Coast Guard Cutter Torpedoes New Zealander Sub!

This happened in 1971, and the only reason i tell you about it now is that the cutter involved was the one I was sailing in at the time. That’s the Rush in the picture below, as she was many years ago, with the old 5-inch deck gun. She retired from the service this week, and I’m feeling nostalgic so bear with me. The story of the incident follows the photo.

And not for nothing — semper paratus800px-USCGC_Rush_WHEC-723

The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story, in most cases, is that one begins “Once upon a time …” and the other starts with “Now this is no s*** …” I leave it to the reader to decide which category this falls into.

This really did happen over 40 years ago, and it’s true to the best of my recollection, although four decades of intermittent retelling may have altered real events somewhat.

Right out of boot camp I sailed in the USCGC (US Coast Guard Cutter) Rush, call sign WHEC723, which, at 378 feet, is one of ten of the biggest, fastest, and most heavily armed ships ever to fly the Coast Guard ensign. The war was on and the Rush had returned from Viet Nam only a couple of weeks before, where among other duties she provided offshore fire support with a one-gun battery.

The day after I reported aboard, we cast off from the dock in Alameda, California for ASWEX (Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercises) in the Pacific near Hawaii. I never had been to sea in anything bigger than my uncle’s 14-foot fishing boat, catching grouper in the Gulf of Mexico around Padre Island, so I was ill prepared for the adventure, and, strictly speaking, quite ill in fact. I spent a great deal of time the first couple of days at the rail.

By the time we got to Hawaii, however, I had my sea legs, and we docked in Pearl Harbor and had weekend liberty before heading out to do battle with enemy submarines. I was assigned to the deck force – chippers and painters, deck swabbers, bridge watch standers, and so on, but my GQ (General Quarters or battle station) billet was as trainer on the 5-inch gun.

For anyone not familiar, five inches is the diameter of the shell fired by the gun, so this was a hefty bit of artillery. It is the trainer’s job to crank a wheel to turn the gun from side to side so the barrel is facing the target, while the pointer, who sits on the other side of the gun, moves the barrel up and down, and also has the trigger.

We took a few practice shots before getting down to the submarine hunt, and I have to say that sitting right next to the gun’s breech when 30 pounds of Cordite exploded not two feet from my head was quite the shattering experience. I didn’t so much hear the noise as feel the shock of it to the pith and marrow of every bone in my body.

Then we went into hunt mode and hunkered down to Port and Starboard watches, meaning six hours on and six off at our GQ stations. I spent many early mornings trying to sleep on the metal deck of the gun mount, my foul weather jacket snug about me, and my sound-powered phones on, not so as to hear if the gun captain said anything, but to keep my ears warm. It’s amazing how cold it can get on a bare metal deck in December, even around Hawaii.

In that fashion we hunted enemy subs, and frequently made sonar contact with subs that were hunting us. Ever and anon the alarm would sound, I would jump into my metal seat and light off the mount, which I did by throwing a nasty looking power switch in front of me by my feet, and then we would swivel the gun around to make sure it worked, and wait to see what became of the contact sonar made with the enemy. Usually the sub outran or out-maneuvered us after a couple of hours, and we stood down, and I got back to my cold but quiet deck.

But then, for three days we chased one particular contact. I never was sure if we were catching up to him or if he was coming back round to harass us at some ungodly hour in the night, but I clearly recall thinking that 3 am was no fit time EVER to waken someone from sleep, however cold and rubbish it might be, and make him crank up a gun left over from World War II.

Did I mention that the Coast Guard gets a lot of Navy hand-me-downs? Our gun came off a decommissioned aircraft carrier. In any case, I had no idea what we would do with a deck gun, regardless how huge or old, against a submerged opponent, but that wasn’t my lookout – ours not to reason why, and all that.

Then one late morning when I was out of the gun mount and getting some much needed rack time, we caught up with the annoying little beggar who had been dogging us and nailed him!

Apart from the deck gun, a couple of mortars for star shells, a few heavy machine guns, and so on, the Rush had torpedo tubes, port and starboard, mounted to the second weather deck.

Oddly enough, no one bothered to tell me that part of our mission was to test a new torpedo, and that was what the gunnery lads fired at the enemy. Its mission, this fancy, high-tech torpedo’s, was to race down to where the submarine was, come within a hundred yards, register the hit electronically – the shooting solution, as they say – deactivate its engine, and surface for pickup and reuse.

That was the plan, but the torpedo had other ideas. Again for those not familiar, even a torpedo without a payload of explosive is quite a hefty device, over a half-ton of engine and machinery, a mini-submarine, in fact, with a velocity of 40 knots or more.

This one had, for the time, the latest sonar, heat, metal and motion detecting equipment available – a target seeking underwater missile. All the torpedo’s systems worked except its communication, the part that says the drill is over, your job is done, time to quit.

It kept going, this overzealous dreadnaught, and slammed hard into the submarine’s port tail fin. Then, because it didn’t explode but merely bounced off, it got angry and smacked her again, twisting the boat’s port side screw. Exasperated perhaps at not getting the fiery, destructive, and gallant end it was designed for, the torpedo struck the fin once more, but then gave up and deactivated.

The submarine, our annoying nemesis, now battered but by no means bowed, surfaced and sent really, really annoyed radio messages to the Rush. I wasn’t yet a radioman but I can imagine the terse and barely constrained rage of those communications.

But I wasn’t thinking about that when I was rousted out of my cozy rack and sent on deck. The master chief bo’s’n’s mate, also the gun captain of my watch who also had been rousted untimely, set us to work lowering a companionway ladder for the benefit of the crew of the crippled New Zealander submarine now tied alongside.

The ladder was a collapsible aluminum staircase with a platform near the waterline when extended, but just a compact collection of metal at the first weather deck gunwale at any other time, and seldom if ever had been used, the ship being so new, so it took a while to get the thing dropped and secured.

When we had nearly done, the chief and everyone else disappeared, and I was by myself, dutifully checking, per the chief’s order, that all the tholepins at the ladder’s top were belayed.

And so it was that I, a boot seaman apprentice on his first voyage, stood alone on the non-burning deck when the Kiwi submarine captain, red of face and stormy of visage, stomped upward toward me, apparently prior to his scheduled time, if indeed there was one for such a visit, and demanded of me –

“Where the bloody hell is your captain?”

The bo’s’n chief chose that moment to reappear, as I gaped, unable to speak, and, with great relief and gratitude, I pointed to him, my jaw working but no sound emanating.

Upon our return to Pearl, all hands were instructed, cautioned, urged, ordered NOT to get in the way of any New Zealander sailors whilst on well earned liberty, and, as far as I know, none of us did. But I had to laugh when I saw the red painted Kiwi design that the gunner’s mates stenciled on one of the port side torpedo tubes.

The Rush has a new gun now, a more modern 72-mm automatic last I checked, and she’s berthed in Honolulu instead of Alameda.

But I’m willing to bet the Kiwi stencil still will remain on the torpedo tube right up to the time the ship is decommissioned, though few will know why.

That is all.

Mark out.


Back In The Saddle Again …

I have played this tune before.



I’m going back to work with Emerald Coast Massage Specialists. Teddy Andreadis, one of the owners there and my best business friend, if not best friend full stop, called me the other day to say they have relocated.

Their new facilities are larger and much more convenient, as far as getting in and out of the parking lot, and really, as far as just finding the place. They are a bit farther from the beach now, at 3076 Gulf Breeze Parkway, in the Breeze Shopping Plaza, and not in Gulf Breeze proper. So far that seems to have made little difference. When people need a massage, they are willing to drive an extra five minutes to get it.

Massage is by appointment only. Just call 850-934-4440 and tell Teddy, or me, or whoever answers the phone who you are, what sort of massage you would like, and when you want to come in. 

Or you can always call me – 850-292-1440 – and I’ll help you get an appointment at the office. Of course, I can also make arrangements to come to your place, if you prefer, set up my table, and sort out your muscles in the privacy of your home or office.

So whether you live in the Pensacola area or are just here for the sun, fun, and sugar white sand, give me a call. You’ll be glad you did.

That is all.

Mark out.

Got Health?


365138027_origWe all have health of one kind or other.



Some bad, some good, some indifferent. That condition changes daily, or even hourly.



What many of us don’t have is health insurance. I’m not sure what health insurance looks like, exactly, except where it pertains to me. It’s fairly dear, health insurance, though not necessarily in dollar terms.



I’m not talking about insurance for paying medical bills. I don’t have any of that, although I am off the hook as far as the tax penalty for not having federally mandated coverage is concerned.



The VA saw to that, and thank them very much.



You wouldn’t have thought just five years of my life all those decades ago would pay so many dividends, but it did.



But having somewhere to go when (and if) I get sick or hurt, or even having someone to help me pay for treatment if that happens, which is the purpose of medical insurance, is not HEALTH insurance.



I haven’t been to a doctor, apart from the dentist, in over five years. That isn’t me  just above, by the way, nor am I the guy in the first photo, though I’m working on it. I’m somewhere in between, but one thing that keeps me healthy is working out regularly.



Here you go – this is my health insurance, and like I said, it’s not cheap. Yeah, I do cook it, but from fresh, as much as possible. And as little starch as possible.



Although I don’t deprive myself of the finer incarnations of wheat and barley entirely.



Then, along with a bit of massage for yours truly once in a while …



Some sunshine on the beach …



A few concerned friends who made sure I didn’t miss out on the VA medical help …




And a little bit of luck …




I might just make it long enough to add my own tuppence and then some to the craft of massage and body work. Let’s hope so, right?

That is all.

Mark out.








Massage Therapy Finder – A New Link To The World


The hardest part about being a massage therapist isn’t the therapy, it’s finding someone to work on. Until a therapist has a solid base of repeat clientele, a great deal of his time is spent looking for clients or simply not having any. Today I signed on with Massage Therapy Finder, listed at the very top of the sidebar to your right. I have no idea whether this will generate any calls, but it can’t hurt to get out there.

I also looked into listing myself on Craig’s List, but it’s kind of pricey to do that. I might try it later on though.

Right now I’m doing fill-in work at a chiropractor’s office. I’ll talk more about that next week.

Enough for now.  

Mark out.  

New Portraits

DSCF0076-1I said there weren’t enough pictures of me here, so I did something about it. There were no really good pictures of me, full stop, so I took care of that at the same time. Stephanie at Captured Moments Art Photography did just a bang-up job making me look good in a picture, which is a lot harder than it used to be, for various reasons. Have a look at her web site. It’s in the Blog Roll.


Stephanie’s studio is right down the street from me. I pass it every time I go to the grocery. I’m glad I finally got to stop in.

Do you like my shirt? It’s my favorite. Somebody I like very much gave that to me, so I’d like to thank her. Thank you.

That is all.

Mark out.

Seated Massage


Do you like my new massage chair? It’s by Oakworks, who make a lot of massage equipment. This one is near the top of the line, and I got it in the same color as my table and rollaround stool. 

Just below is what a chair massage looks like, more or less –


but if that guy really holds his hands that way, with the wrist twisted at that unholy angle, he won’t be working for long.

The big advantage of chair massage is the lack of fuss involved. There’s no need for a private space, or undressing and redressing, or changing linens – note the disposable face cradle cover, though – and I can take care of a lot of upper body muscles in 15 minutes. Legs get short shrift, of course, but most people’s problems are in their shoulders, neck, and lower back, all of which I can easily treat in this position.

I used to do a lot of chair massage when I worked for a chiropractor. In fact, sometimes it seemed that was about all I did. When I went to work at the massage clinic, I still did them, though rarely. Sometimes the clinic would sponsor promotions, and I usually volunteered for those, just so I wouldn’t forget how to do this sort of work.

Chair massage physics is very different from table massage. Doing it requires a different stance, different body mechanics, and different pressure. My hands cannot glide over clothes, so I employ a lot of kneading techniques, using fingers, palms, and fists – though always keeping my wrists in a neutral position, unlike our friend in the photo. Massaging the client’s forearms, hands, and fingers is about the same, table or chair, and people in offices who sit and type at computers all day really appreciate that.

So the plan for my new chair is to do office calls. I talked to my dental hygienist when I had a cleaning last week, and asked if I she thought I could set up in their office and work on the staff. It’s a busy place, three dentists and six hygienists, plus clerical staff. I could spend most of an afternoon doing 15 minute massages.

We shall see how this works out. At the very least, I get a cool new toy to play with.

That is all.

Mark out.

Thanks, AMTA!


The American Massage Therapy Association is a national group that I joined before I even graduated massage school. I get my professional insurance through them, and they also offer other services, such as a listing in their data base of therapists, and a free website. I just set mine up, and here it is.

I was also very pleased yesterday, when I received a call from someone who had found my name and number on the AMTA web site. Nothing came of it, unfortunately, because he was calling from Fort Walton Beach, which is at least an hour and a half drive from here, too far to go and do a one-hour massage. Still, the fact that people are looking for and finding me is quite encouraging.

On a related note, my new car door signs are ready at Fast Signs, so I will go and pick those up now.

That is all.

Mark out.

PS – I decided that there aren’t nearly enough pictures of me on the web, so here is another one. I’m standing in front of Yorkminster Cathedral a few Christmastimes back. Yes, it’s a white Christmas. How neat is that?

York Cathedral, England, 2009

York Cathedral, England, 2009