High Seas: Ocean Tow Boats

Book Three

The Terry JPG 


The THOMAS was running easy, with no tow behind them. They had left Long Beach just as the sun was setting and turned north for their home on San Francisco Bay. Peter had made a last tour around his ship before heading to his stateroom and bed.

He had been asleep when he heard pounding on his door. He shouted out, "COME" and the Lee Helmsman stepped in saying, "Cap'n, We's got us an emergency on the bridge, sir. We's spotted a red rocket off ta' the starboard bow, sir."

Peter jumped out of his bunk as a red rocket could only mean someone was in serious trouble, most likely a small boat. He jumped into his clothes and slipped his shoes on before following the Helmsman up to the bridge.

When he got there, the First Mate had already changed course and was headed to where a dull red glow on the water showed the remains of an emergency rocket. He sent the Lee Helmsman up to the top of the wheelhouse and had him light the big searchlight. The helmsman began sweeping the sea, looking for whoever was in trouble, finally, they spotted an overturned power boat and two people hanging onto the sides.

Peter let the First Mate, Dexter Johnson, con the tug while he went back to the stern, where they could put a ladder over the side to rescue the people. Dexter maneuvered the THOMAS alongside the wrecked boat, it was a large cabin cruiser about thirty feet long and appeared to be a very expensive, rich man's toy!

The people in the water were teenaged boys, they looked to be twins about sixteen years old. As they climbed aboard The THOMAS, one of the boys said, "Our Step Daddy didn't make it, he tried to put the fire out and the engine exploded, we saw pieces of him being thrown into the water." Two of the seamen tried to snag the cabin cruiser and put a tow rope on it, but it sank before he could get a line on it.

Peter took the two boys up to the mess deck to get some hot coffee in them before he took them to his own stateroom, where he put out towels and two sets of coveralls they could put on.

While the boys were showering, he went back up to the bridge and set a new course that would take them into San Francisco Bay. He had the Marconi Operator send off a message about rescuing the two boys from the private vessel, "CORMORANT", homeported in Santa Monica, California.

After he had checked the radar and rechecked their course, he returned to his stateroom. The boys had finished showering and had put the coveralls on. He sat with them, getting to know their names and what had happened. Their names were Keith and Andrew Baily and their stepfather was Richard Falworth. Their Mother was dead and they had no living relations.

Peter said, "Well, we will take you to my boss's house in Oakland. He is Captain Carson Bates and he owns this and his own Ocean Tug. When we get there, then we will see what we can do to help you guys.

The next day Peter eased The THOMAS through the Golden Gate and over to their own pier. Peter saw that The TERRY was moored on the other side of the pier and, as soon as they were docked and the engine shut down, he "hot-footed" it across the pier and went aboard The TERRY, looking for his friend. There was SOMETHING about the two boys they had rescued that bothered him, although, he could not just put his finger on it.

He found him going over the logs from their recent voyage. He told Carson about the two boys and that they had nobody, no family. Carson asked, "What are the boys like?"

Peter replied, "Well, they are clean kids, well-spoken and very polite. They speak like they are well educated, but, they are scared as hell!" They are very frightened about something, that's for damned sure!"

Carson asked, "Why would they be scared?"

Peter said, "I am not sure, but I think they have had a kinda hard life and I heard Andy tell his brother, Keith, that it looked like the Welfare Creeps were gonna get them again."

Carson thought for a few moment and then replied, "Peter, I don't like the sound of that, let's go talk with'em' then maybe we can figure something out. Maybe they could stay with my folks n' Terry?"

Both Captains puttered around their ships until after lunch and then they took the two castaways with them and headed to Carson's home in Berkley. The two boys sat quietly on the back seat of Carson's car, they both had fearful looks on their faces.

Carson drove up to his home in the hills above Berkley, it was a large, two story home set on an acre of land. There were sweeping lawns and lots of trees for privacy. They could look out and see the entire San Francisco Bay from the living room window!

Carson's Dad, Thomas, had been a successful lawyer in the Appellate Court and Superior Court Judge before he had retired. Carson had telephoned his Mom, Helen, just before they had left The TERRY, to warn her and Thomas about the two Baily Boys. He told her about what Peter had said and Helen was upset. She knew boys and she knew how they reacted to danger. Just from what she had been told, she, like her son, knew something was very wrong!

As soon as she had set the telephone down, she collared her husband and told him to "fixit"! Thomas had been listening to the telephone conversation from his wife's side of the tale and had already spoken with the Chief Counsel for the Welfare Department. There was a messenger already on his way with a package of papers for them to sign.

Carson pulled into the drive and hopped out as the family little, red-headed rocket came blasting across the lawn and tackled him, nearly knocking him to the ground. As the two boys were climbing out of the backseat, little Terry asked his Dad, "Didja bring me sumthin'?"

Carson chuckled and said, "How about two friends? Will that do?"

Terry squealed and said,"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaa, where are they?"

Carson introduced the twins, Andy and Keith to his overactive son and Terry started dragging them off to show them his room. The two brothers didn't know quite how to take this little dynamo, they recognized that he was a couple of years younger than they, but the kid had a personality that took everyone in sight into his little circle.

They looked at Peter and Carson, who nodded and told them to go play until lunch and then they would talk. As the boys entered the house behind Terry, they looked back and saw all the adults in a huddle on the front lawn. That worried the twins, they had been dumped from pillar to post since they were small and they just expected the same here.

Peter told Judge Bates all he had learned about the boys and Thomas Bates snorted, "Enough is enough. Its time these boys had a home, not a dumping ground!" He looked at Helen and asked, "Are you game, Dear, do ya' think we can handle two teen boys again?"

Helen replied, "We lived through Carson, didn't we?

They all went into the house and Helen went to finish fixing the lunch she had planned. When she called the three boys, Terry led Andy and Keith to the table, after he made sure they had all washed their hands. He knew Grandma would ask before they could sit down. She did!

Helen served a whole meal of roast pork, baked beans, French fried potatoes, a huge salad and large glasses of her special lemonade. Thomas skillfully asked the boys questions that did not seem like questions at all and he drew their story out.

He sat there calmly talking with the two boys while his inner self was racing towards self-destruct. These boys had been dumped by their parents and had been battered between anyone who would feed them. He was pretty sure they both had been abused and he was damned sure he was gonna get to the bottom of it! He had sat on the bench for more than forty years, criminals, particularly criminals who abused children feared the man like death itself!

He plastered a big smile on his face and told the boys, Peter and Carson, "Let's go in the den and talk." Carson spotted the tension on his Father's face and knew that the "old man" was very angry! He suspected he knew why and almost felt sorry for whoever had let it happen.

When they had all gotten into the den, Thomas asked Peter to shut the door and he sat down right in front of Keith and Andy. He said, "I am going to ask you to tell us your story, don't be afraid to tell us everything, nobody is going to judge you. I gotta know everything if I am going to make your lives better."

Peter held Keith's hand and Carson held Andy's hand as the two boys began to relate what had happened. The longer they spoke, the worse it was and everyone in the room was in tears, angry tears and, had the miscreants been in that room, likely they would have been ready for the morgue!

When the boys had finally run down, Carson and Peter each picked up a boy and held him in their arms. Thomas went to the den door and almost stumbled over Terry, who was crying his heart out. He picked up the little boy and said to his wife, "Call Doctor Philips and tell him to get up here now, better yet, YESTERDAY!" He carried his Grandson into the room and shut the door again. Terry jumped down and ran to Keith and Andy and hugged them both telling him that he would be their brother.

When they had gotten the twins to stop crying, Thomas told them that he had called for their family doctor to come and look at them. He then explained that he was a retired judge and he was going to get custody of them and they were going to live in the Bates Home and be able to go to school and do anything they wanted in their lives.

Andy asked, timidly, "Could Captain Carson be my Daddy?" Immediately, Keith said, "How about Captain Peter for my Daddy?"

Peter looked at Carson and they both nodded their heads in agreement and, Carson saw something more, but he tried to ignore it. He knew he was not going to be able to ignore it much longer, he wondered how his parents and his son were going to handle what he needed to tell them.

Just then, Dr. Ben Philips arrived and Helen brought him into the den. She looked around at what was happening and smiled. She kissed each of the three boys before she went out of the room, humming to herself. Dr. Philips took each twin, individually, into the adjoining bathroom and gave them a thorough examination.

He came back into the den, after sending the twins and Terry to the kitchen for a snack and some more lemonade. When he turned to the three men, his face was a storm cloud of fury! He fumed, "Those two boys have been sexually abused and not just once. It has been a regular thing! I may have to do surgery, but in the very least, they are going to have to be on antibiotics and get lots of rest and good food. I made a list of the men who did this thing!" He handed the Judge a list of names.

Turning to the retired judge, he continued, "If you don't get these fiends, I WILL! So help me God, I will publish their names in every damned newspaper in this state until they are all in jail!"

When Thomas looked at the list the doctor had made, he shuddered, the names were all from the "crème of California society!"

Just then, the Deputy Director of the State Child Welfare Office knocked on the den door. Peter admitted him and he looked, first at Judge Bates, then at Doctor Phillips. He knew them both very well and the looks on their faces scared the Hell out of him!

Chapter 2 - A HOME AT LAST

The next several hours were a whirlwind of activity in the Bates' home, officials from the State Welfare Office trooped in and out, law enforcement officers from several jurisdictions came and went and Clerks of a number of courts came to get lists of peoples' names. By the next morning, the newspapers were full of the gory details.

Judge Thomas and Helen Bates were awarded temporary custody of Keith and Andrew Baily and both Peter and Carson told the boys that they would try for permanent custody.

Peter and Carson had to get back to work, they both had ships to run. Carson was dickering on the purchase of two more ocean tugs, the Navy was getting rid of most of their large ocean tugs. Charlie had rounded up tows for both tugs while Carson went to see his bankers again. They were pleased, and had no problem backing him for two more tugs.

The sale was that afternoon and Carson bid on two of the tugs. There were no competing bids for those two tugs, so he took possession. Nobody seemed to want the large ocean tugs that Carson was building into a formidable business.

He had Charlie make arrangements for the tugs to be dry docked and painted. His tow with The TERRY was a short run to Seattle and back. Peter was scheduled to Pusan, Korea and then down to Singapore before returning to Los Angeles, then home.

After checking with Dr. Philips, the two captains asked Andy and Keith if they would like to go on a sea trip. As passengers, they would not need seaman's documents and they already had their passports. So, Keith elected to go with Peter and Andy with Carson. They took the two boys into San Francisco, where they bought them sufficient clothes for the trip.

Terry was stomping around that he was not going also. Grandpa Thomas sat him down and explained why the two other boys needed to get away for a while. Terry kind of understood but he made his Daddy promise that he could go as soon as he was sixteen! Carson cringed, his son was already eleven, that meant he had only five years to get ready for a red-headed tornado on his ship! He would be surprised however, but that was still in the future.

Three days later, the two tugs dropped their mooring lines and headed out through the Golden Gate once more. The crews on both tugs had been told a condensed version of what had happened to the boys. It was probably well that the perpetrators were not identified to the crews, murder is an ugly crime and sailors had good imaginations! Like most sailors, their crews held children and young people dear to their hearts.

Carson headed the TERRY north. It would take them four days to make the San Juan de Fuca Light, provided they did not run into fog. It was a one way trip, they had no tow going north and the shipper was paying a premium for the service. The TERRY chugged north, two hundred miles off the coast, where the waters were less turbulent. The trip was quiet and Carson had a bunk set up in his own stateroom for Andy. Andy was a good guest, he was clean and neat and ready to help, even before being asked.

The boy was shy at first, but the crew took the damaged youngster under their wing. It was not long before Andy was on a first name basis with the entire crew, the Engine Room fascinated him, he could stand there by the hour watching the machinery do its job.

Wills Douglas, Chief Engineer of The TERRY took special interest in showing Andy around, he found the young man quick to understand the principals of how the machinery did its job and he had a quick eye for readings.

The next day, Wills spoke to Carson, asking him just how much should he show young Andy. Carson told him to fill him up with engineering, "Who knows, the boy might go to the Academy and come out an Engineer?"

Wills laughed and said, "Yeah, look what happened to you!"

The two had been schoolmates in the Academy, Carson had been a year ahead of him and they had fought each other for first place among the engineering students, a position Wills could not attain until after Carson had graduated. Both had graduated with honors, they had been one year apart!

After Wills had spoken to him, Carson began observing Andy closely, it became apparent that the young man did have an interest in engineering and he seemed to have the skills to interpret what he saw on the gauges into what the machine was doing. That was a rare skill and Carson saw a budding engineer in his young charge. He let Wills guide the young man around the Engineering Department and, in several days, Wills allowed him to stand a very unofficial Junior Engineer of the Watch position.

Carson finally made his turn and, by morning, the San Juan de Fuca light was pulsing just off their port bow. They crossed the Swiftsure Bar with a roar and into the calm waters of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

At Whidbey Island he turned to the starboard and headed toward Seattle. Just past Whidbey Island, he picked up the pilot and they proceeded south to Pier 63, where their customer's barges were tied up. There were eight barges sitting there, doubled up and loaded with SeaVans filled with plywood. It was going to be a heavy load, fortunately, it was summer and the period least likely to storm.

With the assistance of two harbor tugs, they made up the tow and were ready to leave by 3:00 in the afternoon. Carson was on the bridge, they were heavily loaded and he did not want any problems with the tow wire. The First Mate would be coming on watch at 1600 hours. Carson had watched the Second Mate pull them away from the turning basin, the tow wire had played out and the seaman on the fantail reported there were no kinks in the wire.

The First took over the watch and the pilot guided them down channel as far as Whidbey Island.

All the while, Andy had been in the Engine Room watching the crew manage the huge diesel engine and all the auxiliary equipment. Wills had gone down in the Engine Room, as was his practice, whenever they got underway. He answered all of Andy's questions, questions that told Wills the young man was thinking and had retained most of what he had been told by himself and the other engineers.

He made the decision to talk to Cap'n Carson about the boy. He and Carson had gone to the Academy and he had remained a Marine Engineer when the Captain had become a Deck Officer in the Navy. If the Captain was going to be responsible for the boy, maybe he could get him into the Academy.

Wills had been a Junior at the Academy when Carson had been a senior and every underclassman Engineer did their damnedest to follow in Carson Bates' grade points, himself included!

He had done pretty well, he had graduated first in his class, a quarter of a point ahead the second ranked Engineering graduate and a half point behind the level that Carson had attained. Between him and the Captain, it was unlikely the boy could ask any question that could not be answered. Andy DID ask questions, questions that proved how observant and quick the young man was. Even Wills struggled to answer some of the youngster's questions.

The two spent the time until supper observing the Engine Room, Andy was asking questions that Wills had to think hard to answer absolutely correctly. In fact, at suppertime, he told Captain Carson that he felt like he was taking his "orals" before the Examining Board for his license!

Carson laughed and told Wills it would keep him on his toes. Wills just shook his head and said he was gonna go and study some of his books! That night, before they went to bed, Andy grilled Carson on "why and how" the engineering crew did what they did. Carson knew exactly how Wills felt, the boy left him feeling like he had been drained!

The next day saw them making their turn south. They ran all day at 92 turns on the shaft and, as night began to fall, there was a slight mist, so Carson ordered the screw slowed to 75 turns until daylight. The seas remained calm and there was almost no ocean traffic where they were.

None of them expected any trouble, what they got was BIG trouble!

Chapter 3 - FIRE!

Andy and Carson talked for a while before they were both ready to sleep. At 2 AM, both men were awaked by the screech of the fire alarm, the most feared sound aboard a ship at sea! The stateroom door burst open and a seaman shouted, "FIRE, FIRE IN THE ENGINE ROOM!"

Carson raced up to the bridge with Andy on his heels. Carson read all the readouts and looked at the radar, there were no ships nearby. He told the Marconi Operator to send out the MayDay signal and then he raced down to the Engine Room, never realizing Andy was still with him.

Andy's first impulse was to protect this man who had saved his and his brother's lives. When he realized that Carson NEEDED his HELP, Andy was right there, ready to do battle.

The Engine Room hatch was half hanging on its hinges from where it had been blown off, Carson grabbed a fire hose and doused himself down with water and then ran down the ladder into the Engine Room. Andy copied what Carson had done and dove in after him.

The blaze was confined to the area where the lube oil purifier and the main engine lube oil pumps were. The Main Engine was down and Wills was fighting a fire in the bilges.

He was having a hard time dragging the fire hose around by himself, suddenly it became easier. He turned around quickly and found Andy as No.2 Man behind him. Wills grinned and continued to fight the fire. The two men, one old and experienced and the other young and new, worked as a team, well practiced and experienced in putting out a shipboard fire!

Carson threw the breakers on the lube oil pumps. That cut off the flow of oil feeding the fire and Wills and Andy got the fire out quickly.

The Second Engineer and his Oiler were burned and the auxiliary switchboard was a total loss. Wills started the exhaust fans to clear out the smoke, fortunately, the generator had kept on running and was not damaged. The tie breaker had tripped when the auxiliary switchboard blew, but they still had electric power and lights off the main switchboard.

Carson got on the bitchbox and told the bridge to cancel the May Day and then he helped Wills drag emergency cables around until they could get the lube oil pumps running. They could do without the lube oil purifier until they got back home.

Andy worked right alongside the two men, he was having the time of his life and he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he became an adult! He seemed to know what to do and when to do it, later, when Wills and Carson had time to analyze what had happened, they were both amazed at what Andy had done!

By daylight, they had the main engine back on the line and had taken up the slack in the tow wire. They had resumed their course to San Francisco. After they had gotten cleaned up, Carson had a radio message to go out to Charlie asking him to round up a repair crew and have them on the Bates Pier when they got the TERRY back home.

He then sat down with Andy and told him he must not tell anyone what he had done. He had not received the "official" training for fighting a shipboard fire, he was, after all, officially a passenger. Then he hugged the boy and thanked him for his help and observed that he had done everything exactly as it was supposed to be done!

Andy started to say, I wanna..."

Carson interrupted him saying, "Yeah, I know, Chief Wills already told me. You are gonna be a junior this year, next year, in your senior year of high school, you are gonna take the entrance exam at the Academy and you ARE gonna pass it! When you graduate, I will buy you the newest damned ocean tug to be an Engineer on!"

So it was, a boy recognized his calling and became determined he would earn his way on Captain Carson's Ocean Tow Boats! Little did either of them realize at the time that Captain Carson was going to become Daddy Carson and Andy was going to become a Bates, along with his brother!

They got the tow wire under control and the tow was back on course. Carson had the shaft run back up to 92 turns and they continued on their way.

Every time there was a strange sound from the Engine Room, everyone clenched, but there were no further problems. Andy watched intently as the damaged equipment was repaired and placed back in service and he was seen handing tools to the oiler as he reconnected the pump and started it up.

The camaraderie in the mess now included young Andy, he was one of them and he had been tested by the fates and found to be acceptable. He was an honorary member of the "Black Gang"!

It was a smiling young man who stepped off the TERRY, full of confidence in himself and the knowledge that he had found himself and his goals. He was becoming a man and it showed!

Chapter 4 - PUSAN

Peter was pushing The THOMAS, they had lost a little time loading out their four barges. All four barges were loaded with road construction equipment. All of it was double-tarped, and tied. The machinery was very heavy and had been chocked with welded clips in addition to hold-down cables.

They were coasting along at 97 turns on the shaft. Their cargo was consigned to the commercial pier at the outer harbor, which suited Peter just fine. He had little use for Pusan Harbor, he had seen too much of it as the last war had wound down and it hadn't improved since then!

As the Harbor Tower came up on the radar, Peter began walking the engine down, until they were at almost an idle. He could see the Pilot Boat coming out to them.

Keith had been tagging along both himself and the First Mate. The boy asked intelligent questions and Peter had already taught him the rudiments of navigation, which he absorbed like a sponge sucking up water.

Keith caught on quick and nobody minded answering his questions. He seemed to know when to keep back or quiet and he always made himself useful, bringing coffee or running an errand. The entire crew saw him as a younger version of their own Captain, whom they would follow through the Gates of Hell if he needed them!

The pilot came onboard and they found he spoke almost no English, surprising, Keith knew a little Japanese. While the two countries and their people hated each other, Japanese was spoken by many Koreans.

With Keith translating as best he could, the pilot got them to their destination. Peter asked Keith if he would guide the pilot back to the fantail, where he could catch his pilot boat. Keith said he would and he walked the pilot aft.

As he was crossing to the pilot boat, the Pilot grinned at Keith and said, "Thank you, young man, you were very helpful," in correct English!

Keith stood there with his mouth open like a fish out of water. He was still shaking his head when he returned to the bridge. When Keith told Peter what had taken place, Peter just laughed, "Yeah, I know, I have worked with that old snake before. And, what's more, he KNOWS that I KNOW!"

There was going to be dead time, the factor brought a radiogram that their outbound cargo of furniture and wood products had been delayed. The shipper was paying delay time charges. So, they sat there for three days in the heat, waiting for their cargo.


Things are beginning to "warm" up in Korea and, very soon, the Communist Chinese would come swarming down from the north, killing and destroying everything in their path.