During our “blue Line Highways” trip out west last September and October we visited the USS Lexington, CV-16 which is now a historic ship museum in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was wonderful to tour this ship which was my home for two years, 1963-1965, just after I was commissioned. Shirley and I and my good friend and FBI buddy Rick Copeland really enjoyed our time on the Lex and Rick and Shirley endured my reminiscences of my time stationed aboard the Lex and allowed me to explain what I could of the various features of the ship.
A special treat for me was getting “piped aboard” as a former shipmate. That happened on the quarterdeck where I spent many hours on watch while we were in port, primarily in Pensacola, Florida, which was the Lex’s homeport during my tour as part of the Lex’s officer corps. It brought to mind one special watch I had stood on a New Year’s Eve. Prior to the watch I was summoned to the Executive Officer’s cabin where he informed me of the requirement to record the mid-watch (from 11:30 PM until 3:30 AM) in verse. Thanks a lot for that. It was bad enough to have the duty as a bachelor in port on New Year’s Eve — but to have to become a poet…. As the mid-watch log starts the record for the new day it contains a basic summary of the ship’s status. Changes to that status are noted in subsequent log entries. Anyway, upon returning home I was able to dig through some old memorabilia and found a copy of the log. Here it is:
New Year’s Deck Log Poem
It’s New Year’s Eve on the Lexington,
The year’s last mid-watch has just begun.
Alas, I find with trouble I am smitten,
For the ship’s deck log must be written,
In poetic form, so I am told,
A Naval tradition to uphold.
“I have the deck,” and am ready to go,
The time is twenty-three three zero*.
Pensacola, Florida is our new home port,
To aid CNATRA we lend our support.
But that isn’t all, indeed there’s more,
There are fleetquals too and COC’s by the score.
All hands turn to, little time for play,
And for that reason we are proud to display,
A special award from the Chief of Naval Ops.,
In aviation safety we’re the tops.
Now at Allegheny Wharf, with all lines double,
We’re starboard side to, don’t expect any trouble.
SOPA is CO of our Lady Lex,
But the Ol’ Man’s ashore and so’s the Exec.
Miscellaneous services from the pier we receive,
But the good “spirits” remain ashore I perceive.
For auxiliary power we’re using boiler three,
And generator two for electricity.
Watertight integrity requirements were met,
When modified condition “Yoke” was set,
Down on the second deck and below,
For protection against a disastrous blow.
All the ship’s boats are on board here,
Except whale boat two, which is on the pier.
Ships present are small craft, in numbers few,
And the USS Tweedy, DE five thirty-two.
If you’ll forgive a slight intrusion,
It seems Florida sunshine is a total illusion.
It’s snowing tonight, the weather is freezing,
The whole bully crew will be coughing and sneezing.
The anchor and aircraft warning lights are bright,
To indicate our presence in the dark of the night.
Now, the watch is over and we’ve done our best,
But before we lay below for rest,
There’s just one more thing we say to you,
A wish from a weary quarterdeck crew.
May throughout this coming year,
Your constant companion be good cheer.
“I have the deck” = The officer’s acknowledgement that he has assumed the watch. CNATRA = Chief of Naval Air Training
COC = Civilian Orientation Cruise
Fleetquals = Refresher qualification training for operational squadrons
SOPA = Senior Officer Present Afloat
CNATRA – Chief of Naval Air Training
DE = Destroyer Escort
*Or “seven bells” by that means of measure – the traditional time for relieving the watch.