Sea Stories with Carl Snow

Carl Snow is my shipmate, friend, and editor of the ever-popular  Scuttlebutt .

Carl’s bio:

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Carl Snow graduated from the University of Maryland and had a long career in the United States Navy. Carl started out as a Radarman (RD) and advanced to first-class petty officer. He was involved in “ECM” as the Navy called it then, when a new rating was created, Electronic Warfare Technician (EW) and Carl was folded into that, advancing to chief petty officer. Then he applied for a commission as a Warrant Officer and was selected, becoming an Operations Technical Officer. After retirement as a CWO4, he worked as Assistant Editor for The Hook magazine and then as Production Editor for the Topgun Journal at the Navy Fighter Weapons School. When Topgun moved to Fallon, Nevada, Carl remained in San Diego, working as a Technical Writer, researching and writing manufacturing process documents for hi-tech electronics manufacturers.

Carl retired for good in March 2011 and volunteers in the Midway Museum Research Library in San Diego, California.

Carl Snow, Scuttlebutt Editor
Carl Snow in his Midway Uniform.

Carl Snow–How to tell a sea story from a fairy tale

If sea stories are true, they are still sea stories (although not all sea stories have to do with the sea or even ships, e.g., “You won’t believe this, but a bunch of us were sitting in the main bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore when….”)

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but to differentiate between fairy tales and sea stories, fairy tales usually start, “Once upon a time…,” while sea stories often start, “This is no sh**….” Either way, it’s a tip-off that what follows may very well not be true.

On Missing a Meeting.

I once missed a meeting of the Chief Petty Officer’s mess aboard a destroyer. The nomination and election of a Mess Treasurer was one order of business for the meeting. Guess who was nominated, seconded, and unanimously elected to a three-month stint as the Treasurer. I never again missed a mess meeting in my Navy career…

On Eating a Balut:  A balut is a fertilized bird egg (usually a duck) which is incubated for a period of 14 to 21 days depending on the local culture and then boiled or steamed. The contents are eaten directly from the shell.

When I was LPO (lead petty officer) in USS Bainbridge’s (CGN-25) CIC  (combat information center), one of my petty officers bought a balut in Olongapo, brought it back to the ship, and put it into his locker. When the ship was underway a few days later, while the petty officer was on watch, the ship rolled and so did his balut. The stench was overpowering and five people volunteered to relieve the RD2 in CIC so he could come down and clean it up. The smell was there for days.

Drunk or sober, I was never tempted to try a balut.

On Strange Shipboard Smells.

Midway has its share of smells, but nothing like what is described here. Most guests remark at the smell of fuel oil when they come aboard. I was walking up the hangar deck once when a diesel-powered generator started up on the pier. The strong smell of diesel exhaust was exactly like a jet engine running up and I had to stop and look around to reassure myself that it was not 1982. Probably the worst, to me, was the strong rotten-fish smell that came up from the second deck engineering and education offices when the hangar bay flooded due to heavy rain. No idea where the smell came from, but after the spaces were de-watered it went away.

On Chops.

“Chop” is a person’s initials or mark with which they indicate that they have seen the missive and are in accord with it. Otherwise, you’ll get a “see me.”

The tradition of red and green…”:

“On all ships everywhere, the CO writes in red, usually referred to as a “red rocket” or distress signal; the XO writes in green, called a “green flare.” In fleet exercises involving  submarines, the submarine launches a green flare to signal that he has simulated firing a torpedo at one of the ships. Everybody holds their breath until the submarine contacts the ship that was his target.

The worst thing is to get a note or message with the phrase, “see me” written in red or green ink. Either way, it’s NEVER good news.”

The tradition of red and green ink is so ingrained that the person doesn’t need to further identify himself and it serves as a chop.

When I was at Topgun our Program Director was Kay Heatley and she always used a pinkish-purple pen. One day I got a manuscript for an article in the Journal that was marked up with a purple pen. Some of the edits didn’t make sense to me and, knowing that purple ink was Kay, I asked her about the marks. She took one look and said, “Disregard those proof marks, I’ll take care of it.” Later that afternoon, every drawer in the office was opened and every purple pen that was found was confiscated and delivered to Kay’s desk. She ceremoniously dumped them in her trash can and announced that “No one in this office uses a purple pen but me!”


7 thoughts on “Sea Stories with Carl Snow”

  1. […] Carl Snow’s sea story:  I was on a ship (USS Lockwood, FF-1064) when we pulled into port and couldn’t find the quarterdeck bell. The watch was set and one of the cooks brought up the blade from the bread mixer, which was hung in the quarterdeck shack and a large serving spoon from the galley was used to strike the blade. It worked very well until the XO noticed that the “bell sounds different” and wanted to know why. In less than a half-hour, the bell was found and mounted in its proper place. […]


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