Panama Canal-Finally!

Posted by Rebekah
Dec 14 2010

Well, time to back up and return to the Panama Canal.  Flier finally received clearance to cross on December 5, and the pilot H.V. Rowe boarded and guided Flier through.  Jim Alls remembered Panama fondly.  (I’m still struggling to edit the tape, sorry.  If I can finish this thing I’ll post it here, though I make NO promises to have a polished final product. Hopefully, I’ll get the hang of Adobe Premiere soon.  If not…I have two brothers who will teach me whether I like it or not!  (Love you guys!))

Jim Alls, who had been told that the best (and cheapest) place to get a custom tailored garment was Panama, got a pair of new blues.  He remembered them fondly too:  Navy wool, lined in silk, with a dragon embroidered under the cuffs, and his name embroidered inside.  He felt like a king, striding down the streets  of Colon and Balboa (on the other side of the Canal) with the huge bell-bottomed pants.

In fact, they were so large, that his first wife (who passed away a number of years ago) used them to make a winter coat for their daughter.

In Balboa, on the Pacific side of the canal, they Flier had to deal with the immense  tidal levels: in some cases, 40 feet high.  The lines tying Flier to her dock would have to be let in and out as the water rose or fell.  When Jim told me this, I laughed and said, “So you can walk off the submarine to go to town, but you’ll need a ladder to get back aboard.”  and he said, “And some of the men had problems with that ladder when they came back!”

But the war was still on, so and they had to get to Pearl Harbor quickly.  They left the morning of December 6.

The deck logs of the Flier from the 6th to the 14th reveal just how busy they were:  Daily drills, exercises and more (WE went on three engines, then four engines, secured engines and dived, surfaced, dived, surfaced, Put three engines on propulsion and one on battery charge…day after day after day.)  Jim Alls, who had been unqualified when he joined the crew in October, used this time to get qualified before Flier even reached Pearl Harbor, freeing him for more R&R time aboard.  Most unqualified men were only permitted to sleep, eat, be on duty, and studying for exams.  He particularly remembered one question for the qualifying exam that he said was really odd, but you could do if you stopped to think about it.

So there they are, on patrol, looking to get to Pearl Harbor as fast as they could.  Once there, Pearl would outfit them again with any newer technology, possibly change some crew members, and Crowley would receive his orders for Flier’s first patrol, the first time boat and crew could prove themselves.

<Sigh>  Stupid Premiere.  Can’t get the hang of this yet.  Sorry.

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