A Plank Owners Cruise - Page 4
Bruce J. Ruckman

Our transit of the Panama Canal was one of the most enjoyable times I had on the Preble. Lots to look at, going through a construction project I'd heard about since I was a kid, and a fresh water washdown that turned into a ship-wide water fight. Rank and seniority were no protection from getting soaked. We all had fun. I'd like to have been on the cruise ship that passed us while all the water was going. The party we had in Balboa after giving blood for an orphanage was made all the more enjoyable by the beautiful girls who came to talk and dance with us. When we left the party we had our introduction to Panama's tropical weather in a rainstorm so heavy it felt as if we were going to drown.

If ever there was an official "pleasure port of call" it would have to be Acapulco, Mexico. Even though we were there during the "off-season" in July, the weather, people, and facilities were all kind to us. I remember going deep-sea fishing for Marlin (nothing caught), swimming off both Caleta and Sunset Beaches (got sea urchin spines in my feet but learned about bikini Swimsuits), visiting with a friend and his family at his villa overlooking the harbor and Pacific, watching the professional divers leaping off the rocks into the ocean at the El Mirador Hotel (and one of the crew jumping off the low side on a bet), and an unofficial visit to the Mexican Navy Destroyer Base. One of our crew did his water-skiing act while he was supposed to be over the side scraping the hull. It was so warm one of the Chiefs decided to swim back to the ship rather than wait for the liberty launch. I also seem to recall an open house at the same time the American Ambassador to Mexico was aboard. Who was the gal that came out of the berthing spaces counting mucho dinero and why did the Captain and the Ambassador look so surprised?

We finally arrived at our home port of San Diego in August of 1960. It was immediately apparent the fun of operating alone was definitely a thing of the past. When those ~~?*/! ! "bird farm" carriers found out we had a 1200 pound superheat steam plant and could keep up with them, we were more popular than the only girl in school. We were in and Out of port so often we barely had time to learn where things were in 'Dago. It literally got to where I could identify the swells off the sea buoy while still below decks.

Our first time in dry-dock was in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard to install the last piece of ordnance - the ASROC launcher. A lot of us became very comfortable in Long Beach. FOXDIV's leading P.O. had a brother who owned a bar which became the Division "home" during off-duty hours. We solved a lot of technical problems in the Silver Dollar but we also created some. Long Beach's boardwalk also provided attractions, some of which even parents would have to approve.

Just after we left dry-dock we fired our first missile at a drone. We were off San Clemente Island and, for those of us directly involved in the exercise, there was a lot of tension. When the fire order came, the missile flew straight for just a bit and then went into a hard starboard turn causing us to self-destruct the "bird" which left us sorely disappointed. About the same time NASA was readying to launch the first Gemini astronaut, Scott Carpenter. After our experience with our launch, it would be no surprise that the crew's concerns for that brave soul were great. A lot of prayers were said for his success. The blase' attitude about missile launches didn't come until much later.

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