The highlight of my career was the excitement of flying over Vietnam but another exciting time was riding out a storm with Kawishiwi riding high and empty. Capt. Don Wyand
I vaguely remember spending a LONG night as OOD in the Tonkin Gulf/North China Sea (See Map) during one typhoon where I had CO/XO/NAV joining me on the bridge of Kawishiwi. I remember that the helm couldn't really steer in 50' plus high waves, so we kept on course using our engines. If we lost more than about 10 degrees of heading into the wind, we we're thrown into the trough with some SERIOUS rolls until we could swing around and again head into the storm. I believe CAPT. Wyand is correct that we were nearly empty of liquid cargo after unrepping many warships on Yankee Station. We were headed back to Subic Bay when the typhoon overtook us. Jeff Grovhoug
Don't remember when, but we were in the Tonkin Gulf when a typhoon came up from the South. They cleared all of the ships from the Gulf to get out into wide water to ride out or avoid the storm. We topped off everybody and that left us, the high speed fleet oiler, sitting with about 23 feet aft and about 5 feet forward attempting to get out of the Gulf at the best speed we could make given wind and wave conditions. The SAR/PIREZ destroyers who were located, as I recall, about 19° N and 107° E. topped off with us and then left the Gulf - leaving us the last US warship in the Gulf. We were the last ones out. The sail effect was tremendous given how high we were in the water and we banged into waves like a destroyer does. And of course we didn't get across the T so we bore the brunt of the storm. It was definitely not fun.
We rode out storms a number of times, usually with a full load, but that time definitely was the worst.We also, on one occasion did not go to sea when a typhoon hit. This was in Sasebo. We were tied up to the fuel pier which was on the west side of the bay and tight up against a mountain. All felt it was safer there than out in the sea. Ted Phoenix
The Storm was on its way and the Men of War needed fuel so they could get the hell out of there. When we finished they cut and ran and left us powering along about 17 knots (if I remember right). I know it was not fast enough to out run that %^*((()&^% storm. l was smoking Red Pall Mall at the time and a heck of a lot of them at that. I know because the Ship’s Store sold me that case of smokes for 10 cents a carton. They were suppose to destroy them. They were so old that when you opened the pack the cigarettes looked like they had water spots on them. I stored the cartons over the desk I used to check message traffic. The lady was rocking and rolling and it was all I could do to keep my to keep my guts down. All of a sudden a heavy roll, I looked up to see about 75 cartons of Red Pall Mall hanging over my head. It was slow motion and then fast forward. Cigarette cartons all over the place. At the same time I hear a loud bang in the main radio compartment. That was the copy machine. The RM’s had tied it down but the little line they used snapped.
TYPHOONS EXPLAINEDLetters written in 1970 by Captain Wyand list several typhoon engagements, Ladies he calls them. In the area of Japan on the 1st month of August, two wild ladies were encountered. In September and October some of the sea time was used evading and avoiding, as best we could, a couple of natural creations of this area, windy women of the sea, trying their best to ask us for a date. JOAN chased us out of Subic Bay and gave us a rolling, rocking time for two days. KATE was avoided by our early start in running away from her. Typhoons will continue to keep our attention for at least two more months. The Typhoon period coincides with the rainy season, and our great gray lady "Special K" suffers a little in appearance, as we can not keep her makeup in the manner in which we want her. In November and December our area was visited by two more or our not to friendly "Women of the sea." Typhoon season has just about passed on and we are collectively relieved that this is the case. I thought it would be appropriate to discuss briefly a little more about our visiting ladies of the Wild wind and Waves - Typhoons.
What is a typhoon or tropical cyclone? To start with, you will have winds of over 64 knots ( 73 miles per hour). It is called a Hurricane in the Atlantic area and a Typhoon in the Pacific. In too many cases, Pacific tropical cyclones are killers - Typhoon PATSY, which almost devastated Manila in November carried 125 knot winds with gusts over 145 knots. We saw her later when she was calmer but she still created monstrous seas. Typhoons are most frequent in August, September, and October. an average of 11 to 18 are formed in this period. Generally, Typhoons follow a track from their formation point to the west and north over the Philippines to Taiwan, China or Japan.
As predictable as Typhoons might seem they remain, as with all meteorological phenomena, capricious. Possibly this very trait has led them to be named women? In the first half of October this year, JOAN was created and eventually grew to Typhoon size. The weather guessers on KAWISHIWI TRACKED her westward progress, and speculated on her possible course. As we pulled into Subic Bay on the morning of 13 October, we officially received word from the Senior Officer present that JOAN's path would pass over the Subic Bay Base. The order was given to head for the open sea and attempt to outrun our unfriendly approaching JOAN, with her 125 knot winds. We quickly "topped off" with cargo fuel, to have maximum ballast fro optimum stability. Awnings were stowed below. Chairs, books, radios, wastebaskets, everything that could move (excluding crew members) were lashed down. By late afternoon we were headed southwest at maximum speed to try and get behind JOAN as this is the safe area for a Typhoon. to explain this more, a typhoon has a "dangerous front half", looking toward the direction the storm is going, and a "navigable or safe half" to the rear. By heading southwest we were expected to remain in the navigable half which would have more favorable seas and winds.
Even at 150 miles from JOAN, the wind was 40 knots with 50 knot gusts and the seas were 18-22 feet. The wind and water peeled off layers of paint from parts of the front of the deck house. We maneuvered to come no closer than that 150 miles from JOAN and were able to return to Subic Bay without any damage to things or people, only very tired sailors from long hours of rough riding.
The high winds, rough seas, and torrential rains we experienced were a graphic example of the power that these mighty storms carry. The experience of such fierce weather at 150 miles has left us only imagining what danger there is for the seaman who finds himself in the clutches of a typhoon. JOAN did not keep her date, thank goodness, nor did PATSY; but both of these ladies have, just by their passing glances alone, passed considerable respect for these Wild Women of the Sea, who dominate all within their reach. Read Sparkman's wave experiences, A Three Foot Swell.