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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

a couple submarine memories bubble to the surface

engine room steaming phase of the refueling overhaul test program: we'd been in shiftwork for what seemed like months. shiftwork during that part of the overhaul was at least 8 hours on the boat running acceptance tests on the engineering plant using shore steam, preceded by at least 1/2 an hour of pre-shift brief (usually closer to an hour), mandatory training that never ever ever went away, and following the shift, we were getting additional training preparing for the reactor safeguards exam that we needed to pass to actually take our submarine out to sea following overhaul. so our shift time on to time off typically entailed 12 to 14 hours, if you were lucky, and that doesn't count the extra time needed to do your normal job. for me, it was all the admin and actual work required as the leading engineering laboratory technician. as section leader for my shift, i had to get the watchbill squared away as well. so imagine months of this. tempers were always short during stressful times, but stretching this out and out really cut the fuses to an almost instantaneous burn time.
"Engineering Watch Supervisor, contact maneuvering". "Contact" (we were getting a little sloppy there, but nobody cared. "EWS, find out what's going on in engineroom lower level. sounds like shouting."
"Maneuvering, Engineering Watch Supervisor, the noise in engineroom lower level is emanating from the engineroom lower level watchstander, pleading for his life. The Engine Room Supervisor (that would be me) has him off the deck against the evaporator panel, by the throat, explaining the E-6 E-4 relationship."
"Engineering Watch Supervisor, maneuvering, very well. notify me if a replacement Engineroom Lower Level watch is required."

memory two:
clunks and noises coming from outside the pressure hull, underway. an officer, an auxiliaries division petty officer, and myself (i had to do radiation surveys) were sent out to find the problem once the boat surfaced. now i typically don't let little things like being out in the middle of the ocean walking on a slippery deck on a heaving submarine bother me. but when the waves crashing over the deck were 6 to 8 feet above the walking deck, i got a little rattled. we put on our foul weather gear, our life jackets, and a harness with a rope and traveler that we could connect to a rail. you got around by "walking the dog", pulling the slider along the traveler rail. we got aft of the sail, and found one of the deck hatches had come loose. as the A-ganger was bent down with his head inside the line locker to make sure everything was still secure, a freaking HUGE wave washed over the deck, taking me with it. i hit the end of the the rope like a big dog hitting the end of the chain. the officer and the a-ganger pulled me back up to the deck. when we were finally done and back inside the boat, my engineer (the department head for you non-sailors out there) chewed my ass for days about losing the radiac meter somewhere into the Marianas Trench. i don't think he understood my cavalier attitude about losing the meter. all i could see was me making a tasty morsel for the shark cafe, which is open each and every day, 24/7 in that part of the world.

memory three: after over 100 days at sea, you have basically expended every resource most normal folks have to keep from being bored while on watch. watches were typically either 4 hrs on, 8 off, or 6 on, and 12 off. finding things to do during the off time was easy. training, training, training. and field day, cleaning your cleaning station. sleeping. reading. playing cribbage. watching movies. shooting the breeze. but on watch...the only thing you did was exist to insure the plant maintained itself in a stable and safe condition, and respond to casualties as required. hell, i started looking forward to the casualty training cycle, just for something to do on watch.
so how do you keep from going totally and irreversibly insane after 100 days at sea, and at least 20 more to go? why, you bowl! the centerline passageway down engineroom upper level on the seawolf was about 45 to 50 feet long before it jogged to port around the maneuvering room (central control station in engineering). so.... we made a bunch of bowling pins out of rags and duct tape, with nuts and bolts in the bottom so they'd stay upright. and our bowling ball was a roll of duct tape (aka EB green in the nuke navy), rolled from between the turbine generators to the air particulate detector along the deck, about 25 feet. never did get a strike, but it sure passed the time. of course, the reactor controls division leading petty officer was not impressed with our using his APD as a backstop, but that's the way it goes. as we used to say, frequently, "fuck him if he can't take a joke". actually, that was pretty much our stock phrase for just about everything.

memory four: the engineroom upper level watch took logs on all of the operating equipment on his watchstation every hour. our high pressure air compressors were down inside cubbies below deck level outboard the port and starboard turbine generators. the engineering watch supervisor and the engineering officer of the watch each reviewed logs every couple of hours to check for trends. actually, i think they did it to make sure we were doing our job, but that isn't the official nuke navy policy publicly stated. so i started getting some heat from one of the engineering watch supervisors. hell i'm tired of typing that... the EWS, who said he never saw me leave the workbench to take logs. so...what's a young nuke to do? why, put his foot on the compressor bedplate, and lean the clipboard against the gageboard to take compressor logs, of course. imagine going to the paint store, standing on top of the paint shaker, and trying to write a letter. looks kind of like that. he quite bitching, but i liked the effect so much, i kept doing it for the entire rest of the time i stood ERUL.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

tap tap. is this thing on?

3/24/05, 7:03 PM  

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