You have been introduced to the WAL504 but it is about time to meet her Captain. During the years 1954- 56, the captain was Chief Bo’sun F. L. Finley, shown here. I believe that the F was for “Fred” but you didn’t ask the captain things like that.


He was a pretty good captain. He ran things “according to the book” when it mattered. Trivial things he was relaxed on. We never wore regulation clothing (unless it was an accident) at sea. I only had one sailor hat that I kept nice for inspections and when I went ashore. His biggest problem was that, before the ‘504, he had never been in command of a steam vessel before. He just couldn’t seem to get it in his head that you could not start and stop steam engines like you did internal combustion engines. We had to remind him every time we cam “home” that need to slow to two-thirds speed several hours before port to let the boilers cool down some.


He learned his lesson well one day. I knew we were in trouble as I was in the engine room and we were still going two-thirds speed when I saw the Bay Bridge through the engine room skylight. This meant we were only a few minutes from the pier. Then the Engine Room Telegraph signaled “ALL STOP.” We begin to shut down the engine about the time the telegraph went to “2/3 ASTERN” and then almost immediately, “FULL ASTERN.” Shortly after that there was a big bang as we rammed the pier, taking out a number of pilings.

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