Fall Fray 2006


With NATS in mid June this year we did not get to have the traditional Fray event Memorial Day Weekend. Kevin Bray also lost his pond in his back yard and with it our most convenient battling location. This years Fall Fray would go old school and head back to Ritter Springs in Springfield Missouri. This pond was the location for many of the old Swampy Ozark BBfest Regionalís several years ago. It is a large pond cut almost in half by a large peninsula. The right side of the pond has two docks just tall enough to get most ships under them. Historically they have been the site of many classic battles with damaged ship jumping under the docks to try and hide from attackers. A few attackers have found themselves a little short on super structure trying to get under the dock.

Ron Horbul, Ryan Butler, Peter Ellison and I left Minnesota early Friday morning. We were able to get our six ships and all of our gear into my minivan, just barely making everything fit. When we arrived at the pond around 4pm Kevin Bray, his son Bryan, Chris Grossaint, Kevin Hovis and John Bruder were already on the water testing their ships. We unpacked most of our stuff and ran some speed tests. I was at speed on the first run, the first time this has ever happened to me. Ryan and Ron had to add some bigger drag disk but made speed after a few tries. Peter burned out a throttle switch and had to finish testing the next day.

We headed over to the hotel and checked into our rooms. We had to go up to the 2nd floor but al least we had an elevator close by. Ron was hauling up the first load of stuff when a little old lady also got on the elevator. This poor lady did not know Ron had just left a smelly present in there for her. He got a good laugh out of it when he came back down to the van and told us about it. After we unpacked all of the captains gathered for dinner. After dinner we went back to the room for boat work. Peter, Ryan and Ron all needed to test guns; Ryan and Ron needed to get connectors soldered on their new batteries and Peter needed a new set of throttle switches put in. I grabbed the soldering iron and went to work on the batteries. Ron helped Peter and Ryan get the guns tweaked. Only one gun had a problem. It was easily fixed by sanding down the head of the piston. The Texas group stopped by our room when they made it into town to say hi around 9pm. We all got to bed before midnight, early for a battle night.

Saturday morning we all packed up and grabbed some breakfast at the Waffle House next door (Ty you can get good waffles there). When we got to the pond there were already a few captains set up and getting ships ready for battle. We had our captains meeting lead by our CD Kevin Hovis and host Kevin Bray. John Bruder and I were appointed admirals and started to split up the fleets. For the first battle the fleets would be Flag Warspite (Bob Hoernemann), Invincible (Steve Reynolds), Montcalm (Chris Grossaint), Nashville (Tom Palmer), St Louis (Ryan Thompson), Graff Spee (Trystan Thompson), Bayern (Brian Lamb), Scharnhorst (Peter Ellison), VDT (Ryan Butler) vs the No Flag fleet of Massachusetts (Kevin Bray), Barham (John Bruder), The Bike (Bryan Bray), Lion (Ron Horbul), Missouri (Kevin Hovis), Portland (Steve Reichenbach). The fleets got lopsided because Rheinland (Paul Block) was lost to the No Flag Fleet with prebattle gun problems and Tyrstan and Ryan Thompson got to the pond late and joined the Flag fleet not the No Flag Fleet. At the start of the battle the Big Mammie went after the VDT. The I-boat and Warspite fell back to try and help him out. Kevin started to look low in the water and sank with a pump failure and very light damage. The Missouri got into the fight and was rammed by the Warspite, Kevin did not see this ram. He did see the next ram a minute latter as the Warspite backed into the portside and fired. This left a 2Ēx2Ē hole in the side of his ship. The Missouri went down quickly. Ron and Kevin H had waders on and both of them were needed to pull out this monster.

After battle was started again the I-boat, Bayern and Warspite started to chase the Barham. John was having trouble with his guns and led them on a long run around the pond. This chase went right by the Lion. The Warspite pealed off to toss a few bbs Ronís way. The Lion did not seam to be moving very fast and stayed under the Warspites guns until his 5 was over. Turns out Ron had lost a prop. Chris Grossaint was standing next to Ron during this, he remarked the Ronís pump was not on and that he needed to stay still to avoid sinking until he pumped out. Ron look strangely at Chris as Chris was not on his fleet. With friends like that who needs enemies. Kevin Bray was not able to make it into sortie two due to the loss of a rudder servo. At the start of the 2nd sortie Ron and Kevin H. knew they were in trouble. Ron was shot up and Kevin was having some ship problems. Both of them called five as battle started. Warspite and Bayern started off after the Mighty Mo. No ships went after the Lion, but it did not take long for the first sorties damage to take its toll and the Lion went down. Meanwhile the Mo was getting worked over but the pump never came on and she sank shortly after the Lion. This pump failure was caused by a small piece of balsa wood in the pump. After the two ships were retrieved word spread that the Portland had lost rudder control. The Warspite was on the way with the Bayern and I-boat right behind. The Portland was only able to make a starboard turn but the Warspite cut off this turn and held the Portland next to its haymaker. Other Flag Fleet ships now piled in to hit the helpless cruiser as she quickly sank to the bottom. With most of the No Flag Fleet out of the battle it turned into a long chase of the Barham again. A few sidemounts were exchanged and Barham started to pump hard but there were not enough bbs left to put down one more ship. As the action was winding down the Montcalm sank. It was one of those mystery sinks where a hand just grabs the ship and pulls it under. Bryan Bray calimed the credit for this sink as he got one bb on target for the Montcalms only hole. Brian Lamb reports that he spent most of the battle chasing the faster ships. The Portland passed him by and he was only able to get a few sneaky sidemounts into the Big Mammie. At sometime during this battle Chris G started to lose his balance moving around on the dock. He tried to grab Steve Reichebach to try and stay up (Or pull Steve in too) but instead chose to hold his radio high and jump into the water. A move only a veteran would have made, anything to save the radio. Scores were: Flag Warspite (7-5-7), Invincible (20-1-1), Montcalm (1-0-0 sink), Nashville (4-0-1), St Louis (1-0-0), Graff Spee (3-0-0), Bayern (11-3-2), Scharnhorst (28-0-11), VDT (6-0-0) vs the No Flag Massachusetts (30-1-2 sink), Barham (36-2-14), The Bike (3-0-1), Lion (42-7-14 sink), Missouri (67-14-12 sink), Portland (56-6-4 sink). The Flag Fleet won this battle 9,640 to 2,535

After this battle John and a few others got a lesson in cleaning solenoids from Chris Grossaint. John also replaced the springs in his guns and changed the Barham from a single gun ship into a four gun ship for the next battle. The moral of this story, clean and service everything and try not to battle a ship that has been sleeping in the garage for 18 months without testing it first.

The ships were quickly patched and repaired for the second battle. The admirals talked about changing fleets but decided that if the ships all worked things would be even. One change to the Flag Fleet had Caleb taking over the St Louis. On the No Flag Fleet both Kevins fixed their problems and Paul Block had the Rheinland back on the water. Grossaint knew Ron was not on his fleet this time and was ready to take revenge. He chased Ron around the pond this time and was able to get a few aboves in him. This battle was all about chasing. There was no stern to stern hugíníslug battling like we are use to. I spent most of the battle chasing the Barham, who was still having gun problems, all over the pond. John had fixed his guns but now his regulator was freezing up in the cold. After a quick exchange of fire I found myself getting low in the water without the pump lighting off. I feared that it was clogged. Soon the ship righted itself, I can only guess the bottle had frozen a large block of ice in the bow that almost sank the ship. The Massachusetts was on five and the VDT went over to play. He chased Kevin around and sank himself by getting prop washed while turning. I had taken over wader duty and walked out to get it. The 2nd sortie was also a chase around the pond sortie. Brian Lamb had to sit out due to a low transmitter battery. He forgot to charge it at home and had to put it on Grossaintís quick charger. The I-boat was chasing the Barham so much he sank himself. Steve said he found an unknown ram hole latter that help put him down. Just as the I-boat sank and man in the water was called the Montcalm was perfectly lined up on the Lion but could not shoot. As the boats drifted the shot was lost and the Lionís sidemounts came to bare as resume battle was called. The Lion was able to get a few shots off before Montcalm pulled away. Peter said he learned a valuable lesson in this battle, donít chase sterns. The Big Mammie was happy to bring this lesson home. He also learned that he could not shoot his guns while his pump was running, some miss wiring in the radio box. He wanted to shoot his guns and forgot to turn on his pump and sank. I found the Big Mammie just before she was done with her five and wanted to put the rest of my bbs into her hull. But, I saw my polar bear head was spinning slower then normal and called five also. I think all of my chasing in the 1st sortie had worn my batteries out. The Missouri saw this and came to play. I tried to stay away from the duel sidemounts by hiding under the dock. This did not work too well and Kevin was able to get some belows on me. While we were playing the Portland was steaming full speed ahead and found the St Louis in her path. There was no stopping Sir Rams A Lot and the St Louis was run over and ram sunk. Scores were Flag Warspite (17-5-15), Invincible (27-10-14 sink), Montcalm (1-0-0), Nashville (9-2-3), St Louis (8-0-2), Graff Spee (2-0-0), Bayern (5-0-4), Scharnhorst (28-0-8 sink), VDT (8-3-0 sink) vs the No Flag Massachusetts (50-7-8), Barham (61-3-13), The Bike (8-0-1), Lion (49-0-3), Missouri (13-1-2), Portland (13-0-0), Rheinland (12-3-9). The No Flag Fleet won this battle 6450 to 4010.

During this battle Rick Whitsel, James Foster and Jay Edwards all stopped by to say hi and relive past days of glory. They had all been to many battles at this pond in the past and shared a few good stories with us. They also wanted to compare some of the new technology to the old way of doing things.

It had been raining off and on all day, more of a mist most times then a rain. It was about 3pm when the 2nd battle got over and we decided to go out for a third battle. The Kevins both had ship problems again and would not be in this last battle. The Flag Fleet loaned the No Flag Fleet the Bayern and Graff Spee now run by Trent. This was finally a hugíníslug stern to stern battle that we are use to seeing. The Warspite and I-boat vs the Bayern and Barham. We started out at the left of the docks and worked our way to the right. The two flag ships were able to back in faster then the Bayern was able to pull away. We hit her with a furious barrage of sidemounts and she started to pump pretty hard. I backed in with stern guns and blew a lager hole out just above the waterline. I also put a ram hole in the side but Brian did not call it during the battle. He looked like he was sunk as his pump outlet went under the water. I thought he was coasting to shore to sink but he somehow stayed afloat. I have never seen a ship come back from the edge like this, a testimony to the excellent damage control in this ship. He pulled into a patch of weeds and we thought about leaving him there but he had started to pump out and get back to his normal water line. The Warspite and I-boat both pulled in and emptied the rest of their sidemounts into him as he backed out of the weeds and hid under the dock. I tried to go in there but bent my main mast over trying to get into a place that was too short for me. Bayern made it off her five and would live to fight in the next sortie. Almost everyone was trying to get a little extra charge on their transmitter batteries. We lost a few captains because their transmitters were no longer charged. This might have helped the battle go faster as no one wanted to be on the water too long. The beginning of the 2nd sortie was all about getting the Bayern. Again the Warspite, VDT and I-boat backed in and sidemounted Brianís pour Dreadnaught. She was not able to take anymore damage, even with the mighty Pearce pump 83 belows was too much, she sank next to the dock. No one had noticed the Barham doing lazy circles in the middle of the pond during the heated battle. Johnís transmitter was very slowly losing power after three battles. The batteries that where purchased several years ago would not hold a charge any longer. Another valuable lesson on battery freshness was learned without great pain for the captain. Tom Palmer was the only other person to notice the plight of the Barham and did not know to call in the wolves for the kill. The I-boat then wet out after the Rheinland. She was able to do some damage but did not have enough bbs to put her down. As this battle was going on The Bike (AKA USS Minneapolis) got caught in the dock. Not under the dock but inbetween two pieces of wood (2x4s) next to one of the dock post. The bow was wedged inbetween them and he could not back out. It reminded me of the Vangard at NATS this past summer. Warspite and VDT came over to empty the rest of their guns on the stuck cruiser. It was easy shooting and the stern of The Bike went under. After The Bike was pulled out of its vise the swamp monster again grabbed a ship and pulled it under. The Graff Spee was sunk with some mystery. Brian Lamb reports his view of the battle. I started sortie 1 next to my new fleetmate, the USS Portland.Steve looks at me, smiles and gleefully tosses several rounds of sterns into the Bayern's side. I tell him that I'm on his side and he just smiles at me. Darn allied tendencies.I moved off and spotted Bob's Warspite. We backed down at each other in the classic Haymaker ship style.Woohoo! Finally an engagement! Warspite has had a drive refit though and is able to run rings around the older Bayern, quickly getting the upper hand.Um...where did all my friends go? John? Paul? Anyone? Oh well. I fight back as best I can and move under the docks towards shallower water. The I-boat comes to join the pounding and I am able to get off a good volley of stern guns into her. Warspite stays away from my haymaker and parks her haymaker under my bow sidemount. Unable to get free, I settle for unloading all my ammo at the surrounding flag ships before calling 5 and sliding under the docks to try and avoid further damage. Bayern pumps herself back to life and makes it off her 5.While we reload, I discuss my damage with my No Flag fleetmates and they agree to help protect me when the wolves attack in sortie #2.I launch Bayern right as the sortie begins and her pump immediately lights off, but with the ram hole patched, she is easily holding her own.Unfortunately, the Rhineland is having gun issues and moves away from me as the Warspite and I-boat make a beeline for me. John Bruder tells the Barham to come to my aid, but she has other ideas and ignores the transmitter completely, making a run for the far end of the pond. The wolves arrive as I get Bayern to the shallows near the pier.No running. No finesse. The end is already written and I just try to unload my magazine before Warspite, I-boat and VDT finish me off. With a tall pump stream shooting up into the air and guns still firing, Bayern slips stern first into the cold water, her portside completely shredded by British fire. Scores were: Flag Warspite (21-11-1), Invincible (33-3-7), Montcalm (1-0-0), Nashville (4-0-0), St Louis (4-0-1), Scharnhorst (2-0-3), VDT (9-2-9) vs the No Flag Barham (5-2-0), The Bike (39-8-36 sink), Lion (18-0-0), Portland (12-0-0) Graff Spee (12-0-1 sink), Bayern (101-36-83 sink YIKES), Rheinland (17-4-19).

At dinner that night we shared our best and worst fives of the day. My favorite was Tom Palmerís best five ďNot being anyone elseís best five.Ē Back at the hotel we watched the first game of the World Series and patched up ships. This was an early boat evening for us as we got to bed around 10pm.

Sunday morning saw us lose the Texas group to their 11 hour drive home. We handed out the awards and said some goodbyes then headed back to the pond. I guess we were a little too loud in the room and outside of it. A man (Really old one) next door started pounding on the window telling us to quite down. It would not have been nearly as funny if he would have had more on then his underwear.

We rearranged the fleets again and ended up with Flag Warspite, Lion, I-boat, The Bike, Montcalm and St Louis vs No Flag Barham, Massachesetts, VDT, Scharnhorst, Nashville and Graff Spee. Before the battle Steve Reynolds came up to me and said he wanted to shoot up the Scharnhorst. I told him I would keep the wolves off him while he worked on his target. Peter had the wader duty and was putting ships in when he learned another lesson. Donít start a battle in the middle of the enemy fleet. The I-boat was able to get close to the big ship and get a lot of good hits on him. Meanwhile I was fighting three ships and taking a lot of bbs. Things where starting to look bad for me. At least the Big Mammie and Barham were pumping too. The Scharnhorst sank and Steve was happy to have sunk a ship by himself for the first time. No one else really shot at the Scharny so Steve gets full credit for the sink. In the next sortie I was the main target again. I picked a spot next to the right dock. The Big Mammie was very aggressive and was doing a lot of pushing around. He backed over my stern one time and almost sank me. About a minute later he did it again. This time he was completely over the stern deck and the ship could not recover. After Peter pulled out the the Warspite and dumped out the water the fight was back on. The Montcalm and Lion were able to back in and light up the Big Mammie while he was busy sidemounting me. I managed to get all of my bow sidemount into the VDT and all of my stern guns into the Big Mammie before I sank. The I-boat started to chase the VDT and put him under next to the dock. While the hugíníslug battling was going on by the docks the cruisers and Lion where running around the pond. The Lion was able to pull up to the Nashville and get some sidemounts into him. Tom finally got a little test of his pump. Barham and Lion also traded sidemounts and the Lion came away with a quarter size hole above the water line. After the battle we packed up and said our goodbyes. No one counted their ships after the battle. Iím sure the other fleet took a lot more damage then our fleet. This was the end to another wonderful event. The only thing that could have made it better was more captains and maybe a little warmer weather.

For those of you really into the numbers the total score was 904-139-311 for a hit% of 11.38%. This might be a little high considering how many captains had problems with their regulators freezing. I did not see the Port Polar Bear crew having issue with thisÖ

Awards were: Best of Scale Kevin Hovis Missouri, Class 1-3 Tom Palmer, Class 4 Steve Reynolds, Class 5 Peter Ellison, Class 6 Kevin Hovis, Most Feared Bob Hoernemann.

Thanks to Chris Grossaint, John Brudder, Brian Lamb, Ron Horbul, Peter Ellison and Ryan Butler for their thoughts and editing.