Here's a short rendition of an old story.
I was transferred or to the APL-31 in 1977, at that time she was in Rota Spain. ( APL is Navy for auxiliary personnel living. ) My orders said USS Canopus, a fine submarine repair vessel also in Rota, but somehow I got traded off before even arriving in Spain. I pitched a bitch but an old salty first class petty officer told me to pipe down, that I was really making out. That was the beginning of three and a half years of fun, frolic, boredom, and things I could not repeat.
The crew was mostly rejects from the USS Canopus. Kind of like a big flush of their problem children to the APL. Anyhow this vessel did have somewhat of an important job to do in our national defense. It was not only a barracks barge but also a floating machine shop for submarine repair. Rota was a forward deployed Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Base. I'm talkin' real BIG weapons of mass destruction. It was cheaper and quicker to perform refits in Rota than stateside. Subs would go in a floating dry dock to be worked on. Civilian shipyard workers were flown into Spain and used the APL as a work barge, this would last anywhere from 45 days to two months. This concept greatly shortened refit periods getting the subs back on patrol even sooner. Submarine crews had messing and berthing facilities on board, and there were about 25 of us who were ship's company personnel.
The APL was tied up to the dry dock to facilitate repair. The problem was this type of repair period only happened about once every three months, so there was some free time on our hands, and young sailors will be sailors. At least 10 of these guys were scoundrels, drunks, debauchers, and everything that every mother warned their daughters to stay away from - but really didn't. Now don't get me wrong here these guys would really put out the work, they could do 12 hours of work in 8, and could easily do a 48 hour shift when needed. But when the refit was over the partying was on. Since this was not a commissioned vessel we figured we could keep beer on board, we built our own berthing and lounge area ( lower level mid ships port side ) and female visitors were not that uncommon. Back then the Navy's TV commercial slogan was "its not just a job, but an adventure" boy did we make an adventure out of it. Sometimes during a particularly heavy work period somebody would yell, "Ain't just a job" and we would make the reply loudly "it's an adventure" always with that knowing smirk on our face. I think the slogan now is "accelerate your life" bet the connotations to that have been changed around.
The APL was transferred to King's Bay GA in 1979 and only about four of the original crew stayed with her. Needless to say things changed once we got back stateside. Good people were transferred on board and things got serious in setting up in a new sub base. President Reagan was elected and he got the Navy going even better than it was. But believe me any funny movie you see about the Navy pales in comparison on what happened on board "Happy Acres." Nothing bad, mind you, just something nice to think about as I get older. I'm glad she wasn't scrapped, but just laying there flapping in the current. So when you hear that noise when you dive near her and you listen real hard you might pick up the sounds of rowdy young sailors clanking beer bottles, the giggling of young ladies and some of the most raucous singing that would make Madonna blush.
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class - APL-31
Retired CHIEF PETTY OFFICER U.S. Navy
That "Jack's Spot" name, that's something you side-walkin' beach creatures pinned on her. To hundreds of sailors she'll always be called "Happy Acres".
I BELIEVE THE APL 31 WAS STATIONED FOR A TIME AT THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ANNAPOLIS, HOUSING COOKS AND SUPPORT PERSONNEL MY FATHER WAS STATIONED THERE IN '52-'54 AS A BOATSWAINS MATE ABOARD HER. SHE WAS DOCKED ALONGSIDE THE OLD SPANISH CRUISER "REINA MERCEDES" I'VE BEEN ABOARD BOTH VESSELS AS A YOUNG LAD ACCOMPANYING MY DAD TO WORK. I DON'T KNOW WHEN THE BARGE LEFT ANNAPOLIS, BUT I WOULD GUESS ABOUT THE SAME TIME THE "REINA MERCEDES" WAS SCRAPPED. I OFTEN WONDERED ABOUT THE OLD 31, NOW I KNOW SHE'S IN GOOD HANDS.
WILLIAM T. BAUGH JR.