The bridge was tense, and getting tenser. The stress was so thick you could scoop it out with a spoon. This was a capital ship in restricted waters, and things weren’t right.
To make matters worse, the CO was a “screamer.”
In restricted waters, carriers use two teams for navigation – the Navigator’s team on the bridge, and the Tactical Operations Plot, or TOP, in a nearby room. One conducts visual navigation; one uses radar – kind of a check-and-balance thing. Both report to the Captain and give maneuvering recommendations. It’s great when they all agree on where the ship actually is. It’s less great when they don’t. On this day, they didn’t.
With each report, the CO got more agitated. “GATOR!”, he would yell. Time after time, like Igor in a Frankenstein movie, the Navigator would take the lonely trek across the bridge to get his dose of humility.
We could hear what the Captain told him (i.e., he was a “screamer”). “Why don’t the two teams match up?” “Why can’t you get this right?” “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”
Still, the reports kept coming. “Navigation holds you right of track.” “TOP holds you left of track.” With each announcement the Captain’s face turned a brighter shade of red. The Navigator tried fruitlessly to bury himself in the navigation chart. We knew it was simply a matter of time. We felt sorry for the Gator, but we had front row seats and nobody was leaving.
Finally, the pot boiled over.
Unable to control his anger any longer, the CO pointed to the hapless Navigator and screamed, “GATOR…FIX THAT!”
Everything got quiet. Without a word the Navigator disappeared behind the curtain separating TOP from the bridge, emerging a few minutes later.
At the next report, we all held our breath.
“Navigation holds you 50 yards right of track.”
Amazingly (OK, not so amazingly), every subsequent report matched word-for-word until we secured the watch. The Gator’s career was salvaged; the Captain was happy.
The rest of us wondered where we really were.