Chapter 20 (aboard the F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The United States Navy built the F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1883 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Originally named the Norfolk, it was one of two submarines designed by Benjamin Strickland of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Strickland’s other submarine, named the Suffolk, was sunk during the Spanish American War. In 1910 the Norfolk returned to New York and was outfitted with a diesel engine, making her faster and safer. However in 1917 she was sunk off the coast of England by a German U-boat.
During World War II, the British government drudged up the Norfolk and repaired her. They strengthened the hull and fortified the bow giving her the ability to ram other ships. They mounted machine guns on the deck and renamed her the F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In 1984 Captain Gram bought the F. Scott for scrap during the Great Recession of the Thatcher administration. (his favorite toast is ‘Cheers Maggie!’) For six months Tom worked as a tech contractor for the British Military. During that time he managed to stockpile an impressive collection of decommissioned hardware, which he used to build a massive computer system that he later installed in the sub. (the whole thing looks ridiculous, but it works)
The F. Scott is eighty-six feet long from bow to stern with a beam of approximately thirty-two feet. Both the galley and the mess hall are located at the starboard bow, while the Captain’s quarters are at the stern. One of my jobs on board is to switch out the jugs attached to the bottom the Mechanical Gills and drag them up to the mess hall once they are full of drinkable water. We keep the cupboard in the galley full of dried noodles, corn beef hash and preserves. There is a big bag of rice under the stove, next to a jar full of drippings. Tom loves to fish so the fridge is always stocked with trout, grouper or mahi mahi, wrapped in newspaper. The Captain keeps a stash of bacon in the freezer, which is off limits.
Below the mess hall there are five cabins and a bathroom with a pressure operated toilet. We keep a plastic bucket on board for when the toilet doesn’t work, which is often. The engine room is in the back along with the Mechanical Gills, which supply breathable air to a dozen auxiliary tanks.
Midship is the control room where we spend most of our time. Below that is the hold, which we use mainly for storage. Attached to the control room is the library where Gram keeps his massive collection of books. He’s been collecting them for most of his life beginning with a copy of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain, which he stole from a nursing home when he was nine.
By the time Gram purchased the F. Scott, she had been stripped of any guns or furniture. The seats in the control room were all salvaged. There is a row of Boeing 747 first class chairs in the back that we got from British Airways. Tom says they originally came from the Concord, and are the actual seats where Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley met and hatched the American’t album. (I think he’s full of shit, but you can never tell with Tom.) The rest of the chairs vary in shades of leather. Some are bolted to the floor, some aren’t. I make sure to rub them once a week with oil so that they don’t crack from the heat. Gram keeps a record player with all his records in the library. He keeps a smaller player in his cabin. Tom built a sound system enabling the Captain to play his records throughout the entire sub. (unfortunately) His favorite music is soul and R&B, particularly anything put out by Motown.
Our first destination after we leave Turkey is Venice.