A Plank Owners Cruise - Page 1
Bruce J. Ruckman

I graduated from "C" missile guidance radar systems school at Great Lakes, Illinois in January 1960 and received orders to report to NAS Brunswick, Maine to join the pre-commissioning crew of the USS Preble DLG-15. So we could see the country and save money, Bob Pernot and I decided to hitch-hike from Chicago to Brunswick, a journey that took several days before we finally arrived at NAS Brunswick around mid-morning. After processing the paperwork and receiving our first month's TDY pay of $12 per day, we were told we had to continue on to Bath and report to the Navy offices at the Bath Iron Works where the ship was being built.

By the time we hitched to Bath and reported to the Shipyard Commandant's office it was late afternoon so we didn't get to see the ship until the next morning. The rest of that first day was taken up getting settled in our temporary quarters in the Sedgewick Hotel and meeting the other members of the crew (at that time there were only 14 others on board including the Captain, CDR Fitz-Patrick. We were told duty hours were 0800 to 1600 Monday through Friday and were encouraged to wear uniforms only during the duty hours. What we did the rest of the time was strictly our own business. It really was the best "sea duty" a guy could get in the Navy.

My first good look at the ship was from the highway bridge over the Kennebec River. She was festooned with hoses, power lines, cables and planking. Still, with the rake of that clipper bow, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. As there were no engineering rates assigned at that early date, I got the chore of tracing the high pressure steam lines between boiler and engine rooms which was a good education in what it took to power the ship. Still, I was glad when the first Engineman came on board to relieve me of my below-decks duty. At that time the shipfitters were still installing or revising bulkheads so 3 passages kept appearing and disappearing. I never got lost though I was "powerful confused" at times. My normal work station in the missile guidance radar control rooms had all the equipment installed but the electronics were still being tuned. Even with my recent schooling on the operation of the radar, I was grateful for the time we spent with the manufacturer's reps.

I've always felt lucky to have been among the few Navy personnel that went to sea with the Preble on her first sea trials while she was still in the builder's hands. The trip down the Kennebec River was a real eye-opener for me. Even after having spent plenty of time aboard during construction, the careful twisting and turning required to get the ship down that narrow channel really brought her size home to me for the first time. The night before we went out I was worried I'd make a fool of myself by being seasick so I called cousins who had served aboard ships in ww2 for advice. They all told me to just keep busy and, with that sage wisdom, I was able to enjoy the trip.

In April we made our way to sea again, this time bound for Boston where the rest of the crew joined when we reached Charlestown Naval Yard and the builder turned the ship over to the Navy. My main regret was the loss of that $12 per day perdiem. ~fter three months of that kind of money, going back to regular Seaman First pay was a real sacrifice. Seemed as if I didn't even have money enough for cigarettes!. Of course there also was the adjustment to being in a compartment with 74 strangers after living in a hotel with one "roomy."

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This page was last updated on 01/03/05.