just fine after that. Prayers did get answered. That evening after dinner, the gale force wind showed up again. The Alley Cat was getting pitched around and the seas were rising... We were some eighty miles off the east shore but closing in on the stirrup of Baja, Turtle Bay was our next stop. This night still was black as spades, Alley Cat was cutting through the surf. That's when we hit something hard on the bow. A startled Cookie came flying out of the V- Berth. The object hit loud and hard. I put the boat in neutral and slowed the engine. All three of us were on the bow looking into this black nothing. Three o'clock in the morning, no moon and a missing horizon. Still to this day, I had no clue what we hit. The next morning, the wind and seas were rough and wild. We hanging on for dear life, the boat turned to enter Turtle Bay. The reef was being pounded with waves and the white spray. The seawater crashed over the large rocks on the outside shore. The sea flattened as we came into the protected bay. The sunshine was warm on our faces and seafaring hearts. The south entry into a open bay, it was large and tranquil. The old rusty pier that held the fuel pump looked like an old movie set. The crew was ready to depart as soon as the anchor hit the sandy bottom. The smooth flat sea of the bay was inviting. The ancient church on the hill gleamed white in the morning light. This small village was on the high ground. The plan was maybe have a hot meal and make some internet calls to home. We lowered the small boat into the sea off the transom and then attached the outboard engine. This was a first on this voyage, the Honda motor started right up. We headed to the dock, under the pier. Two boys waited and helped tie up the tiny boat. The wood platform was ram shackled and old. The dock did support our weight. The boys agreed to guard our craft for a nominal fee. We were off to spend some pesos and explore. The kids assured us indeed the internet cafe and breakfast was just down the street. We "three Amigos," walked the path, this town was dirty and smelled bad. This village that didn't meet poverty conditions in our world. There were no restaurants or internet found. This town was not to friendly a place. The crew and I went back to the harbor and small boat. We paid the little boys security fee and returned to Alley Cat. This bay was full of small pangas selling their Baja Ha wears. Tee shirts, coffee mugs, bottled water and other tourist items but alas no cd's. This was meant for the many yachts sailing behind us. The boat was the only vessel currently in the harbor. This became a tad annoying as these floating flee marketers swarmed around us at anchor. The Alley Cat crew finished another great breakfast. We all took a nap. After our snooze, the decision was made to top off the fuel tanks and continue our journey, south. The only pirate, we saw was standing on the old rusty pier (and gas dock) giving us directions on how to back the Alley Cat up and stern tie. That presented a real problem, since we were way below the deck were the gas pump sat. There wasn't anyway to see the diesel gas meter. How many liters, Alley Cat would get would be a mystery. The old black hose was passed down to the crew with a red rag stuffed in the end. This wasn't a Pemex gas station for sure. I told the shabby buccaneer in my best Spanish to give me, two hundred dollars worth of diesel fuel, please. A woman and child stood by wanting a coke and candy, the crew obliged. Thank God, I didn't need anymore than this small amount. We had enough fuel to insure our passage to Cabo. Alley Cat cruised away and out of Turtle Bay about two o'clock that very same afternoon. We all wondered how many gallons, the money had bought us. The pirate had a brand new pickup sitting on the dock. His business must have been profitable... a pirate chuckle was heard as Alley Cat departed. The glass sea was a real treat after the day and night we just experienced earlier. Rounding the point meant we cruised the coastline again. And a much more enjoyable thought, Alley Cat was back at Sea. (excerpt from Cookie's Log) "We had a little adventure after leaving Turtle Bay...... Real Pirates! As dusk approached, a small boat was spotted off our starboard stern. As it raced toward us, I joked with skipper that the “Mexican Navy” was going to board us since no one had checked our papers. The small craft closed in on the starboard side. We went to the bridge to get a better view. The Pirates moved to cut across the bow and quickly stopped about twenty yards from the Alley Cat. We called this Pirate # 9 since he was wearing the number 9 on his shirt. He stepped from the cabin with a radio in hand and began to speak to into the radio. Through the binoculars, I could see that this was not a navy boat. Not hearing any communications on our radio, we are starting to get concerned. After many minutes, #9 waved and went back into the cabin. The pirate turned back toward "smugglers cove" and took position a quarter mile back off our stern. The small boat started tailing us as darkness falls. With Olive Juice asleep, skipper and I make our plans to repel boarders. Skipper took the salon radio and transmitted to the bridge. Our ship gun was in the cabinet under the helm. There are no restrictions on radio traffic in this part of the sea. With the flare gun loaded, we searched in the dark for the pirate boat. Skipper reviewed our ramming scenario, "All lights out and hard to port. We'll ram the ------, ( "Pirates". The night watch was a little more exciting. The pond smooth seas followed us that night but by morning it was back to the big waves and six foot rollers. The pirate boat was gone. Larry slept through the whole episode". Alley Cat's trip to the south continues. Blue Water Adventure Chapter 5, The cruise ships are passing us coming up and down the coast of Baja. The humidity has increased and sleep is nearly impossible. The sheets and blankets are damp. While the crew naps, each watch seems to run together. I had been tossed out of the bunk to the floor to many times this trip. The seas have been getting rougher the closer we get to Cabo. The only boat we have passed was a sailboat named "Slow Duck." Alley Cat has been running south for many days and nights. We were just about far enough to begin to make the move to the east. Hugging the coast, Alley Cat starts to make the turn at the very tip of the peninsula (Land’s End). Our next problem is we were supposed to be there that afternoon and it's now night fall. Cabo is ablaze with lights and the cruise ship in the harbor is lit up like a Christmas tree. John and I are trying to find the entrance of the marina. The red and green buoy lights are almost impossible to pick out. We take out the chart for this harbor and find our way in. This leg from Ensenada to Cabo was almost nonstop for five full days. The wind is coming out of the north. It was blowing thirty knots through the marina and south back out to sea. We were trying to get the fenders and lines ready to tie to the gas dock. This was no small feat. The Alley Cat is back on the inside, a real joy to be dockside again. We fueled the boat and the crew picked up ice and cold beer. The marina was full. The Bisbee Tournament was in progress (who knew?). That meant anchoring outside in front of the beach area at night, another first. November 4th, 2005 was my sister Sally's birthday, "Happy Birthday Sis." Sleep came quick and sound. I don't remember dinner or anything else. The next morning my smile wouldn't leave my face. I had a spotty itchy beard. This was fine even though it bothered me. The crew was excited about the white sand beaches, palm trees and a warm breeze blowing gently from the south. Paradise and the water under the boat was clear and blue. The trio was looking at the bottom in amazement with the anchor buried in the white sand and gleaming in the sun. This wasn't the muddy Delta River for sure! The crew all opted for breakfast on shore. The dink was lowered and three "Salty Dogs" headed into Cabo. This open mall around the marina was beautiful. The sidewalk wasn't swaying to bad. We entered a nice café with internet and delicious pastries. The coffee only took one man to make it. Phone calls to home were made and our stories told. Jill was excited to finally hear my voice knowing I was almost to Loreto. Alley Cat had made it all the way down the Pacific Ocean side. The crew was happy and safe. These days are burnt in my memory log. Larry and John walked ahead of me, a sailor's swagger and a tune on their lips, Captain Benito bringing up the rear.... Yeah!... You got it, we were singing a Nora Jones classic. I was so proud of my crew, weathering this voyage. The last 10 days at sea had made us real seamen. These guys are not just bar hopping river rats. Alley Cat was a true blue water cruiser. Larry kept the boat repaired and running well. John changed hats many times from cook to mate then log keeper. These skill sets were developed in the worst of conditions. They always wore a smile and both men had my respect and total confidence. Our plans for sightseeing were replaced with let’s get this wonderful voyage over with. That morning we headed out of the harbor. Alley Cat was cleaned and ready to continue. We made a slow maneuver past the arch rock. There were glass bottom boats full of tourists having great fun. With photos take, we began the next leg starts in earnest. Excerpt: Cookie's Log; "Cabo, its time for my bi-weekly shower. I had promised hot showers but unfortunately there was no space for us at the marina. Alley Cat is again anchored outside. In order to get a shower on board, I climbed in to the 3' by 3' stall and turn on the valve to operate the water. The hose disconnects and it sprays everything but me. I was standing there soap in hand thinking what now? Cookie was doing the one hand shower dance trying to hold a hose into the pipe. Cookie had developed his plumber skills. We all appreciated the calm conditions around the Horn. My cell phone had been charged. I couldn't make a call but was receiving text messages now and then. We were informed of a distress call made by a sailboat or cruising yacht that was crossing from mainland Mexico to Cabo. She was in trouble. The Mexican search plane had been dispatched somewhere off the coast. The weather last night and all the previous day had been awful. Fortunately we were near land and had some protection. The sail boat was in the open sea and over one hundred miles from land. She was sailing northwest into the wind which was not good. We are now running near the beach heading due east with miles of sand and a few homes on our port side. This was a pleasant cruise. The captain tells his crew, well boys this is going to be pretty boring from here on out. The Sea of Cortez is just one big lake, just so you know. Those words would come to haunt me later. The boat was exploring one inlet and saw a group of fishing pangas lined up on the beach. There was barely a ripple on the water. Life was good and as the noon hour approached, we anchored and had lunch on the deck. We barbecued Costco hamburgers, had a bag of potato chips and enjoyed cold beers. Alley Cat anchored for an hour while we enjoyed the warm, sunny afternoon. The colorful fish swimming under the boat and around the reef kept us entertained. Alley Cat pulled up anchor and slowly cruised on. ( Excerpt; Cookie's Log;) Skipper's friend had sent another text message: "small craft advisories." Based on our visual check of the weather around the Cabo area, it was to be a non-issue. That evening we were now turning to a northerly direction and things started to change. Skipper never seems to get it right. We were cruising on the leeward side of this island because of the weather. It is 1:30 am the morning of the 6th and the wind is howling out of the west. All good things must end. We were now steaming around the island and into the La Paz Bay shipping channel. Alley Cat's ride got a tad bumpy with the wind in our faces. We are now fully exposed to the gale and sea. Skipper is again thrown from his bunk. Well, it is time for his watch anyway. The sky is black and their void of stars. There is a pattern to the waves.... bounce, bounce and jump... that's right we jump. Alley Cat sets a new record for the long jump, all Twelve tons of her. Now, we are fighting to stay on this course. The auto pilot is turned off and we looked out the back window to see the mop giving us directions. We screwed the cabinets closed again. The mop is a wind and wave indicator. We hunt for our heading by feel. Water is being sprayed over the bridge and busting waves are pounding the front windshield. The boat was not making headway and our speed was four knots if that. We were off course and had no clue where we were. Juice was on the bridge wedged between the seats. Poor Olive Juice was probably holding his breath as the wave came over the boat. The boat shuttered as we jumped to the next set. John and I needed to get Larry off the bridge without being hurt or lost. Standing helm watch, I relied on John to keep a watchful eye on Juice as he crawled off the top and moved down the ladder to the deck with the sea washing over him. Larry was on his knees coming down the cat walk to safety. We pulled him into the cabin and shut the door. Juice looked cold and very wet. The look we gave each other could not be related into words as the sea moved us. Juice went directly to bed. "Oh my God" had a special meaning at that moment. The radar was showing a contact closing from behind us. I looked out the window and could see faint lights far apart, moving side to side. I thought it may be a fishing trawler, a boat with large whip antennas, or tuna tower with lights. The trawler was getting closer but on basically the same track. I picked up the radio and called out "fishing boat", "fishing boat." This is Alley Cat do you copy?" This went on awhile repeating the call. I said, hey Cookie, see if you can find the spot light since we needed to signal this boat. The million candle torch or spotlight really cut through the darkness. I signaled SOS to the fishing trawler. Finally the radio came alive this captain was talking to us. Alley Cat this is the Californian. I said, yes... we're from California since I did not understand his accent. Then he said, no senor. I am “The Californian.” We are a freighter cargo ship, do you need assistance? My mouth opened with no sound. The long silence...finally broken.. No thank you sir, but maybe I will follow you for awhile. He told me they were headed to La Paz. I said, that sounds good to me, let's go. The ship was turning at least nine knots. Following his stern light, we lost him in the storm. The Alley Cat had an hour with a course which was a good thing. I said, John, maybe we should check on Juice. How could he sleep through this and stay in a bed?" Cookie came back from the aft cabin to report. "I think he's dead". That old Scot could be, but we could not do anything about it now. So John and I just held on. Once the sun started to rise, the sea calmed down and things got better. Larry woke up and we made some coffee. Glad to see you Juice, hell of a night on this lake. We all laughed and I went back to bed. The last six hours on a roller coaster was an enough for me. Our course had to change since Alley Cat was about thirty miles off track. We would skip La Paz and run farther around the east coast of islands for more protection from the west wind. This was another first. We had stayed on our track all the way from San Francisco until now. Following the electronic charts had been right on the whole trip but just north of La Paz that changed. The crew could use a break. We studied the chart to find a close by cove or small bay. Relaxation became very important and the chart showed a cove and we decided to investigate. The land mass is a half mile closer than our charts indicated and the cove did not exist. Problem, my big money program is flawed. This scared the crap out of me. Alley Cat was going between the islands and the coastline in the dark without confidence in our electronics. The charted land and sea routes could be wrong. The depth and reef obstructions may not be true. After discussing it with the crew, we continued another day to Loreto. Good News... once past La Paz Bay the seas got flat and stayed that way the rest of our trip. I increased the speed to seven point six knots. Crossing to the inside of the island chain north turned out to be a good call. I was proud of the crew, life was good again until the sunset and we slowed down again. The navigation lights that weren't there and points of land not seen drove a captain to drink. I was about to break my own rule.... where is my VO bourbon. We were all tired this last night at sea and it was wearing heavily on me. The lights of Loreto in the distance brought were a wonderful sight. But the boat had a small hiccup close to shore. The depth finder showed no water under us. Cookie noticed that and our adjusted the course a little. We reached Loreto and tied to the fishing dock. The time was 11:30 pm, Nov. 6th, 2005. Our trip had taken thirteen days and nights and we celebrated by patting each other on the back. The epic voyage was over and we had all the facts and figures are in our log. I was thankful for my crew as well as my desire to make it happen. The crew is safely on land again. We walked to town from the marina, late Sunday night. Warm temperatures and a mild breeze greet us Alley Cat still lives in this Paradise called Loreto Baja Mexico, almost ten years now. Why Loreto? Loreto is a sleepy little village in the middle of nowhere. The world Series had happened on our voyage. The White Sox had won, first time in eighty eight years. Wow! The "Skipper" didn't really care. His trawler Alley Cat had just arrived in her new home. She traveled over sixteen hundred miles from San Francisco bay to this small town on the Baja sea, Why? We walk these lonely streets to Loreto's Plaza. It now deserted. The only action was at Mike's Bar. The music was calling us. There was a blind musician playing something different than "Nora Jones." The beer was cold and all four customers in the bar stared at my motley crew. There were whale bones hanging from the ceiling in this elliptical bar which was interesting and dark, as if "Bogie" was here. We bought the "house" a round of drinks. We shared many sea tales that night at Mike’s while the excitement was still flowing in the warm night air. I'm sure John and Larry were wondering why this place had stolen my heart. Jill, my wife, knew why. Our "Swagger" replaced with a staggering trio finding our way back to the marina. Our story told to blank faces. " no comeprendie senor." Alley Cat's bunks looked good. Something was very different... the deck was "still". The big lake promised finally appeared. The silence was shattered next morning with voices and nets being tossed around the marina. John now reported its 5 o'clock in the morning, what the hell is happening? Loreto had shown up. We were tied to the fishing docks and community rises early to being its trade. Now foot steps and laughter cut the calm. The fishing pangas were all around us, loading up and making their way out of the harbor. The heartbeat of life surrounded us. Poor Cookie wasn't ready for this kind of excitement, Juice slept on... John and I made coffee and greeted the day. The sunrise was amazing. Later that morning, the trio ambled by the new casa. We stood in amazement as the gray unfinished structure was way to cool. It was almost done a total surprise to me. It was early Monday and there was no work crew, fantastic. They must be fishing. John, Larry and I continued to Café Ole' around the corner. The Alley Cat crew had American coffee and great Mexican food. John was packed and ready for his escape. We had checked into a hotel next to the old mission. We all had hot showers and clean clothes. John had changed his plane ticket to that afternoon. We'd arrived a whole week earlier than expected. John told me that this was "a once in a life time experience", Larry and I agreed. We were able to relax for the next couple of days. The pirates would pick up the wives at the airport. Chino Yee, my Mexican amigo gave us the keys to my friend's van. We had rented a casa for the next ten days. The tears and hugs met us at the airport, our girls had arrived. It was hot that afternoon. Standing under the palapa roof terminal in the shade felt great. Marge and Jill wanted all the details, Larry and I gave them our best "pirate chuckle. This was a tale for seafaring hearts ever though my historic facts may be a tad skewed. This "paradise" I call home was an old Spanish seaport in its day. We didn't have a clue why this place was so important. Jill and I needed to find out why. The Sea of Cortez was a dream. I had no idea what was really out there. The Alley's left the world they knew for this place in the middle of nowhere. It was amazing but yet scary story. My boat was sitting at a fishing pier. We needed to rely on local people. The voyage was over. At least the natives were friendly. We left with Marge and Larry. It was a great flight home. The thirteen days spent in Loreto, had secured many details with the help of our friend Chino. This Loreto native was my go to man. Chino’s English helped us a lot. The marina's Harbor Master filed Alley Cat's paperwork. He gave us permission to be on the dock until Api ( government agency) approved us. We had asked for a European tie on the interior wall just across from the fishing dock. We first had to go through the proper channels. Our builder was working on "Casa Benito". We made a few changes to the plan. I made Chino "el captain" of Alley Cat. My new captain had taken the boat out a few times with us. Chino was in charge. The best part of the story is Alley Cat was in the marina less than two blocks from our new home. Jill and Skipper would enjoy the sea and share it with many new friends. We had many great adventures awaiting us. Alley Cat was destined to cruise the islands in the Baja Sea. Captain Benito smiled. I stopped here Benito Chapter 1, The Beginning... The water is a little murky in this part of my adventures but what the "hell." Little Benito was conceived in the "old country," after World War Two. Germany was left in bad shape. My mother had worked on the high wire as a girl, a performer. Needless to say, My mother "Maria" was German by birth. My father, "Earl," was from Arkansas. Dad was a corporal with the occupation forces. Their romance was fruitful in a family way and the couple made plans. The marriage was performed in a chapel in Frankfort, mother's hometown. This was the start of the cold war with Russia. Father was a communications expert and he typed secret code. Dad could type one hundred and forty words a minute on a mechanical typewriter. He spoke German fluently. Dad's tour was over with the US Air Force. Then we all returned on a ship to New York, that summer of 1948. I had got my sea legs early and since I wasn't born yet, that was good. East Coast to West Coast by train, I still hate trains, no leg room. The arrival in Stockton, California was met by the Alley family to mixed feelings. "War Brides" got a bad reputation in these years after the war. Dad's family of three brothers, five sisters and Grandma were no exception. That said, my parent's struggled like young couples do with career and life. Dad was offered a job with his oldest sister's husband, a contractor working on a dam project. One of the dams on the "Feather River Canyon," in Northern California. Life was tough the winter of 1949, living in a "line cabin." Mom Alley about to deliver a son. The snow was deep in the meadow, around the work camp. Dad had been shooting squirrels for dinner that day. The trees surrounding the clearing were dark that late afternoon. Disturbed by the cracking of dead wood along the path. Maria not far up the hill behind the cabin was startled. Hearing this noise and thinking it wasn't her husband, she froze. The truth was a mountain lion sent my mother scrambling down the path toward home. The screams and hollering got my dad's attention. Earl ran down the hill after her, to help. This excitement put them both on the road to town. The drive got them to the Orville hospital in time. This being my grand entrance to the clan, it took place very early Wednesday morning. I arrived hungry and pissed. Jan. 26, 1949 was bitter sweet, no pampers and it was cold as hell. The good news, they looked happy to see me.. "A big wildcat got me here", seemed right. The next few years were foggy because my sisters showed up. They got more attention of course but I would punish them regular. The family had moved to the San Joaquin valley. Dad had shot all the squirrels above Orville. Life in Stockton improved our family situation. Mom did work in the carnival for a while. Then at four years old, I would freak out. They'd put her in a box and sawed her in half. Dad worked in the same town driving a yellow taxi. Dad's second job was selling stuff animals door to door. Squirrel's holding a rose was a "top seller." Like I said, life was foggy then. My dad and mom got into the insurance business and the family prospered. Childhood was challenging. Roy Rogers and Hop a Long Cassidy were my heroes. My sisters always had to play the Indians. We had some strange pets. I wanted a dog so we got a monkey. Life was a little scary at our house. I'm changing the names of my sisters to protect myself. They were angry little women with pigtails. I love them still. Sally and Sweet Sue, they were younger and smarter. Lily the spider monkey even more cunning than me. The old circus performer could steal your cookies with her tail using her hands to distract you. My young life continued to change from wanting to be cowboy to being a pirate. That would move me into my next phase. Sin Bad the Sailor much better than Popeye the weirdo. I still like spinach but have no tattoos. Me growing up Catholic kept my "pirate" subdued and my guilt front and center. The nuns at school had my “curiosity” under control for awhile. My best friend in those days, a German/Italian kid had the same taste for the girls. Our problem was they keep you in the dark about that subject way to long. Archie and Jug Head comics were as close as fifth graders had a license to go. The girls in these stories looked "Hot" but the guys always lost interest in the end. I was German/ Arkie, a skinny kid and wasn't as smooth a talker, as the "Bean" another name change to keep me safe. Bean and I did everything together. The biggest problem then, Bean was much better at sports and everything else. His Italian shenanigans, kept life more interesting. The two of us were enterprising, we had figured out how to make a buck. Starting a shoeshine business sounded good. We got a red wagon and pulled it around the block offering to shine shoes for fifty cents a pair. Door to door just like my old man. Bean and I filled the wagon after three blocks. "Wow," the problem was, we didn't want to shine shoes. We were bored after the first pair. The wagon was full. Things didn't go to well because, we had no names or addresses to match the shoes. This lack of ambition meant no follow through, a stumbling block for sure. Shoes got lost and more Catholic guilt showed up. Mom had said my first word was "shoe," very sad. Someday, I've got to get those old shoes back to their owners. I told you, I was a pirate. School was tough on this “day dreamer.” It never was my strong suit.. Summer school really sucked. After classes, the two of us went down to the river. The Bean and I planned our first Sin Bad voyage that summer of 1961. Took us three days to build the Tom Sawyer raft and launch it. The damn thing broke apart before she hit the water and not for a lack of nails. Maybe it was to heavy. That summer's dream turned bad. Our friend, Willie invited us over. His dad's hobby was gun powder and small canon shot, “Pirate Stuff”. They lived on the river. Willie had said, come over and watch the new movie, the “Three Stooges.” His parents were gone of course. When Bean and I showed up that afternoon, our friend was building a serious bomb in his garage. I think we were about thirteen years old. Pouring black powder into a pipe and closing one end with a vise. The fuse was water proof and a foot long. He wrapped the pipe with electrical tape.. Willie said, well here you go guys, have fun. We headed to the lake in the middle of town. Lit the fuse and tossed it into the lake. Bean and I grabbed onto a tree and waited. You could see the bubbles and smoke as they busted. The lake was shallow maybe ten foot deep. The geyser that shot straight up was amazing. The ground shook and the dead carp came floating up. The whole neighborhood came alive and the cops and the fire trucks showed up. Nobody figured out what had happened and the pirates were long gone. That ended my bomb building days. Junior High had to be better, I had the gangster hairdo down by the ninth grade. Getting girls attention by pouring hot buttered popcorn over their heads, at the movies. That sure didn't workout well either. Benito Chapter 2, School Days... Life moves fast, I was just getting out of Catholic school to attend a regular Junior High. The ninth grade would be very different in this public school. My sister Sally was enrolled in the same grade as me at Stockton Junior High. I told you, my sister was smart. The Bean and I were ready for more adventures. We added a new buddy " Mac" (another alias, like "Mac the Knife.") He is still a great friend. Mac showed up to the school carrying a chain inside his pant leg. It was a real concealed weapon. We were all afraid of the unknown. That was Mac's defense against trouble. He moved into the neighborhood from the south side, a very bad part of town. Mac knew how to win an argument. The fact that he was bigger than Bean and I put together helped. The three of us became fast friends. We all were facing a new learning environment. It just made more sense to stick together. My sister, Sally did the homework for all of us. The classes were fairly easy, kind of a repeat of our last school year. Bean and I joined the Sea Scouts around this time. The scouts had this old patrol boat, “Windy.” She was a real cool looking minesweeper. The crew were mostly older guys. The Skipper was hard as nails and let you know the score. He had to deal with this small criminal element. The problem was most of the crew were put there by a juvenile court judge. This was downtown Stockton after all. The new guys did all the scraping and rust patrol, that's right, me and Bean. We learned a lot about cleaning the old boat. Our white hats gotten pretty dirty, after a whole year. The boat never left the pier but she was clean. The rest of the guys couldn't leave the dock, probably because of parole issues. I'm just saying, this crew was real sorry, we moved on. Nobody else was standing in line to chip paint. This crew had other skills. They were more pirate than me and Bean. We did learn how to “cuss'', the uniforms were really cool. I did have a problem finding a clean white hat. The judge appointed new guys to take our places. Tenth grade was more fun. I worked all summer and got my first car, a 55' Chevy Bel Air. I was almost seventeen with a new drivers license. Being a freshman at Stagg High School was really different. The three pirates had places to be and it wasn't class. We started drinking something called Ruby Hill, a homemade wine. We had liberated it from a garage down the street. Two whole cases of eight, onegallon jugs. We weren't bad kids but we had stole this liquor. The three of us we're smart enough to leave the garage look untouched. Signature red teeth and tongue, Benito wasn't sober for over a week. Even the morning ride to school was fun. The three young drunks boarding the bus everyday. Benito, Mac and Bean were real pirates after all. Dad and Mom split up around this time. That being a hard time for my sisters and me. The divorce did make it easier for me to be swayed. This pirate lured to the dark side. I didn't show up for school much during my rebel phase. That all ended in January the following year. Dad tracked me down after getting my report card. I was warned many a time to straighten out. The night the music died. The party ends and young pirate is enlisted in the Navy as a "kiddy cruiser." It meant you had to have your parents permission, not being eighteen. Mom and dad had to sign the Navy contract. My dad's red face made a good argument for the service. The year was 1966. Dragging my butt didn't help either. I had developed cold feet just before the travel day arrived. Dad and I went toe-to-toe. My best, "James Dean" act was not working. When Dad slugged me, Benito went down. It wasn't very pretty the second time down either. The circus clown got up slowly, April Fool's Day had arrived. April 1, 1966, I departed for boot camp. Dad had won, he put me on that Greyhound bus, Go Navy, “see the world.” That was the end of my rebel period. The Mamas and the Papas came out with “Monday, Monday,” a song that hit the music charts the first week of basic training. That became my marching anthem. Head was shaved and I was made to bunk with other guys, This pirate was scared to death. I had just turned seventeen. Life showed up in a big way. I won't bore you with these weeks of training. Benito saying, “yes sir" to everybody in sight. This was real, I took tests and more tests. You had to really try or else. Well, it turns out my IQ was higher than my expectations. Benito's past schooling was even better than my parents thought, who knew? Looks like I was volunteering for submarine school. The six other volunteers with me now heading for the East Coast and a place called New London, Connecticut. The rest of my boot camp company headed out to the fleet. The conflict in Vietnam was heating up. On graduation day in San Diego, who was there? my “old man.” The ride back home was good, we were both different than a few months before. We laughed and enjoyed each others company. My three weeks of leave at home was a great time. Mac and Bean just stared at this spit-shined guy with no hair. We fell right back into our old ways. I had some coin in my pocket. The summer wind was blowing and "all was good". I went to see my first girlfriend, Shelley Beaver. She was beautiful, I really missed her. I'd been gone a few months and love was in the air. This new navy guy and his sweetheart. She stood four foot two inches from her head to the ground. She was only fifteen. They called us, Mutt and Jeff. I looked like a long string bean next to her. The old Chevy made the scene, we all piled in. With the motor movies and the girls, I was back into my old pirate ways. We were all together Benito, Mac and Bean. Benito Chapter 3, New London Town... Leaving this world that I knew for my next adventure was exciting. I took the military hop from Travis airbase in California to an airbase across country in New Jersey. I had said my goodbyes in Stockton. Benito had traveling orders to the submarine school. Bean drove me to the airfield, we hugged each other and I departed. Now in uniform, Seaman Apprentice Alley was sitting with other service men on a cargo plane. We were in these net seats hanging from the ceiling. the sides of the interior walls of the plane unfinished. This rust bucket with wings reminded me of an old classic John Wayne movie. We were ready for takeoff. This old transport would fly to Texas. We'd spend the night, then fly on to New Jersey the next morning. This trip took a day and a half but it was free. I swear the traffic below on the interstate was moving faster than this aircraft. The guys sitting with me were from different branches of the service. Traveling east, a lot of them were returning from Vietnam. They all seemed glad to be back. This Army guy next to me was very talkative. He told me some of his stories but mostly talked about Texas and home. That said, most of the men thought I was nuts for wanting to be on a submarine. Having mixed but positive feelings, I just smiled. These guys, getting shot at were worried about my choices? They were the real heroes in my mind. The plane landed in New Jersey somewhere. I took a Trailway's bus to New York City. Grand Central train station was a zoo, people traveling everywhere. Public restrooms here were very scary places in uniform. The strange, smiling faces all around. I was glad to catch the train out to New London. There was another sailor on the train. I sat next to him. He was much older than me, a first-class petty officer. His professional training and shoulder patch indicated that to me, he was a cook. We exchanged names. Richard was also heading to New London and the navy base. I kept calling him “Sir.” That got a smile. Richard said, "Listen kid”, I know you are new in the navy but I'm enlisted too, just like you. I was sure he could tell how frightening it was for me traveling alone. This being my second train ride and still no leg room. Richard and I hit it off. He told me, that he was going to sub school too. He remarked how lucky I was to be selected. He'd been trying for years to get this chance. The train passed through New Haven as I stared out the window. The East Coast was so different than California. We talked about his family. Richard had been a navy cook for twelve years. Guam was his real home. Richard and his wife we're raising three kids and he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He had been in the Navy on an aircraft carrier. Cooking for the officer's on board. Security clearance held him back from submarine service because of his nationality. Richard told me a rear admiral fixed it for him because the admiral was once a sub sailor. The admiral told him that they needed good cooks on submarines. Wow! It made me realize how important this chance might be. Did they really need a pirate? After we arrived at the train station, The navy bus was waiting and took us to the sub base in Groton across the river. Traveling light, I had my orders and a duffel bag. Richard went to a different set of barracks because he was a petty officer. We didn't hangout together again. The base was beautiful. It was like an old ivy league college. My room was on the third floor which I shared with three other roommates. This was the end of July and the hot sticky air was wet that late afternoon. I arrived on a Sunday. The officer of the deck told me to write a letter home and mail it. Then I went to the mess hall, the food was great and I was starving. The next morning, standing in the shower. I was washing the sleep out of my eyes. Some of the guys were smirking at me. I was six foot two inches and weighed one hundred thirty-two pounds. That's because I'd put on some weight in basic training. My Adam’s apple was my most prominent feature. Acne and peach fuzz were battling it out for second place. I looked like this skinny fourteen year old. I was the youngest student on the base. The clerical staff had looked through my personal file and sent it upstairs to the old man. The captain of the submarine base called me on the carpet, I almost peed my pants. This guy was not happy. He started by saying, I'm not a babysitter and how the hell did you get on my base? This is a serious program, and half the students don't make the cut. Do you understand me, “boy?" Most of these guys had been to college or have enough school to pass these physical and mental drills. The navy captain continued, I need you to dropout of this school and will make sure you get a good assignment. I told him, no sir, I won't drop this training and my test scores support me. That was not an easy thing for me to say. This was a volunteer service. He couldn't kick me out of the program, unless I failed. This sailor's new inspiration had been Richard. That cook help me realize how important this chance really was. I had failed on all my past endeavors like school, the sea scouts and the shoe shine business. I was dismissed. I saluted the captain and left. I started the program that next week. That was the first and last time I said, “No” to an officer. The class was studying the USS. Skipjack SSN 585, a fast attack nuclear submarine. The base was amazing and the training center was really high tech. The work was hard but rewarding. The physical exercises were fun. Swimming was one of my strengths and I enjoyed the lake behind the school. The Tower escape was mandatory; submarine escape was an important safety issue. All the boats had escape hatches built in. All submarine sailors had to know how they worked. The museum was also fantastic, it had items and stories from as far back as the Civil War. Submarines had come a long way. The fleet boats, the older diesel and battery driven subs were still in active service here. A boy my age was star struck and I still am. These days seemed to fly by. The eight weeks of school and drills would soon end. New London was a small town with Mom and Pop stores, cafes and bars with blue laws. Blue Law's were in place to stop women from entering bars unescorted. Meeting the opposite sex was futile in this town. No women rule kept me on task in school. The sleepy little village was not friendly to navy personnel anyway. Taking the train to New Haven for a weekend was better. College girls and entertainment were on my radar. Yale University was a good start. But the problem with me in uniform was I looked like I was wearing my older brother's navy duds. College girls didn't care about horny high school age kids. That said, I struck out all the time anyway. There was a club in a church basement on campus. The “Hungry Eye,” they served coffee and espresso and no ID was required. The big plus was “Peter, Paul and Mary,” were packing the place. Perfect! believe it or not, I met a girl named Ellen. She went to high school and liked my California swagger. Ellen was the second girl, I'd ever dated. The lies, I told her would make a pirate blush. We wrote each other for a year. On my salary, she was a long distance pen pal and nothing more. Back at the base, I finally got to ride on a boat for the day. The class got to roam and ask questions. There were maybe ten students and me. To submerge and surface the sub was a thrill. This old diesel boat had a deck gun and a five-man bridge. It smelled bad and creaked a lot but she was a submarine. I crawled all around it. She saw action in the Pacific and was built in 1942. The crew was real sharp. I really wanted to be on one of the nuclear subs. I had spent weeks learning about them. My test scores were great but the time had come. We all had one more step to complete. Pass or failure rode on the personal results. We had lost many sailors from the program. These training classes and tests were tough. Today was the day for escape training class. We all knew the drill on paper. They'd scared us to death with what could happen in that tank. Stepping into the small tank attached to a one hundred nineteen foot high tower. The six inch thick walled tank of water was something. The small area held six guys and an instructor. We were about halfway up the tower's side. It was at the fifty foot level outside of this watertight door. The escape tank, we occupied was similar to one on a submarine. The air valves and water flood pipe were all there. Each man wore an inflatable life vest that vented under pressure. The two door hatches were secured. The flooding of the chamber began. All eyes were glued to the rising water. The bubble line was over the top of the door that opened to the big chamber. When the water had risen to about this line and over the door. Now the interesting part began. The teacher was bleeding air into the chamber until the pressure equaled the outside pressure at fifty foot level. The air pressure increased, we had to equalize the inner ear. Bad things could happen under this kind of pressure, like bleeding ear canals and pain. The instructor watched each man to make sure, we were in compliance. Now the fun started in alphabetical order. “Alley” meant the first one out the door was me. The hatch was unlocked and swung open. Water did not flood in because of the air pressure on the water above the line. You could feel the tension among the guys in that small space. I was glad to be the first leaving the escape pod. Taking a deep breath, I submerged my head under the water and stepped out through the hatch. Now holding the bar over the exit door in the outside chamber. I was standing on a step looking up to a small lit circle at the top. The surface was a long way up. The trick was don't panic. Then release your grip, letting the air out of your lungs slowly as you shoot up like a rocket. Holding your breath meant maybe death or surviving with a really bad health issue. Me failing sub school was not an option. Air expands under pressure. Make bubbles and go. Its just nineteen seconds to the top. The life vest was blowing bubbles too. The problem in my head was why not blow all the air out of my lungs. Then hold my breath to the top? That will work right? Wrong, as I launched myself to the surface after blowing out all my air. Two divers grabbed me and threw me through another door maybe thirty foot up from my step out. Benito now in this chamber at the eighteen foot level. The one diver swims in to check on me. What the hell are you doing? We didn't see your bubbles! Now do it right! With another inhale, I step out and blew little bubbles to the surface. I shot out of the water to my ankles. I swear to God. The bad news was they made me do it, two more times but I passed. I think I left a brown cloud down there somewhere. We pirates are real. The crazy part of it was I enjoyed the next two trips. Both times, I tried to clear the surface with both feet out of the water. Blow and Go was fun! Who new? The ones who didn't pass, went out the door they came in and off to the surface fleet. Submarine school was over. Benito Chapter 4, The Diesel Submarine …. The day had come, the pirate graduated from sub school. I was proud to get my submarine certification. The captain shook my hand. I had made the grade, the navy hadn't beaten me yet. The train ride south to New York City and a bus ride the rest of the way. Virginia here I come. My orders said to report to Norfolk's navy base. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was across the channel. One of the oldest ship repair yards on the East Coast, two hundred and fifty years and counting. It had built the Merrimac (iron clad warship) during the civil war. That said, my diesel submarine was here. She was a older diesel boat. This guppy two sub, she was floating on the sea again. The yard had cut her open and removed one engine, that left three others. It was called a soft patch, they welded up the big hole in the pressure hull. The diesel boat had been in the same dry dock as the Virginia aka Merrimac in the eighteen sixties. Some of the yard guys looked old enough, they might have worked on her too. This high tech crew seemed unkempt, we called them “yard birds.” I made seaman and was ready for my new assignment. The day of my arrival, I walk to the shipyard. The old sub was along a pier, tied up to a work dock. It was early about ten o'clock in the morning, October 11, 1966. That day, an ambulance was sitting on the dock loading sailors into it. My heart almost stopped. I went to the office, next to the pier. Seaman Alley reporting for duty, "sir". The office staff looking out the window as the scene unfolding. The captain and others were real concerned about these sailors. They were being taken off the sub some on stretchers. Things started to settled down. The whole story was told. The skeleton crew operating on board, was simulating a dive. That meant you close all the deck hatches. The light panel shows all green or maybe it was all red, anyway, the crew pretended to submerge. They raised the snorkel mast and fire off a diesel engine. This was a locomotive engine, a "train size" big motor. The crew was maybe six guys and an officer of the deck. They simulated charging batteries underway. The control room cycled the head valve on the snorkel mast. The sub at sea, the waves would regularly cover the snorkel. The air suction to the engine had to be protected. The head valve sensor would shut the airway until the wave passed over. Then open again allowing air a way to the engine. The problem was internally the engine would draw air from inside the boat. That happened when the valve was shut. This caused a vacuum in the boat, normal stuff. The snorkel head valve failed to open, that was not good. The engine had an emergency shut down if the vacuum got to high. The magic number was like six inches. The engine didn't shut down. The diesel engine drew almost a perfect, twenty nine inch vacuum. Like going to twenty nine thousand feet in a matter of seconds. The engine throttle man passed out over the switch, shutting the motor down. Their ear drums bleeding, the crew that didn't pass out or had recovered. Manage to pump air into the boat with the air tanks. It took a few hours to get them out. The boat was sealed like a glass jar. The air inside had to match outside pressure to open the hatches. “Welcome aboard Sailor” that was my first day. Just saying, none of this crew had ever been to sea on this navy submarine. This boat was in the shipyard for over two and a half years. None of the original crew was left. Everything torn out and put back together. The captain didn't seemed bothered by this. This pirate was real concerned, “anyway.” We were ready for sea trials, “great.” The good news. My old friend, Richard graduated sub school and was on board this sub also. He being my main cheerleader. The First Class cook became my sea dad and mentor. The bad thing was neither of us knew squat about our new boat. The captain was smart and took a few “yard birds” with us out to sea. The submarine left port, the engines smoking black exhaust, that's good right? Took awhile to get out to the Atlantic Ocean. It seems not all the engines were ready for the trip. I was happy though. My job was making coffee and peel potatoes, “No Problem.” It was time to dive the diesel boat. The soft patch had changed our test depth to three hundred feet or less. I hoped the bubble gum had sealed all the holes. The captain put the crew on alert. Everyone goes to battle stations. I reply, battle station coffee ready to serve, “sir,” not really. I had to leave the galley and report to the forward torpedo room, the damage control unit. That was me and this other guy. The sub starting it way down, a few sailors were running around. How do you spell, woga, woga dive! dive! My team was suppose to look for problems in this room full of torpedoes. "Hello", what's not a problem, the room is full of torpedoes. Then a real issue, I being this steely eyed sailor, spotted a leak in the ceiling. Just above the beds that hung twelve foot off the deck. I said, chief there a leak from that upper hatch. The two torpedo men wink at each other. The chief say, sailor you need to monitor that leak. Take a paper cup and count the drips per second and report. I was on it, feeling important now. I climb into the bunk and started counting drips. The submarine groaned. The old boat was at one hundred feet now the leak was less. Benito was still monitoring. The down angle of this submarine meant that we were still diving. Things got real quiet as we passed two hundred feet. The groaning and creaking was still with us. The captain leveled the submarine at three hundred feet. Test depth achieved, ahh..shit was my report but not out loud. The half full cup was finished, no leaks to report, chief. Little did I know all the hatches were leaking like that, normal stuff. This crush depth pressure sealed them all, great. The captain checking all the boats compartments. The reports were good. We were operating on batteries now silent and smooth down deep. The boat groans had stopped. Benito starts to relax a little. After all, I was in a bunk. They called this space, the hanging gardens. Two bunks side to side under the torpedo room loading hatch. Thirty minutes goes by slowly. The captain says over the intercom, forward torpedo room. Fire an air slug....torpedo tube number one. We're still at test depth, “hello!” the soft patch was still holding. Hell, why not shake this thing up a little. That's exactly what happened. Chief barks, open the outer door on tube number one. Then the torpedo man shoots this air ball out the damn thing. The whole boat shakes like there's been an earthquake, “OMG,” guess what ? five more tubes to go, my inside voice... calm be calm. I think it was tube number three, when it happened. Captain says, fire air slug, tube number three. Chief says, “aye aye sir” opening outer door.. firing air slug.... bang and shake, loud cold rushing water blowing everybody on the deck below me down like bowling pins. The whole front of the torpedo room had white water coming in screaming. Yard birds were running out of the compartment. Then they shut the interior watertight door and dog it down. Wow! we're trapped in here, real nice.. The chief screams flooding in the forward torpedo room into the headset, he's wearing. The boat goes to emergency blow. The sub is trying to go to the surface. The torpedo man fights his way forward through the cold waist deep seawater and closes the outer tube door. The seawater stops rushing in.. that's good right? We still are very heavy and the boat starts to shudder. Full speed ahead as the three thousand pound air is blowing the outside ballast tanks dry. We slowly start back up to the surface. The control room bow and stern planes men and the helmsman steering us upward. Somebody turns the air valve on over the door that's dogged shut. The internal salvage air sending one hundred twenty five pounds of air blowing up my pant leg in the overhead bunk. That's it, I come flying out of that rack and hit the deck below. The two foot of water on the floor cushioning the fall. Wet but not hurt, I'm laughing out loud. Luckily the pee in my pants is hidden in saltwater. My adventure over, not hardly. The boat breaks the surface on a dead run, reminds me of clearing the water in the escape training tank. Then the submarine starts slipping back. The boat is sliding backwards on the way back down. We got no more air to blow. We slip passed three hundred feet. The props are spinning with no effect. A prayer seems in order. We kept sliding back, stern first passed six hundred feet now. The creaking and groaning of the boat is back also. Finally she starts to slow and recover from our descent. Even more slowly, we power are way back to the surface. We start snorkeling and running the engines. The boat has got to charge everything back up. At least the snorkel head valve was working fine. We couldn't surface yet, till we had charged the air banks back up.. The pumps had ran the bilges dry. Well, its back to Norfolk . This sailor from that point on not much seemed to bother me. A small pirate's laugh, the "Sea trials" were over. My blood pressure returns to normal. The interior door gasket blew out under the sea's pressure on tube number three. One guy got hurt but not to bad. We fixed a few other things and were back in the fleet. These sub guys had nerves of steel and being crazy helps too. Benito Chapter 5, Diesel Boats Forever... Wow!! When I returned to the galley and the crew's area. It had been destroyed. Poor Richard, the food was on the walls. The kitchen was tossed. His vision of our first dinner at sea, a nightmare. The dramatic up angle was really felt in this space. He said, I grabbed a metal pitcher of milk before it flew off the table. Richard holding it in place. The spilling milk hit the wall. The floor had changed to the aft bulkhead wall. He said, this was sure not an aircraft carrier. We put the space back in order and served cold sandwiches instead. This crew was amazing. They were all qualified fleet boat sailors and proved it. They knew their jobs, the reaction time was instantaneous. The compartment full of water was balanced by forty guys running to the after torpedo room to offset the weight forward. That said, the seven watertight doors throughout the boat were all shut. The bilge pumps were running before I fell out of the bunk. The internal air was pumped into the room to pressurize that space. No fear was shown. These boat sailors were like a well oiled machine working together. DBF stands for 'Diesel Boats Forever.” That was my crew.... Benito and Richard had a lot to learn. That next morning, we returned to the docks in Norfolk. The dock had the submarine tender ship and many other submarines tied there. Just another day at the office, yeah right! I was meeting the crew and hearing their stories. Mess cooks are more than dish washers and coffee makers, I was a sub sailor too. These guys helped me learn my job and theirs. We were a team and a family. The crew were sixty six men and maybe eight to ten officers. This navy submarine was three hundred and nineteen feet long. She had a beam of twenty eight feet. Her displacement submerged was two thousand four hundred tons. The draft on the surface was sixteen feet deep, speed well over eighteen knots.The boat underwater made nine knots. Those kind of things, I had to know by heart and a lot more. She was built and launched June of 1945. The systems and operations must be learn by all. The rewards meant longer hours and more responsibility. I was part of something bigger than myself. Richard and I studied together and learned every valve in the compartment. The food freezer and chill box, both were walk in units. The canned goods and dry storage lockers. The diesel stove and cleaning station. The equipment running on one of these boats was unbelievable. The toilets on the boat came with a manual, any wrong move was not pretty. The back pressure and poop don't play well together. Just saying, the next few months passed. Benito was qualifying topside watch. Went from mess cook to engine room bilge rat. My fireman rating in play, training for diesel engine oil man and if you know me that's real funny. Yogi Bear the throttle man kept me busy. Ragging out the bilge and standing still watches. The making of fresh water was also very important and really hot. The engines used most of it and the rest was for coffee. Once a day, we got about eight ounces for personal hi gene. We had a shower stall that was a potato locker. They called us “pig boats.” Two weeks at sea, this odor killed your sense of humor and smell. That said, I loved every minute of it. Cleaning bulk crude oil to purified engine fuel was another terrific job. Life is interesting, I turned eighteen at sea. January 67' it was a bitter cold season in the Atlantic. Traveling up the eastern seaboard the boat was on its way to New York City. On the submarine, I was standing lookout topside. This was fun, some of the time. This trip not so much. The boat was running on the surface, it was faster than when submerged. The storm came from nowhere. We had to close the conning tower hatch onto the bridge. This to keep the water from coming down into the boat. Benito dressed in foul weather gear and armed with my coffee cup. I climb the ladder into the sail station and bridge area. I was a lookout on the starboard side. This bridge was a three man watch. The officer of the deck and two lookouts stood a two hour shift in place. Standing in this open weather. The watch duty had a real bite this morning. The first wave over the bow turned my hot coffee into a bowl of cold sea water. Sputtering as the sea tossed me under its force. Hold on, here comes another one, yelled the officer. This holding your breath as the sea passed over, got old quick. See the fact was this sub's south Atlantic sail. It wasn't as much fun on the surface, especially in a storm and rough seas. This step sail section was a lot lower to the deck. We had this plastic half dome bubble but it wasn't quite over us. The problem it was more a windshield but not a watertight space. The decision to keep the three of us up there was based on maritime rules. When a sub was running on the surface the watch was set for cruising. Captain made the call to submerge the boat. Running slower underwater seemed smart to me. I got my first hot bath and a shot of brandy at sea. The seas even at a hundred feet deep rocked the old boat. We were moving north slower now.. The relentless sea tossed us around even submerged. Who knew the bottom of a wave could be as bad as the top of one. The Nor' Easter made a big impression on the east coast that winter also. Two fishing trawlers were lost in this storm, a father and son were reported missing. The first eighteen hours submerged was the worst of it. Problem was now the air was getting bad. The sub needed to snorkel and exchange air. The Skipper was afraid that might be tricky. See a submarine's bottom is full of flood ports, open to the sea. Saddle tanks with air at the top making the boat float, if a wave turns you upside down. The sub floats no more. These thirty foot waves could make us a sinker instead of a floater, but bad air is not good either. We had to much Co2 in the boat. Everyone not on watch was ordered to there bunks. Breathing less air was the plan. They lit the carbon dioxide scrubber cans forward and aft. We started burning it off. The air was real stale. Now the boat was submerged twenty one hours or more. We had to come up to the surface soon and that was captain's orders. The submarine is going to the surface, safe or not? Better than trying to snorkel. The boat was at least higher in the water and lighter. Bigger balloons make women float better too. This girl had big ones. The seas eventually calmed. The third day at sea was much better. New York City here we come. Benito Chapter 6, New York City... (line handlers on deck) “Benito arriving” The boat motoring into New York Harbor. This navy submarine enters the city's wharf area after passing Ellis Island. This was the second time by the Statue of Liberty, “the old girl herself,” isn't that right mom? I'm standing lookout with a big lump, in my throat. The view was breathtaking in this early morning calm. It was good to be coming into a dock at the Brooklyn Navy Shipyard, especially after that sea storm. Three days in this town and old enough to drink, “yahoo”. The crew was ready for liberty. I wanted to see Broadway and Fifth Avenue. I was dressed in his regulation blues, my shoes were shined and my white hat was clean. This was not to easy a feat on a diesel boat. I strolled through Central Park and some of the other sights. I was headed downtown to a place called “Dempseys.” Anybody in uniform got a free drink on the house. The restaurant and bar was a museum of bare fisted fighters. The full wall murals showing the famous and not so famous. The men battling in the ring. Jack Dempsey was the best of the best. He started fighting in the Colorado mining camps. Three deep to this bar, I finally got a stool. Benito ask the barkeeper to give me a VO Press. I said, that's Canadian VO' Bourbon and a twist of lemon add seven up and club soda float on top of the ice. He said, I know what it is.. let me see your ID, sailor? The bartender looked at it a long time, shrugged and then served me. I was really sweating bullets. I saw a picture of this mixed drink in a magazine. I wanted that special cocktail at Dempseys Bar in New York. I had drank it to quickly but it was good. I'll have another one, this being my second legal drink. New York had an eighteen year old drinking age. This time it cost me three bucks! I slowed way down and sipped it very slowly. Since that was real expensive on my sailor's budget. I was done. I've been drinking them over forty eight years now. I do switch to Crown Royal now and then but still like the taste of 'VO. The time was right to be on my way. I left "five bucks" on the bar and got up to go. Benito accidentally stepped back on this old man's toe. Oh! sorry sir, I didn't see you. He smiled and said, let me buy you one there son. His kind eyes told me, he was alright. Jack Dempsey waved the bartender over and said, Joe, this one is on me. The barman said “yes sir,” that's a VO Press, right? That's right, sure thank you, Mr. Dempsey, he smiled again and disappeared into the crowd. “Kid Blackie” didn't look like the pictures on the wall. There was many that didn't like servicemen in those days. That said, Jack the heavy weight champion of the world, wasn't one of them. The guys back on the boat didn't believe it but so what, I did. The city was alive that night. I took the subway to Brooklyn and walked back to the boat to save my bus fare. I had duty the next two days. My sub was still in port. This was no problem, I ran out of cash quicker in those days. What was the reason, we were in New York? It must have been a secret, at least I didn't know why. The next port was the sub base at New London. That meant two more days at sea. The sub cruised on the surface this time. Studying the pipe systems had me crawling through the interior of the boat. I was drawing outlines of valves and more pipes. I was getting signed off on this and that system. Yogi was frustrated with me because mechanical stuff wasn't my strong suit. That diesel engine hated me. Fireman Alley, it was decided would be an electrician. That would be a little cleaner anyway. I had to turn in my bilge rat hat. The new guy, who got my old job probably loved engines. I knew every valve in the forward and aft engine rooms, which was a good thing. The one engine, the navy had removed was replaced by a secret device. The navy was trying out some new equipment. A master something.... maybe that's why we stopped in New York City. This was an interesting piece of gear. The “Silent Service” is just that. We can't talk about it...so be quiet. Well anyway, we tied up to the submarine docks in Groton. We were here for special training class. The whole crew has to requalify the Steinke hood. Steinke what? Its was a new underwater escape device. Sub crew safety during the cold war era. This was a required training. I had just done this escape training stuff. That was only six months before... right? That was the wrong answer. This sailor now had to wear this hood with a window in it. No more blowing bubbles. We all yell, ho ho ho! to the surface. This hooded air pocket is connected to the vest. Hey funny, I might have broke my out of the water record. The human rocket launch, is Benito. The thing is all of us knew unless you sank in the harbor. That no one was swimming to the surface alive. The mom's out there didn't need to know that. So here we go, ho ho ho! Up, up and away, the silent service right. Well somebody must have told a mom. The Navy retired the training tank a few years back. The boat stayed in New London for a month doing special operations. This new secret system was the master prairie bubblier surrounded the hull. The hope was to make us invisible to detection. That said, the other navy submarines would try and find us. Then shoot a torpedo at us, “real fun”. These boats were armed with dummy torpedoes but they still could dent your fender. A steam driven slug at twenty one feet long. That weighted over one thousand pounds running at you over forty miles an hour seemed a little excessive. I hoped this blower system really worked. We tried hard to evade these guys. I'm just saying, our boat never took a direct hit. The story was another boat came into port with a dummy torpedo stuck through the sail. It’ll keep you on your toes for sure. Almost fifty years later, I'm telling these stories. I hope the navy has better stuff out there these days. I retired a few pairs of shorts, testing that one. The day came and we went back to Norfolk. I now was a real crew member tested under fire. The guys took me to Bell's Bar on the strip, just outside the main gate of the base. Bells Bar was a submariner's hangout. Surface guys need not enter, pig boats only. Standing at this bar was a time honored tradition, fried chicken gizzards and beer. I being only eighteen years old in Virginia meant three point two percent beer. Sub sailors in here didn't follow many rules like that. The gizzards went down better after about the eighth beer. Smiling like, I had just drank a lot of Ruby Hill. The guys introduce me to a bar maid named “Snorkel Patty.” She and I sat together in the back booth. A few more beers and I'd learned a new method of “Below & Go.” I mean blow and go. The next day, my head couldn't fit down the hatch. Sub sailors from different boats all smiling at the kid from the SS Diesel Boat. This sailor had his sails trimmed, just saying. The main Navy base had barracks for sub sailors with plenty of hot water showers and bunk beds too, life was good. The D&S docks were more secure and had another outside gate down the other side of the strip. Tattoo parlors, uniform shops, pool halls and at least ten bars including Bells. These lined both sides of the street for two blocks. To get from the boat to the barracks meant crossing the red zone. That said, being a new electrician on board. I had stood the equalizer battery charge watch. Benito checking specific gravity on both battery banks required, one guy, eighteen hours. It was important that the levels be checked on the hour. The boat was headed back out to sea the next day. I had to complete this charge. Yogi was the engine man running the power for this watch. Finally the charge was done at 12:39 am. I was beat just crawling on the top of these batteries. The battery wells with only about two an a half foot of clearance. It made for a very long day. The problem was the shuttle wasn't running between bases after midnight. Benito had to walk to the barracks. It was only a mile. That said, I put on my pea coat and my dress blue trousers and an a mostly clean white hat. I needed a shower and some sleep. I had to be in dress uniform outside the gates. Benito was halfway to the main gate in the red zone when the shore patrol stopped me. They were stopping sailors and checking uniform dress code. That may be a problem, this pirate was out of uniform. Seem they found under the pea coat, I was wearing a filthy dirty dungaree work shirt, that smelled real bad. The patty wagon was my new transport to the brig. I had his own holding cell anyway. They hadn't processed me and the chief in charge called for the pig boat sailor. What the hell? boy. Thank God this guy was a boat sailor. He had dolphins on to prove it. Slowly I explained myself, holding back tears. The old chief said, who's the officer in charge tonight? The phone call was interesting. Shore Patrol and the chief escorted me back to the sub pier. The officer of the deck holding the ransom, it was two boxes of donuts and Richards best pie. I was returned, the prisoner boarded the boat. The paperwork was lost and the next morning we were out to sea. I was restricted to the boat for two weeks. The exact same period, we were out. I told Richard, thanks for helping me. He laughed out loud. Richard and I were almost qualified boat sailors. The ten months had passed on board this great boat and crew. That all changed on July of 67, my new orders came in. Alley was being transfer to a fast attack nuclear submarine. The same kind of boat, I had studied in school. I didn't want to go, my sea dad got his orders too. Richard went to another nuclear fast attack on that same day. What the hell is going on. The good news, we both were staying in Norfolk. The bad news, I was leaving this rag tag family that had my back. The other Diesel Submarine stories not written here will live with me forever. Sly Fox, a wild berry wine and Yogi another time & tale. Benito Chapter 7, “The Hare...” The next tale is not as easy to tell. There are many a twist and turn. I wasn't excited about this new adventure. The Hare was the first of her kind. She was built in 1955 and launched 1959. Still the youngest on-board meant starting all over again. The diesel boat, I loved and really knew, at sea and on shore, will be missed. Ten whole months, and then I was transferred, it was not fair almost finished qualifying. That meant getting my dolphins and my crew's respect. This made me a real discouraged sub sailor. Back to ground zero, and why? That said, I was on one of the fastest nuclear submarines in the world. I'm mess cooking again, not knowing anyone. This crew made me feel uneasy. These guys seemed much more formal and detached. I was changing directions again. Who is yanking my chain? The Interior Communication Electricians gang was totally new to me. I had no idea what they even did. The new guy, that's me, this sailor what kind of fool am I. The Hare had a crew made up of real professional men, most all college educated. The engineering group on-board also had an extra two years of nuclear training classes. This school was ran by Admiral Rickover, the dean and head master made Hitler look like a choir boy. The Admiral ran a tight ship. This young pirate was real intimidated by this company of navy elite. I must be intellectually disabled, me on this fool's errand. Strong and confident was my new motto, “yeah, right.” The pirate made coffee and peeled potatoes. I can think about it later. The cook's name was Waldo, he liked his staff on time and efficient. The crew and officers numbered over a hundred men. I started work at five o'clock in the morning. We worked until the last plate was washed that night. There were three mess cooks. We kept the boat fed. That meant all three sit down meals served family style. Then everyday ended with a soup down about eleven o'clock at night. Two months of this, you'll have met the entire crew. These guys were very somber at my arrival. This was misunderstood by yours truly. The truth came out later over coffee. Some of the crew was starting to warm up to me. The problem was I replaced a great guy. They all loved this man, he was a skilled IC rated sub sailor. The last long run patrol, this electrician had accidentally been killed. Electrocuted behind the control room areas at the electrical switch panels. The boat was underway in some emergency situation. The crew had to bag his remains and freeze him in the walk-in box. No wonder they were not to friendly to the new guy. How do you fix that? Lots of time and healing. This kid was not the answer, they need. I was keeping really busy mess cooking having no energy to feel sorry for myself or this crew. Fire drills wearing gas masks. Then flooding drills, emergency secure compartment drill, I knew all about that one. Everybody up and clean the boat days. Battle Stations and more safety drills, could keep a guy out of the rack. Qualifying the boat had to happen, not on duty but off. My own time didn't exist. I had three or four hours sleep maybe each night. That was broke up into catnaps. Our first patrol for me was a two month cruise. The submarine had lots of sea time. The old diesel boat stayed close to our east coast maybe two or three week patrols, This boat could be anywhere. The Atlantic was small for us. Speedy and not having to come up for air or fuel. That meant the Hare was totally independent from the rest of the world. We were on a spaceship in this big blue ocean. Two hundred and fifty foot long fast boat, left the rest of the fleet way behind the curve. We could stay on a patrol as long as it took. Fast Attack Submarines meant hunter killer to enemy subs. This Nuclear Sub was much faster. A real deep and deadly weapon at sea. This class of boats numbered six. The Hare being the ultimate threat. The next two and a half years, I would sharpen my skills and be an asset to my boat and crew. First things first, I was to make coffee taste right. The time is 10:30 pm, I'm getting ready for a soup down and making coffee in the two big urns, forty cups per tank. That said, the control room is rigged for red and they want coffee. Mess cook Alley takes the orders, two blonde and sweet, 3 black and bitter, 2 blonde and bitter, Officer in the Conn' wants bitter and sweet. The room is dark as I take the tray up the ladder one floor. The boat is really vibrating through the seas, thirty two knots at six hundred feet. Headed east to England's coast in a few more days across the Atlantic. These guys would be relieved in an hour. That cold black sea on the other side of that pressure hull, no wave action felt at this depth, life was moving forward. The engineering team sends a guy forward for their coffee. They are back behind the reactor compartment in the maneuvering control room. The Hare running on maybe eighteen percent power. These numbers are vague of course. The soup down is in the crews dinner area. This always involved barking and snarling aimed at the cook. Waldo was a little touchy about the crews complaints. He was known to over react. That said, he told me once he wanted to poison some of his biggest critics. Waldo continued, I'd have to poison everybody to get away with it. Crazy was alive and well, he was my boss. Soup down was the only time the crew could talk about him and get away with it. Waldo slept at this meal. I never ate the soup, just saying. The dark side had some better moments and laughter. Benito Chapter 8, Long Run Patrol.... The late summer of 1967 found “The Hare” off the coast of Britain. The boat surfaces at sea, somewhere near the coast. A helicopter approaches, its after midnight, a small spotlight flashes the sail bridge commander. This signal is returned. Two men, one at a time are lowered to the wet deck on the Hare. Our crewmen await and catch each arrival. They are escorted below down the forward hatch. The North Atlantic sea state is confused. This action happens quickly and the boat submerges with two British agents on-board. One man is a left lieutenant officer, the other a technician of some sort. The captain and lookouts come down the bridge tube and the last man shuts the watertight hatches. I'm training on the helm and sail planes. This was so cool, the officer of the conning tower shouts, set your course north 000' compass heading and then make your depth one hundred sixty feet. I say, “aye aye sir” make my depth one hundred sixty feet and steering north 000,' ... wuga' wuga' Dive! Dive! The boat turns and starts the dive. The officer shouts, increase your speed to thirty knots. I acknowledged the order. Now eight weeks later and back from our patrol northern run, we will stop in Scotland. There is a chill in the air as we cruise in. The Hare is on the surface, the maneuvering watch is set into Holy Loch. Its now the middle of October. This is the start of my second year on submarines. The port is appreciated by the crew and officers. The spies leave us here. The men hit the town in civilian clothes as ordered. Everybody on the sub is sporting a beard, except yours truly. A milk mustache would be my only real try at that. The town of Dunoon was my first experience out of the United States. The Simon Lake submarine tender was now a temporary home, to our boat. Liberty awaited me. New adventures in Scotland and the pubs. Waldo is holding his head in the background. ( Pictured crew's settee and galley). The best news, I wasn't a mess cook anymore. I took over as ship's photographer in training. This trip, I was now qualified to drive the boat. I was also an armed topside watch. This sailor now a part of a repel boarder, topside group. Submarine defense in foreign ports. The team is armed with Thompson, a forty five caliber sub machine gun. Living the dream and now a part of the crew. These accomplishments earned and signed off by the captain. The prize was my submarine dolphins' a work in progress for me. Now standing in a local Scottish Pub, with my crew letting off some steam. Seaman Alley is enjoying the moment. A torpedo man has been awarded his dolphins by the captain on this trip north, Now the crew celebrates this honor. We all have a greater respect for this man. That said, the Chief of the Boat, another qualified torpedo man drops the silver metal emblem into serving pitcher and begins filling it. The different alcohols and all sort of other liquids mixed together. The crew starts the chant as the man picks up this chalice. He drinks this sick brew, spilling much of it down his chest. The prize at the bottom sliding into his lips and teeth, success and applause. This poor guy is now violently ill and shoots a shower of liquid into a large garbage can. The crew goes insane and hugs the soaked guest of honor. He is now a made man. Life at sea with my new family, feeling the love. Tom Jones wailing on the jukebox, " I'm coming home". I step up to the bartender for a VO Press. Well son, we serve only one whiskey here, scotch, and how would you like that? I said, straight up of course. This home brew went down with a bite. "Big Problem," the torpedo man wasn't the only one that had to be carried back to the boat. I was singing, I'm coming home, at the top of my lungs. That's the last time, I've ever had scotch, the beer tasted better, it was good. The history is kind of skewed again. I had made multiple runs north on the Hare. I was in uniform on the train ride to Edinburgh the capital of Scotland. The train ride was not to bad, a two day pass was needed. I was a loner and I liked it that way. I loved my crew but living in close quarters for months got old. Traveling through the green countryside was wonderful. I had ordered a big glass of milk in the club car. I was then sporting a new mustache. The truth was all dairy was gone after the first week at sea, no green salads, and eggs disappeared also. Funny what you miss on a long run at sea. The family and home were a real issue on these trips too. That said, I was making memories. The train station in this big city was amazing. I carried a small shaving kit and a change of socks. I was traveling light. The walk through the cobble stone lanes and the old structures was interesting but alas no camera. Downtown onto the main square, it was early afternoon. I was hungry and stepped into a Pub and Restaurant. The place was packed. The crowd feeling no pain and staring at me. Hey "Yank" come have one with us. This lone US Sailor is welcomed into their warmth. Set him up with a Scottish ale. The tankard mug had a glass bottom and the dark liquid was warm and syrupy. I looked through the bottom of the mug at all my new friends. They were watching intently. It was like drinking my dolphins, I thought. I had to finish it, thank God it was only a pint. The whole crowd cheered as I sat down the empty Stein. The pats on the back followed. I felt on top of the world. "Yank," you must see the Queen, you must see the Queen. They pushed me out the door into the square. Still shoving the sailor up to the front. Lines of people were gathering on the public parade route. Let the "Yank" through to the front with him. The tomb of the "Unknown Soldier" was in the foreground. The crowd hushed as the Royal Entourage came into view. The Judge Magistrate and his court walked by. They all were wearing long black robes and powdered wigs. The true meaning of a long hair. This Lady was wearing a yellow chiffon hat and dress. The dress was cut at the knee. She was carrying a bunch of yellow flowers. Queen Elizabeth was beautiful and actually waved at me and smiled. I stood there, the only US soldier present. My heart almost left my chest. She was surrounded by the masses, no real security near. Only fifteen feet from myself and others. She continued up the steps to this monument and bow to the royal kilted, Scottish guard. Then placed the flowers on the unknown soldier's tomb. The crowd roared. "OMG " I was my countries representative that day. I have no words for that moment. I wasn't hungry anymore. The tears weld up in my eyes. These people loved their soldiers. Life had strange benefits. One day your alone and wondering, why me? The next day your surrounded by the masses and cheering the Queen. These American submarines were an important vanguard for these Scottish people too. The smiling faces probably didn't know why we patrolled either but their Queen did. The twist of events far from home. I welcomed the tap on his back. It's for luck, mate. The locals said, the stars on the back of your navy uniform, that's for luck. Local superstition or what? They all tap my shoulder for luck, mate. They would smile and grin at the American sailor. The luck was mine. I loved these people and there kindness to this boy from California. The long runs, we patrolled were important to them and us. The British, French, Canadian and American submarines all apart of the cold war effort. Opening the door to others. This sailor was moved that day. Benito Chapter 9, This Navy Life... The cruise back to Norfolk took a week. This pirate was studying for Interior communications electrician and boat qualifications, this kept me real busy. The normal day to day sea life was a whirlwind of activity. I had made “Third Class Petty Officer.” I'd be wearing this rate at the beginning of the new year. That said, this sailor not having an “A,” school had trouble with the rate. This made my book work and study time much harder. Tommy the IC men gang leader had help me pass. He got me this promotion. His name was Tommy (two shoes.) He was also from California. Tommy had been my mentor for six months. The gang leader was a special person. The maintenance of gear and telephones communications equipment was my job. The submarine had a few issues on our return to home port. We were sent across the bay to Newport News Shipyard. While at this repair dock the boat needed spruced up. The captain appointed a painting crew to redo the exterior of the boat's surface area. We had some bumps and scrapes that needed attention. Our hull numbers also had to be painted back on. I was on this paint crew. The red primer was not found at the ships store. We borrowed some primer from an aircraft carrier next to us. The problem being their deck crew was using yellow zinc oxide primer instead. It took us two days of chipping paint and cleaning the surface. The boat was ready for primer. Then we painted the Hare. The nuclear sub, now was a yellow submarine. We all admired the new look, it was a trendsetter for sure. The skipper was not happy at his return that afternoon. We were ordered to paint the boat's black finish coat back on. The captain wanted it done now. He said, do it right now or else!! “The Beatles” would have been proud, their new song, forever immortalized. The five men would learn to regret that afternoon. The very next day, we had stenciled the white numbers back on the sail. She looked great. I had missed a spot down on the bow, near the sonar dome. I was sent out that following cold morning to finish the job. Armed with a paper cup of black paint and a small brush. The mooring line was hanging over to the dock off the bow. I hadn't put on a life jacket or belt harness. I was not tied to the deck track with a safety rope as required. The two minute job turned bad for me. I had slipped on the scum line near the waters edge. I went into the drink. The mooring line saved me from going all the way in. My dry white hat was still on top of my head. The topside watch announcing “man overboard” on the public address system. By the time the crew got there to rescue me.....I was back standing on the deck. I tried to explain, the water was cold so I pulled myself out with the mooring line. I hardly got wet.. They all started laughing out loud. The paint had hit the water before me. This sailor had a black horizontal line crossed my face. I was painted black from my eyes down. I just smiled. That oil based black stuff would not come off for a week. Trouble seemed to find me in those days. Life was full of surprises. Still eighteen and in the navy was weird at times. I had a pay raise and with my hazardous duty pay, life was much better. A few of my crew and I rented a place on the beach just down from the base. Ocean views and Benito's first bachelor pad, life was good. Tommy and this other guy would share all expenses. The place even had a pool. The two bedroom was just fine because the trio had duty on different days. Spending time at the pool, I met my neighbor Carol. She was older but very attractive. Carol was thirty eight years old and had broken up with this navy chief. My infatuation was hard to hide. She would invite me over for a drink at her place now and then. Most of my crew would build up these sexual stories to share with the others. Many of the facts stretched out of proportions. Carol was easy to talk with. She helped me understand some important differences. Her tutoring got me to realize what was real and what was fantasy. My education in this field took a major step forward. That month was special for me. Now this was the silent service. That said, Carol gave me a good grade. Things were moving a long and I bought a sports car. Dad had sold my 55' Chevrolet at home and put the money in the bank for me. My new car was a 1956 Classic TR3 Triumph, had two bucket seats with chrome wired wheels. The Cadillac gray exterior with red leather interior made me smile, what a ride. I had spent six hundred eighty dollars for her. I also had purchased a custom tailored, navy dress uniform, style was important. These long sea runs, meant a reward of more money. I would receive five to six paychecks all at once. Life was good, when we were on shore. The nighttime livened up too. These new skills that I acquired and a sporty ride helped. “The Righteous Brothers and The Beach Boys” set the mood. Mom had sent me to the “Arthur Murray Dance Studio.” I hated it in the seventh grade but it now had merit. Nightclubs around Norfolk had a lot of action. Sea time on the boat also meant that I had gained some more weight. Dressing in civvies and knowing how to dance made it easier to talk with the ladies. My dance card was full and a lot more fun. The surface fleet would go to sea and some of the wives and sweethearts would hit the local bars. Life is not fair but true. Learning these secrets and staying single made the navy more tolerable for me. The Ebb Tide Bar and The Peppermint Lounge were my play ground. The night before any sea operation. The off duty crew would meet at Bells. Sometimes the sailors would drink till dawn. We would be at muster at the dock, bright and early. The crew standing at attention. Some more sober than others. The roll call and last minute instructions were given by the captain. Then the Hare would leave Norfolk out for more undersea adventures. Each man knowing the count had to always be an even number. Submerge and Surface needs to match. We all partied as if it were for the last time. These sub sailors counted on each other. That said, you could bet your life on it and did. The boat never cruised on the surface. After leaving port, The Hare would always point to the east at a certain place and submerge. This was recorded by a Russian fishing trawler in the area. The same place on arriving back pointed west. Then we would surface. The Cold War policy at play. This cruise took us south and to the Bermuda area, The submarine entered the gulf stream and warmer waters. We had exercises with the fleet. Anti-submarine warfare drills. We being the rabbit and all the other warships the hound. The boat was a wily hare for sure. The hunt and kill for the surface navy was near impossible. They would restrict the submarine's movement and depth, even our speed. The Russian subs had moves, "Crazy I'van" comes to mind. The Hare also had moves. We called them "Angles and Dangles." I was the battle station helmsman and sail plane operator. My youth and reaction time put me in the driver's seat. This was serious business for the captain. His French background and youth made the commander, put up a fiery front. The aircraft carrier was ground zero and the fleet tried to protect their prize. Classified details of these drills are safe but the rabbit was hard to beat. We all felt like "Pirates" during these two week trials. The reward was a few days off in Bermuda. The captain was pleased with the crew's performance. Liberty was great, the island being small and easy to navigate. This old British port of call had a lot of history. I rented a moped and explored this paradise. It was a mind bender after a few beers because the traffic flow was in the wrong lane. That said, my first trip here was wonderful. The Hare left the island as we continued south to Miami. The "Bermuda Triangle" stories in the crew's mess were amazing. The old timers telling their tales trying to scare me. Compass headings and course seemed harder to maintain. Shorty Longfellow, the boat's quartermaster was plotting the map. He and his bearings were a little perplexed. The sub's short run to Miami was interesting. The Hare surfaced pointing west, outside the bay and harbor. The maneuvering watch was manned. The officer on the bridge couldn't visually read the landmarks. The problem being this lighthouse must of moved? The captain said, submerge the boat quick. We had come up off the coast of Jacksonville. That being three hundred miles to the north. Just saying, this was before GPS and computer tracks. The Bermuda Triangle did what? The Hare had the best navigational equipment of that era. The captain wasn't very amused. We finally cruised into Miami the next day. The paint crew was in trouble though, the boat looked like a spotted cow. Big yellow spots all over her hull. The captain was mortified. The five sailors in the old paint party were ordered on deck to paint them out. This well before the boat landed at the dock. All of us wearing the proper gear of course. I blamed it on the triangle some magnetic pull, don't you know. Benito Chapter 10, The Miami Night life.... This Miami was going to be fun. I had the topside watch the first day in Port Everglade. That afternoon, the boat was along side the Queen Mary. This wasn't a military dock. The tourists were interested in the nuclear submarine as they passed. The public dock was full of civilians touring the ship next to us. That made for a great afternoon duty. I was fielding questions from the crowds. Then the day got better. The captain arriving in a new red Cadillac convertible with three young blondes. They we're all laughing, This definitely got my attention. I reported to the duty officer on the public address. The Hare arriving, The Hare arriving, the duty officer is up on the bridge in an instant. We both salute the captain and his three guests as they board the submarine. The captain saying, yes! this is my boat. I think that memory has been locked with me forever. The captain at thirty eight, was just way to cool. I don't think this was a prayer group with him. The captain was a single guy after all. Benito had liberty the next day. We had to wear our uniforms on the beach. Something was said, about us being good ambassadors in this seaport. Yeah, right! a bunch of guys cruising paradise. The white sand beach covered with ladies in small bikini's. Just saying, the beach and women made my time here pass to quickly. The club scene was way different than in Norfolk. That evening winds up at the "Four O'clock Club" the last place still open. The sub crew found it, must be a sixth sense. I was feeling no pain. The Vo' was flowing that night. Anyway, this place was dark and smoke filled. The bar wrapped around the inside corner. The music kind 'a trashy and the place is rocking. The dance floor was packed. The noise and laughter, the music. This sailor is in the moment. The women were gorgeous and dress to kill. I was in his element and smiling like a Cheshire Cat. Cruising the crowd, I spot this knockout sitting by herself. She was at a small table in the corner. This was arousing my curiosity, the eye contact from across the room, that was good. I ask my shipmates if they have seen anyone with her. Everybody shrugged and said no, no problem. That was my cue, watch my smoke guys. I made my move and she and I hit the dance floor. My quick footwork and a twirl, sent her out and back to me, a slow song is playing. This was way cool and I was smooth and confident. Then the lights came up. The next song more alive and upbeat. The curvy blonde was beautiful. The guys at the bar were all staring at us. We cut around the floor with ease. I held her tight and looked into her eyes, then it happened. The gaze had moved down. I noticed a beard stubble on my new girl. That made me weak in the knees and not in a good way. This pirate had a problem, if I outed my dance partner that might mean trouble. Everyone would notice, especially my buddies. I had to finish this dance. The long walk back to the table was tense. The room is now hushed. I thank her and head back to the bar. My crew, smirks were on their lips and it turned into a roar. They all knew before I walked in. That one was a man. Life was a tad uncomfortable for awhile after that... damn. The cool kid was not the same for a long time. Thank the gods it was over before something more personal had happened. I left that scene, I went back to the boat. Miami was not for me. The nightlife in Norfolk at least, I knew the rules. The white sand beaches and the warm night air had its allure. Who knows what the future holds down the road. The next day, the boat is back to sea with me having a new nickname, man killer. Benito Chapter 11, Smooth Seas... Leaving Miami, the Hare was headed back north. The captain keeping a close eye on the navigation. We moved back through that mystery zone. The boat had no other issue with our track or compass heading. The submarine did stop back in Bermuda. My new nick name was man killer. I would stay on the military base. That night at the enlisted man's club it was just fine. The place was packed with other navy personal and their were no cross dressers present. The beer was cold and a lot less money. The submarine's, two day stop over. The crew picking up booze and smokes, all tax free. The crew was able to bring the bounty back on board. The stuff was all loaded into number three torpedo tube. Eighty men had one and a half gallons a piece. The booze and other gifts filled the space and they were locked away. Once back at sea the captain kept us all on our toes. He would threaten to shoot the load out to sea if reaction times did not improve on drills and other stuff. Back to Norfolk, it was in the early spring. The Hare came up at the same spot the boat had submerged. The horn sounded, Surface! Surface! Surface! It was my eighteenth time bringing up the boat. The air rushing into the tanks. That big rumble under your feet. The boat's periscope raising and the sub's up angle to the surface. This was always exciting and an even number. I loved this shit... The paint crew back on the top deck painting out the yellow spots. I was starting to hate that Beatles song. I had a four day weekend, Alley Cat on a road trip to New York, I liked the sound of that. Long Island and Jones Beach was the place. That was where my girl lived. I met her in upstate New York. She had invited me to her home for Easter vacation. I was excited about hooking up with her again. She was a little rich girl. Darlene's daddy design the New Jersey Turnpike. I was totally out of my league but what the hell. I met her at West Point Academy, the student body had a dance. The Army cadets invited the private girl's college just down the way. Sister Sally's husband was stationed at the Army base. I showed up just before Christmas, I was visiting Sally and her new baby boy. All military members could attend these dances, so I did. West Point had no nightlife so why not. The Army guys didn't seemed to mind this lone sailor in their club. I sure stood out, the soldier's all in their student uniform and me in my navy custom dress blues. The punch bowl was spiked of course. Darlene and the sailor danced the night away. She was fun and we were both tipsy. The two of us went back to her girl's dorm that night. Darlene's room was on the third floor, it was crazy. I slept with her till the next morning. The day being Sunday, we spent the time motoring around in my sport car. The Catskill mountains were green and beautiful. I wrote her every week from Virginia. This vacation north a few months later would be a first. Her dad had been in the navy also. This was her family estate and the grounds up to the house were beautiful. The house sat on the point looking out to sea. I had my own suite in the left wing. I was as nervous as a cat. I wore black dress slacks, a white dress shirt. The yellow cashmere sweater came from Scotland. Cocktails at seven pm and then dinner. She looked amazing and I just smiled. The grand piano sat on a raised floor off the living room. This area surrounded with three walls of glass all facing the Atlantic. Darlene sat at the key board playing a soft melody. The old man entered the room. I felt uneasy with him, her dad was a naval officer in his day. They all tried to make me feel at home. Thank God, he couldn't read my thoughts. Darlene was a temptress hidden in an Angel's outfit. She kept this whisper and touch going right through dinner. That weekend drove me crazy under her father's roof. Darlene would sneak into my room at night. I felt a lot safer at sea. I did survive this visit and return to the navy base that following Tuesday. The long drive home, she lived in my thoughts. I was smitten and lost to this little hell's angel. My long distant romance was difficult but Darlene was very special to me. The boat still had issues and the decision was made to dry dock the Hare and test the pressure hull welds and such. This floating huge dock would submerge, the boat entered it, a big door shut. The dry dock would rise and the water was pumped out. Our submarine sitting on blocks and out of the water. The timing was right for me to take my first two week leave and go home. I hadn't been home in over two years. Life had changed me a lot. The fifteen days in California proved to everyone that I had grownup a little. This time in Stockton was a blur and my memory is vague. Benito, Mac and Bean had some fun. The family loved having me home. Bean was just starting college. Mac had a young daughter and was working full time. I stayed at my mother's house and visited my Dad and his new wife. Things didn't seemed to change much in town. This sailor feeling on the outside, looking in. My old girlfriend, Shelley Beaver long since gone. I enjoyed the break but was glad to get back to my boat. I was still a kid, in that world. They had sandblasted the whole boat and applied a new finish no more yellow nightmare, that was good. The major work and x rays of the hull were done, any issues resolved. I started his second tour as mess cook, that’s right! back with Waldo the crazy cook. The times, I spent working in the galley on the old diesel boat was missed. I remember peeling potatoes on the topside deck with my sea dad Richard. Both of us sitting on a couple of wood crates. The two of us laughing and telling stories, just fond memories. This now my third time at Mess cooking. This wasn't as much fun. The best thing was, I being senior mess cook. The new guy was finally younger than me. Sam was a seaman just eighteen years old. I think he was a sonar tech. The truth was everyone below the rank of First Class got to stand this duty. We took a shake down cruise to New London and spent some time there. The Hare had a VIP guest on board for this run. Admiral Rickover, that made us all nervous, even the captain. Rickover was the "Father of the Nuclear Submarine Program, "and that was it, period. He put the boat to extreme trials and radical moves. Then he'd crawl around the power plant and engineering checking it out. This boat was one of his babies. The officer wardroom dinners were always handled by Chief Stewart Pete. Who knew the Admiral personally. This old man was on the crew of the original Hare. A World War Two diesel boat that saw action. The man was a living example of the perfect sub sailor. He ran the officers mess and special dinners. I liked him very much. This event involved live lobster and steak dinner with bake Alaskan for dessert. The whole boat ate the same menu. Large bags of live lobster were delivered in New London. The captains table got a whole twenty five pound dressed lobster as table center piece. That said, the two crew mess cooks got to play with this big bug. It's claws the size of my hands. Sam and I pulled off the safety tape and watch it snap a ballpoint pen in half with the large claw. We were both kids that day. Pete said, I need the main course back! boys. Life was good, smooth seas for sure. We had set the mooring lines and were tied into a slip in New London. The Father of the Modern Navy departed after dinner. Everybody got to breathe normally again. Benito Chapter 12, Dark Days... We returned to Norfolk, our submarine was slated for another long run patrol. You might get the idea that we spent a lot of time at sea. Sometimes over two hundred and sixty days a year or more. That said, The Hare was going north again. We were all jealous of our sister ship, another fast attack submarine. They were assigned to the Sixth fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. The Scorpion left Norfolk and got underway on February 15, 1968. This was the end of March, we were headed back up to the Arctic Circle again. The new “Blue Nose” ceremony was a highlight for the crew. I was the royal photographer and documented the event. The new mess cook, Sam and a few others had to be indoctrinated into the Royal Club. My first long run was my turn at being a blue nose. That said, this was my second long run, this ceremony was a lot more fun because I was recording it. King Neptune was in the royal chambers aka (crews mess). The newbies were blindfolded. The royal drink was ready and the punishment administered, then shaving an “A” in the back of newly sworn in guy's skulls. The kissing of the Buddha’s belly was real special, trust me. Life aboard was running smoothly on station. Crossing under the ice was always interesting. Coffee runs and drills, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Soup down was on the new guy. The time moved along. I was now the ship's photographer, in my spare time. I processed the film and had my own dark room. The captain would take pictures through the periscope and I would develop the shots in the lab. Sometimes with him right outside the door to make sure, we got the shot. The captain relieved me on this patrol from mess cooking. We had a rich contact environment in these long daylight periods. I was the only man qualified dark room technician, feeling important these days at sea. The time approached, our return to Scotland. We pickup a signal that our sister ship had not reported in. The fast attack submarine, USS Scorpion (SSN589) was missing on her return from the Mediterranean. That was my friend and sea dad's boat from the days on the diesel boat. Richard help me stay in the program at the start of sub school. The crew of ninety nine men were all missing. They were very qualified submariners and had been awarded metals for their previous service. Hare was ordered to stay on station for twelve more days.My heart almost fell out of my chest. This couldn't be. The date was May 22, 1968. Our crew took it very hard. We all had friends on that boat. I've tried to make these chapters fun and more about my adventures. I've changed names and put the points of my times in a good light. That said, this sailor couldn't talk about any of these things for along time. The human feelings are the hardest lessons for me. These people, I served with will live in my heart till it beats no longer. They never returned. The year of 1968, four other submarines were lost at sea. These are the other three: Israeli submarine INS Dakar, the French submarine Minerve, (S647) and the Soviet submarine K-129. All these boat crews will be missed. Submariners are a brotherhood and I'm proud to be in their numbers. The orders had changed after seventy two days on sea patrol. The Soviets were suspected in this action. Scorpion's last communication had said a Russian submarine was tailing her. On this patrol, no enemy sub approached their northern sub base from the south. The Hare was ordered to Holy Lock in Scotland. There could be an issue with the rest of the fast attacks in the fleet. We were mechanically checked out in Holy Lock. The Hare now ordered back to Norfolk on the surface. A much slower transit and more vulnerable posture. Talk about high alert, the captain kept us all busy with attack scenarios and responses. The sonar and lookouts on the surface kept a sharp vigil on the open waters. Days and nights on the North Atlantic, the crew tense and moody. Waldo the cook was catching hell. We were half way across the Atlantic when it happened. It was flat calm and kind of eerie that morning. Our sonar had picked up a faint signal, the radar had a small blimp on the screen a possible periscope. The friend or foe radio signal was met with no response. The Hare's captain was called to the control room. The crew went to battle stations. I took over my position as helmsman. The captain climbed up to the bridge followed by three armed personnel. Captain order the course change to intercept the target. We entered a fog mist closing in on the prey. The crew was on edge, the torpedo tubes loaded. I think that I was the only one glad to see that a sailboat was cutting through the mist. The front runner of the transatlantic sailboat race. I would think an armed submarine clearing the mist into their peaceful world was quite startling. They brought the sub machine guns back down the ladder. Life at sea improved as we passed these majestic yachts for the rest of that day. The Hare headed west and they to the east. The Russians didn't show up. I was glad to get back to almost normal. The cruise into Norfolk was a sad and a meaningful time with family and friends. The loss of that many was heart felt by all, please, rest in peace brothers. Benito Chapter 13, Living the Longest day... The service in the Navy can be good and bad. I missed my girlfriend that was good. I was keeping real busy on the boat. We had to carry these special weapons now and then. This particular Mark torpedo was a pain in the ass. The security around this weapon unbelievable. The secret was out, the pain involved and paperwork was not fun. Astor Security watch at sea or at any given port was around the clock. We loaded these two torpedoes on board now and again. The Hammer was an Atomic Nuclear Warhead that is shot out the torpedo tube. This Hammer was designed to take out multiple targets. Like a convoy or maybe even the boat that shoots it. The Hammer was a special kind of headache for sure. I was a qualified Astor security watch, which required you to be in the same room with these bad boys. If you weren't on the access list to the torpedo room, I could shoot you. Twenty-four hours a day, the Hammer had to be monitored and protected from your own crew. The thing was... if we had to shoot it. The Hare would rig for depth charge and run as fast as possible in the other direction after firing. Don't you just love the guys that rolled this one out. The cold war was heating up. They were putting men on the moon, anti war protests all over the country. Civil Rights and Nixon in the White House. The late 1960's is in full throttle. I am now and was back then all about protecting the United States. This Submarine was my job. Somehow it seemed Waldo wasn't the only crazy one on the block. The summer of 1968, I'm nineteen years old and missing my friend. These killer submarines were designed to sink Russian nuclear subs that may threaten the United States. They had more submarines than us at that time. The games we played were serious. The next adventure was a patrol to the north seas and real close contact with Russian navy fleet exercises. The blue nose special to the heart of the enemy territory. We had painted the numbers off the sail. That was so the boat would not be flashy at their party. I was not standing Astor watch just so you know. This mission was to take a few pictures and make a head count. The crew was up for anything at this point. One of our own subs just lost at sea. That said, not having the Hammer on board was probably a good thing. Time was going by slowly on station. My morning watch was getting started at 4 am. Coffee cup in hand, I head up to the control room with my red goggles over my eyes. The room was rigged for red. This to protect the officer's night vision. The stern planes are next to me and the candy man has taken over his chair. The helm and sail planes are my seat. People are changing watch behind us and the officer of the deck has the conning tower. He is reviewing the chart positions of the sleeping fleet above our heads. Twenty or so warships sitting right above us, this bay is full. The Russian coast line is twilight by the summers glow. The conning officer says make your depth, periscope level. I said, aye aye sir. This action requires a slow rise and by no means expose the boat. I call out the rising depth as we go up. The attack scope starts to move up from the well. This is a narrow shaft that doesn't leave much on the surface to see. The officer is bent over slightly with his arms over the handles and eyes in the view finder. The scope still rising to full position. This is a routine maneuver to do a head count and then compare to our active chart info. This enemy fleet and most of our crew is fast asleep on the early morning rise. The Hare's skeleton crew is running the show. Life in slow motion, as my worse nightmare starts to unfold. Sonar has done a sweep of the area, there is nothing to report. I was still calling out the depth by smaller increments now. The last few feet to the surface's periscope depth. There is a loud screeching of scraping metal. The officer behind me is being tossed out of the conning room platform. He's thrown from the pitching periscope. The leak now is spraying icy water down the back of my neck and everywhere else. The instantaneous thunder and more crushing steel on top of our heads. Candy man and I push both wheels down without orders to full dive. The captain is now on the platform in his underwear relieving the now bleeding from the head, officer of the deck. The periscope flooding into the control room has been stopped by tightening the gasket around the base with a grease gun. The overflow in the periscope well is being addressed. The next deck below and home to the battery floor hatch. Now covered with mattresses to protect it from the saltwater. Chlorine gas isn't a fun time. You could hear an alarm sounding from the whale, we had hit above us. The boat down angle is punctuated by the planes men auto response to the collision. The downward thrust by hitting this object above us, also a factor. The captain ordering rudder and planes to neutral. The depth was increasing anyway. The boat crashing into the bottom of this bay. It was not a soft landing. The crew is now wide awake some of us saying prayers under our breath. The submarine just sitting on the bottom. The Russian Fleet is now on full alert. Sonar is reporting the screw noises of many ships on the hunt. Russian wolf hounds looking for our hare. The captain confers with all compartments for damage reports. The off duty crew is ordered to their bunks, ultra quiet is a good term. The boat seems sound and we are in no immediate danger so far. We need to move out of this bay to open water, post haste. The fact, we are the fastest submarine on the planet. We could out run any of there ships, this did make a good case for our survival. That said, the boat needed to get off the bottom slowly. The destroyers and faster patrol boats were off to close the entrance to the bay ahead of us. We blew some air into the ballast tank. The sub rose from the bottom. Captain orders full speed ahead. Bang, bang and bang, the bell rings, all stop!!! is ordered. The periscope is shuttering in the conning tower more grease is applied to stop the seawater. The problem the periscope can't be retracted. The observation is made the scope is bent down horizontal to the superstructure. Therefore we are now a bell and dong. This would give away the Hare's position and be a death blow for sure. Time is measured in slow inhales and exhales. The boat moves slowly, very slowly to the rhythm of the dance. This slow crawl probably saved all of our lives. It took us days to clear the area. Their forces rushing to catch us. The darkness was our friend as we surfaced somewhere out at sea. The team is on the bridge to cut the periscope off at the bend and again below the sail. the front of the superstructure crushed in. Transmission of this news to the powers that be, probably made waves all the way to Washington. We were OK, and could still operate. These men had rallied together as a team. They pulled this rabbit out of harms way. The paper work and interviews were almost as bad as the event. The good and bad of Navy life. Returning to Norfolk outside the tender in the dark. The next day a blanket covering the broken sail, the whale incident over. Praise the crew, we all survived. Benito Chapter 14, The Brotherhood... Life is interesting, the crew was back in Norfolk with day to day operations. Spirits seemed to flow more normally now. The Hare's down time would last a few months or so. The boat's sail getting a new hard hat and periscope. That being a top priority. These moments are frozen in time some forty six years later. My sub family was important to me. Orders, transfers, and the changing times, guys would come and go. The other boats in the fleet needed qualified people. Tommy (two shoes) my mentor, had one shoe in his professional navy career. The other shoe in his personal lifestyle choices. He had to move back to California because of his personal behavior. He was not in step with the navy, a very sad day. Shorty Longfellow was from Lincoln, California. We were close, he and I had peeled a lot of spuds together. Shorty was sent to the USS Shark another fast attack, we're still friends these many years later. The Hare had Johnnie Walker Red from Tennessee. He ran the boat's clerical services and kept us informed and out of trouble. George Jefferson (whitey,) he was a great electronic technician. Whitey was from Chicago town. He had some crazy black gangland ties back home. Jay, Jay was from Alabama, the man who swung a mean grease gun in a pinch. Vic from Georgia, the mad hatter from engineering. He knew how to party and proved it on a regular bases. The boy from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He beat all the windows out of his girlfriend's house. She had said "no" to his marriage proposal. He did it with his fists and arms. Still wearing the bandages on the boat to prove it. Larry Lee had showed to much passion on that visit home. I was a part of this team and it worked. Waldo left also, after chasing someone with a meat ax. They ran through the crews mess. He was here and then he was gone. My elite crew were all pirates. Benito's stories and sea tales still live in my memory. The winter of 1968. I'm now below decks watch and control panel operator. Boat repairs almost done and party time coming to a close. The boat is ready once again. We have some new crew members and some haven't been to sea yet. The Hare back on the pier. The boat was flushing primary coolant to a tank on the dock. Young Sam is topside watch and I'm below decks watch. I called up from the control room to Sam, need coffee up there? No answer was received. I had to climb up into the bridge area to check on him. The kid is gone from the sail plane station to the dock down the gangway plank. He's standing by the flush lines and is wet trying to connect a broken line. I scream don't touch that.. it was to late. I ordered him to stand on the pier and do not move. My next call is the officer of the watch. We then call the Hazardous Material team in the yellow suits. The whole team must of showed up. Siren and lights flashing at least three big trucks and a dozen men. Yosemite Sam is stripped and scrubbed down, his red hair scrubbed too. The radio active cleanup and other measures to insure safety are in place. Its two o'clock in the morning and all hell is breaking loose. The kid had no idea what was up. Turned out it was a freshwater hose break so he wasn't exposed to the radiation spent coolant. The outcome is the same, poor guy. The protocol not followed got Sam in more hot water. This nuclear reactor is not a toy. We all wore film badges to check monthly radiation levels all the time. The good news is he lived. The bad news he was busted and transferred to the hospital for more tests. Those yellow suits were serious about their job. We had heard the Russian fleet got childless pay. Their sub sailors got to much radiation exposure from the reactors. Russian nuclear submarines had less lead shielding. We got better equipment, I was told. That said, my hair hasn't fallen out yet. The candy man and I talked about the trouble up north and how we handled ourselves. I think we did ok, the bottom was closer than we figured on. That said, we were interviewed at length by upper brass and sworn to say nothing for twenty five years. I think now is the time to shine a light on what these men did for their country. Candy man was from New York another clerical clerk. He liked his coffee very sweet and lots of cream. I was studying for Second Class Petty Officer and finishing my boat qualifications. The Interior Communications division was down to me and Bobby McGee, once we numbered six guys. That put pressure on both of us. Standing watch at sea, the control room required an IC man on watch and that would be tough on a long run. The year is now 1969, I just turn twenty years old. The shake down cruise behind us. the boat would be back on station soon. I had passed the test for Second Class IC man on January 31, 1969. I get a letter from home. My cousin is now in navy boot camp. I remember those days being really tough on the new recruits and your scared of everybody. That hatches a plan in my mind. The letter from home supplies me with his address in San Diego. The recruits isolated made these guys all love mail call. His fourth week of training is a lot of tests and career data. Eddie, the new recruit had always busted my chops when we were kids. I had a talk with one of my friends in clerical on the base. He supplies me with official navy letter head and envelope. My buddy types the correspondence and stamps it, Secret top priority. The return address being from the Department of Naval Affairs in Washington DC. The best part, I drove to Washington and mailed it. The post stamp was real. What are cousins for? Well I guess the navy does have a sense of humor. The letter is hand delivered by the base high command. Cousin Eddie sweating and wide eyed opens it up, reading how his test scores has put him into a special assignment. That the navy needs him to perform these duties. The good of our country was at stake. He'd be reporting to a secret location. The pass word was cousin Benny. I never got in trouble for that action, my cousin, he never blew the whistle on me. Eddie was a special pirate too. We stole our first candy bars together. Eddie and I still talk and laugh about that moment in the navy. Time is passing along and I finally get my dolphins from the captain. The date is March 18, 1969. Sixteen months it took me. I was afraid, they'd transfer me off the Hare, just like the old boat. By slowing down the process, I stayed on the boat. I loved the Hare. I was a made man. The captain would not allow the crew to make me drink my dolphins. I wasn't twenty-one yet. I kind of missed that drunk. We were "Family," those men guided me into the future. Yosemite Sam is back on board and mess cooking again. The story of him trying to save the day was well earned. Our orders had come in. This meant another long run patrol. Another night at Bells bar, here we come. The off duty crew is all smiles that morning at muster. The crew board the Hare for a return adventure at sea. This time the spooks are with us. Benito Chapter 15 The Sea and Me.... The Atlantic Ocean was flat as glass. We cruised out of the Chesapeake Bay. I was very excited and nervous about my new on board position. The charged atmosphere and the lively chatter in the submarine was over this next patrol. I was sitting at the BCP (ballast control panel), ready for my first descent at the switch board. The room was full of activity, on this particular morning. We had a new crew member sitting at the helm and dive planes. The captain was in the conning tower. He ordered the three men down from topside. The upper sail and bridge was cleared. I prepared to operate the switches and dive the boat. The hatches were all secured, the dive board green lights were displayed, the order was given. I opened all the vents, the boat started to submerge. Newly qualified and having my dolphins, life was good. The boat was trimmed for sea. The transit depth reached, and the course set. The Hare was now on her way, deep and fast. The new man at the wheel was in my old seat. The next six hours with me operating the BCP was the first of many watches. Bobby, the other watch stander and I switching off the dive panel station, every other watch. The rest of the crew standing the standard duty. That being the normal, three man rotation. The next two months would be hard on both of us. This trip was a special mission. The boat was rigged for surveillance video. Camera and viewing screen, through the new periscope. The spy's on board ran this equipment. Once on station, the crew was back into the routine. The days fell into a rhythm. Our mission was very successful dogging the enemy fleet. The one real issue happened on my watch toward the end of our mission. The new man bringing the boat to periscope depth was having trouble. Seas in the North Atlantic were very rough. This was a scary day. He couldn't maintain the depth. Everyone was yelling at this kid. The boat could have been spotted. The sail was exposed in hostile waters, time and again. The kid finally had enough of this and snapped. He put the boat into full dive position. The sailor was screaming back in a crazed anger with his eyes bulging out, he was red in the face. This sailor would not release the dive angle. The Hare was headed down. The crew had to physically remove him from the seat. The dive chief jumped into the chair and recovered the boat. The man was wrestled to the deck. He had to be sedated. This mission now had a real problem. The boat must return to Scotland, it took days. The medic on board was constantly monitoring this sailor's health and well being. The nervous breakdown and deteriorating mental condition of this sailor had us all on edge. The kid was removed from the Hare and the submarine command once in port. We ended that long run patrol, a little early. This guy was liked by all of us. I felt terrible. His dad was a diesel boat sub sailor. These stresses can get to anybody. This crew knew the risks of these patrols. At times, the job, the crew or just the stress and fear of the unknown, could cause issues. These emotions always an uneasy companion. How the crew handled the crisis situations was crucial. Bobby McGee and I had back to back watches. The fatigue and sleep deprived moments can cause lack of focus. Twelve hours a day on the BCP station in the control room was not easy. The real sea drama playing out moment to moment. Six hours at a time, boredom certainly wasn't our problem. The enemy ships, the ice, equipment troubles, the extra work load all factors to face. Then your personal laundry..... hygiene, eating and sleeping and the drills, this on your off time. That was enough to drive you crazy. This made Bobby and yours truly start a short timer calendar. We both had about nine more months. Then I was out of the navy. That now was playing with my head. The captain to relieve some stress calls a swim day. This on the way back across the Atlantic. The Hare was in the warm gulf current. We surfaced and stopped the boat, far from any shore just drifting. The sea was very smooth, flying fish, were darting around us. The crew had this amazing day at sea. The cargo net was attached to the starboard side. The sail plane became a diving board. The whole crew, hit the eighty degree water. It was surreal looking at the boat free in the deep blue sea. We were floating in six thousand feet of water. Surrounded by blue so deep, it was a shock to my soul. The shark watch with a sub machine gun brings me back to reality. The swim was so different. The swim trunks required and a good idea, especially hitting the water from sixteen feet high. This experience at sea made me more at home on the blue water. The only problem was the big ass jelly fish going by. I was afraid that the shark watch would start shooting. These "man of war" jellies, you just want to stay clear of ….and the sailor with an automatic weapon in his hands.. That was an unbelievable time, it was definitely a first. Diving into the unknown waters and having your buddies right by your side. This was the Hare... all of us wearing big smiles. These were real men at sea. Back in Norfolk, the crew was enjoying their off time. The space program had sent an American, to walk on the moon. The music was the best of all time. This summer of 69', it really moved me to find myself.. I had met all my goals to this point. I was relating to Johnnie Cash's song "a boy named Sue." This naval sub service made me way tougher. The new sailor back on the train going to New London for the first time. I was scared of my own shadow, that summer of 66'. The sub service was now my home. The few days before, Scotland had been interesting. The crew was off duty, the liberty was entertaining. We had a show at the pub. That one evening, a Scottish girl and this Irish lass had a brawl. It was over a chief.. stationed on the sub tender ship, the Simon Lake. These two gal's tempers matched any that I'd ever seen. Blood, guts and beer an a language that stung my ears. The battle over the chief. Who left with somebody else. That was my navy. The drinks filled our belly’s and we laughed out loud. We were glad to be going home. The new guy was not talked about or the last mission. The code of the sea was silence. Benito Chapter 16. Fast Times and the Transition... The Hare and I had finished the long run patrols for good. My service countdown to civilian life had started. We were still going out on short trips but my last real patrol was history. That said, my old sports car and me cruising the country side was also over. This being my last summer in the navy. I had sold the car for a thousand dollars. I was afraid to drive the Triumph, all the way back across the country. She had been a tad touchy on the open road and no one seemed to know how to work on her. This fellow who bought my pride and joy had said. He would take the old sport car back to Arkansas. The party scene was still alive and well in Norfolk. My friend had reenlisted in the navy, with his bonus check he had bought this new car. That said, my shipmate Vic, and I hit the road in his new Oldsmobile Cutlass. We were out to burn the tires off of this hot rod. The car had a big four four two cubic inch motor. This red coupe with V8 engine could really scream. Vic had picked up some alcohol, four six packs of a stout malt liquor, then a gallon of warm table wine. That was just in case. The Mad hatter as he was known, had a gift of gab and a heavy foot. We decided to hit all the bars in Virginia Beach. We were at a traffic light stopped on this four lane highway when the Corvette pulled up. This guy revved his engine and the race was on. The third gear rubber was smoldering and the blue smoke was thick. Vic had him by at least a car length. Then at the next stop light, the two road warriors were side by side. These to hot cars ready to burn up the lanes, a cop pulls into the intersection across from us. The Corvette shuts down but not the Mad hatter. The light turns green and our rocket sled fires. This Oldsmobile was swerving side ways and smoking into second gear. Our ride shot down the straightaway on fire. Vic pulls over into the gravel shoulder half mile up the road. He says, Benito, let me handle this. The cop rolls up behind us, lights were flashing, it was just about sundown. The trooper walks over to the car. He bends over us looking in the window. The cop says, didn't you guys see me sitting there? Calm as ice.... Vic says, "yeah man,” we put on quite a show, now didn't we? You got my attention for sure the trooper smiled. Vic goes into his act, how we just returned from Nam and had to let off some steam tonight. The trooper says, what are you boys drinking? Oh, not much, we just had a couple of beers, the night is young. The trooper looks over at me shaking his head, are you sober? I said, oh yes sir. Then the cop says, you'd better drive son. I don't want to see either of you this way again this evening. You got me? Yes sir, as Mad hatter and I changed places. The trooper got back in his patrol car. I'd slipped off the clutch, never having driven this rocket before. This action shot the car forward back on the highway, that sending flying rocks and gravel onto the trooper's hood and windshield. Hey, Mad hatter stick that eight track music in the player, lets get this party started. That Georgia boy could sure sling the crap, neither of us looking back at the dust. These sailors flying down the road in this red coupe, I was in bad company for sure. Vic had a scar across his forehead when he was dared to ski down this slope in Utah. He'd never had ski's on before then. He went straight down this hill, until a post or something stopped him. They don't get much snow in Valdosta or the rest of Georgia. Utah is were they trained the submarine nuclear engineers, he'd survived the school. Vic had a real need for speed. Hey Benito! pull over I'm driving. The Peppermint Lounge was hopping and loud. We were both a little drunk, the two of us swagger into the place. The Beach Boys were playing and the crowd was responding on the dance floor. Vic and I weren't doing to good with the ladies. The moves on the floor had changed. The crowd danced differently than a few months prior. Hell, just about the time, I'd get the new moves nailed. We were back at sea, the dances and music all changing. The music was fun though, Vic and I hit three more places. Our beer in the backseat was gone. Vic says, Benito open the wine. This was to be a " big mistake." I had trouble seeing the road after that. We started back toward Norfolk, it was about two in the morning. I said, take the back roads into town because we don't need that trooper in the rear view mirror. The radio was playing this new song, “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clear Water. The moon was full as we both sang along to the music. The Mad hatter hit this train crossing at over one hundred miles an hour. These old country roads, had a type of train tracks that was elevated up on a levy hill. It was one major bump, the car was airborne and flew a very long distance. The car bounced its frame on the pavement, twice. The box of eight track tapes and I changed places. I was now in the backseat with all the empty beer cans. Vic stops and checks his gauges, as he looks out the window. He seeing no pieces of car anywhere says, Hey guy! this Old's Cutlass is awesome! Vic and I stop at a cafe for coffee and eggs. We stumbled back to the car in the parking lot. Once inside, the two drunks slam the doors at the same time. The doors bounced back open, we stared and started laughing really hard. Vic and I realized the car frame was bent, just like us. Damn it, Slam it! from that moment on you had to lift the car doors to shut them. We both survived that night. The Mad hatter had helped me get my qualifications in the engineering spaces on the boat. Him and I had been friends over a year or so. The reactor, steam turbines and shaft alley, I knew by heart. The Hare had a five bladed propeller in those days, it was meant for speed, clocking the fastest underwater speeds ever. The hub was like four foot thick and the blades tip to tip were huge. The Hare was all brass, just like us. Life was good in port. The reenlistment was being sold to me by the navy. Nixon was also giving all the servicemen an early out. I was supposed to get out on my birthday, January 26, 1970. The president cut that to October 69'. That said, it was these hot August nights that interested me at the moment. I was offered a ten grand bonus to add another four years. I was burnt out, me and Bobby had opted to leave. I had sixty days tops left in the navy. The boat cruised back up the coast and had sea operations with the sub fleet. The Hare had daily runs out of New London. I had a three day weekend, Memorial Day holiday. Darlene and I hadn't seen each other for awhile. The train into New York and then Long Island was on time. I had a room in a hotel downtown Amityville for a couple of days. I wasn't staying at her father's estate that's for sure. Darlene and I talked about the future. She was starting her senior year. I could live off campus and work in this small town up there. My weekend time with her was hot and steamy. I was having a hard time leaving her, and so I extended my stay. The train connection was missed. The long goodbye, I was in trouble, eight hours over due at the base. The captain was not happy, the sailor's ass was exposed. It wouldn't look good on my service jacket, being my first offense. The sub built gallows on the back deck. The accused was in shackles. The boat left New London and would go to sea. The sailor then hung, weighted and buried. The submarine returns to port, international rules in play. This was the Turkish submarine's resolve. Their crew member accused of a rape. The crew handled there own and he didn't come back with them. That said, I faced a captain's mast and was knocked down to third class petty officer again, two weeks restricted to the base. The captain told me if I reenlisted, they'd give me the rate back. Hardball for sure, the captain really liked me but they needed this IC electrician. I had a lot to think about. I'm sure glad it wasn't the Turkish Navy. The trip back to Norfolk went smooth. I would miss this crew and I loved the Hare. The truth was these were dark times back then. Bobby McGee ended up reenlisting. The last days in Norfolk were fine and problem free. These guys, would miss my humor and youthful exuberance. This family of misfits had my back the best of times and the worst of times. I gave away all my Navy stuff in the end. The national defense ribbon was the only metal I ever received, handed out after boot camp. These crews all earned it. The silent service needs to share their stories. The cold war submarine patrols lasted over three decades. The boat sailors had risk much for their country. The United States has the best submarine crews. Benito Chapter 17, Hit the Road... I'm out of the navy,”wow,” now what? Life is moving forward. This ex sailor is looking down this road. The day had finally arrived, I got on a plane to Ohio. This friend of mine invited me to Cleveland. The end of October, the year of 1969'. He had been on the submarine with me, Polish and proud, Larry had said, the center of everything was here. Now looking around, that wasn't exactly true. What the hell was I thinking, the wind never stopped blowing and the wind chill was ice cold. My whole four days and no sun. Larry was at home and that was enough for him. I had to check-in with the draft board. It seems I had to register even though, I was out of the service. My number wasn't coming up, they assured me. This had happened because I had joined so young. The paperwork was done, I was now free. Larry and I had a great visit but it was way to cold in this town. The next stop was upstate New York to see Darlene. Well it started to snow the very first day, I had just thawed out from Cleveland. I loved her but didn't picture me in her world. I told her, I'll see you when “The Summer Wind Blows,” a popular song at the time. That was a hard breakup for this kid. I know it hurt her. Time to go south, caught a ride with a trucker to Florida. The hitchhiking down convinced me that truck driver wasn't in the cards for me. The trailer was empty and the semi was really rough riding. We came down the interstate through South Carolina that was interesting. The Ku Klux Klan had a billboard announcing they lived here, burning cross the whole nine yards. This State still had the Confederate flag flying. Modern times almost 1970, who knew? I hadn't told my family, that I was even was out of the service yet. Now weighing my options, the big plan was Miami, warm sands, nightlife and a job. Hopefully no cross dressers in my path. The week in a cheap motel changed my thinking, this was not a reality. No entry level jobs were available to me, the Cubans seemed to have that all cornered. The girls were still beautiful. I thought traveling to Pensacola would be more advantageous, they had white sand beaches and some pretty girls too. I took the bus north, trying grits and eggs on the way. Dad's sister and family lived here. I could work on an oil rig. That sounded good with my background in piping systems. The Gulf of Mexico was full of these oil rigs. I stayed with my Aunt Opal and Uncle Lee, they seemed glad to see me. The summer visits of my youth was playing in my head. My first time water skiing was in the Gulf. The aunt and uncle were both retired. My Grandmother was visiting in Florida at the time from Stockton. The pecan pie and sweet ice tea was real down home stuff, yawl. I had to rethink this place. They were Southern Baptist, we all went to church on Sunday. That's a big howdy, they were all proud of me and told the whole congregation. That same afternoon, my conversation ended with me promising to accompany my Grandmother home to Stockton. It was for the best. Our air flight to the west coast, then the bus ride back to the valley. That was a cold and foggy day when Grandma and I arrived back in my hometown. The family was glad to see me home. I had bought a three piece suit to start my job hunt. My buddies help me find a car, the 1966 VW bug was green like a frog but she ran great and was clean. This was my start at being a salesman, door to door vacuum cleaner guy. Wow, I sold one, it was to my mother. Next wonderful move was coffin salesman. San Bruno funeral home, that's right! pay now go later. I sold a prearranged funeral to my Grandmother. The glove compartment was home to my eight by ten glossy photo's of doe skin covered caskets with brass handles. The only other person that wanted one was this hippie kid. He would put a stereo in it, using the coffin as his bed. That was really cool, he had to be the first Gothic in California. The funeral home wouldn't let me sell it to him. That ended this business opportunity. I finally turned twenty one and couldn't get a drink until I showed two different forms of identification. People just didn't believe in my sale endeavors so far. It seems I had no talent except driving subs. Maybe insurance like my old man. Dad set me up to interview with John Hancock Life, they hired me. Debit agent selling burial policies at least I was above the water. I went to classes and learned about the health and life business. They even paid me that was new. The two sales I made was to my mom and grandma. This had netted me a zero commissions to this point. The next six months at John Hancock made life easier. Benito Chapter River Rat... My adventures and tales were not all blue water stories. Things had changed in my life over the years. This scallywag yours truly was married four times, that alone could fill a book or two. Mexico is just not far enough away to revive those days into print. Many a tale better untold. My sailor's theme is still in play. Tom Sawyer, I was not, but these sea tales could be steamy and maybe even true. My feet were stuck in the delta mud back then. That said, this alley cat had some great moments on the river. The Stockton waterways and "Lost Isle" comes to mind. The old vintage boat, "Ass Backward" was a twenty four foot cruiser. She had one engine and a rudder about the size of your hand. Maneuvering this vessel took a lot of courage and luck. I had two partners in this Chris Craft, the year was 1984. Not one sober person ever boarded her in this period. You could get at least a party of twelve on board. The Chris Craft Cavalier was made out of plywood, the dry rot was the real issue. The only high speed run it made was trying to put her back into the covered berth at Lincoln Village West Marina. I'd hung a rope from the rafters over the entry of the slip. The boat had to come in hot because the current or wind canceled out any other approach. The rudder was to small to be effectively steered at slow speed. The boat could be ramming into the walkway ahead.. It was kind of tricky. This required the skipper to grab the rope and hold fast before the boat could run into the dock. A rope “brake” was a first in my arsenal of sea mastering techniques. You had to put her in reverse gear just as the bow was inserted into the slip. After having a few beers that involved more nerve than skill. Skipper would be swinging over the water in back of the boat if done wrong. My amigos would split up our times on the river. Our real boat handling experiences were nil. This Ass Backward crew on the other hand, we had party and bar tending skills, we were just amazing at it too. The old sub days required a sea tug if going to the dock. These days, me driving this thing may have required more than a prayer. I was now a wallpaper contractor and skipper. My two partners, Squirrel y, my first mate was a blonde decorator and nightclub singer, then there was Mickey, he always seemed to find smoke and heat in the wrong places, he was a fireman paramedic. This rounded out the river party crew. The problem, the boat was always breaking down and the anchor never held us in Windmill cove. I learned much more about the vessel as time went by. The other thing, with three owners, not one, wanted to take care of the boat properly. Mental note to myself, no partners is a better idea. That said, two years playing on the river was great, I loved the crew. The fact we survived these adventures was still frightening to most logical people. This old party barge knew its way to Lost Isle and back. That island had a bad reputation, that's why the Ass Backward and the crew were there so often. Wet tee-shirt contests and single women were on the top of my party list. At happy hour, this Lost Isle barmaid gave me the cold shoulder and wouldn't serve me. The place was packed that afternoon. I asked her, Sweetie, you and I ever been married? The Singapore Slings at this outside bar were really addicting. Everybody loved this island in the Delta and I got to know the bar maid much better that summer. The boat was tied to that dock in paradise, no rules and plenty of boozes. The bands were loud and rocking. They had a volleyball court, skimpy bathing suits required. Trouble still followed me around. I was a river rat and pirate, only thirty five at the time, I'd already had two ex-wives by this time. This sailor had no current ground tackle holding me back. The swaggering fool and women made for some scary times. I was piloting this floating bar, we never had a dull moment. Drinking was permitted back on these river adventures. Lost at sea and drifting into harms way, this was always a real possibility. Luckily my brain has been foggy for years, so no need to change any names here. The still waters in the back bay got disturbed now an again. The women in my life back then, were varied and different. Some would come into my world like a gentle breeze, well others more like a storm picking up velocity. I always knew to late in the game the correct course necessary. Stormy seas seemed to attract me in crazy ways. I getting this phone call was no different. The siren on the other end of the phone got my sails moving many a time. It had been awhile since we had seen each other. That said, this Spanish dark haired beauty calls me out of the blue. She invites me to her place for dinner that same night. The menu was broad and tantalizing. We had met on the river. Mona and I had made some waves on the Ass Backward, it rippled all the way to Frisco. This was just the summer before. This being a slow night, I was dressed and out the door early. The directions in hand and a bottle of wine. My wallpaper truck was pulled up behind hers in the driveway. The duplex was located on this corner, she had just moved-in. The living room was dark, Mona had put on some soft music. The candles lit and the smells in the kitchen were wonderful. Mona was wearing a sexy robe and a smile. Life was good. Then after dinner, we relaxed with some wine. She had this book on massage. Fingers to toes, I melted away in her hands. The next thing was the bedroom, totally at ease and comfortable. Our evening progressed into love making and sleep. It was like a storm rocking the boat, I was awakened with this pounding on the back window above my head. Mona! Mona! He was yelling, I know your in there. more pounding and yelling followed. She looked like all the color had left her face. The terror was real. I calmly said, who's that? She replied that's my boyfriend... He is supposed to be fishing. Benito you must leave, now! The pounding started up again. I said, well OK, but you better open the front door or he'll be coming through that window. It must have been the wine or that funny cigarette, She and I had smoked. I was moving in real slow motion. Naked sitting on the corner of the bed putting my sock on, this guy storms into the bedroom. He stops and just stares at me sitting there. He says, hey, who the hell are you? I smiled and responded, does it really matter? This guy was angry, but he could tell in that moment, I was just as confused as him. The hurt showed on his face.. Maybe it was the massage that had made me so calm. Damn! at least the yelling had stopped. He left, she was crying as she entered the room. I had laid back down on the pillow, almost back to sleep. Mona said, Benito you got to go now!! Julio is gone to get his gun. Sure sweetie, I 'll leave, but I don't think he's going to be shooting at me. That was the last time, I saw Mona until years later. She told me, she had found Jesus. I didn't even know that he was in town. I thought he was still in Fresno. Life is just like, bubbles of time, I being glad that Spanish bubble had moved on. Normal had returned to my world, I had a house in Stockton. I had purchased this new home when I was twenty seven. The three bedroom was on a corner lot. Now eight years later all the work was done. I had a Japanese housekeeper and gardener. The hot tub in the backyard was off the master bedroom. The dining room had a custom built bar. The bachelor pad was beautifully decorated. The house had a basketball court in the side yard. Back then, I entertained a lot, living on land wasn't that bad. I had a roommate, his name was Matt. This younger guy would help me keep order in my life, he was a radio personality on the local station. The door to my room revolved around the party and women. The VO bourbon was well stocked. Mid, my house lady ran a tight ship. She parked her Cad in the garage. Mrs. Haggio was one good cleaning lady. Her husband was my gardener and made the outside spot on. The automatic sprinklers and timers, left me hassle free most of the time. The wallpaper business was good to me, being self employed, I was able to travel now and then. Sea cruises to Mexico was special, the Bean (my old friend) and I traveled together fishing and other sports on occasion. Hawaii and Europe vacations were good too. I'm painting a picture of my life being single, the horizon looked good. My old submarine buddy hadn't been many places after the navy. I met him after my first marriage. Chuck was a newly wed at the time, I asked his wife if he could go fishing with us. The truth was we all went to Mazatlán in Mexico. The four of us spent a week on the beach down there. Chuck, Mac and Bean had a hell of a time. We played and had to much fun and we had to much to drink. My time south of the border was always special to me. I rented a small sailboat. Mac and I sailed to an island on the Mexican bay. This was where I was meant to be. The sand was warm and the beer flowed. I met this girl at a disco on the beach that evening. The Club Valentino's had a glass dance floor and looked like a Moorish castle We danced the night away. She didn't have an Adams apple and wasn't from Miami. The Spanish girls were scary to me, almost to hot to handle. My last Latin experience weighed heavy on my conscience at this time. This lady was Italian and Anglo mix but dark and beautiful. Estela ( name change) was from Hollywood and her father was a famous actor. Estela's boyfriend pissed her off and she had come to Mexico to hide. Sounded like another storm was moving in. We passed out on the sand in front of my hotel. The next morning, she had left me her penthouse room number for later. Estela was staying at El Sid hotel in the high rent district. I cleaned up my act and showed up at her place the following afternoon. She and I really liked each other. Estela had the bar stocked with VO not easy to get in Mexico. We had some wonderful moments but the storm in my mind was real. I told her that she needed to find a solution to the problems with the boyfriend. Captain Ahab and this pirate wasn't going to happen. We parted ways. I have fond memories still, the story about this dead mocking bird was history. . I was moving in real slow motion. Naked sitting on the corner of the bed putting my sock on, this guy storms into the bedroom. He stops and just stares at me sitting there. He says, hey, who the hell are you? I smiled and responded, does it really matter? This guy was angry, but he could tell in that moment, I was just as confused as him. The hurt showed on his face.. Maybe it was the massage that had made me so calm. Damn! at least the yelling had stopped. He left, she was crying as she entered the room. I had laid back down on the pillow, almost back to sleep. Mona said, Benito you got to go now!! Julio is gone to get his gun. Sure sweetie, I 'll leave, but I don't think he's going to be shooting at me. That was the last time, I saw Mona until years later. She told me, she had found Jesus. I didn't even know that he was in town. I thought he was still in Fresno. Life is just like, bubbles of time, I being glad that Spanish bubble had moved on. Normal had returned to my world, I had a house in Stockton. I had purchased this new home when I was twenty seven. The three bedroom was on a corner lot. Now eight years later all the work was done. I had a Japanese housekeeper and gardener. The hot tub in the backyard was off the master bedroom. The dining room had a custom built bar. The bachelor pad was beautifully decorated. The house had a basketball court in the side yard. Back then, I entertained a lot, living on land wasn't that bad. I had a roommate, his name was Matt. This younger guy would help me keep order in my life, he was a radio personality on the local station. The door to my room revolved around the party and women. The VO bourbon was well stocked. Mid, my house lady ran a tight ship. She parked her Cad in the garage. Mrs. Haggio was one good cleaning lady. Her husband was my gardener and made the outside spot on. The automatic sprinklers and timers, left me hassle free most of the time. The wallpaper business was good to me, being self employed, I was able to travel now and then. Sea cruises to Mexico was special, the Bean (my old friend) and I traveled together fishing and other sports on occasion. Hawaii and Europe vacations were good too. I'm painting a picture of my life being single, the horizon looked good. My old submarine buddy hadn't been many places after the navy. I met him after my first marriage. Chuck was a newly wed at the time, I asked his wife if he could go fishing with us. The truth was we all went to Mazatlán in Mexico. The four of us spent a week on the beach down there. Chuck, Mac and Bean had a hell of a time. We played and had to much fun and we had to much to drink. My time south of the border was always special to me. I rented a small sailboat. Mac and I sailed to an island on the Mexican bay. This was where I was meant to be. The sand was warm and the beer flowed. I met this girl at a disco on the beach that evening. The Club Valentino's had a glass dance floor and looked like a Moorish castle We danced the night away. She didn't have an Adams apple and wasn't from Miami. The Spanish girls were scary to me, al