Cavalla's Last Station
I reported to USS CAVALLA, AGSS244, in January, 1969. At this time, she was a Reserve boat in Houston, Texas. We had a station of about 3 acres as I recall on the Houston ship channel in a less than desirable part of Houston. (I am afflicted with a common malady called CRS--Can't Remember S***, so I don't recall exactly the name of the street that you turned on to get to our property.)
There was a large metal building containing, at one end, a small area that had a couple of bunks, a stove, table, refrigerator, etc., a large "shop" area in the middle, and small offices at the other end for the Yeoman, CO, Stores, etc. Since I was a Radioman and could type, I also was the Storekeeper.
Cavalla was moored starboard side to the seawall. She did not get underway. This was not a "working" reserve boat.
The entire compound was enclosed with a chain-link fence with lockable double gates.
There were thirteen (13) shipkeepers (instructors) and a Lieutenant for a CO. We stood 13 section duty. Typically, we worked each weekday from 0800 to 1200 (maybe 1300,,,again CRS). Only one shipkeeper remained on duty for the rest of that day and night. Sometimes, some of the crew remained after hours and we played poker on through the afternoon and into the evening hours. Also, occasionally we would barbecue and drink Big Oranges.....
After everyone else left for the day, the duty shipkeeper strapped on a loaded .45 and made regular tours of the boat and station. I don't know for sure who slept where when they were on duty. As for me, I always slept on the boat. Of course, the gates were locked after everyone else left and there was little chance of anyone breaking into the compound.
I do recall that the Houston Police sent a representative once to talk to us about "repelling boarders". His advice to us was that if we had to shoot anyone breaking in, to make sure they could not testify and to drag them aboard the boat before reporting it.
One weekend each month was Drill Weekend. On that Saturday and Sunday, our hours were 0800 to 1600. We held classes for the reserves that reported to the boat. These were "School of the Boat" type classes and individual rating classes. I cannot remember the number of reserves we had reporting. Of course these long weekend hours were tough on us shipkeepers, so to rest up, we got Monday and Tuesday off that week except for the duty shipkeepers.
Across town, some miles away, was a "regular" Reserve station. In August, 1969, Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast. This was one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the Gulf Coast. I think it made landfall in Mississippi. It was my duty to report to the "regular" reserve station to relieve the Radioman there on a "Hurricane Watch". We had radio communications with the Eighth Naval District in New Orleans. This was a 12 on, 12 off watch as there were only two of us. This was a long drive for me from home, so I convinced our CO that I could utilize the radio gear aboard Cavalla. There was a URC-32 transceiver aboard that actually worked, however there was not a working antenna tuner. I managed to load the transmitter straight into the antenna and was able to get 50 watts output from it. This was plenty of power to maintain communications with New Orleans, so from then on, I stood my watches in the radio shack of Cavalla. Felt like old home week, I tell you. It seems to me now that this watch went on for 5 or 6 days.
Sometime in November it seems, we received word that the station was being closed and Cavalla was being moved. I did not know then where she was being sent, but assume it was to Galveston. I remember standing at the seawall when three tugs showed up to pull her from her berth. They fastened lines to the stern, amidships and bow. As the tugs began to pull, it was apparent that Cavalla did not want to go. She began to list to port. I don't have any idea how long she had been moored there, but she must have been there awhile, because the silt had built up so much that she was literally sitting on the bottom. As the tugs continued to pull, she continued to increase her port list until she had about a 30-35 degree list (maybe more). After much pulling, she finally broke free of the bottom and righted herself. We watched as the tugs made her fast and slowly maneuvered her down the channel. Most of us watched until she was out of sight.
Incidentally, I re-enlisted aboard Cavalla in 1969. After we closed the station, I was transferred to San Diego and taught Radioman "A" and Teletype Maintenance schools. In 1971, I was transferred to USS SNOOK SSN592. I was aboard Snook about two weeks when I again tore up my right knee which I had injured in Groton in 1968. I was transferred to Balboa Hospital where I underwent surgery and almost two years of therapy before being medically discharged in Sept. 1973.
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