Smoke on the Water- Fire in the Sky!... ....Deep Purple
The next morning - we set the sea and anchor detail as we were approaching the island, I wandered into the pilot house - which is one compartment forward of CIC. The captain was talking on the phone - I was a little surprisedto see him here - he liked to be up on the open bridge. It wasobvious he was talking about something very serious - he was reallylooking grim. He hung up the phone and stepped over to the sailormanning the Wheel. "It looks like we may be doing some serious maneuvering here in a little bit - when I give an order - you must execute it instantly - this is really important." The Sailor indicated he understood - and the Captain turned and walked over to me. "You have your best people on watch?" "Yes Sir. The Sea and Anchor watch is present - and I have another man fully qualified on RADAR and Plotting plus myself." "Good... - it looks like the damn Russians are set up to play some "games" this morning - this could get serious." "Anything in particular you want from us?" "Yes" he replied "Just make sure I know where he is all the time - If he gets in under 10 - call it up every minute - under 5 and I want it every 30." be sure you've got someone really cool and clear on the phones." "Yes sir - I'll take care of it." I called the shop and asked them to send a phone talker up. The "Russian" he was talking about was this large fishing trawler that had antennas for fishing poles - like we weren't suppose to notice.
Guess who's the boss... The Captain on the Bridge
Anyway they hung aroundthe island watching the boomers come and go - try to gather asmuch intelligence as possible. They like to play this game. Inmaritime law - a ship on the right has the right-of-way - so ifyou close on a vessel's course to your left - his right - youcan force him to turn to avoid a collision. The one on the "left"has to turn. What the Phone call was about was that the RussianTrawler was observed taking a position to the SouthEast of theharbor entrance - which means if he heads to sea on a course of320 - 340 - that puts him right across our bow - from the right- we're supposed to turn. Since he is a lot smaller and much moremaneuverable - he can turn around go back and be ready to do itagain long before the Proteus can make a circle and line up forthe harbor entrance again. Well - this is exactly what they did.Of course we'd pick him up on RADAR - pass it to the Bridge. Whenit would become obvious that they would close within our "10mile" buffer - we turned, circled and tried again. We didthis twice. The Captain was getting a bit chafed. Finally- lining up on course once again - the Captain gave the order.Hold this course. Here came the Russian. Sure enough coming rightacross our bow. Only this time the Captain passed the word - we're not going to turn. We started calling up range and bearing every minute - when we closed under 5 miles - every 30 seconds. At first - it seemed the Russian wasn't going to take the hint. Then it became obvious that he had figured out that this 18,500 Tons of war ship coming at him like a runaway freight train wasn't going to turn. Apparently realizing it was too late him to turn off as well, - he did the only thing he could - full speed to get out of our way. At 6200 yards (a little over three miles) - he was dead ahead - but it was becoming clear he had more than enough speed to be well clear... - the Captain ordered the collision alarm to be sounded anyway - just to tweak them - we knew they were close enough to hear it... Several Russian sailors were out on deck - lining the rail - looking us over as the distance between the ships closed. They had pretty good speed - and turned port (west) just as they cleared us - and the two ships passed at about 500 yards... I heard later that they were close enough that we had no trouble exchanging sign language with them. Funny I hadn't realized how universal a sign an extended middle finger was! We proceeded on into Apra Harbor without further incident.