The Irex Record I: Snorkel the Racoon

By Jim Reynolds, 1946

It was the fall of 1946 and the Irex was stationed at Key West. A hurricane advisory said that the approaching storm would go up the east coast of Florida. Irex went to sea to safely ride out the storm rather than possibly be damaged in port. Accordingly, we were ordered to go into the quiet Gulf of Mexico. But this storm must have been female because it changed course and came directly across us in the Gulf of Mexico. We were trapped and we had no choice but to ride it out on the surface in the Gulf. Next to battle, a hurricane is a sub sailor's greatest concern. WW II subs were not designed to ride out hurricanes, but you had no choice. The boat could not submerge or surface in massive waves due to the danger of being rolled, So we spent a tough week at sea and gave thanks for a safe return to Key West.

The good news on returning was that we were going to the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Navy Yard to get the first American snorkel installed on our submarine. We happily got the boat in first class condition and prepared for our trip north.

The night before we left Key West we celebrated our new adventure by trying to seriously deplete the alcoholic beverage supply in Key West. About a dozen of [us] were feeling no pain, when at 2 AM we closed Shakey's Bar and started our walk back to the base. In the middle of the street as we walked, we found a baby raccoon. Search as best we could, we found no mama raccoon. Then came the brilliant idea to take the raccoon aboard the Irex. Before we got back to the boat we swore in Snorkel, The Racoon, as our newest crew member. One of the tougher crew members slipped Snork under his jumper and aboard the Irex for the ride north.

For the first few days we were able to keep the new crew member hidden in our crew sleeping area unknown to the Ward Room. But things got really rough as we went past Cape Hatteras, “The Graveyard of Ships”. We ran into a “little northeaster”, which had cold freezing weather and 50' high waves which was much worse than riding out the hurricane in the warm Gulf of Mexico. We had a 56° roll on one wave. A full 80% of the crew were sick.

Snorkel had the run of the after battery crew's quarters and found several tubes of Doc Martin's prophylactics which were issued to prevent venereal disease. Snorkel chewed up the tubes and fully enjoyed the tasty ingredients. One ingredient, however, was something like Calomel, which is very strong laxative. Suffice it to say that Snorkel left a trail of the most stomach turning Snorkel Stuff throughout the crew's quarters and even into the ventilation system. Those that weren't sea sick promptly became Snorkel Stuff sick and the officers in the Ward Room knew that we had a new crew member.

Snorkel the Racoon's coming out party as difficult for all to take. It was a smell even more difficult to overcome than diesel oil. Fortunately, the officers loved Snork as much as the crew and other than many special cleaning and disinfecting assignments, they did not penalize anyone. The odor alone was enough of a penalty as it was centered in our sleeping area.

Snorkel loved everyone—everyone that is but Ben Sikora, CEM. Shortly after getting into Portsmouth we moved everything off the boat into a building built on a large barge. Snork had the run of the barge and played with everyone, but he always nipped at Sikora. His favorite trick was climbing in the rafters above our work areas where much of our supplies and spare parts were stored, and where more than once Snorkel bombed Sikora with light bulbs taken from the overhead storage. What a fighter!

At the Ship's Party at the Wagon Wheel on February 24 1947, near Danvers, Mass, Snorkel was listed on the invitation as:

Ship's Mascot and Chief Hand Biter

C. C. Schnorchel, Racoon, First Class

Definition: Racoon, a nocturnal, plantigrade, largely arboreal,
carnivorous mammal (procyon lotor).

Definition: Can be applied to Irex Sailors as well.

A few months later Snorkel was retired to an Irex sailor's backyard cage because he bit most of the hands that fed him. Snorkel will always be remembered as one of the favorite Irex crew members.

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