On June 3rd we battled at Swan Creek in Tacoma.  The air was full of cottonwood fluff, a nightmare for those with allergies, but the air was also full of steel bbs, a nightmare for any balsa nearby!

It was a great day for a battle, moderate weather, good visibility in the pond, very little debris floating.  The turnout for the day was unfortunately small, only three captains were able to attend, myself with the Derfflinger, Darrell with the Warspite and Phill sailed the Westfalen.  We also had the Maru and Suffren in the ‘spare ships’ category for the day.

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Phill recently spent some time working on the Westfalen. It previously had a severe tendency to drive itself down into the pond and play ‘one way submersible’ when driven at anything close to full speed for more than 6 feet or so. A brief test run before the first sortie showed that the modifications had in fact been successful – look at this beautiful bow wave, curling away at just the right stage.

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For the first sortie we elected to pit the British Navy (Warspite) vs the might of the Imperial German Battle Fleet (Derfflinger and Westfalen).    About 5 minutes into the engagement, we were doing a good job of putting some holes in the Warspite when the Westfalen was incidentally rammed near the stern by the stern of the Derf and rapidly sank.  This is very bad – not only did I ram someone, which is against the rules and in scored play would badly hurt my team, I rammed my own teammate!  Shortly after as the Derf and Warspite were tangling a bit, the bow of the Derf caught the Warspite near the C turret and gashed the hull open.  The Warspite barely made it back to reach of the shore before going under.  Again, a bad thing to be doing!  After recovering the Westfalen we found that the Derf’s stern had struck center-panel and had pushed the entire panel in, thus leading to the extremely rapid influx of water and sinking.

So after the first sortie, I was feeling a bit embarrassed, the pride was hurt a bit, so when there was some talk from Phill about getting some revenge and making it world vs Derfflinger in the next sortie, I was ok with that (plus it makes for a target-rich environment, and who can say no to that?)

In the second sortie I get to shoot anyone, this makes it simpler!  I decide that if Phill wants some revenge, I’ll give him the chance and decide to engage the Westfalen with the Derfflinger as much as possible.  This badly violates my usual order of business, which is to pick on targets with lots of target space and avoid things that are short, turn well and have very little target space.  Pressing the attack, but managing not to do any ramming this time around, I hammer away at the Westfalen.  The Derfflinger’s stern guns can do some wicked damage above and on the waterline, and a feel well placed sidemount shots can cause those to let plenty of water in.  The Westfalen though, being short and turning well, gave a good accounting of itself, and though she sank on the far side of the pond, I was hurting a bit myself with a few in the red, some gashes along the waterline up front and some good grey damage.  Phill wanted to retrieve the Westfalen quickly, so I left the Derfflinger on the pond while I closed the shoulder zipper on his drysuit for him.  I apparently forgot to leave the pump on, and much to everyone’s delight, except mine, I discovered myself to be rapidly sinking! I hit the throttle to try to jet back to shore, but in doing so I drove the water back hard in the hull, and the bottom dropped out from beneath her, and down to Davey Jones’ Locker settled the Derfflinger.  Thus ended sortie 2, my enemy sunk, myself sunk, and Britain still ruling the waves.

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For the third sortie, we patched hull damage and switched to fresh batteries.  Again we elect to engage in a free-for-all, but this time Phill elects to keep the Westfalen close to shore.  This is bad for me if I want to fight the Westfalen – the Westfalen turns tighter than the Derf and I believe draws less water and can therefore sail shallower seas.  But keeping by shore can be a double-edged sword- if I can pin him I can tear him apart because he has nowhere to go.  The danger for me is that I can rapidly find myself in a tight spot that I’m unable to maneuver out of before either of my opponents can take advantage of and tear ME apart.

So we play our game of cat and mouse, lining up for shots, sliding away from each other, frustrating each-others schemes.  I spent much of my time trying to gain an advantage over the Westfalen that was not to be had, and the rest of the time spent trying to shake off the Warspite’s attentions.  In these pursuits I again took moderate damage above the waterline and a few below.  Finally, Phill elects to come away from the shore and tries to circle around me, in doing so he allows me to set up a great run of stern gun shots on him, and the Derfflinger’s stern guns respond to the invitation, stitching half a foot of his hull with holes, rips and tears just above the waterline.  He is pumping steadily, but not yet sunk. He chooses to sail along the shore, I’m loath to be trapped.  And so I back off a bit, and prepare to watch him sink in the shallows.  But the Westfalen refuses to sink, and so I turn my attention back to my own ship, and much to my surprise, again, I am sinking!  Again, like the last sortie, I forget to leave the pump on while I’m not paying attention, and again, it has allowed enough water in that water is pouring in through the holes in the grey.  And again, I sink.

After a quick retrieval, I pour the water out, and since this is just a friendly battle, and I still have bb’s left to spend I re-engage the Westfalen, putting some holes into her in the red.  Soon her pump stream dies down as muck from a unfriendly propwashing clogs up the pump inlet and she settles to the bottom in the shallows.  Meanwhile the Warspite and the Derfflinger chase one another to little overall effect.

The day was growing late, and we had had good fun, so we felt this was a good stopping point.  We had sunk things, though some sinks were not the way things should be sunk, and we had entertained some passerbys, small children and a family of ducks.   Most important of all, we all had fun!