ADVENTURES OF THE ADVENTURERS
Although working for ONI was, on occasion, seen as an adventure in itself, certain individuals apparently needed that extra adrenalin rush provided by doing something "slightly out of the ordinary", either whilst on off-time, before joining the company, or after leaving. Such as:
THE GREAT ATLANTIC CROSSING
jACK LANE, bOB MOLLOY, JERRY NAYLOR
Text & photos by Jack & Tina Lane, and Bob Molloy
ONI personnel Jack Lane, Jerry Naylor, and Bob Molloy departed Tenerife, Canary Islands, in February 1972, bound for the Caribbean in an ocean-going Catamaran. Jack had purchased the vessel - built in 1969, and named Articus - in Hamble, Southampton, UK, sometime earlier, then he and his wife, Tina, along with their daughter, Donna, spent a couple of months sailing it down to Las Palmas.
Great Atlantic Adventure itself actually began to evolve sometime during
ONI Project 462, West Africa, of which Jack was Party Chief. Probably, in some
bar somewhere, Jack casually came up with
the suggestion (as you do, especially when in a bar!) that maybe he should
sail across the Atlantic.... Eventually, Bob and Jerry seemed to
think it a good idea, so, after making the necessary arrangements, they all
departed for Las Palmas on offtime. The vessel, along with Tina
and Donna, was being watched
over by ex-Harbourmaster, Gabino. He
helped Tina with finding parts and tradesmen for the necessary repairs,
maintenance, and drydocking, since she was taking care of the boat in Jack's
absence. The Articus
was actually moored next to his boat. Each
day he would row them ashore and they would make their way to Tafira Alta, where
Donna attended the
Jack relates the story.
handing over my crew in West Africa to Dave Taylor (nicking a couple of the better
operators, I might add), Bob, Jerry, myself flew over to Las Palmas on
the Zapatta DC7 crew-change charter flight on February 1st. Here, after a
spell in drydock to check things over, we loaded the boat with
food, water & beer. No GPS back then, but we did have on board a sextant -
circa 1860 - and, somewhat mysteriously, an ONI SSB radio magically appeared.
(You were taking it back to NOLA for repair, right, Jack?) In actual fact, I
had arranged to use the radio for communications with the
we were totally broke at the time of departure we decided to skip the Windward
& Leeward islands and head straight for
After Tina and our daughter departed for the States we set sail, positioning ourselves in Tenerife. Here we hung around for a couple of days, waiting for a serious weather front to pass through before departure on February 26th. But we were later to discover the front had stalled about 300 miles west of the Canaries, therefore, we sailed right into it on the second day! We were in storm conditions for around three days, but it wasn't too bad. And anyway it was pushing us along at a fairly good lick, the wind blowing west, which was exactly where we wanted to go! During this time, I was actually laid low with a virus, so Bob stood my watch as well as his own. The rest of the trip was, as they say, fairly routine, and we made good time. As a crew, naturally we all took turns with the cooking and other tasks. Supplies were supplemented by fresh fish, and they certainly don't come any fresher.
After a total of twenty days at sea we arrived off of San Juan on March 18th, and anchored for the night, sailing into harbor the next morning.
We stayed in San Juan a few days, and Tina flew down from New Orleans to join us. We then backtracked, exploring the Caribbean for a time: British & American Virgin Islands, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, before heading toward the States and up to New Orleans.
We sailed through the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterways and into Lake Ponchartrain, where we waited at the Coast Guard station for Customs and Immigration personnel to come from the airport to clear the vessel and her passengers. After this the boat was docked in Lafitte, Louisiana, for a couple of years, until we sold it to someone with the US Coast Guard, in Corpus Christi, Texas."
And from the Crosstalk of October 1972 came a report of:
The Persian Gulf Voyage
Gordon Owen, Don Watson
After hearing of the Lane-Molloy-Naylor Atlantic expedition, Captain Gordon Owen and Midshipman Don Watson organized their own voyage, via the SV KON CLIENT, to verify the ancient belief that the Persian Gulf lies some 420 miles south of the Caspian Sea. The trip was aborted, however, after venturing 147 yards offshore when Midshipman Watson discovered that the date nuts, the only staple for the trip, had fallen through the net forming-the bottom of the raft.
Obviously a bit of a damp squib, that one, (or perhaps soggy nuts). Not so the:
1800 mile FLOAT Down the Mississippi
Don & Jeanne Webb, Jack Dyer
Text & photos by Don Webb and the Burlington (Ohio) Hawkeye
By 1972 Don Webb had worked two years for ONI in the Middle East without a vacation, so when it came time to take a break, he wanted exactly the opposite of what he had been exposed to for those past two years. He chose the scenery through the middle of the United States, via the waters of the Mississippi river.
The trip was born out of Webb’s idea to just drink beer and take life easy for the summer, though this was to be no normal boat trip.
Don, along with newly-wed Jack Dyer, decided the only way to take a three month vacation without having Ray Landry trying to talk them into getting back on a boat was to stay on a boat. So they decided to build their own. Don and Jack (both ONI Mobile operators) conceived the idea while finishing up a job in Ethiopia.
On May 12 1972, they, along with Jannean Alexander, and Jack’s wife, Carol, left New Orleans, heading for Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a rented trailer full of bits and pieces in tow. On arrival they purchased more bits and pieces, including lumber, and in just nine days built their vessel in a Minneapolis lumber yard, right on the banks of the Mississippi.
The result was a raft made of 2 X 4's with 1" planking, using fifteen oil drums for floatation, and powered by a 25 horsepower outboard motor. But as Don said, "Most of the time we just drifted on the current. The motor was only used to get out of the way of other barges and large boats." Added features for modern living included a sun deck, pressurized fresh water system replenished by rain off of the roof, Head, and cooking facilities. The bungs on the oil drums were placed for easy access, so as to be able to determine how fast the raft was sinking!
The christening ceremonies for the `Miss Sip’ were conducted in the old tradition, champagne being replaced with a bottle of beer donated for the occasion by the Potosi Brewery. The brewery also presented the voyagers with a bag of barley malt, which was forgotten until the following morning when the crew awoke to the wing-beat of 50-75 ducks that had discovered the bag left outside.
The trip began from Minneapolis on May 24th, the start of an 1800 mile float down to New Orleans, and they travelled the 450 miles to Burlington in 25 days.
The Dyers, who hadn’t had chance to be alone since their recent marriage in Scotland, got off at Dubuque, Iowa, and rejoined again at St Louis, Missouri. (I can see the logic in that!) Webb’s sister boarded at Rock Island, but departed downriver at Fort Madison, then flew back to her job in Houston, Texas. So Jannean and the bearded Don manned `Miss Sip’ alone on the run down to St Louis.
The trip was intended more as a leisure cruise than as a challenge for Don, who had mapped out several stops along the river where he’d arranged for cash to be mailed from home. But although Don did just wish to take life easy, he had an incentive to reach St Louis in something of a hurry. Being a bit of a promoter, Don had written to Budweiser Breweries in St Louis to outline their proposed voyage. And despite being advised that Bud’s promotion gimmicks did not include sponsoring such trips, the brewers did offer to supply all the beer needed for the remainder of the journey to New Orleans. (Knowing Don, that would have been quite a lot! It was. Seventy four cases, in fact.)
During the day, `Miss Sip’ would drift on the current, the motor only being used for maneuvering, and getting out of the shipping lane at night. The width of the river varied from about 300 yards at Minneapolis to 3 miles at Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio flows into the Mississippi.
And so they brought the "Miss Sip" into New Orleans on July 30th, sixty-seven days after leaving Minneapolis.
The trip was climaxed with a forty-five minute "welcoming" by the fireboat "Deluge" as the "Miss Sip" tied up adjacent to Jackson Square in New Orleans' French Quarter. The raft was subsequently motored another 100 miles (making the total 1900) through Lake Pontchartrain, Bayou Respond Pas, to Blind River, where it served as a fishing and hunting camp. It was destroyed by Hurricane Fredrick in 1979.
In the way of vital statistics, average floating speeds were 2.7 knots from Minneapolis to St. Louis, and 4.3 knots from St. Louis to New Orleans. The crew negotiated their way through 30 sets of locks, 6 drawbridges, 3 breweries and 74 cases of beer, not necessarily in that order. The trip was covered by the press from five newspapers, and Don was interviewed on television in Baton Rouge.
The vessel travelled through ten States: Minnesota; Wisconsin; Iowa; Illinois; Missouri; Kentucky; Tennessee; Arkansas; Mississippi, and on to Louisiana.
Forty-two people spent at least one night on board at one time or another, in one place or another (they did not travel at night). One guy and his girlfriend flew in from Greenville in a Piper Cub, landing on a sandbar, just to pay them a visit. Tony Wells, another ONIer, went aboard for the last leg from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.
Mike Sutton used to work in Purchasing & Parts - pretty mundane I would have thought - so I suppose the following could be deemed an Adventure of sorts
THE GREAT HYDRAULIC ANTENNA MAST PROJECT
Well, I was in the purchasing and the parts department, so don't quite have the same kind of great tales that some of the old field hands could tell. But... In the late '70s I bought this hydraulic antenna mast, mounted on trailer, for testing new systems. Maybe some of you got to use it. It was what you might call a "one off design" to our specifications. The suits and the gray hairs decided that I must know as much as anyone else about how the contraption worked because I had helped hammer out the terms of the purchase. So they told me to fly to Oregon, rent a truck and make sure it worked. Then tow it home behind the truck some 2700 miles. Road trip!! This was gonna be cool.
I flew up there, got in the truck and drove out to the corporate headquarters of the manufacturer. I was amazed to discover that it was a double wide trailer with one end cut out for a garage door (see attached picture), sitting in a big field about a mile outside of this little town. There was a trailer frame, big piles of scrap iron and dozens of machined aluminum parts scattered about the site. If I hadn't seen the blueprints I would never have guessed what the finished product would look like. Inside the building was a mill, bandsaw, and drill press. The welding machine was on the back of a pick up / wrecker truck which also doubled as the gantry for picking up the heavy stuff. Not nearly enough of the various parts had been assembled into anything big enough to require the use of the gantry.
I told the owner, designer, machinist, and only employee, that I had expected it to be ready to go. He said he was a little behind and I should come back tomorrow. The next morning when I returned little or no discernible progress had been made. He suggested that if I was in a hurry, I could help by grinding, sanding & painting some welds on the trailer while he continued to work on the mast. I thought why not, I am getting paid for this. The trailer had already been painted a light "ONI" blue that he had picked off of our letterhead. The trouble was that he had white paint and he had blue paint. And we spent the better part of the next hour mixing just the right shade of "ONI" blue for me to use. He kept saying that anything he did, he did to the very best he could. And in truth he did. He worked each part like a Zen master but that takes time, lots of time. So for one whole day I ground and sanded and painted. And he machined a couple of aluminum o-rings from bar stock. I had to admit, he did a great job and I really admired the way this one guy was creating this thing by hand way out in the middle of nowhere. But I was supposed to back in NOLA in a week and I could see this was a long way from being done.
I called the office and they told me to hang out for a few days, relax and see how it went. You have got to love a company that tells you to relax and see how it goes. Now I might be wrong, but I think it was Tom Mestayer and Louie Conner who tried to teach me just how far you could stretch the per diem in those days. Sleep in the truck, heat canned soup on the engine, fill your ice chest up at motels etc.
In 5 days I put about a thousand miles on the truck. I went to Vancouver and Astoria on the coast. The best was the Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood. I had been driving the Columbia River Gorge taking in the scenery and someone told me to have lunch on top of MT. Hood. There were plenty of signs and off I went. The road went up and up. After a while the old U-Haul Ford F250 began to strain and I kept down shifting. Soon there started to be snow in the hollows and when I got to the top there were huge snowdrifts & people in like ski suits. I didn't have a coat or even long pants. I was freezing to death in July. They stared at me and I stared at them. I felt like I had landed on an alien planet. The waiter sat me in a corner where no one could see me and the lunch there cost me a whole day’s per diem.
Anyway about a week later, they told me to come home. The trailer was still slowly taking shape in the field and it was shipped to the office about three months later. As I recall it worked pretty well. But my first wife never understood what the pictures of waterfalls and West Coast beaches had to do with antennas. I guess she was not the only ONI wife to have trouble understanding what we had to do to provide for them.
PS I have
also included a picture representative of the general quality of boats I saw
in the 70's. I don't really know where this picture came from. Might have been
from one of the equipment change outs. Maybe someone else may recognize it.
So what did y'all do? Let's be hearing about it.