06/30/2010 - 22:15
The Penn Transporter was my "first ship" as a seaman. I signed on in 1966 from the SIU office in Houston for a trip to Algeria with a load of grain. We discharged the cargo in Algiers, Philippeville (Skikda) and Bone (Annaba).
After we tied up the Bos'n told me to collect all the brass nozzles from the fire hoses and put them (I believe) in the forecastle. While doing this I noticed a jeep pulling a small artillery piece parked at a spot across the harbor from us. Okay, whatever. I went for another nozzle.
KA-BOOM! I grabbed the bulwark and waited for the blast. None came. I then peaked at the artillery crew who were busy reloading. Their piece was pointing out into the bay where a military vessel, smoke pouring off it's deck, was bringing a three gun turret to bear on the three or four man artillery crew who continued to prepare to fire again.
KA-BOOMS times three, said the vessel.
I watched. I had never seen 3 or 4 men, an artillery piece, and a jeep, blown to smithereens before. After a couple of minutes it became obvious I wouldn't see it today either. Turns out the whole shebang was a show to demonstrate to the Americans (us) how they were prepared to defend their port.
All in all it was a hell of a show to put on for the crew of a cargo ship that was bringing grain. I still don't understand why they did it, and I'm glad.
Another exciting memory from that trip involves my first ever visit to a whorehouse.
But I think I'll keep that one to myself.