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  • We nosed into the wooden dock at the end of the jetty. Rusty took a long run and leapt to safety. We threw the lines and he looped them over the bollards. We hauled away and pulled the boat alongside, making her
    fast. The jetty was deserted on the backside of the island. No one came to greet us.
    Christiansted on the lee side of St. Croix was for the tour ships and yachts. Pastel colored shops and hotels created a bright collage above the sparkling blue-green water.
    Fredriksted on the windward side was “more affordable”. Brown and drab with dirt streets and thatched covered sidewalks stretching from corner to corner. Something to be grateful for during the tropical downpours twice a day. This is where the people lived that did all the menial tasks in Christiansted. The maids, bell hops and waiters would catch a bus over the mountain to the other side and then home again at night.
    We were there for ten days of joint NATO operations with the Argentine Navy. Designated as the target ship so our allies could feel better about their marksmanship. We gave them our depth, speed and coordinates so they would get high marks on their performance.
    The city of Fredriksted had no police department to speak of so they paid us to police ourselves while we were there. That’s right, we each had to be “shore patrol” one night. Our XO used the money they paid us to rent a bungalow on the beach just outside of town. He then put us on Port and Starboard duty which meant that only half of us had to go to sea each day. The other half stayed in the bungalow. Nice work if you can get it.
    My first day ashore I spent exploring the town and then drinking until after dark in a bar with no windows or doors. Oh, there were openings for them, just no actual windows or doors. The restroom was a room out back with two holes cut in the floor. Outlines of feet were either facing toward the hole or away from the hole depending on your need. The Nubian barmaid had a high pitched cackle and gold teeth when she laughed. I think she might have been a Voo-Doo priestess.
    I finally left the bar and started walking to where I had been told the beach house was. Man was it dark! No streetlights and the trees hid the stars. After about the third time I walked into a tree, I spotted the lights from the house. Imagine thirty sailors in various stages of inebriation all in one bungalow. It was like “Animal House” gone awry.
    Somehow we managed to make it back to the boat to relieve the other crew in the morning. We lit off the diesels and slipped away from the dock really feeling our deserved hangovers. Our first day of depth charges and torpedoes. Oh, yeah. Those destroyers could also shoot torpedoes off their decks. For the next ten days they shot over fifty torpedoes and made god only knows how many depth charge runs at us. No warheads but they still made an eerie sound as they “pinged” away. And you didn’t need sonar to hear the high speed screws as they closed in for the kill.
    If they missed, and that was most of the time, the chase boats would recover the fish after a short run with it’s orange painted head bobbing like a cork. But, when they hit us it could damage the torpedo and they would spend hours trying to find it.
    The last day of our deployment, with the full crew back on board, we were getting tired of waiting for them to find their final torpedo. It had hit us pretty good. After a few hours and no luck, we surfaced only to discover it was stuck through our sail. The sail is a free flooding area outside the pressure hull so no real damage had been done. But we couldn’t return to port looking like that. Even a deserted one.
    So we eased alongside while they extracted the fish from our sail. The machinist’s on the Tin Can were busy making steel plates and welding them over our holes. We found some black paint and tried to camouflage the damaged areas.
    We thought we had done a pretty good job until five days later when we sailed up the Cooper River in Charleston. People kept pointing at us. That’s when we discovered that our underway flag was in tatters from the propellers of the torpedo and the black paint had washed away showing our scars.
    I never said she was pretty, but she always brought us home.
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