The difference between a sea story, and a fairy tale…

A fairy tale starts with “Once upon a time…”, while a sea story begins, “You ain’t gonna believe this shit…”

Well, you ain’t gonna believe this shit….

Back in 1986 we were taking part in BaltOps/Northern Lights in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea.Will never forget it, this happened after my daughter was born, and we rode a hurricane off the east coast. (That’s another story though.) During the operations, and after getting our Blue Noses, we had an unrep, which meant all E4 and below had to take part. Being E5 Radioman meant I had to man all the stations in radio. After it was all done, the crew returned to normal operations, and my best friend Tom Hostuttler came into radio with a strange tale. He’d hung back a bit to chill and watch the sea, as we all often did, and saw ETCS hanging out as well. He asked the senior chief what was going on. His reply? “Just looking out for penguins.”

Hos (nickname for Tom), “Senior chief, they’re in the South Pole. We’re up at the North Pole.”

“I know,” he answered. “They come up to spy on our maneuvers.”

Hos made the mistake of telling me this. I agreed with the senior chief, saying they’re all just spies. Thus was born the anti-penguin movement of 1986. We started sharing tales with other shipmates, the CT’s all became PRO-penguin (which led to questioning their loyalties). We had raglan style shirts made with a design I drew of a penguin in a not allowed sign – the circle and slash. The CTs even co-opted Opus as their mascot.

In radio, we took the unclassified news messages we’d get, feed them back into the computer, and change all crime stories to have been committed by penguins. We’d share it with shipmates, too. Unfortunately that’s where we got in trouble. I sent a “new news” message over to CIC for them to enjoy. DESRON 6 was onboard and in Combat at the time. Curious about the laughter, he got hold of it and laughed as well. They called over to radio and told us. We were in high spiriots.

Until morning quarters. We got chewed out by CommO, who’d gotten it from the XO and subsequently the OPS Boss. We didn’t have permission to do any of that fun stuff. So, Hos was sent to clean berthing. They thought breaking us up would stop us.

Yeah. Right.

Our first port of call was Oslo, Norway. And everywhere we went we saw penguins. A huge ceramic one in a bank foyer. There were penguins on tons of advertising, they even had a Penguin Club – a formal social club. At a museum Hos and I went to – a wooden hulled clipper ship  that held the record for wooden ship going into BOTH poles – had taxidermied penguins all over the ship. The doctor’s quarters had a polar bear skin rug, stuffed penguins, and a tray od medical instruments right out of a horror film. It looked as if the penguins had skinned the bear.

My next duty station was VQ-4, an air squadron in Maryland. In my shop was an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate that served on a carrier that was on that cruise. He’d heard about the penguin terrorist because the signalmen were sharing it with other ships!!

A real, no shitter right there.