G) Early Winter – 1965, at sea…

Early Winter – 1965, at sea…

After we left San Diego, we headed to Hawaii. It’s 2610 miles and takes us nearly 9 days. When we are 4 days away from Hawaii, we’re hit by a typhoon. We were on the southern edge of the monster storm so we were spared the full brunt of the power of the thing but it really knocked out most of the crew with seasickness. On the third day of riding out the storm, there were only 16 deck hand seamen (I was told by my staff officer) that were on deck and doing their job. I was one of them. Now, keep in mind that allot of those that were ‘sick’ actually were faking it and could have been at their work station…I just enjoyed being up on deck during the storm so I didn’t try to get out of duty. The seas were angry looking and the towering waves of 20-30 feet high were a steely gray with wisps of white foam snaking their way down the face of the wave. I spent hours looking over the side at the sea, my favorite thing was to spot flying fish launch themselves off a wave front and sail off over the sea. Hour after hour we would be tossed around like a cork, left, right, up, down. It was the coolest thing ever. And because the ship was so big, I never felt afraid. It was like being on the longest roller coaster in the universe. I especially loved being up in the wheelhouse. I would talk the helmsman into letting me make course changes; he would be half sick anyway and loved the time off the wheel. It was like the old sailing vessels helm, 4-foot diameter, with the traditional spokes, and wire rope strung around a large pulley assembly that went below decks. So there I’d be, walking into the pilothouse about a half hour before the course change, begging the helmsman to let me steer the ship. Great fun. I was seldom turned down. Most of the time the helmsman would let me take over while he took a nap, stretching out on the floor while leaning against the bulkhead. And then the captain would call down and tell us the new course and I’d steer that damn ship. I would spin this huge steering wheel and the ship would ponderously begin to turn in the direction of the spin. A minute or two later, (you would have to time this just right), the ship would be getting close to the new course and you would spin the wheel back around half as far as the first spin. Then you would nurse the ship onto the new course. Wow. What a thrill. I think I made almost every course change at sea over two months of sailing. I was a nut about it and every helmsman on the ship new that I’d stand their watch at the wheel for them during course changes. But I only steered a couple of times in ports because I was usually on duty somewhere when we came into port. It got to be that the duty helmsman would come down and tell me about course changes so I’d know when to wander up to the pilothouse, if I was available.

Anyway, the storm moves off and we got back to normal just before we docked at Pearl City. Pearl City was nothing to me, I didn’t care for it. Most of the guys would go over there because that’s where the whorehouses were. My tastes were a little more sophisticated and whenever I was allowed to go ashore, I’d head for Honolulu and hotel row. Even with the pay we got, if you were at sea for any period, you’d have some spending money in port. And I had started to save back in dry dock because I wanted to buy stereo equipment in Japan. Oh, and a present for mom. I would usually get a fancy drink (one) at one of the hotels, a simple dinner at a nice restaurant, and wander around for a few hours. I met lots of nice people…most were surprised to see a sailor in hotel row. The bartenders were kind, I only got sent off a couple of times, and the women would talk to me. Over in Pearl City, it was a zoo. I spent some time with friends in the bars there but they were pretty grungy and not really my style. But on Hotel Row, I even had one family invite me to join them for a movie and a lunch afterwards (they were being kind to a US sailor).

One fine evening, I was walking on the main drag right behind the big hotels that faced the ocean. At the end of hotel row is a public park. I took a left turn onto the road right next to the park and headed inland…on foot. I walk around two blocks, don’t find anything open, and turn around heading back to hotel row on the opposite side of the street. I get about a hundred feet from hotel row and there’s this old women sitting on a log next to a fire in a yard behind a picket fence. The house on the property is older, two story, with many windows. I’m on the sidewalk when I see the old gal, and she spots me and invites me over to sit by the fire. I was pretty bored at the time, since I hadn’t found anything to do that night, so I open the gate and join her by the fire.

We do some chit chatting for a few minutes and a pretty young girl comes out of the house and joins us at the fire. I greet her and go back to talking to the old women. Next time I look, there are two more young women at the fire. Eventually, there were 5 young women sitting there with us, and then I hear another one calling from an upstairs window. By now, I know that this is a whorehouse. Right off of Waikiki beach, and less then a block from hotel row. Nobody on the ship had told me this place was here. They all went over to Pearl City where there were lots of cheap bars. This night the girls had no customers, usually they got people from the hotels, and I didn’t have enough money, though the madam and I did try to work a deal. But the girls thought I was funny and entertaining so we all sat around and talked for a couple hours. They got the night off, and I got to talk to several pretty girls and practice my pick up lines, most of which brought forth gales of laughter from the girls. I did try to get a free roll in the hay but the madam would not hear of it. After I left, since I didn’t have to be back aboard ship until the day after next, I wandered into the park right across the street from the whorehouse, leaned up against a palm tree, and went to sleep. Next morning, I kind of wake up, and realize that I’ve been snoring up a storm, then that I’ve been drooling like a dweeb. I hear some giggles, open one eye, and see two little kids looking at me from around 3 feet away. Damn. I roll over and sleep another hour. When I finally get myself awake, I see the ocean just 20 feet from my tree, and Diamond Head off to my left. Cool. I came back that same night and slept there again, after going and saying hi to the girls, sadly they were mostly busy with Japanese businessmen so the madam shooed me away. Pity.

Next time, we head for Japan…

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