by RM2 Bill Seibt (October 1968 to June 1969)
I and ET2 Lionel Booker had been stationed on the CGC Westwind together for Deep Freeze 68 to Antarctica (9 month cruise) and then Arctic East to Greenland for several months. A few weeks after our return to the CG Yard at Baltimore we heard the CGC Southwind needed a Radioman and an Electronics Technician for their next cruise which was scheduled to circumnavigate the world.
Actually, I was standing the Quarterdeck Watch when the Comms Officer from the Southwind was visiting with ours and I overheard their need for an RM. Being single, under 21 and stationed on a ship in the yards, I immediately volunteered to go.
Lionel was on leave in Ohio and I wanted to visit some friends in Philadelphia in a week, so it was arranged that he and I would fly out of BWI and meet the ship at Rodman Naval Base in the Panama Canal.
We met up when he returned from leave and caught a flight to Miami and then transferred to some South American airline and flew all over Central America, landing at the Panama Canal around midnight. We were wearing our wool dress blues because that was the required travel uniform at the time and getting off the plane in that heat and humidity even at midnight made us wish we could have worn civilian clothes. Lightweight civilian clothes.
Our next discovery, evidenced by really big fires in the distance and extremely well armed military personnel at the airport was that there was a coup d‘état in progress.
Our third discovery was that the airlines had lost our seabags somewhere in one the many Central American stops we had made enroute.
Our fourth discovery was that it was going to cost fifty 1968 dollars for a cab to take us to the Navy station. Enroute we were stopped twice by military jeeps with .50 cal machine guns mounted in the back and questioned about our being in the middle of a jungle road at 0200.
At the Navy station the OOD first informed us that an order had gone out that no personnel were to arrive utilizing the civilian airport. He also advised us he did not have the Southwind on his roster of ships transiting the Canal.
The Navy quartered us in an open bay barracks with the old big veranda and giant screened windows. For the next few days we just lived waiting for the club to open up so we could get into an air conditioned space, at least for a few hours.
After several days of this the Southwind did indeed arrive and we reported aboard. Three days later we departed but just before we pulled in the brow a QM from the Navy OOD office showed up with our seabags, having worked with the airline to track them down. Man w were we glad to see them and get some clean skivvies!
After leaving the Canal we were underway for approximately one month and then arrived at Wellington, N.Z. I had gotten settled into Operations Berthing, in the aft end of the ship, below the Engineers Berthing area, and was standing the Radio Watch with a partner. Having had some sea