Who do you trust? Have you ever trusted anyone with your life? It’s a wondrous release from fear! Quite some time ago, Gator was at sea. His ship was massive. Over 600 feet long, 35 feet from the plimsoll line to the keel, 30 feet high to where Gator was stationed. Pretty big beam too, he forgets that statistic. Somewhere beyond 60 feet wide. Big with two props and 8 million gallons of various fuels. Bunker oil, JP4 aviation, gasoline. An AO class fleet oiler, biggest in the fleet.

Late at night, down below laying on his bunk, Gator was rocked to sleep and the deck was warm. As the ship would take a slow roll, the oil below would move from port to starboard and back again. A gentle whoosh sound, much akin to the waves washing a beach. The oil was heated with steam pipes and remained very fluid, thus the warm deck. In mid winter sleep was achieved as soon as Gator’s eyes closed. Safe, secure and steaming towards a port over the horizon. In the middle of the sea. (When all land is unseen, you are always seeming to be in the middle of the ocean. )

After a long time steaming, an illusion sometimes comes that the ship is standing still. There is a current streaming by the bow. Nothing changes, the pounding of the props and the flutter from the signal flags up on the 05 level. The water streaming by seems to be a big river, making the bow wave. It’s easier at night and you can see the fluorescent wake.

There is a powerful radar constantly circling above the third deck (03 level) and the signalmen who work up there are are told, if they ever want children, they are to stay away from that radar dish.

Danger came now and then to the huge ship in the form of other ships alongside. Hooked up with large hoses, often on each side. Pumping that fuel into their bunkers as everyone watched their heading and also moving as fast as they could to maintain flight ops on the carrier beside them, always on the port side (left). The carrier loafing along while Gator’s ship was at flank speed and the mess decks would shake in the stern when the powerful props broke the surface. Once, when Gator’s ship was refueling a carrier on the port, and a ‘tin can’ (destroyer) on the right, a fishing boat came in sight dead ahead. Three huge ships, unable to turn with all the hoses and rigging, we just came at that boat at flank speed. That boat passed between us and the destroyer, bouncing and flanging side to side and just spit out the stern of the ship. Ok, still afloat with what seemed like a dazed fisherman gazing back at those three huge ships just moving away from him. He was blessed, that’s certain. What a story back at Ville’ France.

There were ‘fiddle rails’ on the mess deck tables, so the men would put four slices of bread under their trays and keep their food on the table. Extra work for the baker who’s oven was too hot. Way Soft bread. Gator had to explain when the lieutenant in charge of the mess deck asked him rather briskly why he took the bread just to toss it away. The galley window had a garbage can filled with bread. “Everyone does it Sir, it holds your tray from sliding off to the deck.” ‘Oh, I see’ said the LT.

In the midst of a cruise, the big oiler became engulfed in a hurricane. Reeling and rocking with waves seen high above the second deck where Gator worked. That’s about thirty feet over the water. Craning his neck, Gator figured the waves were at least another thirty feet above him.

All hands were then in the skills of the captain and the navigator/quartermaster above, on the bridge. Gator was afraid and suddenly realized he trusted the old, crusty captain and his fear and worry were unnecessary. Would it help to be worried? Released from their fear, Gator and his mates had a contest to see which one of them could lean closest to the deck with their pea coats open and catching the wind. Gator won with a good 30+ degrees before he hit the deck. The deck apes were down below the main deck which was open with railings. They had secured themselves with small stuff (Navy jargon for what we call ropes) and they were just washing around down there having fun in their own way. Crazy. Another way to deal with fear.

Now, later in life, Gator puts his trust in the Creator of his soul, his King and Rescuer. It took Gator quite some time to realize, once again, his life was known and protected by his Captain. The course is laid in and station keeping true. Faith and trust and his Captain’s love takes the fear away. Gator’s Captain always takes time to tell Gator that He will never leave him.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

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