By Garland Davis
I never won an anchor pool. I entered them but was always unlucky. Anchor pools were usually operated by an enterprising Petty Officer with a do nothing job. They had the time to prepare the pool and find sixty fish to sign up.
For those who never rode an anchor pool ship, I will explain their operation. First off they are illegal… Totally and absolutely outlawed by everyone from the Chief of Naval Operations down to the squadron chaplain. The chain of command knew there were anchor pools but usually turned a blind eye and ear.
The odds are terrible. You stand a better chance betting on a blind mule at the Kentucky Derby.
Let me explain how an anchor pool works… You need a pen, two sheets of white typing paper, a sheet of carbon paper (do they still make carbon paper? Xerox sure must’ve kicked the slats out of the carbon paper racket…), a piece of stiff cardboard and a good stapler.
You staple two sheets of typing paper together with the carbon paper sandwiched in between. Then you lay out a grid with 60 squares. What you get are two mirror image blank grids – one exactly over the other one.
You then delicately – What a word to use in conjunction with anything done by a sailor – fold back the top sheet and the carbon, and place numbers from one to sixty at random, in the sixty blank boxes of the lower sheet. Then you return the folded top sheet and carbon so that you have a top sheet containing blank boxes.
You then circulate among the fellow inmates of the haze gray vessel you are serving in. For the piddling cost of five dollars, each sailor is permitted to sign his name in one of the blank spaces. Most anchor pools are five buck pools. I heard rumors that on some big ships they had pools with hundred buck boxes. We didn’t have any direct relatives of Bonnie and Clyde, so we kept it to one Abe Lincoln a box.
Once you have picked a box, you write your name in it. Because the carbon paper is still in place sandwiched over the numbered boxes, your name will appear superimposed over some number between one and sixty. The pages are stapled to cardboard so you have no way of knowing what your number is.
The corner boxes go first. Boxes in the middle go next. There are many scientific systems used… There is the ‘Hand over the eyes, finger point’ method, the ‘Eenie-meeny-miney-moe’ selection process, and the favorite ‘Shit, just pick one for me’ method.
I personally liked the one in the middle of the lower edge. This location had been revealed to me in a 151 proof rum-induced dream… At the time, I was speaking directly with Zeus. He and I had frequent conversations but as it turned out that the son of a bitch didn’t know shit about anchor pool picks.
Each anchor pool has a prize, usually two hundred dollars. When you come in to tie up, the word will be passed over the 1MC “Put your lines over.” This will trigger a shower of heaving lines… Heaving lines are thrown at the pier or the deck of some outboard ship. ‘Heaving line’ for the uninitiated, is a light line that has a big knot tied on one end to weight it. The knot is called a ‘monkey fist’… You weight it so you can throw the light line across the water. A line handler is your counterpart on the pier or the boat you will tie up to. He catches your heaving and takes up the slack then pulls the heavy hawser over that will tie your ship up. It takes six hawsers to tie up most ships.
You can increase the range, velocity and lethal potential of a heaving line by making the monkey’s fist around a large metal nut, a pool ball or a smooth rock. Bounce that little sweetheart off a Boatswain’s Mate’s skull and you are guaranteed instant celebrity followed by certain death.
When the first hawser goes over the bollard on the pier, the Navy considers the ship moored… And the Officer of the Deck tells the duty Quartermaster, to enter the time in the log. No one gives a damn about the hour but the minute determines your anchor pool winner. The quartermaster passes the word,
“Ship moored sixteen thirty-three…”
The top sheet is removed from the anchor pool and the person’s name inscribed over the number thirty-three is the winner of two hundred dollars. The persons who chose thirty-two and thirty-four each receive fifty dollars.
The winner’s name quickly spreads and now every sonuvabitch on the ship knows who will buy the beer at the club the better part of the first hour.
Anchor pools aren’t a good thing to base your future security or retirement plan on.
They are at best, a lousy percentage bet, but they were one possible critical leg in the illegal financial system that keeps the lads who ride haze gray iron in beer, whiskey and ragged around the edges female companionship.
To follow Tales of an Asia Sailor and get e-mail notifications of new posts, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above, then click on the follow button.
A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.