The Navy Will Buy Your Fishing Tackle

By Craig Johnson

For: Sea Stories

The Diamond TWR-1 spent a lot of time fishing for fresh food for the crew.  As a small boat with only thirteen sailors assigned, most of the time, this was the only way they got fresh food.  In addition they used the Navy supplied rations for bartering with the inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands that they frequented.

The sailor assigned to ordering supplies had put in requisitions for two outrigger poles to be mounted, one on each side of the workshop. Additionally he ordered a fishing chair to be mounted on the stern and four sets of saltwater fishing poles replete with reels and associated gear.

The requisitions had gone to our parent Squadron Supply Officer back in Norfolk, VA.  The Supply Officer did not see that this was important and it was not normal in his mind for a naval vessel to be outfitted for fishing.  We had just pulled into the Navy Base in San Juan, Puerto Rico and received our mail.  In the mail were our rejected supply requisitions.

This set Chief Daniels off.  He said, “No God damned Supply Officer is going to tell me what I need for my boat.”  He then looked around and saw me working in the torpedo shack and bellowed, “Johnson come here.” Not being stupid, I went to see him immediately.  The Chief said, “Johnson you’re a fuckin torpedoman. Figure out how to use the two radio antennas as outriggers for deep sea fishing” There was one located on each side of the pilot house.

I went and looked at the antennas and found that they were tapered tubes smaller in diameter at the top gradually getting larger at the bottom.  I also found that we would need a boat hook to reach the top end of the antennas while standing on the roof of the pilot house.  A boat hook is a long pole with a combination hook with a point sticking up past the hook; the point has a ball vice a point so it is not a weapon.

I had a plan that required me to get key rings and some alligator clips. I grabbed a pound of coffee out of the galley and went to the submarine tender down the pier.  The tender was the USS Gilmore AS-16. Once onboard I went to the Steam Torpedo Shop and asked to talk to the LPO.  I told him what I needed to have made, and told him that I had a pound of coffee to trade for the finished product.  He called a PO3 to make the dual rings with attached alligator clips.  He made me four sets consisting of two rings soldered together with an alligator clip attached to one ring.  This would allow us to put one ring on the end of the boat hook and slip the other ring over the end of the antenna and lower it down until it would not go any lower.

I went back to the Diamond and showed the Chief what I had come up with and how we could use it.  He said, “Fuckin outstanding Johnson! Now, put those away until we get underway.”

Two days later we got underway to work with the submarine USS Shark SSN 591 to recover torpedoes after their training firings.  Shortly after clearing San Juan harbor the Chief had us rig the antennas for fishing.  We fished all day while transiting to the site of the exercise the next morning.

At sunrise the next morning we deployed our fishing lines to see if we would have better luck today since we had not had any luck the day before and we did not have meet the Shark until 1000.  Around 0900 we got a strike and it took the Boatswain about 45 minutes to land the fish, a 15 lb. snapper.  We were really happy and took all of the fishing lines in to work the torpedo exercise.

We spent the rest of the day working with the Shark until dark.  We then started back to San Juan that night.  The next day we fished all day as we continued our transit and caught several fish two snapper and three king mackerel to keep us for a few days. We thought things were going very well.

What we did not know, was that the Shark had taken pictures of us fishing through their periscope, catching us red-handed using the radio antennas as outriggers.  They had gotten back to San Juan and given the pictures to the Admiral’s staff placing us on report.

When we docked at the pier across the street from the Admiral’s offices. A messenger arrived informing us that the Admiral wanted to see the Chief right away.  The Chief put on his khaki uniform, and headed across the street to see the Admiral.

Approximately an hour later, Chief Daniels got back from seeing the Admiral and told us that we were going to get our fishing gear that had been rejected.  We asked him what had happened that we were going to get the fishing gear all of a sudden.

Chief Daniels then relayed  what transpired when he went to see the Admiral who turned out to be his old skipper on the USS Kearsarge CVS-33.  The Admiral had the Commanding Officer of the Shark in his office when the Chief entered.  The Admiral grilled Chief Daniels, as he tossed some black and white, photographic evidence in his general direction. “ What do you have to say about these pictures of your boat fishing using your radio antenna as outriggers?”

Chief relayed the story to the Admiral, in his usual, respectful yet unapologetic tone. The Admiral then asked the Chief, “what needs to be done to get you guys to quit using the radio antenna as outriggers?”

The Chief said, “just issue us the fishing gear we requisitioned, Sir.”  The Admiral turned to his Aide and told him to make that happen right away.  The Admiral then dismissed the Commanding Officer of the Shark and then he and the Chief reminisced for a while before the Chief came back to our boat.

Several hours later a truck pulled up on the pier and delivered all of our new gear.  The Chief contacted another Chief he knew on the Gilmore who sent a welder down to install our new fishing chair base on the stern.


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