Subase Pearl Harbor Det 716 

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Turn Off Those Damn Lights

By ET1 William Lord USN/USNR (ret)


After we de-boarded the plane at Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL) in the mid to late 90’s I went immediately to the car rental agency and picked up the car I had reserved for our two week stay on Oahu.

A few of us jumped in the car and headed for Subase to check in.

Upon arriving at Subase we discovered there was no room for us again in the BEQ (enlisted barracks) and we thought we lucked out again as this was not the first time this had happened. 

In the past when this occurred we were given per diem and sent to a hotel on Waikiki Beach, usually the Outrigger Reef Hotel. But this time this was not to be the case for many of us as they found berthing for us on Ford Island.

After checking in with the OOD we headed for Ford Island.  This was before the Admiral Clarey Bridge was built which opened in 1998.  In fact it was under construction while we were there this year.

The only way to get to the island at that time was to take the ferry which is what we did.

After settling in at the barracks we headed for the ferry to cross the harbor and head to Waikiki for an evening of steaming.

After dinner in Honolulu, a few drinks at the Hole Koa at Fort DeRussy  and a club or two we returned to Ford Island via the all too familiar to be ferry.

The next morning at 0600 hours we again headed toward the ferry landing to cross over the harbor and then to Subase to have breakfast and then quarters at 0730 hours.

We got to the landing and found our place in line to board the ferry.  When we finally made it to the front of the line the coxswain aboard the ferry shouted at us with a bullhorn telling us to turn off our lights, as was the procedure because the headlight tended to make it difficult for the crew to observe our maneuvers.  Now the car I had rented didn’t have the capabilities of doing this.  In fact these damn lights which I was already learning to hate which was only the beginning as this hate would soon become outright detest had a mind of its own. When you started the car the lights would come on and there was no talking them out of doing this.

Now this first communication via bullhorn was offered as almost a request.  Later it would become apparent it not intended to be a request and soon it sounded more like an order when he shouted a couple more times before shouting “turn them damn lights off”. 

I knew we had to do something as I felt the coxswain’s next order would be to have us walk the gang plank. At the very least  we most likely were going to miss chow and possibly even be late for muster under the Banyan Tree but I didn’t know what we could do as the only way these damn lights were going to cooperate was if I turned the ignition off.

After some more shouting from the coxswain with his bullhorn and me wishing I had on too so I could join in on the conversation as I had a few things that had come up I would have loved to have been able to share, a seaman who was responsible for making sure the traffic got aboard the ferry safely walked to where we were waiting.  I explained to him the situation and he just laughed and signaled with his hand to follow him as he led us safely aboard for the short trip across the harbor.


We never had a reoccurrence of this.  I suspect either the coxswain recognized my car or the seaman had informed him that some of the newer vehicles had this incapability of turning off the lights while the vehicle was running.

As I stated earlier this was not the only reason I disliked this new feature.  Another reason for not liking it was the fact that it was easy to be tooling down the freeway with no taillights since you had forgotten to turn the lights on which was easy to do since you could see just fine.  It left you venerable to being stopped by the police which could have been disastrous after an evening in the bars of Waikiki.

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