Bunk Bags

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Since 02-20-06

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

If you never rode the boats, this is going to sound silly and make absolutely no damn sense to you. If you did, you will remember the damn things and probably smile.

The contraptions were simply called bunk bags. Not 'U.S. Navy Bags, Bunk, Type II Mod 6, Unit of Issue, One Each'. Not 'Shipboard Personal Gear Storage Pouch (Submarine) with Zipper'... Just gahdam 'bunk bags'.

They were elongated bags, designed specifically for horizontal passageway storage, hung from the tubular bunk frames on diesel boats. They were ugly, a sickening shade of lime-green (which incedently, closely resembled the color of barf after a three-day drunk) and had four snap straps that connected them to the bunk rail.

It is my understanding that they were intended to eliminate the noise level created by Gillette safety razors, Zippo lighters, busted Timex watches, dice, flashlights, coins, and shrunken heads, purchased as gifts for wives, from rattling around in an aluminum sidelocker and giving away your position.

They were either that lime-green or some kind of gray tweed and they were uglier than a blindman's bride.

But they had many desirable qualities if you were a nomadic resident of a submersible septic tank. First, they increased the allowable storage space and damn near doubled it. In layman's terms, an E-3 could accumulate worldly goods amounting to those on par with migrating Mongolians and folks doing life on Devil's Island.

Next, and this can only be appreciated by an idiot bastard who ever had the wonderful experience of a surface battery charge in a state five sea, the damn things hanging down on the passageway side of a berthing compartment, kept you from being beat to death, bouncing off inanimate objects bolted to the pressure hull. They serve to pad the piping surrounding the bunks known as bunk rails. Your ribs were very grateful.

But the best thing about bunk bags was their ability to be converted into instant short-range luggage... Sort of a 'submariners Samsonite overnight' bag. By snapping the two center straps together, you could create what passed for a luggage handle... A poor excuse for a carrying device, but usable. A bunk bag full of the supplies needed for a 72-hour excursion into the heartland of the civilian population, was the worst of all possible choices.

Mentally picture the left leg of a fat woman's panty hose filled with Jello and stitched up at the open end and at midway from thigh to toe, attach a sea bag handle and you have the most unwieldy AWOL bag ever created and the ugliest gahdam contraption ever invented by man... A floppy sausage full of the meager possessions of a long-range boat bum.

The damn things had one distinct advantage that no other personal gear conveyance had. If you saw some fleet untouchable standing beside the highway with one of the fool things at his feet, you knew immediately that the hitchhiking sonuvabitch was a boatsailor. A fellow submarine sailor would burn flat spots in a new set of tires, stopping to pick you up.

To every old white-haired smokeboat vet, the words 'bunk bag' bring a smile to his weather-beaten face. You would find it damn hard to come across an old petroleum-powered submersible resident who didn't have fond memories of the worthless sonuvabitches.