by: Christopher P. LaVoie
This is an excellent book about Navy salvage diving in the early 90`s by a sailor who did it. You have to take some of it with a grain of salt because this is a sailor telling his sea stories. But he does have a gift for telling them and they ring true more than exagerated.
He briefly takes you through his experiences in Boot Camp and A-school before arriving at the Navy Dive School at Pearl Harbor. The selection process apparently had an extra step for his class as a SNAFU had assigned twice the number of students as the school had seats for students. A marathon PT session on the concrete in the summer sun followed with anyone who dropped out or collapsed eliminated until they were down to a small enough class. Then he covers the school from SCUBA training to hard hat salvage diver training. Navy Diver school wasn`t meant to be easy for reasons that will become clear later in his story. Though they did spend plenty of their free time getting in a solid diet of chips and beer.
After Diver School, LaVoie was assigned to the salvage ship USS Reclaimer based out of Pearl Harbor under the supervision of Master Diver Starky. Now you know where the name of the book comes from. He not only tells some of the adventure filled sea stories that you would expect, he also makes sure you know that the life of a Navy Diver is also filled with all the normal drudgery of a junior sailor on his first sea duty assignment. Temporary duty in the galley, scraping paint, fire watches etc provide the fill links between salvage jobs and liberty calls in various ports.
Several of his stories revolve around middle eastern deployments. Not for his ship, but for others and how his ship and their salvage and repair expertise got them to where they were going. The story of changing the propeller on an Aegis missile cruiser that had no time to wait for dry dock space is particurally crazy and painful to read. The story about rescuing a cargo ship loaded with tanks that had a major engine failure of the coast is more routine but still lets you in on a little seen side of the Navy. It`s not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination. If you remember the scene in Men of Honor where Chief Sunday lectures the new dive canidates that they will not be heros but will be highly trained salvage experts, you begin to get the idea. A truly interesting story involves a submerged US submarine that had secured itself to the bottom with its anchor and then had a malfunction and couldn`t get it raised leaving the ship firmly fastened to the sea floor and the divers had to come up with a way to get the ship free and oh by they way the skipper says you can`t just cut the chain.
Some of the stories are more routine. Such as towing a submarine up the west coast to be put into mothballs. Or, the time he completed an underwater inspection and got told to stay down and find the tool bag that an engineer had dropped off the fantail by accident. A chapter is devoted to a training exercise in Pearl Harbor that combined much of the diving community in Hawaii, SEALs, EOD, and Salvage divers. First the SEALs swam in and sank a target vessel, then EOD cleared the wreck of explosives, then the Salvage Divers raised her off of the bottom. Just a training exercise. One of the more interesting stories didn`t even involve diving. LaVoie and some other sailors and Marines got assigned the job of cleaning up shrapnel and marking dud bombs on a small island that had been used as a target range and was being rehabilitated.
You can find the book at:
http://www.amazon.com/Starkeys-Boys-Salvage-Hawaiian-Islands /dp/1425919936/ref=sr_11_1/ 103-2697282-5679866?ie=UTF8&qid=1181752161&sr=11-1