A Heavily-Armed Fishing Boat

USS Port Royal (CG 73)

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

My last Navy sea tour, on the Aegis Cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), from February 1994 to April 1996, homeported in Hawaii, was a bittersweet time. On one hand, I was winding down my Navy career so things like evaluations and career development didn’t mean anything. On the other hand, I ran a division of eighteen people, each of whom were smart and creative. Each in their own way.

So, one of my challenges as the division Senior Chief was to encourage my people’s creativity while simultaneously preventing them from doing anything seriously stupid. At times, this proved to be very challenging.

The Background

The Navy’s Aegis Cruisers of that era were the largest and most heavily armed ships in our fleet, after aircraft carriers. Port Royal carried a full loadout of 130 missiles of various types, two five-inch guns, two anti-missile defense systems (CWIS), six torpedo tubes, and 25mm and .50 caliber machine guns. She was also equipped with the AN/SPY-1 radar, which at the time was the most advanced combat radar system in the world. Along with an assortment of other radars, anti-submarine sonar equipment, and miscellaneous combat equipment. In short, Port Royal was armed to the teeth and a match for any other warship, anywhere in the world.

Johnny the Fisherman

One of my more colorful people was a young man who grew up in the Louisiana bayous, Johnny. His hobby was deep-sea fishing. And he was good at it. He was also a charmer who could wheel and deal with the best.

When Port Royal was at sea, we were either transiting, moving from one location to another as fast as operationally possible, or station-keeping. Station-keeping consisted of staying in a small area of ocean idling around very slowly (three to five knots), sometimes for days at a time, around the Hawaiian Islands. Which, according to Johnny, was an ideal opportunity for deep-sea fishing.

So, Johnny made a deal with our Captain that if we were station-keeping he could fish off the ship. The Captain’s only stipulation was that anything Johnny caught would be shared with the crew.

All was well and Johnny would occasionally feature his fresh catch of the day for crew’s dinner.

Then we had a maintenance period and went into drydock for a few weeks. Near the end of our maintenance, I happened to be walking back at the fantail (stern of the ship). I spotted a new fitting welded to the deck that looked a lot like a deep-sea fishing rod holder.

USS Port Royal (CG 73) in drydock, showing teh fantail. U.S. Navy photo by Michael F. Laley/Released 090219-N-4003L-003 PEARL HARBOR (Feb. 19, 2009)
USS Port Royal (CG 73) in Drydock, Showing the Fantail

I asked several people who maintained that area what the fitting was for? Each person mumbled something and quickly disappeared. So, I went and found Johnny, and asked him if he knew anything about this mysterious fishing rod holder-looking thingy. He gave me the biggest grin and said “Senior, do you know how they say you should never ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer?”

That son of a gun turned our Aegis Cruiser into the world’s most heavily armed fishing boat.

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Editors Note: This post is based on my answer to a Quora question “Do any Navy ships have a fishing area for crew members while they are out at sea?

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