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Shipfitters Shop
By Maurice D Karst

Time spent onboard a ship that moves through the water at underway speeds of 12 to 14 knots can get tedious and boring. The crew finds ways to relieve the boredom by messing with the minds of their shipmates. The shipfitter shop was in charge of the maintenance of the fire and flushing system. The fire main had a constant pressure of 100 psi and the flushing system was reduced down to 15 psi through a reducing station. If the shipfitters bypassed the reducing station everything in the toilet flushed up instead of down at a pressure of 100 psi. Apparently this was what happened when, standing before me in the shipfitters shop, was the most angry man I had ever encountered. He was dripping wet, had toilet paper hanging from both ears, and a turd in his shirt pocket. He was threatening to kill everyone in the shop. He left after I had calmed him down a little but not until he swore to get even. The angry man was transferred and lost his opportunity to carry out his threat. The personnel in the shipfitters shop claimed to have no knowledge of the nasty gusher that everyone knew they had created.

The shipfitter shop’s main function was repair, metal work, and damage control. We claimed we could weld the crack of dawn. It also served as the an unofficial crew’s lounge and movie theater. The sailors would sit around the bending slab playing cards, smoking, drinking coffee, and telling lies about why they joined the Navy. It was group therapy at its most basic level. The shipfitters shop was the largest compartment on the landing ship I was stationed on and ideal for showing the crew’s movie. It was after the movie that several members of the crew were gathered around the bending slab, engaged in a discussion about how addictive cigarette smoking is and how it even affected your sex life, when suddenly a pack was flying through the air with cigarettes going everywhere. One man had decided to quit smoking on the spot. The group therapy sessions were very effective.

© 2001 Maurice D Karst