Allemande to Starboard
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Allemande to Starboard

That Sunday morning started as any workday for me. George was expecting me at work at eight o'clock. He had been the duty officer on Saturday, and he was expecting me to relieve him so that he could spend the remainder of the weekend with his wife and children. I had enjoyed a full Saturday of recreation, along with a pleasant evening at home on Friday, and a party on Saturday night. As a result, I had no objections to spending my Sunday aboard the boat, catching up with my paperwork, and generally getting more familiar with the boat and her crew.

It was a bright morning in 1971. My quarters were a small, pleasant three bedroom house on a small man-made island that had been dredged up from the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or whatever that particular section of silt and mangroves was called. My bicycle was still in the carport, without a lock on it, and I started riding it to the boat. I started out shortly after half past seven, and I quickly made my way to the larger man-made island that contained the bulk of "Navy housing." A left turn took me across the causeway to the main island that had originally been the only island of Key West, Florida.

A right turn on the main drag took me toward downtown, and toward the Navy base. Even at this early hour, I took it slow and easy so as not to work up a sweat. There was very little traffic. As usual, as I passed the corner of Truman Street and Margaret Street, I chuckled at the sign on the Margaret-Truman Laundromat. There were some trees on the city streets, and I found myself veering through their shade, for a bit of relief from the early sun.

The sentry saluted me as I entered the Navy base, and I returned the salute with as much dignity as I could muster, hunched over the handlebars. The whole scene was ludicrous, with me in my wash khaki uniform, with garrison cap, already sweated through from the exercise of the bicycle ride. The Marine sentry looked quite sharp in his creased uniform and fancy insignia, with his formal hat. Once I entered the base there was even less traffic, and the palm trees along the streets made for a more pleasant ride than the streets out in town had provided.

George, bless him, was his usual blustery self. He was large and athletic,and I was skinny and studious. He was a Lieutenant Commander, and I was a mere Lieutenant (Junior Grade). For all his ranting, he was as gentle as a lap dog. We conducted a brief ritual during which I relieved him as the duty officer for the conventional (diesel) submarine, and he left for home.

As duty officer for the boat, as we always referred to it, I was to be responsible for the boat for one day, during which I had minimal work to do. I was just supposed to be there. In theory, the twelve sailors and I could get underway in a few minutes to escape the attacking Japanese Zeros or Cuban Migs. In practice, we were just sleeping off our hangovers from Saturday night.

After I relieved George, I made a little conversation with the duty chief and with the duty section leader. Then I went to the crew's mess and I listened to a few lies about the good times the sailors had enjoyed the night before. Finally, I got around to the serious part of Sunday duty. I went to my "stateroom," a compartment just over six feet long, just over six feet high, and perhaps five feet wide at it's most generous dimension. There I crawled into the topmost of the three bunks, and I went back to sleep.

A short while later, the below-decks watch stander woke me to say that there were some civilians topside, and that I was needed right away. He had a funny look on his face.

When I got to the forward deck topside, I was greeted by 32 people, sixteen couples, all dressed up and ready to . . .