Seaman Bondarenko

Seaman Bondarenko was the lone man on deck.  It really wasn't fair that he had to stand this unfamiliar watch alone at night.  However, since the remote control circuits for the towed array sonar winch were "fried" two weeks ago, this had been one of his many duties.  Perhaps the engineer that sprayed the seawater into the winch control panel could stand this horrible watch.  After all, he was the one that had destroyed the panel in the first place.

It made sense that someone had to stand by the switches, ready to raise and lower the system just in case there was a required change in the equipment.  However, he had been here for over two hours!  Nobody had relieved him, and he had received no orders.  It was almost as if they had forgotten him.  It certainly was strange, and it wasn't the place he wanted to be, but his orders were clear.  He was to stand by the winch and listen to the intercom for further instructions.  Nevertheless, there was nothing to be heard from the intercom but static.

It was a cool night out on the deck, even though it was summer.  There wasn't much wind, but the seas were still fairly high.  The ship wasn't going very fast, so the Aziya rolled dramatically every time one of the high Pacific rollers came by.  Bondarenko tightly clutched onto a nearby railing.  He had been there so long he thought his hands might be actually locked onto the cold steel pipe.

Vitaliy Bondarenko was a young man only 20 years of age.  He grew up on a state-run farm near Popeliany just outside the Ukrainian city of Lviv.  When he turned 18, like all good citizens, he reported to Lviv to be conscripted into the Soviet Navy.  It was to be a mandatory term of three years' service.  His hope was to do his three years and return to Popeliany where he would be reunited with his sweetheart Natalya.

Now, it had been 26 months since leaving home and Vitaliy was terribly homesick.  It wasn't so bad when he was in the Seaman's school at Vladivostok, but things quickly got worse.  Since he had been posted to the cursed ship Aziya, it was like being in prison.  They hadn't been in port for the past 18 months, and no mail for the past six!

In his present situation, he couldn't help but to ponder his fate.

"What am I doing here?" he thought.  "Thousands of miles away from home, and now I'm hanging onto this railing for dear life!"

An excerpt from Whiskey 601, a novel by Mark Nelson