It was 50 years ago Tuesday night that I honored a U.S. Navy tradition of writing the mid-watch log for my ship, the USS Cavalier (APA 37). I requested to be assigned the midnight to 4 a.m. watch as officer of the deck (OOD) on my ship, which was tied to a pier in San Diego.
It is a longstanding tradition in the Navy that the first log of the new year is written in verse. Whoever writes that log is also bound by Navy regulations to enter in the information that is customarily required of any watch, such as which mooring lines are out, ships present, sources of electric power, steam and water, and more.
While at sea, the budding poet must also enter such factors as the ships course and speed, condition of readiness and even the ships mission. If there are any special requests of the captain, that, too, would be a part of the log.
In addition to writing the log, the author, generally a junior officer, tried to pay attention to those attributes that make a piece poetic, such as meter and rhyme. Ive never been a fan of free or blank verse.
I chose to write my log based on Paul Reveres Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
It started like this, Listen my shipmates and you shall hear/ the midnight log of the Cavalier / Moored starboard side to Pier Number Three/ Standard mooring lines rigged with a boatswains glee.
OK, I know it was no Robert Frost or Maya Angelou. In reality it was more like Robert Services The Cremation of Sam McGee There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.
I like poetry with rhythm sounding like the little four-cylinder engine in my 46 jeep climbing a hill.
According to my copy of the Navys All Hands Magazine, of the 14 poems published in 1964, the top three were written by officers of the deck on ships not moving like mine, in port. I cant imagine trying to write the log in verse on a ship underway at sea.
For my efforts I got an honorable mention, my log was published in the Navys magazine, and I earned a well done memo from the ranking admiral in San Diego.
So Ill close with the words I wrote a half-century ago: The aim of this log, if it isnt too clear, is to wish all our shipmates a Happy New Year.
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.