Sea Story: Paybacks the Navy Way

January 29th, 2009

You know that old saying about paybacks…

Well it all started on the first day of USS Denver’s 1983 deployment. We were all of 200 miles west of San Diego, headed for the Far East. The ship’s new dentist ( AKA “Fang”, or the “Tooth Fairy”), had just reported aboard. It was his first time underway, and this time we were not coming back for six months.

The ship’s Navigator is the Officer of the Deck (OOD), meaning he was in charge of driving the ship. A man of inestimable talent and humor, as he looked back and saw the Tooth Fairy watching the helmsman, he hatched an evil plan.

He got on the sound powered phone circuit, and switched control of steering from the helm down to the steering gear room (literally just above the rudders). The helm on the bridge was now doing nothing.

Then he asked the Tooth Fairy if he’d like to steer.

This was an exciting proposition for the new guy, so he jumped at the chance. Of course, the whole crew knew what was going on. There’s an old Navy tradition about these kinds of practical jokes. You milk them for all they’re worth.

As is with everything in the Navy, there’s a formal procedure for relieving every watch. The OOD made the Tooth Fairy do every little bit of it. Finally, the Tooth Fairy settles in on the helm, which isn’t doing anything.

The OOD gets on the sound powered phone circuit again and tells the guys in after steering to go a little left, a little right, and generally do a bad job of maintaining course. Then the fun starts.
“Mind your helm!”, the OOD bellows. “C’mon Tooth Fairy, you can do better than that. The course is 265, stay on it!” The Tooth Fairy is starting to sweat. The OOD ups the ante by telling the guys back aft to make it worse. More yelling, more sweating.

The Tooth Fairy has about had enough after about 10 minutes of this, and finally asks the OOD to have him relieved. To which the OOD answers, “Just let it go, the guys in after steering have been steering for the last hour…” Much laughter and one under the breath oath to get even.

Six months later. That same OOD wants to have his teeth cleaned before we get back to San Diego, which is the very next day. The Tooth Fairy is more than happy to help.

At the Navigation briefing for entering port, we can’t help but notice that something is wrong. When pressed, he finally breaks into a grin, and we can see that the Tooth Fairy has painted the letters “NAVY” on his front teeth in indelible ink.

Payback’s a b-tch!

Entry Filed under: Sea Stories

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