Sully Paints the Boat part Deux
France, rough start, but had a blast!
So yes, France started a little rough, but overall I had a blast. After a frustrating day of trying to break the rules to get a fifteen minute paint job done, I finished, and at the insistence of my LPO Mark Leahy, I painted over the one foot by two foot letters swirled into the paint job which spelled out the word Sully. Mark told me I needed to paint over it again because he could still see it. I insisted that was only because it was still wet and he knew it was there. Once it dried, I assured him, it wouldn’t be visible. I packed up my gear and headed out for some liberty.
Fun in France
Toulon, France was a blast. I hit the city on my Rollerblades and did what I liked to do best, explore, explore, explore. I skated through an open air art festival and it reminded me of the old film that we watched on the reel-to-reel in elementary school, “The Red Balloon” (Great movie, horrible book). I found a skate park right on the beach called “Half Pipes by the Bay” (Actually, I made that up. The sign was in Frenchese, so I couldn’t read it.) I went running with the COB (Jim Nemeth) and TM1 Kloetzke (Now LCDR, way to go Pete!). Now, I was a track runner in high school. Pretty fast at it too. I ran the mile and the two mile. My best mile time was 4:48 (now it’s like 14:48, but back then I could run). But the COB just ran, and ran, and ran. We left the boat that morning and, well let’s just say I volunteered to take someone’s duty the next day just so I’d have an excuse not to run with him again. A couple of us played paintball with the French Special Forces guys. My throat still hurts from the direct shot to the Adam’s apple. However, the best part of France was, no not the Louvre (didn’t make it there, I played paintball), it was the Smash Sandwich stand right outside the base. So, after a few days of fun, and about 15 smash sandwiches, we left France and I left any thoughts of my paint job on the fairwater planes behind.
Next stop, La Maddalena, Italy…Sully did what?
It started off as such a good morning. We surfaced early, and headed into port. I had done too much goofing around in France. Now that we were going to be in Italy, I was really going to go see the sights. That plan would change when Commodore of CTF-69 the Navy’s Mediterranean fast-attack submarine operations, came aboard to pilot the boat into La Maddelina. As we prepared to moor outboard of the USS Simon Lake, a submarine tender, I was stationed as a line handler topside. I remember how crowded the bridge looked with Captain Kuppers, the Officer of the Deck, the Commodore, the lookout (Petty Officer Jason Ross), and two of the boat’s friends from Key West who had tagged along for the short ride from Toulon, Mark Rossi and Ken Wells. Captain Kuppers was not known for his love of pulling in or out of anywhere and this morning seemed to be no exception. I heard him screaming up in the bridge and I even made the comment to one of my fellow line handlers that the Captain must be tearing into the Nav. What I didn’t realize at that moment, it was my name he was cursing.
Jason Ross, who as the lookout had a front row seat, recounted the events to me later that night. Here’s how it went down. As the Commodore was calling the shots in the bridge, he happened to glance down at the starboard fairwater plane. Then, looking straight ahead, he said, “Sully must like to paint.”
Captain Kuppers stumbled over his words as he seemed to wonder if he had heard the Commodore right. “Excuse me sir?”
Then the Commodore, with a stern face, looked him straight in the eye as he pointed back to the fairwater plane and said, “Sully. He must like to paint, his name’s right there.” And there it was, glistening in the Mediterranean sun, SULLY.
Kuppers exact quote, as Ross recalled it was, “I’m gonna have his ass! He’s gonna be chipping this paint with his teeth!” You know, for the Silent Service, word travels pretty fast. Before we even had the lines fastened to the cleats, I knew I was in for it. I milled about the deck by the stern line not wanting to go below and face the wrath I had brought on myself. Then I saw Captain Kuppers pop up out of the hatch. To my relief, he headed for the brow towards the Simon Lake. When he was about half way up, I had just begun to breathe a little easier, but then he stopped. He began to scan the deck. I wanted to look away, to pretend I hadn’t noticed him, but his knuckles were so white as they gripped the rail, I was like one of those deep water fish drawn in by the predators glowing antenna. He spotted me. I saw the blood return the color to his knuckle as he released the rail and pointed at me.
“You,” he said. “You don’t leave this boat until you are in front of me in my stateroom!”
In the Captain’s Stateroom
“You embarrassed me, you embarrassed the Navy, and you embarrassed yourself!
I had to stop myself from responding to that statement from the Captain with the phrase “Two outta three ain’t bad.” I did restrain myself though. I was lucky enough he hadn’t taken me directly to mast. He did, however, make me, under the supervision of Leahy, chip all the paint off the fairwater planes and put a fresh coat of paint on them. It didn’t stop there though; he made me paint the entire submarine, bow to stern, before I could leave the boat. It took me three days. When I finished, I walked to the end of the pier where the deli/laundry mat/casino/bar was and who happened to be in there having a sandwich with the new Engineering Officer? You guessed it. Captain Kuppers. He smiled and bought me a beer. I didn’t have the gumption to tell him I don’t like beer but I’ll take a Margarita.