“Boats, five short blasts,” the OOD had cried, his voice trembling as the dhow neared a mile, right forward on the bow, almost under the shelf of the bow catapults, almost out of sight. Once out of sight he would not be able to tell which side of the ship the dhow was maneuvering towards, if in fact it was maneuvering. At that point it would all be in God’s hands.
“Bosun’s mate, aye-aye,” replied the BMOW and the sound of the ship’s signal whistle sounding its hoarse cry of emergency and distress brought the ship’s Captain now fully out of his chair, shouting “Officer of the Deck! We need to maneuver the ship!” followed rapidly, too rapidly by, “Aye, Captain – CONN, left full rudder!”
“CONN, aye – Helm, left full rudder!”
“Helm, left full rudder aye!”and spinning of the ship’s great wheel to the left before being countermanded by the Captain himself, “Belay that! Ease your rudder to left ten! Officer of the Deck, what’s the ship’s speed?”
“Ease my rudder to left ten, aye!”
“Twenty knots Captains, winds were light for launch,” the OOD replied, quailing under his CO’s fierce and red-eyed glare: Above 15 knots, use of full rudder was restricted due to heel, but they were in extremis even if aircraft were taxiing and launching. Even as the Helmsman eased his rudder back to ten degrees left the ship dug into the turn, heeling well to starboard, the physics of mass and momentum at war with the two great rudders biting into the frothing sea. In Flight Deck Control the Handler cursed before screaming into the 5MC flight deck announcing system, “Head’s up on the flight deck, turning port, heel to starboard!”
On the bow cat the squadron CO’s heart leapt suddenly into his throat as he felt the ship heel over, port side rising into the air before him as the starboard fell away behind him. He swore violently into his oxygen mask as the throttle setting for taxi power became suddenly insufficient to move forward against the sloping deck – she slowed, she stopped, she started rolling backwards, back towards the parking spot, back towards the deck edge, back towards the invisible, waiting sea.
“Bosun’s Mate of the Watch, sound the collision alarm!” cried the Captain.