Amsterdam – We stopped for just a couple of days in Amsterdam. The ship had to navigate a long canal along which we saw windmills, tulips, the famous dykes. Amsterdam was a beautiful old city, but not particularly clean. The architecture was beautiful. I went with a friend, Charlie (but I called him “Chuck”) who had a passion for pipe organs. We went to several gorgeous churches to see huge old pipe organs, and we were even able to attend a concert.
It was here, in the famous red light district, where a few friends and I sat in a bar within sight of the Heineken brewery and drank Heinie on tap and watched as groups of tourists with children in tow wandered through the streets looking at the scantily dressed women in the windows of the buildings along the streets.
It was also here that our Chief Petty Officer’s mess was invited to the CPO mess of the Royal Dutch Navy for dinner. They served us the most delicious curried chicken dinner I have ever tasted, either before or after.
Oslo, Norway – Another picturesque city and country. We arrived during the summer solstice, a time when the few weeks of really good weather was being enjoyed by the locals. The buildings were very colorful because, it was explained to us, so much of the year was snowbound and dreary. It was interesting, to say the least, to pass by the University on our way into the city and see the female students sunbathing on campus wearing nothing, or next to nothing. I also went with friends to a Viking museum which had a Viking village that we could walk through and the real Kon Tiki
On our way from Oslo, we journeyed into the Baltic sea where we saw several Soviet naval ships as well as being flown over by many Soviet aircraft.
Kiel, Germany – Kiel was an interesting city because it was brand new. It had been totally destroyed in WWII, so everything had been rebuilt. It was a beautiful, clean city. The entire city participated in a contest to see who took the best care of their lawns and gardens. The winner each year is reimbursed for the cost of maintaining their property.
Kiel was also near the end of our deployment, so I was THRILLED to stumble upon a real McDonald’s restaurant! One meal of a quarter pounder, fries, and a coke and I was ready to go home!! Not until we had tried some wiener schnitzel, of course!
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – more often than not we merely sailed past St. Thomas on our way to the sonar testing facility at “Tongue of the Ocean”, an area not far from the island. On one trip we did stop for a port visit. It was just like you see in all the TV adds for cruises. I had duty the day we were there, but this time I did Shore patrol, so at least I got to go ashore and drive around, look at the sights and eat some of the local foods.
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – I experienced on refresher training (RefTra) exercise while on the Moose. We spent a little over a week in Cuba trying to pass all the tests they throw at us, which we did. While there I got to sit in an open air theater to watch movies at night, and eat pizza and drink beer at the exchange. They also had a nice restaurant that served really good steaks, so naturally we hit that up a couple of times. Of course, while we were in Cuba we had to get as close to the heavily guarded fences separating the Navy base from communist Cuba.
Rota, Spain – When I first got orders to the Moose, it was already just wrapping up a Med Cruise. Still, the XO had me sent over to meet them in Rota. I got there two weeks before the ship arrived, so for two weeks I would muster, then have the rest of the day to myself. After wandering around the small town of Rota, I spent most of my time on base. My routine was to, after muster, go to the exchange and buy a paperback novel and a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry. For the rest of the day I would drink Harvey’s over ice, and read the book. After dinner at a base restaurant I’d take in whatever the evening movie was. The next day was generally a repeat of the one before… I definitely DO like my Harvey’s, ya know!!! Once the ship arrived, I reported aboard and rode it back to Charleston, SC. They had to fly another chief home so I would have a bunk, but no lockers. I had to live out of my seabag for the two weeks it took to get back home again. Go figure.
Additional Highlights – Sailing past the white cliffs of Dover (they really are white). Crossing the equator and going through the “shellback” initiation on the Big E. Watching flight ops on the carrier from the top of the “island” as we sailed across the Pacific Ocean. Manually turning our ECM antenna so that we could pass the Electronic Warfare test range as we approached Subic Bay. (Yep, that would be cheating!) Kayaking down the Avon river in Christchurch. Flying into Auckland, New Zealand on the way home from the Ice because Christchurch was fogged in. That was a particularly interesting event. The plane was coming in for a landing in Christchurch in the fog. Looking out the window I couldn’t see anything but fog until all of a sudden we broke through and I was staring at the fast, and close, approach of concrete runway. At the same time the plane accelerated and began a steep climb, after which we were notified of a change in plans, and off to Auckland we went. When we landed in Auckland in the middle of the night, the New Zealand Air Force personnel greeted us with hot breakfast. Eggs cooked in mutton fat! Oh… My… GOD!!! Eggs that smelled and tasted like old gym socks that hadn’t been washed in weeks!! I guess it’s the thought that counted. And last, but certainly NOT least, being chased, in a bar in Subic City, by a hostess brandishing a “butterfly” knife, because she thought I was fighting with her “boyfriend”, who was actually a shipmate of mine. We were horsing around like we did on the ship, which basically involved punching each other in the sternum when we thought the other didn’t expect it. Unfortunately, this girl saw me hit him, but didn’t see him hit me, so the next thing I know he was jumping in between me and this wild woman who was brandishing a very sharp looking knife and heading straight for me!! Ah, good times, good times!