Kawishiwi Memories
by Lary Harris, Wilderville, Oregon

20 November, 2003
I still remember my first night on the Kawishiwi - she was in Subic Bay, having just returned from several weeks of hard work at sea.  By the time I got off the bus from Clark AFB and found the ship it was about 2000.  There was hardly a soul aboard except the duty section (Duh!).  The POOW showed me to my stateroom and pointed towards the wardroom where there was a plate of cold cuts and some bug juice.  The only other officer aboard was the CDO - Lt. Lamar, who had just had a couple of  wisdom  teeth removed, and was puffed up like a chipmunk and moaning quietly in a corner of the wardroom.  Not much of a welcoming committee.  I went back to my stateroom which had been left in some disarray by my predecessor.  There were huge piles of books, manuals, blue prints and reports on every horizontal surface.  It took me several minutes just to clear off a chair and bunk.  The place was filthy, the food was bad, the CDO surly and there was rust and oil everywhere.  This was the worst night of my life and I had just sat down to write my parents and tell them how much the Navy sucked, when this huge bear of a bearded giant stuck his head in my door, and introduced himself as Dave "The Fonz" Young, the MPA.  He said that the rest of the wardroom was at the "Chuckwagon", and why didn't I get-the-hell-down-there to meet them?  Well, they turned out to be a great bunch of guys, the ship turned out to be a hard working and remarkably efficient oiler and the next three years were some of the best of my life.  Talk about a bad first impression!

. . .And then there was the time back in Pearl Harbor when the wardroom was supposed to attend a "Dining In" at the Officer's Club.  This was a formal mess dress affair, and most of us were ill equipped for any occasion that required better than oil stained Khakis.  The Fonz, CWO2 Dave Young was inadequately equipped, and had left his uniform shopping to the last minute.  He needed a size 44 sword belt, but the biggest available at the exchange was a size 39.  I was in his stateroom helping to get him "gussied up" in preparation for our mass departure when he tried on the belt for the first time.  He did his best to "suck it in" and struggled to get the two halves of the belt buckle to meet in front of his ample mid-section.  With a distinctive CLICK, the buckle engaged and Dave heaved a mighty sigh.  Unfortunately the sigh was too much for the buckle, which exploded like a hand grenade and sent it's largest part ricocheting around the room like a spent bullet.  We ended up tying the ends of the belt together with a scrap of orange "shot line", which was covered up by his uniform jacket.  We never let the "Fonz" live that one down.  Unfortunately, the Fonz was killed several years later in an automobile accident in Hawaii.

21 November, 2003
Having sailed on Neosho class oilers both as USN and as USNS ships, I was really impressed with how well they ran after their conversion by MSC.  There had been some engineering problems that plagued the whole class regarding:

    Boiler feed pumps
    Generator voltage regulators and governors
    Forced draft blowers

These problems were so pronounced and chronic that, after three years on Kawishiwi, even if I was ashore and sitting in a restaurant, if the lights dimmed I would reflexively jump out of my chair and sprint towards the engine room (pretty embarrassing for my date, I can tell you).  Even at her best, I don't think that we ever went for more than a couple of weeks without turning out the lights on the USS Kawishiwi.  I'll never forget the time we were dead-in-the-water in the San Bernardino straights and the current was carrying us towards the rocks.  We got restarted with about 5 minutes to spare (or the Kawishiwi would have been an exxon Valdez legend).

By contrast, I sailed on two of the converted USNS 143 class oilers, and don't recall that the lights ever went out during the combined time of about 15 months that I was on them.  I don't think that MSC spent a huge amount of money to correct these problems and I is just amazing to me that the Navy didn't take action sooner - none of the repairs were "rocket science".

More is written on the Aft-02 Deck Plans. plus STOPPING an Oiler plus Shaking Pipes and Winches

Go to Lary's Page