The Chain Locker Detail
by SNBM A. Wes “Bull” Durham (October 1967 to October 1968)
Like most of you who are older by some 40 years or more, (can that be right?), I have many memories of those days on the Southwind as a seaman on the deck force. Some of you share these memories with me. Little did we realize or care in those days that we would be the last of an era that is gone with the winds so to speak. I heard, as many of you did, the Commander of the Charleston Coast Guard Station say at our reunion, ―A 30 day deployment at sea is a long one now days,‖ and
Cruises of the length we were out on in those days are nonexistent now.‖
I reported on board the Southwind right out of boot camp in October 1967. I was a 19 year old from Georgia, as green to Sea duty as they get. Most of the deck crew had reported onboard about a year earlier at about the same time and they all knew each other pretty well. Further, many were Outer Bankers and were much at home on a ship. Needless to say, I was told all the standard boot initiation stuff like: ―get a can of steam from the Galley‖, or ―A sky hook from the boson locker.‖ All the standard boot tricks were attempted on me mostly in good spirit. There were not many boots reporting on that year, so a few in my boot camp company and I, as I recall, got a real work out. I learned a lot fast and some realized pay back can be hell for you as well. Most of it was good fun. After a short while I felt like I was part of the crew and my memories of those days are good. We had our fun; we stuck together and on shore heaven help the outsider who messed around with the crew.
I think the first time we dropped anchor may have been stateside before we departed in 1967, but the memory of where is gone. I was told along with another boot that the chain locker detail was the responsibility that fell on the boots. I had no idea what the chain locker detail meant but I had been acquainted with the location of the chain locker. As you may recall there were two chain lockers: a Port and a Starboard. They were forward about the 02 deck and aft of the forward winches. A pipe about 20 inches in diameter, (all this is as I recall and any corrections for the record are welcome), led down from the main deck aft of the winch into a steel box or compartment (the chain locker). As I recall the chain lockers were about 8‘ by 8‘ by 8‘ or something like that definitely not a large space to be in with a lot of large anchor chain. Keep in mind here I was 6‘ 4‖ and about 195 pounds which made the chain locker seem even smaller to me. At the top of one of the chain locker bulkheads was a small hatch barely large enough for me to squeeze through into the locker. In order to get into the locker you had to lift a leg through the hatch, stick your head through the hatch, and then pull your body and the other leg into the locker with your arms. A large steel hook with a wood handle hung on the bulkhead close by the hatch. The hook was the kind I had seen used to move large bundles of cotton around by hooking the cotton bale and lifting the hook. In this case the hook was used to fake the chain down when it came in from above so it would not bunch up when the anchor was dropped. When the anchor was dropped hundreds of feet of the large anchor chain ripped out of the chain locker fast and free in seconds. The noise it made, even some distance away, sounded like a train wreck. If a person was unfortunate enough to be inside the locker when the anchor was dropped your funeral service would only be a memorial service with no body as your remaining small pieces would be sprayed out the hawse pipe and devoured by the fish leaving nothing for the bereaved family and friends to bury.
Although I cannot remember which one of the Boson Mates it was, I remember asking the one who indoctrinated me what it was I was going to do at the chain locker. He explained to me that I would go inside the chain locker and fake the chain out as the chain came down the hawse pipe from the