Holidays at Sea

Holidays at Sea

By:  Garland Davis


Just sitting here this Labor Day thinking about the holidays spent at sea.  There were almost too many to count.  Holidays underway have special meaning for the cooks.  It brings to mind the old adage, “Holiday Routine.  Holiday for the crew, routine for the cooks.”

How many Thanksgivings, Christmases and other holidays did I spend extra hours decorating special cakes, baking pies, breads, and rolls for the special meals?

I remember one particular Christmas, the one of 1972.  We were on the gun line, although there was a temporary cease-fire, we were ready.  The evening before Christmas, we were in the galley preparing for the Christmas dinner.  I was decorating a cake in the back of the galley, while the baker was preparing rolls for baking.  The other cooks were doing prep work for breakfast and brunch and the big Christmas dinner.

Throughout the rest of the ship, all sorts of non-regulation nonsense broke out, preparations were made for the holiday.  The snipes hung dirty (happy) socks from overhead vent lines in preparation for Santa’s visit.  They decorated the fire station like a Christmas tree.  Someone had a tape of Connie Francis singing “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.”  Unfortunately, it was the only Christmas song available and was heard an incomprehensible number of times.

Someone came to the Mess Line and yelled in, “Davis, here, Merry Christmas,” and handed me a mess decks cup.  I caught a hint of the aroma. Jack Daniel’s!  It might just turn out to be a Merry Christmas after all.  Now I don’t know how many bootleg bottles were open that evening.  But I was passed quite a few drinks through that mess line.  For one whole wonderful night, I knew what it must have been like to work the graveyard shift in a distillery.

That evening over the airwaves came an avalanche of Bullshit from every half-baked politician or top-heavy Admiral in Washington.  The only one missing was something from the CNO’s dog.

“Tonight I know our men and women of the armed forces are standing their vigilant watches throughout the far-flung reaches of our vast globe… To those of you safeguarding the ramparts of peace and freedom, I send the warmest greeting from those of us here by the hearth of home fires. We want you to know that on this night of cheer and celebration, our hearts go out to you and your loved ones in wishing for a safe and speedy return to a most grateful nation… Merry Christmas and God bless, we hold you in our thoughts this night… Rear-admiral William P. Numbnuts USNR, COMDOOFUSLANT.”

Horseshit inundated Radio for hours.  Each was read out loud during reel changes of the all night movie marathon in the mess decks. Each one was greeted with laughter and disrespectful remarks.  “Here comes another one.  Wait ‘til you get a load of this simple son of a bitch.  He wishes he could be with us instead of shucking his old lady out of her drawers.”

And on it went, out of control laughter.  Men who could have cared less, listened to the crap and rolled with laughter.

“Hey Dave, you think these guys really think up this horseshit?

Hell No, they have a career DiddleDick YNSN in the basement of the Pentagon who spends the whole year writing this kind of horseshit.

Finally, the cake was done, the movie had been shown for the fourth time and the bottles were empty and we were all laughed out, we hit our racks for a couple of hours sleep.  Somewhere in the night, Christmas came to a bunch of good-hearted, totally unimpressed men, snoring and farting, dreaming of turkey roll, mince pie and all the bug juice a man could drink.  Life was good.

And the topside and engineering watches were alert, the sounding and security watch made his rounds, the bilges were pumped, tubes were blown and the night mess cook dumped the garbage off the stern.  And there, amid the glow of red lights, in poorly ventilated, smelly compartments and assorted gear adrift, could be found the Defenders of the Free World in gentle repose, while visions of San Miguel and LBFM’s danced in their heads.




2 thoughts on “Holidays at Sea

  1. kairisfamilyenterprises says:

    Garland, you’ve done it again. I’m sitting here this Labor Day Holiday in another hotel (nice one this time), away at training, my favorite jazz radio station playing on my phone from the Internet feed, wishing I was home, and I’m reading your Holiday post on an F’n iPad using free WIFI thanks to the hotel. WHAM, smack between the eyes, it hits me, “why you pussy” – “you sure have gotten soft” comes to mind. I have gotten soft with all these modern toys. I lost count how many times I was at sea over a holiday and I’m bitchin’ about a 5 day training, 2 hours from my bed, and the warm woman that is in it. We made do, just like you state in the story. I’ve got it cushy now but I’d trade back in a heartbeat to be a young Snipe at sea doing what I did best. I think I’d like to have that waistline back again also. It’s been a long time since it was a size 32 waist dungaree. A big difference is that I’m sipping a good bourbon instead of that Budweiser that was stashed in the bug juice cooler I installed in the aft pump room to keep my beers cold. One of the perks of being a fresh air Snipe. Oh well, gotta get to my homework and prep for the pop quiz that is sure to come first thing in class tomorrow morning. Goodnight all. BZ and Happy Holiday Shipmates. JohnnyK MM1 72-82


  2. John Croix MMCS(SW) says:

    I remember Christmas eve 1965. We pulled out of Subic sometime after Christmas but before New Years. As a young enterprising sailor, I had made preparations for New Year’s eve, by bringing aboard a pint of Manila Rum picked up at the Jeepney Turnaround on Magsaysay drive. Now any WestPac sailor can tell you that Manila Rum is OK at the end of the evening of drinking, but is not very good for your first drink of the night.
    At around 2330 I broke out the juice. In those days the only mixer was on the mess decks from a machine which would spit out a cup of coke for a dime. About half of the berthing compartment made a stroll to the mess decks for a coke. When they returned, the pint was doled out so that one and all could have a snort at the stroke of midnight.
    At midnight we all welcomed 1966 with a drink of Manila Rum and coke. I’m here to tell you there wasn’t enough coke to kill the taste of Manila Rum. I believe that was the last time I ever tasted that rot gut.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s