ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Navy - A Few Months on a Ship

Updated on February 9, 2018

Simonstown Harbour


The Time I Spent On a Ship in the Navy

Many years ago in the latter part of the 1970s I spent some time on a ship in the navy.

Sometimes we would go to sea for three weeks at a time, then return to the naval dockyard.

I'd always wanted to go to sea on a ship, but this was no luxury cruise; to say the least it was an interesting, enjoyable experience.

When we returned from a spell at sea, many of us spent time ashore, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with family or friends at these times.

See the book about the navy that is available further on in this article.

On the train to the Naval Base in Simonstown

In 1975 I was conscripted for compulsory military service into the South African Navy.

It was the year after I'd completed my schooling, I'd had a good holiday, but now it was time to hop on the train to go to Simonstown near Cape Town to spend 18 months in the navy.

I forget much of the train journey of approximately 800 kilometres to the city of Cape Town, where we then boarded a local train to take us to the small town of Simonstown further along the coast. Parts of the long train ride were scenic, travelling through mountainous and forest areas.

After arriving at the naval base there, we were allocated a dormitory and bunks to sleep on, and soon had our hair shaven in a short 'crew cut' style. I completed a physically strenuous basic training then did a 6 months communications course at the Signal School on a hill above Simonstown. This was an intensive course where we learned typing, morse code, radio control and communication skills. It was really cold up there on the mountain where the signal school is and to be honest the food was not that great but I enjoyed the course and got quite a few week-ends off.

After the communications course I was conscripted onto a frigate, the SAS Kruger, a South African navy ship.

I was keen to go to sea but did not realise that it wasn't all plain sailing being on a ship in the navy, it was quite tough at times.

Our quarters were down some stairs with a few bunks on the sides reserved for Able Seamen, and some lockers to keep our clobber in; on the other side of the lockers was another area where the radar recruits slept.

We were issued hammocks; at night we had to string our hammocks up and by 6am the next morning they had to be taken down and put away for the day. Sleeping conditions were cramped; our hammocks were lined up next to each other and we slept like sardines.

During the night someone would come and wake us up to go on shift; this caused discomfort for those around us, because we had to get out of our hammocks normally disturbing the person sleeping next to us. We also got disturbed when the person next to us had to somehow get out of his hammock to go on duty.

Shifts during the night were four-hourly, so If you went on shift at 8 pm then you could go to bed at 12 midnight when the next shift started. The next shift was at 4 am. If you couldn't get to sleep before 12 at night and then went on the 12 to 4 am shift, you basically got no sleep and had to be up and about the next morning.

As the few bunks in the living quarters were only for Able Seamen, I sometimes managed to find a nook on the ship to sleep for an hour or so during my daytime off-time. We had shifts during the day also, so this endeavour had to be timed well.


Sunny Days & Flying Fish

We were patrolling off the west coast of the tip of Africa and stopped once at Windhoek but were not allowed to disembark from the ship.

There were some days when we could relax and enjoy the sunshine and the view of the beautiful ocean all around us. We saw a lot of flying fish in the area, it was quite an amazing sight; how they would shoot through the air then dip back into the ocean.

The front part of the ship where there was a large open deck was my favourite area for taking it easy. The bow I believe it's called. The food on the ship was good, we ate well.

We once had to carry out an operation where we had cables running between our ship and another ship (the Tafelberg).

Most of us basic Seamen were required to man these cables (hold tightly onto them), while supplies were transported from one ship to the other. Needless to say our hands got very sore during this exercise.

While on duty in the signals office I worked a lot on tele-printers, did some radio work and also voice control, where we contacted the base in Simonstown. I can remember scrubbing the floor at 2 am sometimes as well.

At night during one of the shifts we had to shred all our documents in a shredder, then go and throw them down a shute at the back of the ship. The Stern I believe it's called.

This used to make me nervous; it was kind of creepy because there weren't many lights outside on the ship at night and I sometimes worried that I might slip into the shute while tossing the shredded papers down it.

It's not a pleasant thought to imagine yourself accidentally falling into the deep dark ocean in the middle of the night while your ship sails off into the blackness. Fortunately this never happened.

I have a great love for the sea but respect it as it can be dangerous even when swimming at a local beach, one has to watch the back-currents and know when to not venture out too far when swimming.

All things considered, I enjoyed my time on a ship in the navy.

Penguins at Boulders Beach, Simonstown


Were You, or Are You a Member of A Navy?

See results

Your Comments are Welcome

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @esmonaco: Thanks for your comments esmonaco, have a good day!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      5 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Sounds like a wonderful experience!! Thanks

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      6 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @Dusty2 LM: Thanks!

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      6 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @goldenrulecomics: Thanks for visiting and your comment

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for sharing

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      7 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @anonymous: Thanks: only saw your comment recently.

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 

      7 years ago

      Well done lens! It sounds as though your short naval career at times got a little exciting while at sea. Glad you didn't go for any midnight swims. Thanks for stopping by my Guinness Beer - History lens and giving it a "thumbs up". I really appreciate it and hope you enjoyed your visit. (^_^)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Similar to working on a cruise ship or on an oil rig, away from the family for a while which could be hard, nice lens, thanks for sharing.

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      7 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for the comment

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting story.

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      7 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @Glen Kowalski: Thanks for the comment, I did some fishing in my youth and later, but not done any for a long time, satisfying when you can catch some fish

    • Glen Kowalski profile image

      Glen Kowalski 

      7 years ago

      I work on fishing boats and have spent as much time at sea as on land, and I love it. Now that I have a daughter I don't commercial fish as much, but I still charter fish a lot. I was also in the Army. Nice lens.

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      7 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @takkhisa: Thanks

    • takkhisa profile image


      7 years ago

      Navy Job you had! I guess it is very much adventurous and thanks for sharing your own experience here in this lens.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      7 years ago from USA

      I can appreciate your "living on a ship" only because of my father's experience. His stories were always interesting, as are yours.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)