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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

a sea story in its truest form is a cautionary tale

my last post triggered a memory. a painful, funny, scary memory.
when a nuke finally makes it through the pipeline and hits the boat, he's already qualified watchstations on a navy reactor plant. that plant is the prototype. nowadays, they use moored submarines too shaky to actually go to sea anymore, but perfectly fine for running and training alongside the pier. the navy spends a shitload of time, effort, and money to keep the engineering spaces in excellent condition.
here is a seastory some of you have already heard. (no, i'm not running out of stories, it's just that well, uh, oh, i see a different spin. yeah, that's the ticket)
we got a young nuke out of the training pipeline. nice kid, green behind the ears (and who wasn't?) naive and well, a little dumb. want to talk about artificial insemination of livestock, and the thought processes behind twisting the genetic makeup around to give you bigger, better, meatier critters? that dude was the one you wanted to talk to. want to talk about how to repack a 1/2 inch high pressure steam trap isolation valve? forget it. just wasn't happening. he got all the way through the system, and to the boat because he was "book smart". couldn't tie his shoes, but damn, could he take tests.
we finally got him qualified engineroom lower level. none of us were that happy about it, but hey, the engineer qualified him. needless to say, the engineroom supervisor spent a lot of time in ERLL. we were getting ready for our annual reactor safety exam, and i've spent a lot of time writing about ORSE boards, so i'm not going to bore anyone with those again. BUT, we were kind of screwing up by the numbers during drill sets. nothing too spectacular, but enough wrong to piss off the engineer. he'd spent a lot of time working these scripts up for various casualty scenarios, and while a good idea, they were a pain in the ass. the poor engineering officers of the watch were taking it in the shorts. two drill sets, and their communications from these scripts was junk. hard to revamp everything you've spent years training on a couple of weeks before an ORSE. good idea, bad time to implement. so, the eng decides he's going to show the young junior officers just how it's done, and relieves the third watchsection's EOOW for the drill set. the JO's didn't escape though. he required them to stay in maneuvering to watch the master perform.
remember where i said this was a cautionary tale? the engineer qualified the pud against his better judgment, but he DID qualify him as ERLL. and pud was the third section ERLL watchstander. one of the things you could count on during drill sets was a major ships drill, a couple of electric plant drills, a couple of mechanical plant drills, and a major radiological controls casualty and a major chemistry casualty. one major drill and a bunch of minor drills per watchsection, such that all scenarios were covered by the time the third section finished their drills.
we hadn't had a chemistry casualty yet. sooooo, the engineroom supervisor drops down into ERLL, and reminds pud that the immediate actions for a secondary chemistry casualty was to trip the evaporator drains to the bilge. then go do all the other stuff required. the engineering watch supervisor, just to be sure pud is ready, decides to drop down and give him a pep talk, and insure pud knew to trip the evaporator basket drains to the bilge. i was an engineering laboratory technician, responsible for steam generator and primary chemistry. i was on the watchbill as the engineroom upper level watch. i called pud on the voice tube, and made sure, you guessed it, that the immediate actions for the casualty we were all sure was coming was to trip the basket drains to the bilge.
can't be too prepared you know.

the drill monitors headed aft, wearing their red ballcaps to identify them as monitors (or snakes, as we called them. snakes in the grass, the bastids). one dropped into ERLL, and the others stationed themselves around various watchstations to observe our actions. then the master chief reached over and tripped the starboard ships service turbine generator...the thing that made half of the electricity on the boat while underway.
i got on the X60J and reported the starboard SSTG had tripped. the engineer announce the loss on the MC system, and pud, sure enough, ran back and tripped the evaporator basket drains. which were lined up to the PORT SSTG. which caused the vacuum to go away, tripping the port SSTG, shifting the electric plant to the motor generators, causing a huge power transient, which scrammed the reactor, oh, and gave a spurious reactor compartment air particulate detector alarm (i won't elaborate, but a real one is bad. really really bad). and pud is busy opening the condensate drain valves to the bilge, still working his way through the casualty response for a steam generator casualty, which caused the surge tanks to empty (into the bilges) and we ended up with a scrammed reactor, steam generator levels dangerously low because the surge tanks had drained to the bilge, a reactor compartment APD alarm, the electric plant twisted into a rat's nest knot, and the engineer is sitting in the EOOW's chair, wondering just what the f**k happened to him.
well, we lived.
and pud never stood another underway watch again as a nuke submariner.
so, the cautionary part of this tale. sometimes you can be too ready.

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Blogger Ted said...

I loved it! Talk about a flood of memories coming back. Spent so much time in the LLER they named it for me and stoped calling it LLER and called it "Ted's Place" instead. We need some more of those coming out of you-OK

6/26/06, 8:22 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Now that I review it again: An automatic reactor scram from a series of crew F***Ups like those probably generated an Incident Report with the Engineers thumb print on it.

6/26/06, 8:28 AM  
Blogger Myron said...

And we thought we had it bad when we'd have a false start on snorkel and fill the engine room with black smoke. We did flood an engine one time and that was kinda hairy.

I've always said we had more fun and nukes had more drills.

6/26/06, 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Drills, loved 'em since most of the time the enlisted nukes had the responses down pat - it was the silly master chiefs and officers who screwed things up. I was a nuke electrician standing the EO watch in manuvering when I spy the master chief moving through the upper level engine room toward the automatic bus transfer switches. He thought he's get cute and put the starboard side switch to manual and leave the port side in auto. Somehow he ends up putting both switches in manual, He then proceeds to the starboard SSTG and trips it. The engineering spaces go black and real quiet, except for a muffled "Oh s%$^ from the chief. Funny how fast he found a flashlight and switched both ABTs back to auto. Oh, he never messed with the electrical system again during a drill.

6/27/06, 4:44 AM  
Blogger loddfafnir said...

i just realized i shouldn't read one of your stories while eating a cup o' noodles over my spankin' new laptop, damn near choked and spewed all over it.
great story.

6/30/06, 1:19 PM  

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