Sunday, September 19, 2010

Surprise ................BANG!

I've just returned to the dockyard and got the Monomoy Pulling Boat nestled back in her parking spot next to the Framing Bay. This weekend we had a great time out at Hyco Lake in North Carolina - the first waterborne event we've held in our Western theater of operations, in our marines' back yard. The intent was to use the Monomoy Pulling Boat and our friendly neighborhood chase boat, Ye Saucy Trollop, to provide seamanship training for the local Boy Scout Troop 300. Saturday morning, we embarked eight scouts onboard the Monomoy, and sent three to the Trollop. A good time was had while basic training was taking place, and all were settling into the training routine by lunchtime. At lunch, the Trollop returned to the main docks while the Monomoy was beached in a small cove near the base camp. After we finished lunch, we had a first aid lesson, then returned to the boats. And that's when we sprung the surprise.

The Monomoy crew scurried to assemble a set of skids forward in the boat, lifting the timbers from their hiding places under canvasses on deck, bolting them to the bow platform onto risers carefully hidden by coils of line. Then another flurry of canvas yielded a hidden contraption, painted bright red, which was fitted to the skids and rigged to slide back and forth. And finally a huge 300 lb piece of pig iron and steel was lifted, passed carefully forward, and mounted on top of the whole contraption. The crew made their way out of the cove to await the arrival of the Trollop, all hands giggling quietly with anticipation.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Trollop were slow in getting underway. A failed mechanical bilge pump meant that the steady accumulation of water from swimmers coming aboard required manual pumping. It took about twenty minutes to complete the operation to the satisfaction of a very hot and irritated craft master. But finally they were underway, and headed slowly into the open lake.

The Monomoy coxswain sighted the Trollop as they rounded the point into the lake. He had taken every measure to position his boat carefully, clearing his bow to port and starboard, while being sure to place himself where he would see the Trollop first. The master of the Trollop noticed nothing unusual about the Monomoy except that the crew were rowing unusually slow. He would later say that he could hear the coxswain shout something, and saw a flurry of canvas covers pulling back from behind two men on the bow, but that he thought that what it revealed was a toy. Of course it was only after what happened next that he realized that it was anything but.

With a shout "FIRE" an errution of flame, smoke and sound burst from the bow of the Monomoy. Car alarms sounded over the adjacent hill, and the park ranger and local police chief gazed smiling down from a clearing on top of it. Cheers resounded from the Monomoy's crew, and several nearby boaters joined in. The Trollop stopped dead in the water as though she were aground. And although the master of the Trollop would not admit it, I think I won my bet that he would crap himself.

The 'super secret project' we've embarked on over the last 10 days was, in fact, to complete the naval carriage for the 3-pdr gun that we have been putting off since June, and mount it sucessfully in the bow of the Monomoy Pulling Boat. The carriage, skids and rigging were so perfectly calculated that when the gun was fired, it glided slowly backward to the 'run in' position and gently stopped at the end of the recoil strap. No new fittings, fasteners or holes were needed in the boat. And the crew was able to mount, and later dismount the carriage and gun safely while underway.

We fired a total of six rounds, each one drawing dozens of specators to the shoreline as the scouts and crew/instructors cheered our success. The Trollop's master's signature "god dammit" was sufficient to indicate he was similarly impressed.

A good time was had by all, and the surprise of the gun just crowned a great day of swim calls, rowing drills, tubing and barbecue. The scouts all earned their Rowing and Power Boating Merit Badges, and one Sailor came closer to his final qualification as Coxswain of the Monomoy Pulling Boat.

More on where we go from here, tomorrow.


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