Oceans and Seas

the work of author Michael Krieger

On Patrol: Pt. 13 – Comm Checks and Storm Prep

Posted by on Sep 20, 2019

On Patrol: Pt. 13 – Comm Checks and Storm Prep

In the background are snatches of radio transmissions, some from  central control, others from different ships. Everything seems garbled.

“…to Hong Kong, to Hong Kong…upstairs engine…” A female voice saying, “Three hundred and eighty…” This interspersed with Malay and Chinese transmissions.

Then, “…vessels of the east… radar, coming to ______. Okay? …beach ___, is picking up a pilot from Langkawi… All right, okay, thank you.”

Then over our speaker: “Roger, calling the RSS Unity … Ah, you’re heading toward the west and where are you? Over.”

Part of our response. “This is RSS Unity. My intention is to conduct a comm check. This is Tango Tango. My intention is to conduct a comm check with you. Over.” Then I catch only a snatch of the response from base: “Can I know from you…”

As we continue Southwest, a mood of relaxed watchfulness prevails. Besides Maor Wong, two crewmembers keep watch. The officer of the watch and a sergeant each have responsibility for 180 degrees, from fore to aft, one to the north and the other to the south. A tech reports constantly on radar sightings. Finally there is also the master head’s remotely controlled camera, called an electrical optical device. It appears to be set on infrared, because ships and even small boats stand out on the monitor almost as they would in daylight. This camera is directed not only on the bridge but also by CIC.

“What’s the range of that thing?” I ask Tony Wong, referring to the camera.

“Oh, it can go to the horizon, you know, to eight or nine miles, and of course it can zoom in and out,” he tells me.

Carefully we pass an area south of the Eastern Boarding Ground, where six months earlier a Korean auto carrier filled with Hyundai’s collided with another ship and sank. Some of the crewmembers on the bridge look longingly at the spot, thinking of all those hundreds of Hyundai’s sitting uselessly at the bottom of the Singapore Strait.

Running lights of ferries cross in front and behind us, going between Indonesian islands and Singapore’s Sentosa Ferry Terminal. Someone comes up on the bridge offering green bean soup. There seem to be few takers. Raffles Light flashes brightly off our starboard bow. It marks not only shoals and islands, but also the abrupt course change necessary to enter Main Strait, which in turn, seventeen miles ahead, meets Malacca Strait.

I join my minder, Dave Wong, and another officer for a check topside. On the bow, just forward of the 76mm gun mount, they check other winches and ground tackle. A warm wind blows steadily into our faces. Off to the northwest lighting flashes frequently near the horizon but I hear no thunder. The ship seems to be coasting, gliding through the water, at only six or seven knots. We move toward the stern. The two officers check equipment, mounts, ventilators and engine exhaust blowers, life preservers, antennas, and small-boat lashings. Finally we wind up at the surface-to-air missile battery on the fantail. All seems secure. Lightning flashes more frequently now.

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On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

Hodgepodge Kenis and Sprig leave to go back to work. Kenis appears to be mature and very responsible. Later, I see her manning one of the machine guns on the bridge wing. Spring’s duty station is at the radar repeater on the bridge, where she continually examines and...

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On Patrol: Pt. 10 – Endurance, Tolerance, Patience

Posted by on Aug 30, 2019

On Patrol: Pt. 10 – Endurance, Tolerance, Patience

Only Three Female Sailors

“What about your father? Is he alive?”

“Yeah, he’s around. My dad, until now, still can’t believe what I’m doing. He’s too shocked.”

“Ah. What about being one of the only three women on the ship? Is that good or not so good?”

“It’s good, but… uh… it’s just something very different, we being the minority among the guys. It gives you a very different feeling. But you don’t feel anything bad, because they treat you the same.”

“I would think that with just the three of you, you might get a little bit closer than if there were a lot of of women onboard. With just three of you, you have to depend on each other.”

Sergeant Suganthi

“Yeah. Sometimes we wish that there were more ladies onboard. Actually, there were, there were seven when I came onboard here. Then one by one they decreased and we are left with three.”

“Does it make it more difficult… with three, you know everything about each other. And maybe you don’t get along with one or the other so well? I mean, I’m not saying you don’t get along with one another. I’m just speaking hypothetically. When there are only three, what are the problems you face?”

“As you said, when there’s only three, we have to depend on each other. So at times when we need the support of the other two and they are not there, or when you speak up, you know, they don’t seem to understand, then probably frustration and irritants [occur], because it’s like there’s nobody you can turn to. You can turn to other women, other friends, close friends or yours from other ships, but [if they are not in the navy] they will never understand the life. That’s one thing.”

Personal Life

“What about your friends outside the navy, those that you went to school with? Does this  make you different from them? Do they look at you differently?”

“For one thing, we will just compare the 8-5 job. First of all, the environment is different. They’ve got the freedom. They can do whatever they want. We are restricted in a way. Because we went navy, we’ve got to follow certain rules and regulations. And of course I’ve worked outside before joining the navy. And you know, sometimes, [like] when you are on the way to work, in the bus, you look at the other ladies. It [would be] nice to be like them, dressed up and, you know, how nice.”

Endurance, Tolerance, Patience

“So they are all dressed up and you’ve got your navy uniform on?”

“It’s not even that. When I come to work here, I do my job and I get all sweaty and who cares about makeup or how I look, you know? Whereas, I think back, I used to be so concerned, touching up at 10:00, at 12:00, when I [was working] outside. Furthermore I have learned a lot of endurance in this job, tolerance, patience. You know, I look at them when they complain about working overtime for just five to ten minutes. I do think, ok, at least I wouldn’t be complaining anymore given such situations.”

“Do you still live at home with your mother?”

“Yes, I live with my family.”

“How long does it take you to get to work?”

“If I have to reach here at 7:00, I have to leave my house at about 6:15—forty five minutes.”

“That’s not too bad.”

“Yeah, it’s not too bad, because I live on the west side, and this is also somewhere around there. Luckily for me, traveling is not so bad.”

“Do you have any desire to get an apartment to share with another girl or another woman? Or do you really enjoy staying at home?”

“If by myself, is it? No.”

“No?”

“I think that is one thing about the culture here. Although there are a minority [who], after a certain age, move on to live on their own, most of them live with their families until they get married. As for me, I can’t imagine,” she laughs, “spending everything on me.”

“I think you are smart.”

NEXT >>

More from “On Patrol”

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

Hodgepodge Kenis and Sprig leave to go back to work. Kenis appears to be mature and very responsible. Later, I see her manning one of the machine guns on the bridge wing. Spring’s duty station is at the radar repeater on the bridge, where she continually examines and...

Read More