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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Monday, February 28, 2005

more about submarine hijinks

i've posted a couple of seastories, linked here and here over the last week or so. and promised to talk about practical jokes, so here are a couple. i'll just keep typing until it's beddy bye time. hopefully i'll get most of them down, and if i don't, i guess we'll have to gather around the bug juice machine in crews mess at another time for the rest.

these two are not submarine specific, since i KNOW for a fact they happen on skimmers too, but since these were seawolf happenstances, i'll just say that the skimmers might do these, but we did them better. so there.

1: every submarine has at least one spudrock. not his real name, but one we used to give him a hard time with. he was an eager lad, but not really up to speed with the technical stuff, if you know what i mean. i've heard he finally got it gathered into one sock, and ended up in charge of his very own electrical division on a submarine. good for him. i'm sure the crap and grief he took on the seawolf more than prepared him for life in the new boat fleet. even our crappiest electrician was heavily schooled in troubleshooting and repairs. had to be, otherwise we ran a better than even chance of just sinking to the bottom from old age. those guys all became top flight technicians simply as a matter of survival.
but this story is of a time before spud became a paragon of submarining. as a matter of fact, he was the butt of more jokes and harassment because his grasp of what most of us thought was obvious somehow eluded him. we all knew that spud was eager to please, and watched him stand his aux electrician aft watches with some amusement. he tried so hard to be squared away that he often missed the most obvious things. like when we were in waters so cold that the moisture vapor in the air condensed out and froze on the deck in the stern room. he hit that ice at a full tilt not once, but several times before he figured out the deck had the submarine version of black ice, and that he should maybe take it a little easy coming off the steps from after berthing into the stern room. like i said, eager, but not quite operating in the power band.
spud was blonde. this is not a blonde joke, simply a description. he had a very full beard, which he trimmed into a zapata goatee. you know, a little square of dense fur under the lower lip, and a moustache. bristle more than hair. stuck straight off his face.
i got bored standing engineroom supervisor, so i wandered down to after aux to talk to the a-ganger down there running the scrubbers and hydraulics plants. i noticed that there was a tube of prussian blue sitting out on the workbench. hmmmm, blonde facial hair, prussian blue marking dye. the oldest machinist mate practical joke in the entire navy called to me. so up i went to the stern room, back by the steering and diving rams. there was a sound powered handset back there, so i coated the mouth and ear pieces with a thin layer of prussian blue.
for those of you not initiated into the mystical realm of sailors and their practical jokes, imagine the old time movies where someone picked up a telescope or eyepiece, and when they pulled it down from their face, they had a big black ring around their eye. same idea, only this stuff was an amazingly deep and adherent blue color.
"hey spud, i need you to go aft and check on the hydraulics lineup for the steering rams. let me know if it's normal" off goes spud. when i figured he was close enough to hear the buzzer, i called him on the phone. but didn't talk to him.
back comes spud, with the most amazing green moustache and beard, and the bluest ear you've ever seen.
what i still find cool is that he stood the next three hours without anyone saying a thing to him. that includes entering maneuvering to report conditions aft, and waking up the oncoming watchsection for watch relief.
stupid, but a great humor break on an otherwise interminable and boring watch underway.

2: seawolf had voice tubes between engineroom upper level forward and the feed station, and engineroom upper level aft and the lower level engineroom by the 8000 gallon per day evaporator. these were used to communicate between upper level and the lower level watchstations without having to use the sound powered phones. upper level forward had the diesel gageboard and air start station, and feed station had the cylinder petcocks, and manual priming pumps. so we used the voice tube all the time. i liked using it because i could be a bit less than formal in my communications. as in "hey butthead, line up the &(&^%_*&** system". stuff like that. one buzz was the signal for the sound powered phones, and two for the voice tube. it was absolutely a requirement to buzz feed station, and drop a bolt down the voice tube, just to see if he was paying attention. the other trick was to buzz feed station, and dump a cup of coffee down it, in the hopes of wetting down the watch.
the voice tube wars took several turns that were not only hilarious, but completely unexpected. like when the feed station watch connected a high pressure hose to the discharge vent on the operating feed pump, hooked up a ball valve to the end of the hose, climbed up on top of the feed panel below the diesel gageboard, and let us have it with a 400 psi water laser. or my very favorite: brownie was getting tired of being blooshed with coffee and nuts and bolts out of the voice tube. so he grabbed a bag of mini marshmallows from the bench locker in the crews mess on his way aft to take the watch. once there, he filled the tube with those itty bitty white puffs, stuffed a rag in the end, and jammed a 100 pound air hose into the tube. buzz buzz, feed station signaled the upper level to the voice tube. he watched as the watchstander (i've forgotten who it was, but i was the engineroom supervisor at the time, sitting on the workbench by the gageboard) approached the voice tube. when he saw the watchstander was trying to talk to him, he cut in the air pressure. the forward engineroom looked like vermont in february, during a heavy blizzard. the whole forward end of ERUL filled with minimarshmallows. and nuts, bolts, and anything else solid that had been dropped down the tube, but failed to exit. we were finding those damned marshmallows 2 years later during the overhaul as they ripped out equipment for repair. good fun.


Anonymous Kilo Whiskey said...

Ah yes. The voice tubes. Sam Houston (SSBN 609) had them as well.

3/2/05, 6:08 AM  
Blogger bothenook said...

kw, were you on board the huston before or after the great massacre of 77?

3/2/05, 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Kilo Whiskey said...

You're really testing my memory.

During. It was the Blue crew that got hit. I recall that they came in off patrol and were immediately sequestered. Reportedly the Proteus was full of NIS agents. Turnover was not routine that time around. We on the Gold crew were told nothing. Then they all disappeared.

Not long after, we in the wardroom had to go up to the tender for an instructional session, attended by the Commodore, on how to recognize the smell of marijuana. Lotta eyes darting around.

3/4/05, 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KW - who are you? I was an FTB1 on the gold crew for 7 patrols 76-80

9/23/05, 8:14 AM  

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