Marvin T. Paulson
A new assignment was in the offing as I returned
from the Arctic. I guess they figured a good thawing out would
be necessary so St. Petersburg, Florida was our next itinerary
for ship duty in the Gulf of Mexico on the U. S. Coast and Geodetic
Survey Ship HYDROGRAPHER. Again we used our leave period to
make a leisure trip and take plenty of time to get settled.
I must say the white sand beaches of St. Pete are quite a contrast
to the white snow and ice covered beaches of the Arctic. The
temperature required quite an adjustment too.
The next three years turned out to be the most
monotonous assignment of my career and for Muriel too. The ship
was on hydrographic surveys in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida
Straits with two weeks at sea and five days in port. One year
the ports-of-call were Key West and Miami, which made it a long
time away from home. On one of our “calls” to Key
west, six of the officer wives came for the five days in port.
Key West is a lot more interesting and fun when your wife is
with you to enjoy the sights. For you golf buffs, as we were,
the greens at the Key West course were of fine grain sand in
deference to green grass. After your ball lands on the green,
so-called, you would pull a drag to smooth the way to the hole.
Even that assist didn’t help the score on my card. On
the next year, the ladies made a trip to Miami for a repeat
visit with their lonesome men and to see the sights along Miami
Beach. Even one year, a Jacksonville, Florida, repair company
got the contract for a major overhaul of the ship and to renew
all the wooden decks. Quarters ashore were authorized for this
two-month project so Muriel and a couple of the other ladies
spent most of that time with us in temporary housing - a cabin
camp to be exact.
The most memorable event of the assignment was
hurricane Alice that caught our ship HYDROGRAPHER in the middle
of the Gulf of Mexico. Short wave radio was our only means of
communication so tracking a storm is problematical at best and
the direction it will travel is a wild guess. Anyway we took
a heading for our home port, St. Petersburg, at full speed (8
knots). The storm was traveling at 18 knots with winds up to
85 miles per hour. By midnight we had the full brunt of the
storm and a lot of prayers being said as we bounced around.
Several hours passed and then there was a sudden calm as the
eye of the storm passed over. It is really quite an eerie feeling
with no wind and long deep sea swells. Then just as suddenly
the ship gets the full brunt of the storm again and the prayers
repeated. To maintain a relatively stable ship in a storm, you
head directly into the seas so you are constantly changing direction
as the hurricane passes. When we were finally able to turn the
ship in moderating seas, we were 120 degrees off course in our
heading. We continued into port to survey the damages, quiet
our nerves and reassure our worried families that we had weathered
the storm. It is a tense time for the families too, to not only
weather the storm at home but to weather the anxiety for their
men at sea.
Socially, we had a very compatible group of
officer families in St. Pete that entertained constantly when
in port. About eight of the husband and wife teams were avid
9-hole golfers and provided each other with friendly competition
when in port.
We had completed 3 ½ years in the hot
and humid weather in St. Pete without air conditioning when
we got the news of reassignment to the East Coast Field Party.
What a welcome relief it was to get off that ship. The field
party is a transient unit so we put our furniture in storage
and departed for Elinore Village to use up six weeks of accumulated
leave. Elinore Village is just outside of Daytona Beach. En
route we passed through De Land, Florida, and were so immediately
impressed with the town that we scouted a few homes for sale
in anticipation of Muriel’s folks retiring in Florida.
As it turned out, they did retire in De Land and settled in
the house across the street from an identical one that we had
Village was the first “get-away” vacation that we
had partaken of since Baguio in the Philippines. We took advantage
of our liberty with numerous golf games, walks on the beach
and reconnoitering the many good eateries in the Daytona area.
arrived in Fernandina Beach, Florida, to take over the East
Coast Field Party just as they were packing up to move to Brunswick,
Georgia. We found a nice beach front duplex apartment on St.
Simons Island. ....
raise havoc no matter where they touch land, but Hurricane Carol
in 1954 was especially treacherous because it followed the coastline
from Jacksonville, Florida, to Maine. Providence, Rhode Island
was devastated along the beach area and the Narragansett Bay
became treacherous boating because of half sunken debris and
shoreline changes to the chart used in navigation. Because of
Hurricane Carol, the East Coast Field Party was given the assignment
of surveying the inlets and outer banks for chart corrections
from Florida to Maine. To take advantage of the seasonal weather,
the party concentrated on the northern climes in the summer
and the southern in the winter. Several projects of lesser extent
would be accomplished en route to the major areas of destruction.
Lookout was our next troubled area after St. Simons. We selected
Harkers Island for our base of operation. What a headache that
proved to be. Our landlord had a fishing expedition business
and also rented out his house to summer tourists and lived elsewhere
- mostly on his boat - during the summer. On telephone, his
wife offered to move out of their home earlier than usual and
rent it to Muriel and me for a month: she gave us permission
to dock our boats alongside their private pier. We took it sight
unseen and then discovered that it was filthy. We moved in --
but before we unpacked anything we scrubbed the house from kitchen
and cupboards to the bathrooms. It seems that our landlady was
not a well person and almost legally blind with cataracts so
in all honesty she didn’t see the mess. It was clean when
we got through so we unpacked.
next morning there was a bang on the locked door. The livid
landlord had returned to find 2 boats tied up in his spot at
the pier and now he find strangers in his house. He had two
words for us, “Get out.” There was no reasoning
with him and only angry threats from him including even the
destruction of the bridge to the island.
were very distraught with this turn of events, but didn’t
want any altercations and packed up and moved to Marshallburg.
We were fortunate that nearly all of our personnel were from
Marshallburg and they persuaded a bachelor fish merchant to
give up his apartment and let us move in. This was a very attractive
large one room kitchen, dining room, living room area with a
small bedroom and bathroom attached. The people of Marshallburg
were very sympathetic to our plight and treated us as royalty.
outer banks off Cape Lookout are a very treacherous area of
large sand dunes that shift with every storm, both surface islands
and subsurface mounds. A possible route through these mounds
had never been surveyed before because of the inherent danger
and it was so marked on the chart. We were instructed to make
a detailed hydrographic survey of the outer banks to prove or
disprove the existence of a channel suitable for small boats.
We did locate a route through, but again, it would be very treacherous
was now May and the weather of the northern United States was
stabilized enough for the relative safety of small boat safety
along the coast of Maine. En route to our Maine assignment,
we had a couple of detour inspections of reported uncharted
obstructions in the vicinity of Plymouth and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
That was an interesting week’s stay in Plymouth.
then to Kennebunkport, Maine, where we found a very delightful
apartment that in olden days had been a covered breezeway connecting
the house and stable. Our office and launches were located in
Kennebunkport to start with and moved to Biddeford Pool as the
season progressed and finally to Rockland to locate a reported
uncharted rock that a vessel had struck. We proved that the
chart off Rockland was correct and found scraping on a rock
that the boat had actually grounded on. Some boat owners try
anything to collect on insurance.
stay in Kennebunkport was more like a working vacation and I
can really understand why President George H. Bush selected
that area for his summer home. Our most memorable spot was a
little country stable that was converted into a lobster diner.
Nothing fancy but very practical. The tables were old park bench
style with seats attached. As you entered the diner you passed
an old water trough filled with crawling lobsters, you select
the one you want cooked, and go sit down on the bench. The waitress
tied on an over-sized bib and placed a large bowl of potato
chips on the table along with tongs, a paper plate, a meat pick,
and melted butter. Nowhere has lobster tasted so good. On special
days they would serve the meal for $1.00 each lobster. Nowhere
can you beat that price either.
Biddeford Pool our office trailer and boat mooring was at the
lobster pier. When the lobster boats came in with their catch,
they would sort the lobsters by size and toss the small one-pounders
and less into a 50-gallon drum of boiling water. They, the boatmen,
were very generous to our crew and would even wrap some cooked
hot lobsters to take home.
landlord in Kennebunk, an old retired widower, took a liking
to Muriel and his other young tenant with two little boys and
declared that he would teach them both the art of cooking lobster.
I never thought I’d see Muriel drop a crawling lobster
head-first into a pot of boiling water but she did and to my
taste; I’d say she became an expert.
very close friends from the Philippines, Brick and Leila Maynard,
retired to a country home in Claremont, New Hampshire so they
took a weekend off and paid us a visit. What fun that was and
later on we were able to reciprocate with a visit to their quaint
country retirement home. I say quaint because it was built of
stone and brick with walls almost two feet thick and a fireplace
in each spacious room. Legend has it that the house was built
by a seafarer that wanted to be isolated from society and that
was exactly what Brick and Leila wanted for retirement. Brick,
so he could walk the woods and chop the firewood and Leila wanted
the peace and serenity for her book writing hobby. A great reunion
in Kennebunkport where President Bush is a member, was an accommodation
given on Wednesday afternoon by an appreciative local businessman
and boat owner. A re-survey for a new chart of the boat harbor
and entrance was a part of our project underway. For you golfers,
you no doubt have played with someone who keeps looking and
fishing for lost golf balls along the way. Well, one of the
foursome I played with carried a little brown bag with him and
picked wild mushrooms along the way -fairway that is.
before Thanksgiving was the time to high-tail it out of Maine
country; however, we got caught in a massive snow storm as we
were leaving on the 19th of November. Thank goodness commercial
haulers were moving the boats for us. On the move, the whole
party was on its own; but you always hope and pray that all
will go well and thank God when they all arrive without mishap.
I feel blessed that in all the party moves during my career
of 32 years, not one bad mishap occurred.
destination on this trip was Beaufort, South Carolina. A truly
“old South” town with large aristocratic style houses
.... We were able to find a small empty house to rent and then
furnished it from a U-rent furniture operator. Three to four
months was our expected stay.
and January has the most inclement weather for our work, so
the party all took their annual leave over the Xmas period.
Muriel’s folks were retired during the past year - 1955
- and settled in De Land, Florida, so that was our destination
for vacation. De Land, as it turned out, had a large population
of railroad workers so Mama and Dad Cole were well integrated
in their new surroundings when we arrived....
Xmas it was back to Beaufort, South Carolina, to begin our new
season’s surveying activities. The Marine Corps Base on
Parris Island provided our basic shopping needs with an excellent
commissary and post exchange. The winter passed quite uneventful
and come spring, it was back to the north country - Providence,
Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay for the summer.
route to Rhode Island we had a detour investigation to make
at Ocracoke Inlet, the entrance to Pamlico Sound. The winter
storms had changed the configuration of the islands and channel
creating a danger to navigation. We, Muriel and I, located a
new home for rent with the bare necessities of furniture in
Atlantic, North Carolina. It was a single house isolated on
a large tract of ground overgrown with palmetto, that some promoter
was trying to sell as home plots. As I have previously mentioned,
most if not all of the crew members, were from Marshallburg,
so they commuted each day and stayed at their homes. Socially,
for us, it was a lonely existence but comfortable and warm and
lasted only one month.
late April, it was “migrate” back to the north country.
This time to begin the Narragansett Bay Project - a good two
season undertaking. We moored the boats and office trailer at
a pier in East Greenwich to start the survey and moved to Warwick
as the survey progressed. Muriel and I found a pleasant apartment
in a converted home in Warwick only a short commute to the office
in East Greenwich.
me, this was a very interesting project. Hurricane Carol had
raised havoc over the entire Bay area requiring a complete basic
resurvey to modernize the navigation chart. In comparison with
the old chart, all changes or discrepancies we found had to
be double-checked and verified for reliability so the new chart
would be accurate without a doubt.
country-side around Narragansett Bay was dotted with theater
summer stock promotions and good country cooking to add to the
excellent entertainment. We seldom stayed home in the evenings.
November came around all too quickly for our desires, and true
to prediction, a snow storm engulfed us all the way to Washington,
D. C. A couple of days briefings in C&GS headquarters, and
it was off to Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to check and survey
some reported chart corrections in St. Helena Sound. About a
week here, and it was off to our winter project in Beaufort,
South Carolina, again. If you would look at a map or chart of
the area, you would see the numerous waterways and inlets that
abound, each of which must be surveyed for charts. We were fortunate
this time and rented a new 3 bedroom furnished home.
Land, Florida, was again our destination for Xmas..... We had
only two weeks at De Land and returned to Beaufort after the
New Year’s celebration....
April, 1957, we were back in Narragansett Bay to continue the
resurvey and extend it out into the Atlantic shoreline area.
This time we settled on the east side in Newport for the base
of operations. The very attractive place we found to was in
Middletown, a suburb of Newport. The apartment was another converted
stable into two units with a large flowered yard and large period
became close friends with the landlord and his wife and were
included in their many family gatherings. One such gathering,
they honored us as special guests at an old-fashioned New England
clam bake. They had a houseful of friends and relatives from
Nova Scotia, the wife’s home, to entertain. Our landlord
was the master of the clam bake which is a two-day affair to
prepare and I’ll try to relate the ritual.
first day you cook up the clams in an old-fashioned clothes-washing
boiler filled 3/4 full of the clams and covered with water.
Then stoke the wood fire and let it boil away. The spices added,
I'm not sure other than the favorite grog beer as an accompaniment
to the procedure. When done, you fill your plate with the whole
clam in the shell, use a pick to crack them open and devour
the meat. I believe they served a salad and chips on the side
- outside on picnic tables. The left-over clams, of which there
were plenty, were cracked open and the meat diced up for the
preparation of the chowder next day....
landlord owned a Drug Store and persuaded Muriel to work part
time in sales. It was a first time experience for her in selling
drug store products but she picked it up fast and did a commendable
job according to our landlord’s wife.
the legendary millionaire homes of Newport was probably the
most fascinating tourist attraction in Newport. It was astounding
to see the lavish pleasures the “400" exhibited in
their monstrous homes. The most publicized event of the year
is probably the sailboat regatta that originates in Newport
and is quite a sight to see as the boats depart the bay in full
sail. Let us not forget the annual Jazz festival either as our
landlady was an avid fan of jazz - we attended every concert
under clear star-studded nights.
Karo, the C&GS Director, paid us an unscheduled visit on
his way to Boston and was so impressed with our operations that
he recommended to the Swedish Hydrographic Office Director,
on visit to the U. S., that he, Dr. Pere Fagerholm, spend a
few days with us to observe and learn procedures that would
be useful in Sweden.
about being “Johnny on the spot,” one morning the
citizens of Newport woke up to see a large ocean steamer beached
just off the entrance to Narragansett Bay. The first reports
were it had grounded on an uncharted rock. We wasted no time
to get one of our boats out there and got an accurate fix on
the ship’s location and ran a small detailed survey around
the ship and adjacent area. We proved the chart correct. A subsequent
trial revealed that the ship’s captain had put the steering
into automatic pilot and left the bridge with no one as lookout.
The ship was well off the plotted course when it grounded. Being
there to prove the chart correct was a good “feather in
our cap” so to speak.
our move south again at the end of the season and project, we
had some chart corrections to investigate in the Charleston,
South Carolina, harbor. This was a nice 2 week delay on our
way down to St. Petersburg, Florida, our next winter project
happen fast for an officer in the C&GS. Waiting at the Post
Office when we arrived in St. Pete were orders to turn over
the party to Commander Darling and report for duty on the Ship
PATHFINDER based in Seattle. Leave would be granted en route.