highlining bosun chair

During my 8 years of naval service I witnessed this evolution numerous times. I personally never experienced it and I will readily admit that I have no regrets. Occasionally the occupant of the bosun’s chair got a free salt water dunking which I am sure wasn’t any fun. And it was often said that certain people purposely got dunked if they were not well liked. I think some officers were also purposely dunked just because they could get away with it.

highline transfer into water

Sometimes it is hard to prevent the dunking into the sea with two ships rocking/rolling back and forth, especially when both ships roll toward each other making the highline suddenly very slack. Sometimes just the rough turbulent water between the ships reaches up and gets the person in the bosun’s chair.

And sometimes things can go terribly wrong as seen in this video:

People aren’t the only thing transferred between ships via highlining.  Among the common things which make the trip between ships are: ammunition, all kinds of supplies, parts, mail and movies.

highlining ammo  highlining food and supplies

Speaking of mail … getting letters from family back home was always so very welcome and I got a lot of it. Of course, I wrote a lot of it too. Sometimes the mail was slow coming … catching up to us so when we get word that we are finally going to get mail after quite some time without receiving any it is always very welcome news. One time during highlining the mail was coming over from the supply ship to our ship. Many of us were watching it and really looking forward to getting it. Then it happened.  Somehow it fell into the sea … a whole big bag of it … gone forever … never read. It was devastating. A couple of other times the mail got wet coming across and a couple of the letters for me from my dad were no longer readable as the ink ran/bled/streaked so bad. I told him what had happened and requested he no longer use that pen to write them as this could happen again. Personally I think the navy should have used a water tight container for the mail transfer or anything else that is a concern of it getting wet.

Most of us remember the TV series “Hawaii Five-O” starring Jack Lord. Well, here is a video from that show where Steve McGarrett is transferred via highline from one US Navy ship to another. It shows pretty good detail of elements of the operation.

Anyone interested in watching this episode of Hawaii Five- O (Murder: Eyes Only) you can find it HERE .

As a Shipfitter … SF  (later renamed to Hull Maintenance Technician … HT) one of the things we sometimes transferred back and forth was empty and full compressed gas cylinders (oxygen, acetylene, helium, CO2, etc.) Full cylinders were always a serious safety concern as they are extremely dangerous if the head of the cylinder were to get knocked off. They become an unguided missile which have been known to go thru metal bulkheads and decks.

Here in this picture two men are being highlined at the same time.

highlining two men at same time

HERE is a well written article on another website about highlining.

Yes, highlining is an interesting part of naval operations. It has been around for quite some time and doesn’t look like it is going away anytime soon. It may be a wild and wet ride however!

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