I was not quick-witted as an ensign—and maybe never became so—but at least one time I did manage to close up my thought processes to a high state of readiness.
I was the duty officer on the quarterdeck as the captain was returning from a meeting ashore. As he proceeded down the long pier, I ensured that the mooring lines were just right, that the cargo net was properly rigged beneath the brow, that fenders were adjusted for tide, that no cars were in the wrong parking spaces, and that the quarterdeck watch was looking in all respects shipshape and Bristol fashion. I then advised the watch to be prepared to haul down the captain's absentee pennant as soon as he stepped on board. I looked up to make sure that the third repeater was close up on the halyard of the main truck. It was not. In fact, the pennant was nowhere to be seen.