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  • The first thing to learn about standing a topside watch on a submarine is that the danger never comes from without. Actually that’s the second thing. The first is to make sure you are on the surface. Forget everything they taught you about repelling boarders. Let the games begin:

    Game one

    After any cruise on a boat all of the free flooding masts need to be emptied of salt water. That’s done by pressurizing the mast and blowing the sea water out the top. This is usually done on the first mid-watch after docking.

    The unsuspecting topside watch, who is bored and more asleep than awake, is carefully observed through the periscope by an accomplice of the below decks watch. When he reaches the stern and starts his slow turn toward the bow the signal is given to pressurize the masts, and a few thousand gallons of water are dumped out of the top of the snorkel mast directly aft and down to the deck.

    If the topside watch is alert enough, he has two choices: Grab one of the stanchions and hang on for dear life, OR run forward of the conning tower before the water hits the deck. He has a limited time and no time to waste thinking about it. About five seconds after he hears that “Whoosh” of air, tons of salt water will wash over the deck taking anything and anybody with it.

    Game Two

    Many times submarines are tied up alongside one another, two or three abreast. That’s when the great sport of washing the decks from the sanitary tank is played. This is another game that can only be played on the mid-watch, while figures of authority are sleeping.

    It works best when two boats are side by side. Usually the bored topside watches are busy talking to each other and it may take a few moments before one of them notices the bubbles. When they do I can guarantee they will both lean over the rails of their respective boats to get a closer look. Once again the accomplice on the periscope waits for the perfect moment, then yells. Pressure to the tank is increased and the entire contents of the sanitary tank hits the ballast tanks of the other boat and washes up and over both decks.

    The term shit-faced takes on its true meaning! In a bar if you hear one submariner call another a shit-head, you can rest assured he’s not insulting him. Merely recognizing his endurance of a “rite of passage”:
    A true topside watch.

    Game over

    Give me boarders to repel every time!
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