Saturday, January 10, 2015

Corpsman Chronicles I: Sea Chanteys, 70's Style

What's the difference between a fairy tale and a sea-story? A fairy tale begins, "Once upon a time..." A sea story begins, "This is no shit!"

I try to be careful to change names, but to the best of my recollection the events and locations are substantially correct. Of course I can only describe events from my perspective, so there's that. Readers who were present will doubtless have different recollections of any particular event. This is what it was like to serve in my tiny slice of the U.S. Navy between the late 1970's and early 1990's. It really was an adventure.


This is no shit!
A long time ago in an ocean far, far away.

"No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned... a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company." Samuel Johnson


In my time sea duty wasn't that bad at all, at least for me. The food was never bad (except for box lunches), and for the most part my shipmates were great folks. I never worried much about drowning, for various reasons.

Sea duty was a great paradox though. The work was great. As a corpsman I learned and practiced clinical and emergency medicine at a very high level. On the roof I was in the heart of the greatest concentration of tactical warplanes on earth. It was heady and exciting and risky. Flying from the boat in helos and tactical jets was amazing. You can do a lot of fun and exciting stuff on the beach, but it all pales in comparison to being at sea.

On the other hand, the boat is crowded, smelly, uncomfortable, confining. Unless you’re flying, the boat is your world. You’re there and there you stay until the boat visits a port or returns home.

There are things you can do to decompress and escape. Reading works well, and I read a lot. Listening to music was another tactic. You could get lost in music, at least for a few moments or minutes, and it was a great escape. I surprised myself by embracing non-CW music. The post-punk stuff had a different kind of twang and some of it I liked very much.

When I first went to sea, the boom box craze was just beginning.

As I began my first cruise supply had ordered hundreds of the things.

And sold them in the ship’s store.
A Chief with a boom box? Yeah, right.

This was before MTV. For the most part, music came without moving pictures. At sea we listened to boom boxes. On the beach we could catch the Midnight Special. It was all cool. Some folks think ‘70’s and ‘80’s music sucked. I’m not one of them.

Think I'll occasionally post up some music vids from BITD.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Still love Stevie Nicks, though the current favorite is

  2. Ah, Blunt. Like that very much. This too... :)

  3. Yeah, had my boom box on the Kun also.

    During my Joint tour, I spent a bit of time on Blue Ridge and Coronado. One exercise was a month long. You're right, I felt like I'd been in jail when we finally docked at Agana.

    On a separate note, I like the Sans Serif font you're using on your site, now. Makes the text much easier to read, IMHO.

  4. Thanks Juvat! That's a detail I'd completely overlooked.

  5. I had forgotten the boom box craze. I too like most of the music of the 70s and 80s.

  6. The large 70s and 80s era boom boxes can fetch a premium price if in good condition. Seen a few sell for $900 on eBay. Something to look for at garage sale, etc.

  7. My introduction to a number of varieties of music that I had not previously encountered came about, largely, courtesy of boom box wars in a 200 man berthing compartment. We eventually had to make headphones mandatory (those seem to be making a come back, as well). The 70s and 80s, a very odd time.


    1. 200 man! High rent district. I agree, odd times. But good times too.