Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Submarine Currency

From a reader:
I am a current JO who just came back from my first underway. One thing that I observed is that energy drinks have become the new "currency" on board. Need a hair cut or some paperwork by the end of the day? A 5 Hour Energy, Monster, or Red Bull will help get the job done quickly. In addition, the value of these items increased as the patrol wore on. I would be interested to hear from the group regarding how things used to get done (cigarettes, coffee, hard candy...)
What was the most popular "underway currency" on your boat? My favorite was using actual currency to try to pay the last mess bill of the patrol to the Chop. "No, Joel, for the last time, I will not take 500 yen, 20000 won, 5 dinari, 1000 baht, and 10 Australian dollars for your mess bill. American dollars only!"


Blogger Nate said...

Until recently, I think everyone could confirm the value of cigarettes on a day to day basis. Now because of the ban, Dip & Chew have increased dramatically in value.

I bring a log with me just to get a little A-gang assistance from time to time. Or maybe I need a second pillow for my rack, a can of dip persuades effectively

4/11/2011 8:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cans of cashews and pistachios liberated and stashed during a stores load.

4/11/2011 8:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smut - good stuff, foreign or kinky used to trade well.

Also nowadays, playlists from mp3's trade good.

4/11/2011 9:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

5 hour energies are great to have on hand, i'd buy a couple boxes and throw them in my stateroom locker before underway to dole out as necessary.

also i'd go grab some ghiradelli chocolate squares (pretty cheap at the NEX) and just throw them at sailors who i thought were doing a good job that day or that watch

or if you're on watch, gum can be a huge instant reward - especially as the underway drags on and everyone runs out.

the key is to conserve early and go nuts before you get in port

4/11/2011 9:25 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Actual money changed hands on my boat. I think a duty day in Thailand was about $1K. Brisbane, Australia, $2K.

4/11/2011 9:26 PM

Blogger Bryan said...

Snickers bars would get you a haircut in my day...

4/11/2011 9:37 PM

Anonymous Flip Wilson said...

Ahh money, the seemingly evil secret between those who have it and the velvety pleasures it brings.

4/11/2011 9:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A rather delightful topic still relevant, but for how long, to submarines.

"Zurcher(1965:399), for example, describes a complex, informal, illegal barter system driven by the norm of reciprocity aboard a U.S. Navy ship,..."
- Deviant behavior: readings in the sociology of norm violations (1989) By Clifton D. Bryant

We had a relatively clean currency. One steward discovered he could sell a limited number of his colored chalk drawings of our boat this way. Whenever he stopped producing them (including whenever we were in port) the price of his next work would escalate. Want one? Do someone who had one a favor, or pay the latest price.


4/11/2011 10:18 PM

Anonymous 3383 said...

I had a carton of cigarettes for when everyone ran out once (yes, I never smoked). I sold them for mere money.

Certain people would be much more approachable for sigs if you enabled them on a beer day.

Mess dues- that's gotta be adding insult to injury!

4/11/2011 10:46 PM

Anonymous Stsc said...

A can of soda late on a spec op would trade very well, as would a Snickers. I used to use NoDoz before Red Bull and 5 hr energy drinks became all the rage, but they were so cheap I would give them away to the groggy free. Red Bulls get expensive! I would also bring a spare flip-flop, buckle, and towel to give to a buddy who lost theirs to an over-aggressive cleaning of berthing because those would come very dear in terms of trades when you are several weeks from a port call.

4/11/2011 10:47 PM

Blogger David said...

When I was enlisted, Boat Crack was prevalent. Ephedrine based Hydroxycut was carried by everyone, traded and given away. "Dude, I'm tired today. You have any?" was commonly heard.. Later, during my JO and DH tour, it became soda's and dip. The cashews, coffee or fig newtons stashed during stores load were used for big favors or items with the shipyards too.

4/11/2011 11:33 PM

Blogger MT1(SS)WidgetHead said...

Stacker 2 Ephedra FREE!! is really popular. Just make absolutely certain Ephadra is not involved. Let's try not to dyhydrate and kill our fellow shipmates. For this shipboard version of crack, we're talking about $5.00 a pill towards the end of an evolution on the way home. Yes, there is such a thing as hoarding on a boat.

I don't dip, but I've bought a log of Copenhagen and traded cans for Redbull, Green Monster, sweet tarts, porn, taffy and all kinds of other fun & nasty debauchery which isn't good for us physically or morally. But it sure makes the trip towards home go a bit more smoothly however.

Another cool thing nowadays is trading movies with each other. Today's, memory sticks can hold quite few...Plus they don't take up much space when storing. I won't even get started on video game trade...Lol.

4/12/2011 12:43 AM

Anonymous ExSubSpy said...

From the normal Loan Shark method to cigarettes and Coke and candy. I would buy cases and store them in the FT safe and the computers and sell for $3 to $5 each. Made a lot of cash that way.
You would be amazed at the amount of candy you could store in the computers. It was also a great way to hide stuff from Customs when coming back to the US..

4/12/2011 1:29 AM

Blogger Harry said...

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4/12/2011 1:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great trip down memory lane... Now lets look at future trade bait. A blowjob will get you a trade (DADT or Women) Ahh the Navy, see the world. Hacha cha cha.

4/12/2011 5:25 AM

Anonymous Laughter_in_manslaughter said...

It was a big no-no if you were the ship's barber to ask for payment. Our barber was trying to shake down a nub when the XO walked in for his. The XO goes, "I'll trade you no Captain's Mast for corercion for a haircut"

Cigarettes, dip, Monster/energy drinks, soda, candy, actual money was the order of precedence. Made my quals way easier, especially at the end of an underway with an A-gang LCPO who was a 2 pack a day smoker.

4/12/2011 5:33 AM

Blogger Santos said...

I was on the Spadefish in the late 80's. In port we found that the shipyard bubbas would trade almost anything for one of the 5 gallon tins of coffee. Tools, paint, supplies. Show them a big coffee can and they were ready to start dealing.

Out at sea it was cigarettes and candy.

4/12/2011 9:35 AM

Anonymous Veemann said...

Porn and Soda (Coke) seemed to be the best currency. I wasn't into promoting my own secondary smoke habit, but I think cigarettes were probably the best. Minor digression....When I was a merchant marine, prior to the Nav, cigs - Marlboro in particular - was by far the best currency to get work done in foreign ports.

4/12/2011 10:12 AM

Anonymous Striker Yeoman said...

I was also one of the nonsmokers that would stock up before an underway. Our favorite currencies were cigarettes, Red bull, other energy drinks, Cokes, porn, then cash.

As the only striker I would stash my hidden goodies in the Capstan's Space since I was the only one that went in there then I went Yeoman and used the safe in the ship's office and/or the vents. I wouldn't trade stuff for a signature but I would trade for knowledge. Since I ran the leave program I would also trade leave days off the books.

4/12/2011 10:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Another cool thing nowadays is trading movies with each other. Today's, memory sticks can hold quite few...Plus they don't take up much space when storing. I won't even get started on video game trade...Lol."
Another bonus is that memory sticks aren't really sticky.

4/12/2011 12:11 PM

Anonymous STS2 said...

Porn, snickers bars, and handjobs.

4/12/2011 12:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, the ol' off the books leave. It was nice to have YN buds. I got about six weeks of free leave in my four years on the boat. One of the few good deals to be had.

4/12/2011 1:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A TL-29 (anyone know what they were?) was a great trading item. I'd always have a couple of boxes of Marsh Wheeling stogies (yep, they were actually called "stogies"). No one liked the smell of them until the last few weeks of patrol -- then they became golden...

4/12/2011 2:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For about a year we had some "junior" cooks who had never picked up a ladle before going to MS "A" school. "Bread, the other white meat" was the motto on one particular patrol. If it weren't for PB&J I would have starved.

After going hungry for most of a patrol, I devised a plan to prevent it from happening the next. When we took the boat back, I started bringing canned goods like Chef Boyardi, Ramen noodles, Spaghettios, Deviled Ham, pop tarts, etc. down to the boat over the course of the refit. With some creative stowing techniques and paring down my inventory of underway necessities to the bare minimum, I was able to get everything in my bunk pan and personal drawer. I had enough to replace about one meal per day underway. And of course, I still had my regular candy/soda stash.

After about a week or so at sea, I made the mistake of bringing a can of ravioli with me to chow. "Dude! Where'd you get the ravioli? Got any more?" I lied, of course. I said I did, but I only brought a couple cans. Naturally, word that I had these spread faster than a molecule of air flowing from the fan room to my bunk. Nearly everyone and his brother aboard was willing to allow me to perform all manner of unnatural abuse upon them and then be sold into slavery for one of my cans of heaven. I gave a few away for favors (I had to otherwise face the wrath of the crew). I even gave one of them to a cook(!) for a dozen chocolate chip cookies stolen out of the Skipper's personal stash in the Ward Room.

As a result of this, in order to preserve my subsistence, I was reduced to waiting until after the Mess Decks opened again after the meal before I could open a can. I had to eat it quickly and cold out of the can before I gathered too much attention.

I never did it again. I felt bad about holding out on my shipmates, but hunger makes you do desparate things.

4/12/2011 2:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When somebody has the crud, a shot of Vick 44M is most valued. I was offered $50 for the bottle when a JO had the sniffles.

4/12/2011 3:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, the TMCM(SS) when I was on the La Jolla had cases of vicks cough syrup on board. He just didn't want to trade them...
Cans of coffee tended to get stashed away in hidden locations in the engine room during stores loads. Saved for use as cumshaw with the tender or just so that the nukes could have coffee when the coners ran out.

4/12/2011 3:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I brought a bottle of Jet Alert with me on one patrol. They're just simple caffeine pills, but when I'd pop one in Maneuvering the other guys would make a comment about how bad for me they were (usually before attacking the second Monster of the watch).

4/12/2011 3:32 PM

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4/12/2011 11:58 PM

Anonymous Stimson EM1SS said...

On 655 in 1984, got Newport News Shipyard to make a new stainless and plexiglass Maneuvering status board for 5# of coffee.

Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies always got some easy nuke sigs on the midwatch for the Cranks

4/13/2011 12:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My gods, I remember that board! :-) I was one of the NNS STEs on 655 back then.

Other good bits bit of shipyard barter was ship's hats, cig lighters, and rolls of EB green. Anon

4/13/2011 5:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost forgot to mention this one. News and Sports download would be a good trade through the egress hatch between Radio and the Galley for a few chocolate chip cookies.

And the CO always thought he got the news first.


4/13/2011 6:27 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

$1K for a duty day in Thailand? I mean yeah, it IS Thailand and all, but still...I think I paid one of the married guys $50 on top of a swap for a duty day in Guam for an extra TWO days in Thailand on my last boat.

Oh, God, what I would have given for a case of 5-Hour Energy drinks on a spec op or ORSE workup. Nah, I'm still old enough that smokes, cokes, and porn were the common bartering tools.

My first Westpac, my mother sent me a "Pudgy the Pig" toy for X-Mas which caught up to me in Yoko. Freakin obnoxious toy. It got "pignapped" and the "kidnappers" made tapes of it being tortured until I scraped together enough Pepsis and Snickers bars to ransom him off. The tape made the rounds of the crew. Captain was laughing his ass off so hard in one drill brief when he heard the tape he was crying.

4/13/2011 7:08 AM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...


Just goes to show you how long we had been under, not deployed as part of a battle group. Lots of cash that had been getting deposited for months without anyone making withdrawals.

I actually traded one duty day in Pattaya for a day in Brisbane. Seemed square at the time, but the price went up the longer the boat was at sea.

4/13/2011 7:59 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

That's strange too. Both times we went to Thailand we were on our own, not part of a BG. About the only time I was with a whole ton of other sailors in a port would be the times I was on Proteus and Holland and we did Sydney/Brisbane (Proteus) and Singapore and Hong Kong (Holland), and in all those cases the cities were big enough it was rare to see anyone else from the ship if you didn't want to be found.

In fact, while I only got to do PI a few times, we were lucky enough to miss battle groups most of the time, and those which we weren't, we just took the Jeepney out of Olongapo anyway. Not too many skimmer pukes found their way into Island Girls, Gilligan's Island, et al, when they were full of boat sailors.

I guess we just didn't have that kind of money. I certainly wouldn't have paid 1K for a duty day, and we did some long-ass ops.

No, what REALLY sucked is if you smoked like I did at the time, and if we got extended (as happened more often than not) the prices for a pack would go up from $2-3 a pack to $10 before the word got to maneuvering coming down from PD.

4/13/2011 10:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Kid,oh JO...Seems that with the Rebuked DADT...Your Ass could be the current Currency....But Pepsi was the deal on Da Boats on Stae Pier New London circa 78 till mid 80's....Be safe and dont fall in love punching holes in da pond...........

4/13/2011 7:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Region specific trade items: home ported in Guam, the local brand "King Car Lemon Tea" is the boat crack of choice. An aspiring lower level stashed an entire seabag full of the 1.5L bottles back in ASW bay somewhere and was doling them out to the tune of $5 a pop. I held out for about a month then indulged in one. Threw off my water/caffeine balance so bad I was literally pissing every five minutes the rest of my watch. Good times.

4/14/2011 12:38 AM

Anonymous mydickyourmouth said...

On my boat, the top currency was a mouthful of jizz.

4/14/2011 9:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one good set of Currency was being able to spend Time with Rubber Duck. Ask him, he will tell you. The other was being able to throw rocks at Mulligans cage, Many a sailor would pay big bucks for that.

4/15/2011 5:24 AM

Anonymous STS2/Deck LPO said...

My first CO loved Kona coffee ice cream. The guys at the Pearl Harbor IMF would jump through their ass for you for some of that stuff, so bartering a giant container of it for fast crane service served a double purpose. You got your crane or whatever quickly, and you got that nasty shit out of the freezer.

4/15/2011 11:05 AM

Blogger b777jetsetter said...

The good ole SSXBT locker became my stash locker for Doritos, Combos, Coke, and Mr Pibb.

NoDoze was big back then, sugar free Rockstar has it beat hands down though...

4/17/2011 7:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best post yet. This is valuable information for JOs everywhere. I had already planned on filling every crevice with Dip, Monster, and Snickers, but this has just solidified my plans.

4/19/2011 2:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh the old barter system..worked great. I would pack my necessities for the underway and still ahve about 5 feet of bunk pan space that I would pack with all kinds of chocolate stuffs. Snickers, Kit Kats, brownies, M&Ms (5 pound bages) various other candy bars. I would spend about $300 at COSTCO getting goodies and packing it away for the specop or patrols. I would pull stuff out for sonar division as rewards. Someone finshed a "priority" qualfication, his watch section got rewarded. Sonarman earns his dolphins, goodies for entire division. I even bartered with COB, XO and CO for stuff. Never did cigarettes for barter.

Remember in Japan, you could get SRF to do just about anything for boat Zippo lighters! in the Phillipines in 92, we had about 20 locals painting the free flood areas. Hot and sweaty work. We kept them well hydrated with bug juice and gave them fresh fruit. They did an fantastic job and even did other stuff we asked them to.

Ahh the memories! Good topic Joel..Thanks!


4/20/2011 4:35 PM

Blogger John said...

Army story from me:

Germany in the early 1980s. If you wanted to use a washrack on a German or French training area for your unit vehicles it would cost you a 3 pound can of coffee or a fifth of Jim Beam. Both were ratio items. We ran a duty roster for the company XOs in our battalion to see whose turn it was to use their ration card. When we would go to gunnery and you had the brutal vehicle safety inspections by the German civilian safety guys...2 can of coffee and bottles of Jim Beam would get your trucks in to pick up ammo even if you were leaking fuel like a sieve.

A World War 2 story from my late father. He was an 18 year F1C in the engineroom on a CVL. They had a messcook who would always get in trouble and be sent to the fireroom as mast punishment. He was supposed to clean the bilges. My dad and his division amtes always cut thsi guy a deal...bring them meat and eggs and they would swear he got the work done. They ate well in a combat dad was a boxer so he needed to food he said!

4/21/2011 2:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cigarettes was the currency on the NYC. We got extended on NORPAC and all the smokers were running out. Butt kits were being poked through looking for stubbs that would delicately be stripped down, the residue then rolled in TP and smoked with great relish. I had extra cartons and a cigarette was going for a dollar a butt. Cash up front, no credit.

4/23/2011 3:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once saw a 'Cup of Noodles' go for about $10.00 near the end of a 68 day run. Currency came in many ways though. Sodas, Cookies, Candy, Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, Cigarettes...just to name a few!!! I never saw a Cook go on the Dink List. Guess those fresh Cookies coming out of the Oven had a mighty sway when going for a Qual Checkout!!!

5/07/2011 1:24 PM

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11/11/2011 2:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would wait until halfway night movie and open a can of soda usually coke or Dr. Pepper. Since I was supply po for the torpedoman I had access to all kinds of lockers and stashed sea store cigarettes and canned drinks. Helped get the job done! I was on the 627

4/04/2013 7:10 AM


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