Water Skiing with
Lizards & Snakes at Olongopo Beach.....
Or Trolling for Tuna with live bait.
By: Dave Beekman, FT-3 USS Terrell County LST 1157, 1958 - 1960
Now living in San Diego Ca
Background Picture this .. (then throw the camera away )
We 'Navy guys' had these 'God Awful' dark blue wool 'regulation' bathing suits... Sailors on 'Liberty' were forbidden to wear anything else..... (no wonder the girls would not be 'seen dead' with us...) Used to go to Mission Beach Plunge.... Under roller Coaster..... Roller coaster is still there but it scares the 'B'Jesus' out of me so I never went on it... Reminds me of a Sea story... Got a minute? Ok....
Here goes.... My old Navy Days as I remember the good times in Subic Bay
Seems I had always wanted to learn to water ski but growing up in Tucson 50,000 miles from the nearest body of water, never had the opportunity. (Now that has all changed ) For a while my ship was stationed in Subic Bay Philippines (Olongopo was nearest city..) to get things fixed we sailors were too lazy or too dumb to fix . Civilians kind of took over when we got stumped trying to fix a cannon or got too big a hole in the ship to fix it with a piece of plywood So, we had time on our hands .
Idle time is the downfall of most sailors being that Olongopo was so close but lucky for me one of the ships officers had come from an upper class family that had access to speed boats, skis and water on summer vacations and was eager to find some boat people that would drive the Captains Gig while he water skied . He had even brought his own water skies and towrope
(Officers Quarters has a lot more room for stuff like that than Enlisted 3x 1 x 1 lockers.)
Rule #1. If it dont fit in your locker you cant keep it (That probably explains why Enlisted men had to keep girl in Sea bag for 6 entire months deployment )
I have no idea how the Jr. Officer, a Lieutenant Junior Grade LTJG, with water skis got access to the Captains Gig (personal boat) but I was not going to ask any questions when he was looking for volunteers.
(Later on I learned the Navy Motto:.. keep your mouth shut and dont volunteer for anything.)
So off we went, me driving and another Enlisted guy to keep the diesel engine running at full speed . These Captain Gigs dont go very fast as they push a lot of water and create a huge rooster tail of water behind going only about 25 30 MPH..
It was this rooster tail that was to be my downfall (literally) when the Jr. Officer got tired and it was his turn to drive and my turn to ski Ill have to say it for this guy (the LT JG) he was fair about the whole thing letting us Enlisted guys take turns at killing ourselves
Down until now the matter of water safety had not concerned me as it was the LTJG that was at risk behind the boat, but I did think it a little comical the way his Mae West* life jacket seemed to weight him when he was trying to get up on two skiis with our diesel engine screaming as fast as it could go.
I did not give much thought either to the report that the deadly water snake, the Habu, had been sighted in Subic Bay and to look out while swimming as the byte was deadly. (almost as deadly as the girls in Olongopo but that is another story )
To make matters just a little more frightening, several large lizards (about 3-4 feet long 50-60 pounds) were sunning on the beach where we would land when finished skiing.
Later we found out these Komodo Dragons had no teeth so we had really nothing to fear . (Oh Yeah ?)
Well, I strapped on my Mae West (life jacket please !) and proceeded into the water, all the time watchful of lizards and snakes, to put on my skis. You do this while floating in a sitting position Meanwhile the Captains Gig idled about 25 yards away with the LTJG at the wheel wearing a sardonic smile on his face
Thumbs Up was the agreed to sign the skier gave to give it the gas and pull him out of the water . And pull they did and fall on my face I did . And got a dose of seawater I will never forget, as I did not have sense enough to let go of the towrope handle
Subic Bay was clean by the standards of Hong Kong bay so I did not even think of having my stomach pumped .
We tried this several times to no avail I just could not get up with the Mae West on (maybe the LTJG had a secret about how to do it but he was not sharing it with me)
Finally I just gave up on Mae West and decided to ski without a life jacket . (I had just bought life insurance from some shyster that visited the ship so whats the problem )
Hey, Thats better Got up on two skis first try Hey! This is great It feels like riding on top of the world; on 2 skis In fact, it was like riding on top of the world because the rooster tail now looking a lot taller than it had while I was driving, was right under me and so tall, about 3 feet, that if I fell off I would surly drown . Remember we are out in Subic bay, water about 75-100 feet deep, ocean swells coming in, slight chop No life jacket Yikes!
Later when I had had enough, I gave the universal finger across the throat sign to Cut the Motor the LTJG brought me near the beach (where the lizards and snakes & girls from Olongopo were) to make my landing I guess everything would have been ok but for I hit the sand going a little too fast after I let go the tow rope and almost tore a hole in that beautiful Navy issue regulation bathing suit Later the LTJG explained the sardonic look he had while pulling me along . Seems he had learned to troll for shark on those summer vacations
And thats the truth as I remember it....
* Footnote Mae West had been a Hollywood movie star with an ample amount of shall we say Bosom (as my grandmother used to say in polite company..) and when a sailor donned his May West lifejacket, it looked like he had an ample amount of bosom as well (We didnt have girl sailors aboard ship in those days so we could only dream about Mae West )