Even Japans Navy has advanced in some technology.
No longer the astern method, today she will slide alongside the tanker, take station, and fuel alongside.
Quick release fuel probes, automatic tensioners, they are in Japans future. But, this at least, is a step forward.
Takeji takes one last look at the tanker ahead.
Takes a deep silent breath.
"We make our approach!" revolutions 230!"
Below, the whine of the blowwers, the wind rushes past faster, the waters hiss.
"Port 1 degree!"
Hold this heading, 270!"
Coming along nicely.............gap 50 yards, maybe 45.
Nose swinging slightly as we cross her wake...........'Steady swain!"
coming up, coming up............
"Half astern both!, astern 180!"
"half astern both, astern 180 rung down and repeated sir!"
charge swings the repeater to half astern, twirls the revs to 180.
"Half astern!, 180!"
Hirate , sweat flinging from his red face, spins the great astern throttle, the charge, the ahead in the opposite direction.
Both eyes rigidly afixed on the steam pressure.
It never moves.............
The tacho plunges to zero, plunges past, stops, rock steady, 180 astern..............
braking nicely, nicely............mark!
"half ahead both!, revolutions 090!
"half ahead both, revolutions 090!. revolutions 090 rung down and repeated sir!'
"half ahead, revolutions 090!"
again charge, as swift as a blink, matches the bells.
Again the men grunt as he swings open the ahead, Hirate slams shut the astern
Takeji judges the two ships
revolutions 091revolutions 089...............ah yes. Thats got her.
"XO, you may commence fuelling."
A gun shhots the dildo acroos, the thin line trailing. men race, catch the line. begin to pull it in.
Other men on the tanker attach a heavier line, and then an even hevier one.
A geat line of menon Zuihos flight deck, cooks, Stokers, stewards, stores rates, any body spare (but never the gunners, not now, they are fully manned, pointed at those menacing waters), haul in the ropes, the great hose following.
Men bolt it to the refuelling point.
Now is the moment of great danger. they cannot manouvre now, cannot escape until that hose is gone.
two gleaming axes, sharp, rest close at hand.............
the fuel pulses across.
Minobe takes a sample. Wrinkles his nose.
"This is pony poo!" he curses
Takeji is leaning over the bridge wing, directly above them at the refuelling point " problems engines?"
"I can smell the sulphur content from here sir...........very poor rate fuel oil!..we are going to smoke like hell with this rubbish!"
Takeji shrugs. "we get what we get Engines........"
And yes, we know this...........but you will be the first to complain when I ask for boiler cleans and soot blows before schedule....."
Minobe can do nothing but accept what he gets. Japan has little enough fuel to be picky now........
An hour later, it is done.
They break free.
For the rest of the day, across a still banda sea, the fleet will steam, south by south west.
Darwin empties of shipping...............