As the threatening storm approached the skys were looking darker and darker. The wind was picking up and seas were becoming more rough by the minute. I passed the order "Now over all hatches and gun covers, all hands set condition Zebra throughout the ship" on the 1MC.
While underway our ship encountered a violent storm. We were trying to stay out of the way of an approaching hurricane or typhoon, I never did know which one. Condition Zebra was set throughout the ship. All deck watches were ordered inside. Sparks was keeping the bridge updated on course and speed of the approaching storm. The Quartermasters were doing their best to plot a course to get us through it safely. The old man was in his seat on the bridge with a look of concern on his face.
I observed the wind speed indicator showing 106 knots. The ship had turned into the seas to keep from being caught broadside in the 75 foot waves. A condition I am told is very unhealthy for a ship to be in.
The roll indicator was showing 46 degree rolls. The bow of the ship would raise to meet the next wave. As the top of the wave passed the bow, it was suddenly out of the water. AS the wave passed the ship was momentarily balanced like a teeter-totter on it. There was a momentary feeling of weightlessness as the bow dropped. Like being in an elevator going down rapidly. When the bow struck the water it sent a hard shudder throughout the ship. I imagined it was like being in an earthquake. A huge splash sent whitewater over the signal bridge as seawater washed over the forecastle. I remember seeing a giant geyser shoot 20 feet in the air from the hawse pipes. For a few seconds the bridge was blinded by the whitewater splashing against the windows. Then the cycle repeated over and over again. The large rain drops came down in sheets. Visibility was so bad, at times you could not see the bow of the ship from the bridge. The ship's foghorn sent its warning to anyone within hearing distance.
After my watch, I found sleep was difficult. Picture this: Your bed is rolling 46 degrees from left to right. Someone is picking up your bed at the headboard and raising it several feet above the floor and letting go crashing to the floor over and over again. Sailors are creative and necessity is a mother, so I obtained a few webbed belts from my locker and strapped myself in. I could only lay on my back, spread eagle with my pillow propped up against one side of my head and a rolled up jumper on the other side to keep my head from flopping from side to side. I finally managed a little sleep. I was thinking about the Marines that would be berthed in the bow of the ship. There was no way any of them would get any sleep in a storm like this.
Flat bottomed LSTs and storms do not go good together. Even with the ballast tanks filled they still rock and roll. Storms have caused many shipmates to cross the ocean by rail. Still, we had it better than some of our smaller sister ships like the Destroyer Escorts or Minesweepers. But I will let them tell you their stories about those adventures.
The storm passed. We made it to port. Only then did we learn that another ship ahead of us suffered a 6 foot crack in their superstructure during this violent storm. We all felt that the Master's hand was on the wheel during that trip.
You might wonder "what can a storm do to a solid steel ship?"
Even the large aircraft carriers are not exempt from them.
for one example.
A few weeks later, while underway I observed a phenomenon rarely seen by sailors. It was on the morning watch. The sun was just starting to turn the sky a beautiful red and gold. The ocean was absolutely still. The surface of the water did not have a single ripple in it. It was glass smooth. The wind was dead calm. The skipper said it was only the second time he had ever seen it like that. The sea is always full of surprises. I guess that is why we love it so.