The Jackstaff

I’m caring for my sister, who is recovering from an operation. So, it’s not that I don’t have stuff to write. I actually don’t have time to write.

Over/under on how long before I smother her will a pillow?


From the comments in the post on SWOGUN.

E:  I believe our humble host was on a certain ship one day when said certain ship hit a certain building, and it was definitely not in simulations. My only question is: was he on the bridge or in the engine room????


X:I was on the hatch cover on the main deck. If you recall, I was struck in the foot when the jackstaff snapped off and flew back toward us.


URR:Okay humble host. Out with it. Tell the story!!!


You may recall this post where we discussed the 65’ Army T-Boat, and my adventures aboard her as part of the Sea Explorers.

When Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was established in 1942, in addition to a conventional airfield with runways, a short distance south an air station for seaplanes was also established. Known colloquially as The Seaplane Base, it now serves mostly for base housing and the base exchange and commissary. But it originally had a huge tarmac, boat ramps for seaplanes to enter and exist the waters of Crescent Harbor, and hangars for maintenance.

In addition to strictly aviation facilities, a large number of small craft were required to support the seaplanes. And accordingly, a marina was build on the Seaplane Base to house and support them. After the Navy ceased seaplane operations, the marina was opened to use by rental small boats available from Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), and slips leased to various private boats of service members and retirees in the area. In addition, spaces were made available for the Sea Scouts, and a slip in which to moor our ship.


On the far right hand side of the marina, there was a very small slip, awkward and barely large enough for our vessel.

With only a single screw, and with significant sail area forward, the SES Whidby required a deft hand at the throttle and wheel to maneuver in tight spaces. And normally, our Skipper, Roger, had just that hand.

I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics of just when the incident occurred. Mushdogs or Esli may be able to recall.  If memory serves, we were returning from a long weekend competition with other Sea Scout boats, a regatta. Not an actual regatta in terms of racing, but with various nautical tasks and events, such as marlinspike seamanship, close order drill, signaling, navigation skills, and such.

And so it was upon our return, we were faced with poor weather, and unusually high tide, and a wind setting us toward the slip (and the overhanging office attached thereto). Ordinarily, the technique would be to get the bow fairly close to the floating dock and put a man over. A spring line would then be tied off to allow the ship to leverage herself in under power.

But this time, the combined wind and high tide meant Roger gooned it. The jackstaff, a small flag pole on the very stem of the ship, was normally low enough to clear under the overhand. But the high tide today meant the jackstaff actually struck the overhang, bent back as far as its tensile strength would allow, and then snapped.

If memory serves, I was serving as the ship’s Bo’sun at the time, and was supervising the linehandlers. As such, I was standing on the hatchcover just forward of the bridge. And said jackstaff came aft at a goodly velocity. And struck me in my foot. Fortunately, while painful, no real harm was done, to me at least. Some clapboard  siding of the building was cracked. And of course, the jackstaff would need to be repaired.

In fact, if you look very closely at the picture above, just forward of the anchor davit, you’ll spot the repaired jackstaff. And you’ll note it is still very slightly bent aft.

Eventually the old marina was torn down, and replaced with a modern marina for private craft.