Sea story: Getting to know Maria Grazia (1985)

“Thank you, Glenda,” I said, squeezing her hand. “I’ll see you next week.” Glenda smiled, too tired to talk anymore. Her eyes closed in sleep by the time I reached the door. The perspiration in my undershirt from riding 10 km to the nursing home had long since dried. I was ready to go out in the summer sun and ride home.  Continue reading

Sea story: Judges and schoolteachers in Mogadiscio (1982)

In 1982, the capital of Somalia was still spelled in Italian. Today it is spelled Mogadishu, but it sounds the same. USS Coronado, a large amphibious ship painted white, dominated the harbor as she moored to the pier downtown. USS Coronado as CMEFThe flagship of the Commander, US Middle East Force was making her semi-annual Swing around the Indian Ocean, showing the flag and maintaining relations with the local governments. We did not know that it would be our last Swing: before long, the Iran-Iraq war would grind to a halt, but not before the US Middle East Force would be absorbed by the new US Central Command. By the end of the decade, the US Fifth Fleet would dominate the waters between Suez and Singapore, and the Middle East Force would join the Sand Pebbles and the Mediterranean Squadron in the pages of naval history. But not yet. Continue reading

Sea story: East meets West in the desert (1982)

Dust. Great clouds of dust. It rises above the clumps of traffic like a column, to be blown sideways after it clears the walls of the homes lining the avenue that leads away from the Port. Then it falls into my face, my clothes, and my hair.

Sun. Blinding sunshine. Not as hot as the desert to which I was accustomed, but too bright not to wear sunglasses. Continue reading

Sea story: Shaka, bra! (1979)

The only time that the Navy sent me to the Pacific for duty was 1977-1981, first on board the USS Reeves (CG-24), then as the Logistics Plans Officer for Commander-in-Chief US Pacific Fleet. 1977-12-01 Reeves ParkingReeves was in overhaul for my entire two-year tour, so in effect we lived in Honolulu for four years. This was my first shore tour, and my wife and I dived into the local scene as if we were going to live there forever. A bicycle was probably the most intelligent and easiest mode of transportation on the island of Oahu. I rode mine everywhere, in uniform and in civilian clothes. Continue reading

Sea story: Valencia oranges (1976)

It had been cold and rainy, typical for the Mediterranean in late February, but when we pulled into Valencia, Spain, the sun came out for a while. The air was still cool, so I knew that this was going to be wonderful bicycling weather. By now, I had ridden my new bicycle in four countries. The streets of Toulon, Naples, Piraeus, Barcelona and Palma de Majorca were familiar to me. I knew almost nothing about Valencia, but from the charts I could tell that the topography by the coast was gentle. Continue reading