We still owed money on the boat and time was running up on us like Hockey attackers approaching a Goalie!
The Coastal Skipper course was completed and we now knew better at how to be a hazard on the water. This included a better appreciation of weather systems and how they behave.
Example; Warm front comes in, you get wind and rain. As the warm potion passes over you, the winds will clock around to the (put your back to the wind!) left and then the cold portion of the front. Crazy winds from your left and cold rain. When that passes you get the dry cool portion with winds veering to the right of what they were. This is all England weather, and these fronts pass with speedy regularity.
The important thing to remember is that I was talking about RAIN!
I would whine like a red headed step child about the crappy weather, but your British sailor loves his home weather.
1998 was nothing but rain. Every time we were on the boat? Rain. It got so that we expected rain if I got anywhere near the barbecue. WE figured I could do a lot more good for the world famine problem if I could set sail for Somalia and Ethiopia, open a barbecue joint on the water front.
A tarp was put up over the entire boat to help keep us dry. Most boats have a little leak, here and there. We had a couple of annoying leaks, but the prescribed method of using a topical filler was inadequate because there never was time to dry!
A routine started in late 1997, where we would rent a car from the Navy Exchange every other Friday; It turns out that the contracted rental company was based at the basement of the Tower Hotel, so it was really convenient to get our car when we got home from work. The cost was about $45.00 a weekend, so why bother with owning a car.
The biweekly plan was to get car, drive on the A206 (North Circular)until we got to the M11. Once on the M11 head towards Cambridge and get off on the A11 towars Norwich Newmarket, got to A14 blah blah.
I still can drive it instinctively.
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We would go to the Mildenhall RAF and stay at the Visiting Quarters. A weekend would run about 60 bucks. Once we got to the room we would spread out, switch on the cable (Woo hoo!) and start laundry. We would do two weeks of laundry and watch tv.
The Air Force lives very well, let me testify.
After laundry, we would go by the Officers Club or the NCO Club (We were actually members, members were given a Platinum MasterCard which could be used for anything. I kept a zero balance).
Once at the club, you asked for a reservation and if there was a wait, you could go to the convenient Casino which just happened to be ten feet away. Hmmph.
Spousal Unit got into slot machines, although she would only use one roll of quarters. Frequently, dinner would be on the casino because of her fair record of victories.
The Starlifter Restaurant was pretty good; Steak dinners were about eight bucks and a bottle of Korbel bubbly was an incredible ten bucks!
We would order the California champagne and the servers would usually treat us like we were doing a special occasion, like an anniversary. It got embarrassing when we would just say, "No, nothing special, just celebrating Friday".
This would usually be disregarded as us being unnecessarily bashful.
After dinner, we would go into the lounge for drinks and dancing. I really liked the Reggae nights.
The Air Force folks had all the comforts and trappings of the USA, all on a two-base American archipelago called Lakenheath and Mildenhall. Since they had all of the American luxuries, the people stationed there received just regular pay.
London was considered very, very expensive (it was) and those of us actually working and living there were looked at with pity.
But living in London got me double pay. Even the folks living in Navy housing at West Ruislip and out west of the city were given extra pay, since commuting cost over twenty bucks a day just to get to the Grosvenor Square.
So given all that, renting a car and living in spartan conditions made us relatively well to do, compared to my peers in the Air Force.
I sure liked the washing machines, though.
During '97 through '99, there was that little bother in the Balkans. Spousal Unit and myself would notice the dirty, grimy Infantry types who looked like they got off a transport from Bosnia, landed for the night on the way home, without civvies. Since beer was just about three bucks a pitcher, I felt it was my duty to call the attention of a waitress, and direct her to bring five pitchers of beer to the table with the ten dirty guys. Keep the change.
We did this everytime we were there, and yes, we always did it anonymously. We insisted that nobody knew that the clean cut squid in the corner with his wife, was quietly thanking these guys for a job well done. It amused us to watch them eyeballing the room warily, trying to suss out who would do this random act of kindness.
The wait staff always kept cool, since they liked the five buck tip.
It wasn't like it was our money.
Sunday morning we would wrap it up and make the drive back and drop off the car at the Tower Hotel. With a stop to the Class Six store and the Commissary on the way!
Twelve Packs of Grolsch were $4.50. I would usually get fifteen. Same with wine.
We had friends that would stop by and it wouldn't be nice to not offer a beer or wine, would it?
Barbecue and party on 'Beest:
This is the exact moment I discovered that I was going to be leaving the Navy. During our Summer Party, advancement results came out and I was not selected.
I got a call from the Command Center and they said the results came out, and that there must be a mistake, my name was missing from the list.
I am intensely disappointed, and lucky for me, Roger, Tom Davey, Norman Hummerstone and a number of other friends from the Little Ship Club were there to keep me from feeling worse than dirt. I had very influential people from the local sailing community, nobody else had such friends.
There was one more promotion cycle to come and the '90's had been very sparse for advancement.
But I had a trip to plan for. There could not be the chance that I strive hard for advancement, filling in more blocks (Meaning deploying down range to the Balkans) while boat planning, work, and stores had to be accomplished. On the chance of promotion which may not happen.
That decision was made at the instant of this photo was taken.
Note the little rag catching rain leaking in through the portlight.
Background; I had been through a board six months before for Sailor of the Year. Naturally, I blew that board away with my knowledge, background and public speaking. I knew the other three candidates completely. None had the experience or qualifications that I had. None had deployed for supporting the Balkan Initiative "**". I looked in the eyes of the seven people on that board and each silently acknowledged my passing their board.
But, I did not receive that award. They called me back in later that day and all seven said that I was the more qualified candidate, it was just that they wanted to help the other fellow (A Cryppie with no sea service) who was looking at having to retire if he didn't get promoted, so I should understand...
That person did not get the promotion and he retired two months later. Note: That nice person knew what had happened to both of us and offered to help me get a job with SAIC in JAC Molesworth, which would have been really cool...
So every person in my job specialty who had been promoted that year, each had been the Sailor of the Year at their commands.
That Monday after the party, I walked in and dropped my request for retirement. My bosses were stunned, since they thought I had only about fifteen years in the Service and was ineligible.
Nope. I had one year to go.
There was a new life to be planned for and I was not going to wait for anything, again. I made myself ineligible for the next promotion cycle by requesting retirement. There has been many nights that I have agonized over the hasty decision, since they promoted everyone the next Summer.
This was my plan and this is how it was executed;
Have a great weekend!