chief of the boat
Yes, a new heading. Phil suggested that I try to write more so…
I lived in Virginia Beach for a year (July 2001 – July 2002) with my, then, Marine Corps husband. I don’t remember the exact date but, one evening, we happened to be wandering the streets of Norfolk, near Norfolk Harbor. We saw a neon sign in a window of a bar: O’Malley’s. The place was full of what appeared to be sailors but, they weren’t Americans. They were busy drinking and singing Irish drinking songs. The Marine and I did manage to find a couple of empty bar stools, way at the end of the bar, deep into the establishment. The Marine took the very last stool to my left and I tried to position myself into the remaining empty stool. It was a tight squeeze and I began to think to myself… “How in the hell am I going to get my big ass thru that narrow space to get onto that stool?” For the split-second pondering it took, the full-bearded gentleman to my right, turned to me and said “Do you not want to sit next to me for some reason? I know I look rough but…” I immediately jumped in to reassure him that, that was not the case and shared my “OMG, I won’t fit…” fears, out loud, right there in front of God and everybody. He threw his head back and roared. “Have a seat, my dear…and, have drink.” He turned out to be the COTB (Chief of the Boat) of the Canadian Frigate HMCS St. John’s, that was in Norfolk for degaussing. It was a fun evening and that COTB invited us to tour the ship the next day.
We arrived around 4:00pm and I noticed that a Canadian Frigate really stands out next to American Navy vessels. It’s an odd green color, next to the blue of the American ships and I was told that it doesn’t have any right angles on it. We boarded the ship and asked for the Chief. They retrieved him and he rolled out looking like he’d been on a three day drunk. He was clearly hung over. He called for a much younger seaman to give us the tour of the ship and joined us later.
One neat thing aboard a Canadian vessel is…the bar. They had a beautiful, stained wooden bar and, a full stock of beer and wine. They also had a few women on board, which I found odd, even though women were allowed on board American war ships, beginning in 1994. It was still a rare sight back then.
We were invited to stay for dinner. It was a simple meal for sailing men but, I’m pretty sure that, not many people can say that they dined with the entire crew of a Canadian Frigate…and not been a crew member. It was really cool. I wish I could remember the name of that COTB. He offered me a St. John’s sweatshirt and I declined because I didn’t have any money. I intended to return to the ship with money but, we never made it back. That would have been a cool souvenir.