Friday, July 6, 2012

A Dream Cruise on the Great Lakes

USS Sablefish in the St. Lawrence Seaway

The St. Lawrence Seaway

            Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and President Eisenhower, both aboard her yacht HMS Britannia, opened up the St. Lawrence Seaway for the first time in the summer of 1959.  This marvelous waterway, from the St. Lawrence River in the east, allowed ships to sail from the Atlantic, through locks  right to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and on to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior
USS Sablefish

            Two years later, the Navy selected USS Sablefish to make the trip up the St. Lawrence and into the Great Lakes.

            Now, for most non-submariners, the prospect of traveling several hundred miles in a World War II diesel submarine might start out thrilling.  Having to sleep in a bunk with a torpedo just six inches above you might be a bit unnerving for some. 
            The close quarters might bring on a touch of claustrophobia.
            And then there were the smells of diesel smoke, and a trace of the aroma from the sanitary tanks.  
            On this cruise, we spent much time running on the surface.   Even so, your opportunities to go up and walk around and enjoy the fresh air were limited mostly to time in port.
            And you might miss taking a shower every day.

            However, for a submariner, accustomed to all that, this trip right straight to the heart of America was a Dream Cruise. 
            First, people living a distance from regular Navy ports were thrilled to see the ships—and the sailors.  Even pretty, single young girls were thrilled, and for most sailors, that was enough to make it a dream cruise. 
            In addition, in every city we visited we were treated like royalty.  The mayor was there with a key to the city in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Manitowoc and Port Huron and the Canadians were just as hospitable in Montreal, Québec and Toronto.
            Besides the keys, each city arranged tours for the crew, and visits to the local breweries, and parties and visits to museums, and tickets to major league baseball games. 
            When sailors went ashore they wore their uniforms, and whenever they visited a bar, people offered to buy them drinks.
            P.K. Wrigley, the aged owner of the Chicago Cubs and a famous company that makes chewing gum, gave the officers their own “keys” to the local Playboy Club which had just recently opened.  And in Milwaukee, Robert Uihlein, the president of the Schlitz Brewing Company, took our officers under his wing, and we went to his home a few times for parties and cookouts during the two weeks we were in and operating out of Milwaukee.  His neighbors, Augie Pabst of Pabst Brewing, and Fred Miller, head of Miller Brewing, dropped by to visit us, as well.  In those days, all three of those beers were very popular, but Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis competed head-to-head with Schlitz for leadership. One thing that I remember at the Uihlein house was a refrigerator with a spigot on it, that poured pure Schlitz beer.  I preferred to think that this was a direct pipeline to the brewery.

            For us, it was a Dream Cruise.
            We sailed up the New England coast, and then to Nova Scotia, passing through the Canso Gut and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  We sailed round the Gaspé Peninsula and into the St. Lawrence River.  Our first port call was in Québec, a beautiful, very French city.  Our crew really began to realize that we were in a foreign country.

             Montreal was our next port, and my wife Marty and her cousin Nancy Norwood had arranged for Nancy’s mother to look after our son John, and the two girls piled into our 1960 Chevrolet Corvair and drove up to Montreal.

            After Montreal, Sablefish went up through the newly-opened St. Lawrence Seaway, going through all the locks, the Welland Canal, into Lake Ontario, across  Lake Erie (too shallow for Sablefish to dive in) then to Detroit, Lake St. Claire, Port Huron, MI, into Lake Michigan, to Milwaukee.

Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence, between Canada
and the U.S. “The Fresh Water Boating Capital of the World.”

            Our first dive after entering the fresh water of the Great Lakes was in Lake Ontario, and although we had calculated and calculated, and although we had offloaded all but a couple of practice torpedoes, and our safety tank was dry, when we dove we found out we were about 20,000 lbs. heavy.  Submarines operate on the principle of being neutrally buoyant—we add water to get “heavy” to submerge, and blow it out, to get “light” to surface.  An unexpected ten tons of water, particularly in the shallow confines of Lake Ontario, makes for an exciting dive. Submariners are accustomed to diving in salt water, and our engineer officer calculated very carefully the difference of diving in much less buoyant fresh water.  With no torpedoes aboard, we were lighter, yet on that first dive in the shallow waters of Lake Ontario, the boat started to drop like a rock!  There wasn’t all that much water beneath us, either. We were blowing buoyancy tanks like crazy as we struggled to correct a 20,000 pound discrepancy! 

            Why had we offloaded all our torpedoes?  Back when America fought Britain the last time, in the War of 1812, a lot of the action happened up in these waters.  Accordingly, when we finally signed a peace treaty with Great Britain both sides agreed to prohibit our warships from carrying weapons in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. That agreement became the Rush-Bagot Treaty, signed in 1818.
            After our exciting dive, we surfaced and cruised through the Welland Canal, and through a whole series of locks as we climbed 557 feet from the Atlantic to the Lakes.
Commodore Ned Beach and Skipper LCDR Kent J. Carroll
in Detroit Harbor

            Our first port call in the Great Lakes was Detroit, on the river connecting Lake Erie with Lake St. Clair, and the Navy arranged a grand welcome for us with fireboats spraying colored water, bands and the Mayor to greet us.  Just before we landed, Captain Edward Beach, our Squadron Commander and the legendary hero of submarine operations in World War II, as well as author of several books about submarines in that War, came aboard and rode us into port.
            Beach had recently commanded USS Triton on a submerged trip around the world, and afterward his name became a household word in the U.S. as Triton’s adventure was replayed in films and books.

            On Navy visits like this the officers get invited to many social events, and get to rub elbows with the top of the local social scene.  You quickly get to see a few people in this high-speed social whirl who are four-flushers, phonies, drunks and plain scoundrels.  Most, thank goodness, are very impressive people, and many are wonderful supporters of our Navy.
            There was one Navy captain stationed in Milwaukee who attended every social gathering our wardroom attended. He and his wife were in the habit of getting congenially inebriated early at each event.
            One time at the home of a wealthy chocolate manufacturer we were all wearing full dress whites. The captain was quite smashed, and came down where we were all finishing up a buffet supper. There were plates of half-eaten lasagna sitting around everywhere. He, like all of us naval officers, was wearing full dress whites. He sat down on one plate, which with the white uniform was rather colorful.
            In each port we would take local VIPs out for a day of sailing on Lake Michigan, and conduct a dive, and the Great Lakes based Navy patrol craft would practice dropping practice depth charges on us.  These charges contain a very small explosive charge, nothing like the real depth charges which are intended to destroy submarines. 
            One of our VIPs on the first cruise was Philip K. Wrigley, the Wrigley Gum magnate and one of Chicago's most prominent citizens.
            The practice depth charges can make a lot of noise when they burst right where you are submerged.   I remember one of the charges went off with a big “boom” and the shock dislodged a small knob on a loudspeaker and it dropped on Mr. Wrigley’s head, and he thought for sure that the submarine had taken a real hit!  It scared the daylights out of him. 
            I later found that the Navy reservist sailors aboard the patrol craft had developed a trick to take a bundle of practice depth charges and wrap them with toilet paper, so they'd hold together until the paper dissolved, and then their explosions would combine to make a much bigger "bang".
            Nonetheless, the kindly old gentlemen gave the Captain and officers “keys” to the newly-opened Chicago Playboy Club, and we went out for an evening with the Playboy Bunnies in attendance.
            Next we went to Toronto, on the banks of Lake Ontario. During the visit, in the early hours of the morning while the boat was preparing to get underway, a woman accidentally drove her automobile off the pier nearby.  A petty officer from Sablefish happened to be nearby, and immediately dove into the dark water, following the car to the bottom, and pulled the woman from the vehicle and brought her to the surface. Petty Officer Ronald Moon was awarded the Navy Marine Corps Lifesaving Medal when we returned to New London.

Lieutenant Commander Kent Carroll, Commanding Officer
of Sablefish, pins silver dolphins on crewmembers.

NOTE: In researching this piece I read an old green memo book that I kept as a young officer aboard Sablefish.  It's amazing to me now all the things we were expected to learn.  I noted a couple of times when I did not measure up to Captain Kent Carroll's standards in shiphandling. He taught me lessons about shiphandling, torpedo shooting, and plain seamanship that stood me in good stead all during my naval career, and afterward. 
I never got to tell Kent, now a retired Vice Admiral, how much I appreciated his excellent training until after this blog was published.
Thank you, Kent!!

Now, the Personal Navigator offers these publications for your enlightenment:

Portfolio of the World War-- Rotogravure Etchings Selected from the Mid-Week Pictorial of The New York Times. 1917. New York: New York Times Company. Excellent collection of photographs from World War I. 28 x 41 cm. Cloth on board, very nice cover. Sepia-toned, high-quality photos. Front hinge broken, but binding intact. Good condition. (0392) $90.00. History.

Postcard: Life in our Navy--Crew  on USS Rhode Island (BB-17) (Color Postcard from Great White Fleet)        1911 Taunton, MA: A.C Bosselman & Co., New York. 1 card            13.9 x 8.9 cm.   Color postcard shows crew of USS Rhode Island, all in dress whites, seated and standing before No. 1 gun turret, also standing on No. 2 turret, and in platforms on main mast. Rhode Island was one of the battleships that made the historic cruise of the Great White Fleet (1907-1909), and this photo is believed to have been taken during that cruise. Card is postmarked 1911, with message that does not relate to ship or Navy. Color post card, very good. (8221) $15.00. Navy/Nautical           

Postcard: Life in our Navy--Wrestling on the Kearsarge (BB-5) (Color Postcard from Great White Fleet)  1908  Kentfield, CA: M. Ettlinger Co., New York. 1 card 13.9 x 8.9 cm. Color postcard shows men in wrestling match on USS Kearsarge, surrounded by many sailors. Handwritten message on card: “Kentfield (Cal.) May 8, '08. Yes the fleet is here & great time we are having. Biggest parade Frisco ever had.  Population doubled. I was about ten ft. from Bob Evans. (Rear Admiral, Commander of Great White Fleet). Fleet is to stay till about May 17." Color post card, very good. (8220) $15.00. Navy/Nautical    


Postcard:  USS Idaho (BB-24) (Color Postcard from Great White Fleet Review in Hampton Roads, VA, 1909)   ca. 1909.  M.L. Metrochrom. 1 card            13.9 x 8.9 cm.   Color postcard shows USS Idaho (BB-24) at anchor with full dress flags from stem to stern, one of first cage masts. View is of starboard side of the battleship. Idaho was commissioned in 1908 and did not take part in the 1907-09 world cruise of the Great White Fleet, but joined them at the final Fleet Review in Hampton Roads, VA in1909. This photo is believed to have been taken about 1909. USS Idaho had a short life in the U.S. Navy-- in 1914 her crew was transferred to USS Maine in Villafranche, France, and she was turned over to the Greek Navy, and renamed HHMS Limnos. She was sunk by German bombs in 1941.  USS Idaho was result of Congressional action to limit the size and cost of new battleships. There is no message on postcard, nor was it ever mailed. Color post card, very good. (8222) $15.00. Navy/Nautical

Table compares Armies and Navies of the World, and tonnage of ships under sail or steam, 1882 1882 Graphic presentation shows relative size of shipping fleet in tons; Size of armies and navies in numbers of men.  Great Britain and Ireland led the world in shipping, with 3,621,650 tons under sail; 3,335,215 under steam, with U.S. second with 2,366,132 under sail, 1,221,206 under steam.  Siam had 20,930 tons, all sail. Russia had the largest army in the world, with 717,747 soldiers, next was Italy with 714,958, and France with 518,642, Germany with 449,239. Great Britain had the largest navy with 69,540 sailors; Sweden and Norway were next, with 50,915. The United States, just 17 years after the Civil War, had only 25,186 soldiers and 12,230 sailors. 1 page     17.5 x 24.5 cm. Colored plate, good. (7722) $24.00. Navy/Nautical

Uncle Sam's Navy, Historical Fine Art Series, Vol. IV No. 2, April 12, 1898 Philadelphia, PA: Historical Publishing Co. This series has been prepared for the public, eagerly devouring whatever news is published about our Navy.   Photos of Ship Tender Boat Fern, which has been conveying supplies to the starving Cubans. Protected cruisers Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Raleigh, Baltimore and Boston. Battleships Oregon, Massachusetts and Texas.  16 pp. 35 x 28 cm Paper booklet, pages have 6 cm tear on bottom edge. Poor. (5778) $20.00. Navy/Nautical

Uncle Sam's Navy, Historical Fine Art Series, Vol. IV No. 3, April 19, 1898 Philadelphia, PA: Historical Publishing Co. This series has been prepared for the public, eagerly devouring whatever news is published about our Navy.   Photos of funeral of victims of the Maine disaster,  Capt. Sigsbee, former captain of USS Maine; Court of Inquiry in session; Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, consul General of Cuba. Photo of Gen. Blanco y Arenas, Spanish leader in Cuba.  Photos of officers and crew in Maine. 16 pp. 35 x 28 cm. Paper booklet, crease on cover page,  good. (5779) $34.00. Navy/Nautical

Uncle Sam's Navy, Historical Fine Art Series, Vol. IV No. 3, April 26, 1898 Philadelphia, PA: Historical Publishing Co. This series has been prepared for the public, eagerly devouring whatever news is published about our Navy.   Photos of Spanish battleship Pelayo, Spanish cruisers Almirante Oquendo and Viscaya. Photos of crew of cruiser New York, deck crew of Yorktown, ship's company of Maine, and photo of a Minstrel show aboard USS Maine. Photos of gun crews drilling with heavy ordnance, machine and Gatling guns. 16 pp. 35 x 28 cm. Paper booklet, 10 cm. closed tear on cover page,  good. (5780) $30.00. Navy/Nautical.

United States Navy, The ,  pictures by E. Muller, Jr. with a foreword by Rear-Admiral Bradley A. Fiske ©1917 Chicago, IL: Rand McNally & Company. Photos of super dreadnoughts Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, New York, Texas; crew scenes; Marines; swim call; holystoning; Guantanamo drilling; coaling operation; Armored Cruisers Pittsburgh, Pueblo, North Carolina, Montana, San Diego; submarines. 31 x 23 cm. Red cloth on board with tape spine, lettered for library use; Discarded from Concord Free Library, small closed tears on bottom of many pages, with tape repairs. Thus, poor. (4464) $30.00. Navy/Nautical

U.S. Naval Academy Lucky Bag for 1946: A chronicle of the activities and achievements of the Class of 1946 Iselin, Donald Grote, Editor-in-Chief. 1945 Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Academy. This large, handsome book features an eagle with talons extended, flying over a fleet in an embossed, blue and gilt cover design. This class spent only three years at the Academy, graduating in 1945, in time to join the Fleet in World War II. This book features photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt as Commander in Chief, and also Harry Truman as President, since FDR died before this class graduated. Illinois Gov. Daniel Walker was member of this class, as were Rear Admiral Chuck Grojean. Endpapers feature The Laws of the Navy. 599 pp. 28 x 36 cm. Cloth on board with embossed design in blue and gilt; spine gilt faded, very good. Book weighs about 8 lbs. (8070) $80.00. Navy/World War II      

U.S. Navy Regulations, 1865; Regulations for the Government of the United States Navy. [Book belonged to Ens. James H. Bunting, recognized for his action in helping to destroy a Confederate salt work in 1864.] 1865 Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.  Naval Regulations book belonged to  "James. H. Bunting, U.S. Frigate Potomac", who is recognized in history of Civil War for his work in leading a naval party from USS Ethan Allen to destroy a South Carolina salt work. Navy Regulations include Regulation Circular No. 1 signed by Gideon Welles, Civil War Secretary of the Navy, August 1, 1865; Regulation Circular No. 4, by Welles, dated Aug. 22, 1866, detailing books to be carried aboard a cruising vessel by midshipmen. 345 pp. 12.5 x 19 cm. Blue cloth on board, quite worn, front and back outer spine cracked, 1 cm sword, etc. puncture in book penetrates first 120 pages. Poor. (3761) $150.00. Naval/Civil War/History
[Boat crews from U.S.S. Ethan Allan, Acting Master Isaac A. Pennell, landed at Cane Patch, near Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, and destroyed a salt work which Pennell, who led the expedi-tion himself, described as "much more extensive than I expected After mixing most of the 2,000 bushels of salt into the sand of the beach, the Union sailors fired the four salt works as well as some 30 buildings in the surrounding area. The next day, off Wither's Swash, Pennell sent Acting Master William H. Winslow and Acting Ensign James H. Bunting ashore with two boat crews to destroy a smaller salt work.]

Yankee Navy, The, Illustrated by Masson, Tom 1898 New York, NY: Life Publishing Co. History of the United States Navy with engravings and photographs of naval heroes and battles, including the War with Spain. Photos of George Dewey, W.T. Sampson, Richmond Pearson Hobson, and Winfield Scott Schley.  124 pp. 15 x 21.5 cm. Decorated cloth on board, cover lightly soiled, text block detached from spine at pp. 44-45, fair. (3523) $29.00. Navy/History

1 comment:

  1. VADM Kent Carroll (Ret) 2018:

    "180526-N-AT530-0569 NORFOLK (May 26, 2018) Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson shakes hands with retired Vice Adm. Kent Carroll during a memorial ceremony in honor of the USS Scorpion (SSN 589) Sailors who were lost at sea 50 years ago. Carroll was serving in Naples, Italy, and was on the pier to cast off the last line when Scorpion departed Naples, her final port call. The ceremony took was conducted at the Scorpion Memorial at Naval Station Norfolk, and was attended by over 500 family members, friends and Shipmates of the 99 crewmembers lost. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Chris Roys/Released) "