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September Morn

The morning dawned cool and tranquil. I arrived at Brian's at 0637 and we quickly loaded the van. While so doing, Todd called to say he'd gotten to bed at 0100 and awakened at 0400 due to boat projects. He announced that he would be a little late.

When we arrived at the lake at 0738, there was no line at the gate. We paid our $7 and drove directly to the pond. Cowboy David was waiting for us and we were glad to see him. It turned out that we'd forgotten the hammer for erecting the caution stakes and David had one. We had already assembled the retrieval boat and were erecting the caution tape when the Thrall's arrived with their small German fleet. As a good German, David had brought a table for them.

As we were unloading the van, Brian discovered that in addition to the hammer, he'd left his tool box and deck fasteners in the garage as well. It would be SMS Konig and SMS Von der Tann against HMS Warspite. USS South Dakota would have to wait until October to battle.

The water was again clear and smooth as glass. Steve waded into the pond to clear some weeds from the launch area, and in his curiosity he waded out a bit to determine where the bottom dropped away. He got out more than 20 feet before the bottom of his shorts started getting wet and Tanner wisely reminded him that, as he was still carrying his cell phone, perhaps he wouldn't really want to discover the drop off. Steve headed back without getting wetter, but now we know that sinking anywhere closer than 20 feet from shore will not require a float system.

We conducted speed testing on the German fleet as they were fast in August and discovered that Konig was about 23 seconds and VdT 24 seconds as opposed to 28 and 26 respectively. After swapping their drag disks around, the Thralls were able to get both boats to about 28. Not ideal for the Germans, but given later developments, perhaps fair.

The first sortie began with the Germans to the left and Warspite to the right. Warspite focused her attention on the Konig as it has fewer casemates than VdT, but both German ships directed heavy fire in Warspite's general direction and I was unable to really focus effectively on either one.

By the start of the second sortie, we had eight spectators who had come specifically to observe the hostilities. Some of them were friend's of Todd's who had come before, but about half were potential captains who had just found us on the internet. Some had even come in August, but arrived after we had departed the lake.

The second sortie began with Warspite to the right and the German's to the left. Warspite again directed the majority of her attention to Konig, but shortly after the commencement of hostilities, Tanner announced that VdT was having battery or steering issues and called "Five." Warspite immediately steamed over to investigate. Hmmm, it appears that VdT was nearly dead in the water and close to shore. As she presented a delightful target, Warspite maneuvered into position to unleash the wrath of her dual sterns. Unfortunately, between the clock and Konig, Warspite was unable to make effective use of her deadly cannons.

At the end of her "five", after VdT was in dry dock, it was discovered that both rudders were jammed all the way to one side. Either she had hit something, or her battery had indeed died. After reviewing of all his options, Tanner decided that in the future, when faced with jammed rudders, or an otherwise unresponsive ship, he'd call "five out-of-control" which would enable him to continue firing his cannons in defense while he counted down his five minutes.

It was decided that as none of the ships had received significant damage, we would make it a three sortie battle. The weather was still cool and our tables in shade, but we anticipated a scorcher and didn't want to patch at the lake.

As we were swapping out our batteries and reloading, Todd Olson arrived with the Mighty Dungflinger (history is written by the victor). It was still remarkably fast (maybe 18 seconds) and throwing up a rooster tail, but in the interest of time, we declared her fit for battle and she joined the mighty German fleet.

As Dungflinger was showing a lot more of her red underbelly than is usual, the crew of Warspite decided to concentrate on that target, despite its unnatural speed. Unfortunately, speed is armor and so for the most part, Warspite was only able to attack the two slower targets. VdT was again having some problems and Tanner later decided he may have mistakenly reused the same battery. Warspite's crew made a valiant effort to capitalize on this oversight and inflict some damage on VdT, but between the expert piloting of the Thralls and the blistering speed of the Dungflinger, Warspite's efforts were frustrated.

However, Warspite was able to inflict some damage and a few minutes into the sortie, David observed aloud, "Isn't Derfflinger sinking?" Indeed she was. Instinct took over and Todd started to sail off into open water so he could pump out, but Brian pointed out that Derfflinger's pump wasn't pumping which Todd acknowledged as he brought her back around so that she could gracefully roll under about five feet from port. Huzzah!

By this time, Warspite was pumping well and she was exhausted of ammunition so I called "five" and decided to taunt the Thrall "brothers." Warspite hasn't been fully re-sheeted since Nats and her hull is getting brittle, so I thought it would be nice if the Thralls helped to remove a bit more balsa. They certainly don't need any more practice piloting their vessels, but gunnery practice is always welcome. Unfortunately, I let VdT get a little close and as she was backing in to inflict some carnage, her stern hit Warspite hard. Just as a I declared, "I'm calling that ram!" Warspite's pump stream lit up. Upon bringing her in, all observed a stern sized hole above, on, and below the waterline. As Warspite only had about a minute left on her five and neither Thrall was in any danger of sinking, we called battle for the day and pulled the ships.

After examining the German ships, it became clear that either my gunnery had fallen off dramatically in the last two months, or something was amiss. Steve was using some unorthodox repair methods and (as it turns out later) construction methods so we decided to do some penetrability testing back at the garage where we would also count scores.

The penetrability testing was enlightening. It turns out that if you use 1/16" balsa instead of 1/32" balsa, it makes your hull too hard. Also, using cloth gaffer's tape for a waterline or blue painter's tape for patching - too hard. The Thralls will re-sheet and the scores I have yet to deliver are a bit more understandable when impenetrable hulls are taken into consideration, but Steve may have discovered a great break-through in patching. Steve had recently replaced the blue painter's tape he had been using to patch with Johnson & Johnson consumer grade paper tape. This is the stuff they sell at drug stores to tape down gauze. It comes on a white plastic dispenser and it looks like silkspan with a mild adhesive on one side. It passed drop testing on Warspite just fine. It didn't work doubled up, and wouldn't be wise to use in the large portions the dispenser wants you to tear off, but time may prove this a great innovation for quick patching.

And now the scores:

Team Allied

Captain              Ship                A   O   B   Pen  Sink  Points
Ty Siouxpancic       Warspite           66  11  14    0      0     705   
Total                                                              705

Team Axis

Captain              Ship                A   O   B   Pen  Sink  Points
Todd Olson           Derfflinger         9   2   1    0    800    -578
Steve Thrall         Konig              15   1   2    0      0     748
Tanner Thrall        Von der Tann       11   0   3  200      0     465
Total                                                              635

It was a narrow margin of only 70 points, proving the battle really could have gone either way. Fix the pump or don't ram or two more hits and the Axis would have won. Of course only time will tell if the remarkably low score of the Allies was due to expert piloting (which is my guess) or impenetrable hulls (my hope).

October should be a great battle and the Admiral Graham Birthday Battle in November should be epic.