Sunday, March 30, 2008

Set the Sea and Anchor Detail

Where we last left the USS Theoretical, the ship was auxiliary steaming alongside the pier. The ship is generating its own heat and power and is receiving potable water, telephone and sewer services from the pier.

Let’s get her underway.

Around the ship, the various electronics departments will check out their equipment. The Communications Division “come up on the broadcast,” receiving and sending its radioteletype messages, rather than use the services of the base communications station. The Assistant Navigator and the CIC Officer will hold their own pre-sail briefings with their teams to make sure everyone knows the visual and radar navigation features. If this is not the home port, the Captain, Navigator and the Sea Detail Conning Officer will have their own briefing. The Senior Watch Officer will run the officer’s watch bill by the XO and the Captain for approval. The Chief Bosun’s Mate will run the enlisted bridge watch bill by the First Lieutenant and the Weapons Officer for approval. Other divisions will set their own watch bills.

But enough about those guys, let’s concentrate on what is important: Engineering.

The ship will generally refuel the day before. Naval stations have fuel pipelines to the piers; the ship will top off the DFM and JP-5 tanks. Depending on the time the ship sails, for a single-screw ship, the other boiler will be lit off about four hours before sailing. If it is a twin-screw ship, the other plant will also be lit off. In either event, it is a fairly quick process, as the steam lines are already at operating pressure and temperature, so the boiler(s) being lit off only have to build to operating pressure. Once a boiler in the other plant is up to pressure, the interconnections between the two plants for condensate and steam are closed.

The electricians will call for a working party to help disconnect and drag the shore power cables up to their racks. Each one of the cables carries 3-phase, 440 volt, 400 amp power; they are very heavy. (The cables are left in place until before sailing in the event that an engineering casualty requires shifting back to shore power.) As close to sailing as possible, the boiler technicians will disconnect the fresh water supply lines. The hull technicians will disconnect the sewage line and route the ship’s waste lines to the Contaminated Holding Tank.

30 minutes before sailing, the Sea and Anchor Detail will be stationed. If the ship is going out for local operations, those in the detail will wear working uniforms; if going out for a deployment, they will wear the uniform of the day. Just before the brow/gangway is lifted off by a crane, the interior communications techs will disconnect the telephone lines.

In order to prevent someone from accidentally turning the throttle valves (which are themselves kept locked), a guarding valve keeps steam from going to the nozzle blocks which make up the steam throttle valves. The throttle valves are a series of poppets that lift off to admit more and more steam into the turbines. The bypasses around the guarding valves have been opened so there is 50psi of steam on the nozzle blocks to warm them up. The guarding valve is now opened.

Once the brow is lifted off, the Chief Engineer will request permission to test the rudder and to test the main engines with steam. In After Steering, where the rudder hydraulics are located (and which can function as a local helm station), A-Gang will start the pumps, warm up the fluids and then swing the rudder back and forth. The throttlemen will admit steam to the ahead and astern turbines to spin the screw(s) back and forth. The Chief Engineer will report “engines test sat, ready to answer all bells” to the Bridge. The Maneuvering Combination, “999" is rung up in the Engine Order Telegraph, which makes these commands available: Ahead: 1/3rds (5 Knots), 2/3rds (10 kts), Standard (15Kts), Full (20 Kts) and Flank (25kts). Astern bells are 1/3rds, 2/3rds, Full and Emergency (open `er wide). The throttlemen now will spin the engines ahead and astern to keep them warm, but they try not to generate enough thrust to move the ship.

By this point, one or two tugs will have arrived to help the ship move away from the pier, with a Harbor Pilot up on the Bridge to control the tugs. Destroyers and cruisers can get underway without tugs, but there is a risk of rubbing the sonar dome against the pier, so tugs are generally used. Once the tugs are made up, the command is given to “single up all lines.” Linehandlers on the pier will slip the doubled-up lines from the bollards on the pier and walk them down the pier to opposite the point of the ship where the lines go through the chocks before letting them go. A slovenly linehandler will just drop the lines in the water, while a good linehandler walks the lines over so they don’t go in the water and the uniforms of the linehandlers on the ship don’t get messed up.

When it is time to get underway: “Take in all lines.” When the last line is taken in, the Bosun Mate of the Watch keys the announcing system, blows a whistle, and passes the word: “Underway. Shift colors.” The jack at the bow and the ensign (nautical term for the national flag) at the stern are lowered; another ensign is hoisted to the top of the main mast. The tugs assist in pulling the ship away from the pier and turning it so it is “in the middle of the stream” (the center of the channel). The ship will now head out for sea at a speed commensurate with local practice. On a summer’s day, when a lot of small boats are in the river, ships will generally move slowly, unless there is an emergency or operational reason to move fast, as nobody wants to generate enough of a wake to swamp a rowboat with a bunch of kids in it.

Depending on the port, the Harbor Pilot will disembark with the tugs or will ride the ship out to near the last navigation buoy (the “Sea Boy”) and then climb down a Jacob’s Ladder into a pilot boat. After the Sea Buoy is cleared astern, the regular underway watch is set and the Sea and Anchor Detail is secured. In Engineering, the second boiler in each plant is wrapped up. Once the ship is far enough out to sea, the CHT lines are set to discharge overboard. As late as possible, to ensure that the sea water coming in is clean, at least one evaporator will be switched to distill to the potable water tanks.

The ship’s crew will settle into the underway routine.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ping Time

Before I get to the story itself, first, you need some background information, so please bear with me.

Between the 1960s and the retirement of the steam tin cans in the 1990s, a number of them were equipped with the AN/SQS-26 sonar. The SQS-26 was a big sonar. If you compared a soft whisper to the sound of a very large jet airliner taking off and then used that scale to measure the sound of a SQS-26, the whisper would be the sound of the jet and the jet would be the sonar.

The sonar was so powerful that it could not be powered directly from the ship’s electrical system. A large motor spun a flywheel, which, in turn, spun a generator. That generator charged a bank of capacitors. These were not the kind of capacitors you could buy at Radio Shack, each capacitor was roughly the size of a quart juice can. If you shorted one out with your hand, your hand likely would be blown off. And there were a lot of capacitors in that bank. The whole lashup of motor, flywheel, generator and capacitors was the Louis-Allis Power Supply, known as Louie-Allis or LAPS.

This is the transducer array of a SQS-26:
A very large rubber radial belt goes around the front and sides to make up the dome's exterior. Each one of those black squares is the rubber face of a transducer element. You can roughly get an idea of the size of each element by comparing them to the worker in the background. There are hundreds of elements. When mounted on a ship, it looks like this:

This is the sound of one. That is what it sounded like if you were in a submarine and an SQS-26 was pinging on you from some distance away.

Every so often, the sonar techs had to measure the output and noise levels of the sonar, in order to do something or other. This was done in port; the sonar techs would hang a transducer from a pole so that it dangled in front of the sonar dome. And then they would ping away. This could only be done after normal working hours and with the permission of the naval station commander, for if a diver were in the water anywhere else in the the naval station when a SQS-26 pinged, the diver would be lucky if he only was rendered totally deaf for life. That level of sound could disorient a diver, who might then drown. Also, only one ship at a time could do the check to avoid mutual interference. You either got used to the sound of a sonar pinging at night or you didn’t get any sleep. And this check was done on just a few elements of the sonar for any one ping, by no means was the full power of the sonar used.

Now this is no shit:

A particular naval station had a bit where the ship at any given pier who had the senior-most commander was in charge of the security and good order of the pier. Those unlucky ships were known as the “Pier SOPA” (senior officer present afloat). It was a real pain in the ass to be the Pier SOPA.

One afternoon, the young lieutenant junior grade who was the Command Duty Officer of the ship that was the Pier SOPA looked out on the pier and saw that there was a really disorderly mess by one of the ships. That ship was across the pier from the Pier SOPA. It was a “United States Naval Ship,” which is an auxiliary ship (cargo, oil tanker) that is technically in the naval service, but which was commanded and crewed by civilian merchant mariners. USNS ships don’t do a lot of the mickey-mouse stuff that USN ships do.

The CDO had the Messenger of the Watch go over to the USNS ship and ask them to clean up their stuff on the pier and to tell them that if they didn’t, a working party would be sent to get rid of it. The CDO knew that the naval base duty officer would, sooner or later, make a tour of the piers and then the CDO would get chewed out for the slovenly condition of the pier.

Within five minutes, the Messenger was back with this message: “Lieutenant, the XO of that ship says that if we touch any of their shit on the pier, he will personally break your fuckin’ neck.”

As it turned out, the sonar techs of the Pier SOPA's ship had permission to ping that night. And it was after working hours. The CDO had the word passed for the duty sonar tech. When he showed up, the CDO ordered the sonar tech to light off Louis-Allis and get ready to start pinging on command.

The CDO went to Sonar Control and opened the door to the topside weather deck. By now, Sonar Control had a number of sailors in it, who had figured out that something good was about to happen. The CDO looked out the door and told the tech sitting at the console to switch to “track mode” and swing the track bearing to a relative bearing of 250 degrees.

Track mode concentrated all of the enormous power of the sonar into a beam of less than ten degrees in width. As you probably have guessed a relative bearing of 250 degrees aimed that beam at the USNS ship. The CDO ordered the sonar set for a short range scale (frequent pinging) and gave the order to start pinging.





The effect on the USNS ship had to be akin to sticking one’s head inside of a large church bell while someone beat the living shit out of it with a heavy sledgehammer. The USNS ship looked as though someone had kicked over an anthill, as people came boiling up topside from below decks. In a few minutes, the Messenger of the Watch reported to the CDO that the XO of the USNS ship sent his respects and asked if the pinging could cease. The CDO told the Messenger that while the Pier SOPA had permission to ping, it could stop for a little while and oh, by the way, it’d be appreciated if they could clean up their shit on the pier.

The USNS ship had about 20 seamen on the pier in five minutes, squaring their stuff away. The Pier SOPA ship stopped pinging until the sonar techs were ready to do their checks. The naval station duty officer made his or her drive-by inspection and had no comments. And when the Pier SOPA had any future requests of that USNS ship, the USNS ship’s crew could not have been more accommodating.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In Port Watches

First, a caution: This description of in-port watches is old. It may, or may not, have no relationship to in-port watches today.

Command Duty Officer: The CDO is the officer who stands in for the Captain when the Captain is off the ship. Beyond that, the CDO is responsible for the safety, security and routine of the ship in port. The CDO must be a fully-qualified underway OOD and is expected to be capable of getting the ship underway if required. On larger ships overseas, an assistant CDO, who was a fully-qualified CDO, was awake and on duty for the very late evening through early morning. The CDO was probably asleep, but the CDO was still ultimately responsible.

Quarterdeck Watches: The quarterdeck is where the ship’s brow/gangway came onto the ship. The quarterdeck watches always wore the uniform of the day, either summer whites or dress blues. In a shipyard, the watches on the quarterdeck may wear working uniforms.

Officer of the Deck: While on paper, the OOD in port functioned in the same manner as the OOD underway, the reality of the situation was that the OOD in port was often known as the Quarterdeck Watch Officer, or QDWO. The in-port watches checked in with the QDWO. The QDWO’s main function was to control access to the ship. When anchored out, the QDWO also controls the scheduling of the ship’s boats. The QDWO may be a First Class Petty Officer, a Chief Petty Officer or a very junior officer (ensign or lieutenant junior grade). The QDWO carried a long-glass (telescope) tucked under his or her left arm, which usually was broken, but it looked nice. The QDWO is the one who returns the salutes of officers and men boarding or leaving the ship and is the one who checked IDs.

Petty Officer of theWatch: The POOW kept the Deck Log in port, answered the telephone on the quarterdeck and operated the 1MC. The POOW was armed with a .45, though the two magazines held only five rounds each and the weapon itself was unloaded for safety’s sake.

Messenger of the Watch: The MOOW was the gofer. After taps, the MOOW woke the rest of the watch reliefs.

Other watches:

ASROC Rover or Roving Patrol: In the days when ships were capable of carrying nuclear weapons (before 1991), the Roving Patrol was the other armed watch. The Roving Patrol had a few points to check each set of round, but the watchstander was expected to roam all over the ship, other than the engineering spaces. If the Roving Patrol failed to check in, in person, with the QDWO within a set period of time, a Security Alert would be called away. This resulted in a couple of dozen sailors, including the CDO, fanning out all over the ship with .45s, M-14s and shotguns until the reason for the Roving Patrol’s failure to check in was ascertained. (The usual reason was because the CDO instructed the Roving Patrol not to show up to see if the QDWO was paying attention.)

Cold Iron Watch: The Cold Iron Watch checked the main engineering spaces and the shaft alleys or anything untoward. This watch was not manned if the plant was lit off, for then a steaming watch would be on duty.

Sounding and Security Watch: This watch checked the voids and lower spaces outside of the main engineering plant. Sounding and Security also filed out the auxiliary machinery logs for the air conditioning plant and the dehydrators.

Anchor Watch: This watch was only manned if the ship was anchored. The Anchor Watch would shoot a set of bearings every thirty minutes and plot them on a chart of the anchorage to make sure that the ship was not drifting away from the anchorage. If the bearings were good, the Anchor Watch reported that to the QDWO. If the bearings indicated that the ship was dragging anchor, the Anchor Watch notified the CDO directly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Underway Non-Engineering Watches

(For Engineering watches, read this)

Bridge Watches:

The Officer of the Deck (OOD) is in charge of the operation of the ship in normal steaming. The OOD underway stands watch on the Bridge, overseeing the officer watches on the Bridge and the navigation of the ship. During formation operations, the OOD has to keep a lot of things going in his or her head, including station assignments, keeping an ear peeled to the two or three communications nets that are piped to the Bridge, and watching for merchant and civilian ship traffic. When the moment a ship is commissioned until it is decommissioned, there is someone standing watch as OOD. The OOD signs the Deck Log, the official watch record of the ship. Before the institution of the Surface Warfare pin for officers, you were not fully qualified until you were qualified to stand watch as an OOD in formation steaming, or OOD(F). The OOD “has the Deck.”

The Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) is an officer who is in training to become an OOD. The JOOD is usually the conning officer, who gives helm and engine orders, the ship moves to the orders of the conning officer, who has the “Conn.” The JOOD usually is the one talking on the Bridge voice radio tactical nets and, in the day before computerized plotting equipment, the JOOD kept track of surface contacts by marking the scope face of a radar repeater with a white grease pencil.

There is only one conning officer. If the OOD or the Captain, for that matter, wants to give orders to the Helsman or Lee Helmsman, they have to first say: “This is the Officer of the Deck (or Captain), I have the Conn” and then they can give orders.

The Junior Officer of the Watch (JOOW) watchstation is normally manned only during special sea details and intensive maneuvering, such as when refueling at sea. This is often little more than a wet-behind-the-ears ensign, whose main job is to shut up and learn. The JOOW assists the OOD and the JOOD.

Quartermaster of the Watch (QMOW) writes the Deck Log under the direction of the OOD. The QMOW maintains the navigation plot.

Boatswain Mate of the Watch (BMOW) supervises all enlisted Bridge watches, except the QMOW. The BMOW is the one who handles the ship’s announcements over the general announcing system (the 1MC).

Watchstanders under the BMOW:

Helmsman- Steers the ship to the orders of the conning officer.

Lee Helmsman- Works the Engine Order Telegraph (EOT), which transmits engine orders to Main Control. The Lee Helmsman wears a sound-powered headset in the 1JV circuit, connected to the Throttleman in Main Control.

Status Board Plotter- Maintains the Bridge status board, used mainly for plotting information on surface contacts. The Plotter wears a sound-powered headset on the 1JA circuit, the Plotter gets contact information from CIC for plotting. The lookouts are on the 1JA.

Forward Lookout- Usually stands watch on the Flying Bridge, the open-air bridge one level above the Bridge itself. The Forward Lookout keeps an eye for visual contacts, both air and surface.

After Lookout- Stands watch on the Fantail. The After Lookout’s job is to watch for people falling overboard, to throw a life-buoy and smoke float, and to pass the word to the Bridge.

Messenger of the Watch- Is the gofer for coffee for the Captain and wakes up the next set of watchstanders.

Combat Information Center (CIC or Combat) Watches:

Tactical Action Officer- TAOs are usually Department Heads who have been to TAO School, which is a part of Department Head School. This watch is stood in wartime steaming. The TAO has full weapons authority if the Captain is not in CIC. The TAO is the only watchstander who does not answer to the OOD.

CIC Watch Officer- the CICWO oversees the operation of CIC. Depending on the intensity of operations, the CICWO may be a very experienced officer or an ensign who has just learned how to find CIC.

CIC Enlisted Watches:

CIC Watch Supervisor: Oversees the other CIC watchstanders.

Surface Scope Operator: Mans a radar repeater and marks all surface contacts. The SSO is the CIC phone talker to the Bridge.

Surface Plotter: Runs the Dead-Reckoning Tracer, a light table with a sheet of tracing paper over the glass. There is a lit compass rose, which indicates the ships position. The surface contacts are plotted on the trace so it is easy to see the flow of contacts.

Maneuvering Board Plotter. “Mo Board” is a sheet of paper about 16" square that has a compass ring on it, with distance rings. This is a true-motion plot with the ship in the center; the Mo Board Plotter uses the call-outs of the SSO to determine the course, speed and closest-point- of-approach of surface contacts. The JOOD or JOOW will also keep a Mo Board plot. Being able to keep track of several contacts on one sheet of Mo Board is a hard-earned skill.

Other watches in CIC depend on what is going on. For Anti-Submarine Warfare, the NC-2 plotter is manned. The NC-2 is like the DRT, except the NC-2 has lit markers that are tied into the active tracking station in Sonar Control. There may be aircraft controllers on duty for ASW or Anti-Air operations. A scope operator will man the air-search radar scope repeater when required; his watchstander will have a set of headphones on that feed to another watchstander who stands behind the large vertical plot, the plotter has to write backwards. An electronics warfare technician will run the ESM/ECM gear; the WRL-1, which was replaced by the SLQ-32. The “Whirly-One” was a manually operated system and it took a very experienced operator to get the full potential out of the WRL-1. The SLQ-32 was the first fully-microchipp’d piece of gear on a lot of ships, which required far less skill to run. EW techs hated the SLQ-32, not for the least because the detection antennas for the WRL-1 were up near the top of the radar/antenna mast, while the detection antennas for the SLQ-32 were just above CIC for a vertical difference of at least 50'. As a result, the WLR-1 had a far greater detection range, provided the EW knew his job.

Depending on the ship, the watches in Sonar Control may range from two STGs, the Sonar Watch Supervisor and an operator, to as many as ten watchstanders. The "why” gets into matters that may still be classified.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Respect the Steam Plant

If you have never read the poem by Robert Kipling "The Secret of the Machines," you should. Steam is essentially a 19th Century technology. About the only items on a last-generation naval warship's steam plant that would astonish an engineer from a century earlier would be the turbine-powered equipment, the wide use of electrical motors and the automatic combustion control system. He would be amazed at the very high operating temperatures and pressures, but the principles would be familiar and it would take him not a lot of time to become wholly familiar with the plant.

Steam is a powerful force and it is fearsome. You probably know that if you were in Denver, water boils at a lower temperature and it takes longer to cook things by boiling. It works the other way; if you have a boiler under pressure, the boiling point of water is higher. In a 1,200psi steam plant, the boiling point of water is 575degF or so. The steam in the main line has been superheated to 975degF for 400degF of superheat.

If you have an older steam heating system in your home, it is a saturated steam system running at about 1/2-1psi. Home systems do not run higher because a steam leak at a higher temperature becomes not serious,but deadly. On a warship, the steam line for heating hot water, to the galleys and to the HVAC system was a 50# saturated steam system; as you can see here, the temperature of the steam was almost 300degF (that web page is in absolute pressure,not atmospheric, so add 14.7psi). If you put your body in front of a steam leak at that temperature, you will be seriously hurt.

Unlike saturated or "wet" steam, where a leak is visible, a leak of superheated or "dry" steam is invisible. All you can do is hear the shriek of the leak itself, you cannot see it. If you were foolish enough to use your hand to try to feel a superheated steam leak, you will lose your fingers or your entire hand, for the steam jet will cut it right off. The only safe method was to take a broomstick and use that to find the leak; watching for then the broomstick became scorched or was sliced through.

Steam is a powerful force and those who do not respect its power, those who are not in awe of it, will pay the price.

But remember, please, the Law by which we live,
We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
If you make a slip in handling us you die!

Fires Lighted, 1A Boiler

(It might not hurt to occasionally refer to the diagram here.)

So we now have fires lit in 1A boiler. Naval boilers, when not steaming, are always laid up in a manner that helps prevent corrosion. The most common short-term layup is a "steam blanket", where steam that is supplied from either a steaming boiler or, in port, from a steam supply line from the pier, is piped to the top of the boiler to keep air out. If we have a steam blanket, that means the water in the boiler is somewhat warmed. You secure the steam blanket, obviously, just before light-off.

Initially, not much happens. The boiler slowly heats, as you can only run one burner with the electric forced air blower. If you put in more fuel than the light-off blower can supply air for, you will emit black smoke and that is bad form. Once you get to about 50psi on the steam pressure gauge, you can open the outlet for the boiler and start to feed steam to the steam pipes to warm them up.

Gradual warming up of the steam lines is critical. The steam lines at light off are at room temperature. At operating pressure and temperature, the main steam line has a steam pressure of 1,175# at 950degF. You must heat the lines evenly and slowly in order to prevent uneven expansion, which in turn, leads to leaks around the gaskets that connect valves to the pipes and sections of the steam pipes to each other. At this point, the main steam valves are all closed (they are large gate valves). Each main steam valve has a small bypass line to equalize the pressure on either side of the valve before opening it; the bypass valves are opened, in sequence, to heat the steam lines. You pressurize and start to heat each section before you start on the next one. Then you open the main steam valves and begin feeding steam, now at 100# or more, through the plant.

Now stuff starts to happen. You can start rolling the main forced draft blowers, which are powered by steam turbines, and you can secure the electric blower. The main forced draft blowers can put out a lot more volume of air, so you can start a second burner. Once you have one burner going, when you start more, you just open them up, as they will light off from the burner in use. You also start the steam-driven main feed pump, as it can supply feedwater at higher pressures than the main feed booster pump, which is what you were using.

Both the man forced-draft blowers and and the main feed pumps exhaust their working steam into the auxiliary exhaust system, as do all steam auxiliary systems. The aux exhaust (which are not liquid, this is steam at 5-25# or so) feed to the deaerating feed tank (DFT), which both deaerates the feedwater and supplies feedwater to the main feed booster pump. The aux exhaust also dump into the condensers for the ship's service turbogenerators (SSTGs) and the main engines. But you cannot do that until you have enough steam pressure to roll the SSTGs, as the aux steam will unevenly heat the turbines of the SSTGs, and that is a bad thing.

The problem is that the DFT cannot handle the steam load that is being dumped into the aux exhaust, so the aux exhaust system overpressurizes and lifts the relief valve, which vents out the stack just below the smoke vents. A steady cloud of steam vapor comes out the vents, and that is water that has to be made up from the feedwater tanks. This is a tricky time, you have to get pressure built fast enough so you have enough steam pressure to at least one SSTG rolling so you can cut in aux exhaust to its condenser. This is where the EOOW doing the light-off of the plant has to pray that the Chief Engineer doesn't go topside and sees the steam blowing out the vents, as regardless of whether the light-off is going well or not, you can bet the CHENG will have something caustic to say about the feedwater being used up.

Once you can roll a SSTG and get aux exhaust cut into the SSTG's condenser, the steam system becomes closed and you aren't using that much feedwater. But until you do, from the time you blow the relief valve, you use a lot of feedwater. It is considered to be bad form to have to call the Culligan truck to top your feedwater tanks off once you start the light-off. It happens to everyone sooner or later, but if you make a habit of it, your ship will get a bad reputation as being unable to do a light-off unassisted, which means the Captain will hear about it at various social parties, if not officially from the Squadron or Group Commanders, which means you will hear about it from the Captain and the conversation will not be pleasant.

Once you have one SSTG rolling, then you can crank up the blowers and build steam pressure faster. When the 150# aux steam lines in the Engineroom are up to pressure, the machinist's mates can start the evaporators so the evaps can begin making distilled water from the surrounding water in port, so you can refill the feedwater tanks. This water has to go to feedwater; you don't cut the evaps to the potable water tanks in port unless it is an emergency, for the water then must be heavily treated to be safe. You are about where you can start feeding steam though the "hotel" system to feed the heating systems, the water heaters and the galleys, and you can secure the steam lines from the pier.

Now you are up to main steam pressure. You bring one SSTG up to speed and it feeds to the main electrical switchboard. You call the Quarterdeck and have the word passed over the ship's PA system (the "1MC"): "Place all electronic equipment in standby while the ship shifts from shore power to ships' power." You wait about five minutes, then order the EM on watch to switch to ship's power. Using a synchroscope that is built into the switchboard's panel, the EM matches the phases of shore power and the output of the SSTG, controlling the SSTG to run at a slightly higher frequency. When the needle of the sychroscope is between 11 and 12 o'clock, the EM parallels the SSTG to shore power and then immediately trips the breaker to shore power.

You wait a few minutes to see if everything is stable. If it is, you call the Quarterdeck and ask them to pass the word "the ship is now on ship's power."

You are now "auxiliary steaming." The only services the ship is receiving from the pier are fresh water in, sewage out, and telephones.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Safety Rules are Written in Blood

In the post previous to this, I wrote that when the fires were lit in a naval boiler, only the two sailors actually lighting off the boiler are permitted in the firing alley.

There is a reason for that. Under the right circumstances, when the burner ignites, a rush of flame can come out of the light-off port (known as a "flareback"). It was a rare occurrence, but it did happen from time to time.

One day, back about 30 or so years ago, a young officer from the engineering staff of a destroyer squadron was observing a light-off on one of the ships in port. In order to get a really good look at the procedure, he stood right behind the Burnerman. The staffie was wearing the uniform of the day, Summer Khaki, which were made of gabardine, or what the Navy called "certified navy twill."

Those are fancy terms for "polyester."

A flareback occurred and the young officer was bathed in flame. If he had been wearing the standard shipboard working uniform for officers, known as "wash khakis", he'd have gotten away with some nasty burns, no doubt. But he wasn't and, as a result, the uniform pretty much melted onto his skin, or, as it was more crudely put, he was shrink-wrapped. He lived less than two weeks.

As a result, only cotton or fire-retardant uniforms were permitted in engineering spaces. And nobody, other than the two sailors performing the light-off, were permitted in the firing alley when lighting fires in a boiler.

Safety rules are written in blood.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

On the USS Theoretical: Prepare to Light Fires, 1A Boiler

The first thing you have to know is when you are sailing and for what reason. If you are going out on a deployment or for a major exercise, you were required to be on stable ship’s power 72 hours before sailing, to give a fair amount of time for the electronics types to tweak their gear and for the radiomen to have shifted over to the message traffic frequencies. (Message traffic for the ships that were in port was handled by the ashore communications station.) Which means that you have to light fires at least four hours before that time, unless you’re going to cheat on the 72 hours. If your sailing time is 0800, you are going to cheat, just to be fair to the engineers. If you are going out for a short exercise, then you light off the day before.

The division officers and chiefs for B, M and E divisions have to draw up an in-port steaming watch bill for the approval of the Chief Engineer, so that everyone knows when they are on duty. Unlike cold-iron conditions, the Duty Engineer must be an EOOW.

You need to make sure that the feedwater tanks are at 100%. You can’t just fill them from the potable water lines feeding the ships at the piers, feedwater is deionized to prevent any contamination of the boilers. So you need to get the deionization truck, known as the “Culligan truck”, to filter the potable water from the piers and feed it to the tanks.

And finally, you want to light fires during the day, for you want to make sure you have an awake and alert team on duty.

The Water King will do a series of tests on the light-off boiler to make sure the chemistry is within limits. He may have to treat the boiler before light-off or soon after. In a worse-case scenario, he may recommend dumping the boiler and refilling it (call the Culligan truck). The Oil King will check the fuel oil service tank for contamination. The chiefs of each machinery space will do a check to make sure that no vital equipment is out of commission and that all of the “red tags” and “yellow tags” that need to be cleared are cleared.

The fireroom crew has to run a “man aloft” chit to make sure that all of the radars on the ship and any ships nested alongside are shut down. Any rotating radar antennas have to be secured. This has to be done because the BTs must now climb the stacks to remove the herculite stack covers, which keep rain from falling into the stacks when the boilers are offline (and rusting out the insides of the stacks and the economizers on the boilers).

By now, you might be wondering how anyone can keep track of this, for the preparations for lighting off take hours, if not more than a day. The answer is by the use of a set of procedures known as the Engineering Operational Sequencing System, or EOSS. EOSS is a series of laminated checklists in looseleaf binders with laminated pages for every watch station in the plant. If you go to start up or shut down any piece of machinery in the plant, there is an EOSS checklist for it.

The fireroom crew now is in its final preparations with the light-off watch on station. They start the fuel oil pump, which begins to circulate fuel oil from the fuel oil service tank to the burner front of the boiler and back to the service tank. When the lines are up to pressure, they are very carefully checked for leaks. Fuel is recirculated from now on, though the supply lines to the individual burner are closed. They start the electric forced draft blower to feed air through the air casing around the boiler and into the firebox through the vanes around each burner. The air casing must be pressurized to a certain number (measured in “inches of water”, not PSI) for a specified minimum time before lighting off.

Now we are ready to light fires.

The fireroom watch is in place. The light-off is done under the command of the BTOW. The EOOW must also be present. When lighting fires, only two sailors are permitted in the “firing alley”, the lowest level catwalk which runs in front of the firebox, the Burnerman and the sailor who is assisting in the light-off, usually the Lower Levelman. The Burnerman is wearing a welder’s jacket, a faceshield and welder’s gloves. The light-off torch is made of metal round stock about 1/4" thick and it is about six feet long. On one end, some rags are wrapped with bailing wire to the torch and soaked with fuel oil. There is a round metal shield that slides along most of the length of the torch. The other end of the torch ends in a triangular handgrip.

The Burrnerman’s assistant lights the torch, using a Zippo lighter, never a match or a butane lighter.* The Burnerman turns the torch to make sure the torch is burning properly and then pronounces that he is ready. The vanes feeding air to the firebox are closed to prevent blowing out the torch. On the order of the BTOW, the torch is inserted as far as it will go through the light-off-port; the port cover is then closed as much as possible onto the shaft of the torch. Between the port cover being mostly closed, the safety gear worn by the Burnerman and the round shield on the torch, the Burnerman is well-protected against a flareback, when a boiler being lit off shoots flames out the light-off port.

The Burnerman looks through the burner’s observation port and checks to see if the torch is burning. “Torch still lit” is the announcement everyone wants to hear.

The BTOW commands: “Light fires, 1A Boiler.”

The Burnerman opens the burner’s fuel valve. The Lower Levelman then opens the feed valve to the burrnerfront and starts loudly chanting: "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” If by the time he finishes his count, the Burnerman hasn’t yelled “Fires lit,” the Lower Levelman will shut off the feed valve. In that case, the torch is withdrawn and extinguished, then a periscope is inserted into the light-off port to inspect for spilled fuel oil. In a bad case, the burnerfront will have to be opened and people sent in to clean up the oil, but usually you only have to re-purge the firebox.

“Fires lit, 1A Boiler!” The Burnerman fans the air supply vanes open and shut to make sure that the burner is stable and stays lit. The Lowerlevelman opens the fuel supply valve the rest of the way and secures the return valve to the service tank. The Burnerman removes the torch and shoves it into the torch holder (a long pipe closed on the far end), which extinguishes it. The BTOW calls “fires lit” on the intercom throughout the hot plant, the MMOW in Main Control logs it in the Engineering Log and announces that hearing protection must be work in the plant. The MMOW calls the DC Central watch, which, in turn, calls the Quarterdeck to inform the Officer of the Deck. The Petty Officer of the Watch logs it in the ship’s Deck Log.

And now the fun begins.
* The use of a Zippo was by regulation, not by custom. There was likely a good reason for it, though I never was told why.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Shipboard Organization, Part II

Continuing on:

Weapons Department: Headed by the Weapons Officer. These are the divisions:

First Division. This is the deck division, the sailors are the Boatswain’s Mates or Bo’sun’s Mates (BM). Regardless of the rank of the division officer, he or she is the First Lieutenant. They run and maintain the boats (boat engines are maintained by A Gang). They operate the anchor and maintain the mooring gear, the main deck areas and the hull above the waterline. The sailors are also known as “Deck Apes.” As a group, they are tied with the BTs for being a rough and tough group. First Division is a throwback to the age of sail. The First Lieutenant is in charge of the ship’s supply of toilet paper; running out of TP is a sure way to make long-term enemies. A smart 1st LT has an off-the-books stash in several places around the ship.

Second Division: They are the Gunner’s Mates, they maintain and operate the ship’s guns, from the small machine guns up to the 16" guns on battleships. They maintain the small arms for use by the ship's defense forces and watchstanders. On ships without a main missile battery, the Firecontrol Men (FC) are in 2nd Division. FCs maintain the gunfire control radars and the fire control plotting equipment down in Gun Plot.

Third Division/ AS Division: This is the sonar division, the sonar technicians, or STGs. (STSs are on submarines.) Whether it is a dinky SQS-56 on a Perry Class FFG, a SQS-38 on a DDG or a huge SQS-26 on a Knox Class FF or a guided missile cruiser, the sonar gear is operated and maintained by STGs. There might be a relative handful of STGs on a DDG or well over 20 on a Knox Class FF with a then state-of-the-art passive sonar suite. The ASW torpedo tubes are maintained by Torpedomen (TMs) who are also in 3rd Division. Back when ASROC launchers were fitted to ships, the launchers were part of 3rd Division, the launcher was operated and maintained by two or three Gunner’s Mate Technicians (GMTs).

Fox Division: You have to be careful with this reference. On a missile shooter, Fox Division is made up of Gunner’s Mates Missile (GMMs), who maintain the launcher, loading gear and the missile magazines. But Fox Division is often a name used on other ships for other uses; I’ve seen the name used by Supply Department and by 3rd Division on non-missile ships. If the ship is a missile shooter, the FCs are in this division.

Supply Department: The officers in the Supply Department, typically the Supply Officer and the Disbursing Officer, are staff corps officers, not line officers. They do not stand underway watches, though some ships make the Disbursing Officer stand in-port watches.

The galley and food service operations are run by Mess Specialists (MSs), assisted by young sailors drafted from every division on the ship for 90-day tours and known as the Mess Cooks or “Mess Cranks.” Being sent for such a tour was known as “cranking.” Supply Department runs the ship’s laundry and the barber shop, those areas are staffed by SHs and I’ve forgotten what the rate designation officially stood for (you can guess what the unofficial term was). Storekeepers (SKs) ran the ship’s store, kept the soda machines stocked and handled the tracking, ordering and inventorying of all supplies and spare parts. The Disbursing Officer and the Disbursing Clerks (DKs) are in charge of the ship’s payroll. It’s a Navy-wide joke that each month, there is a softball game at Leavenworth Military Prison between the disbursing officers and the ensigns who were in charge of classified material.

N/X Division: Until the XO was mandated to also be the ship’s navigator, the Navigator was the division officer of N/X. After the change, the Navigation Officer became the new title for the division officer, and the Navigation Officer’s work underway is closely scrutinized by the XO. On larger ships that have an embarked chaplain and/or a doctor, those officers are part of N/X division. The Navigation Officer personally supervised the navigation plot in restricted waters, such as entering or leaving port. In open-ocean steaming, that duty fell to the Officer of the Deck.

N/X Division is made up of five rates: The Quartermasters (QMs), the Hospitalmen (HM), Personnelmen (PN), Postal Clerks (PKs) and the Yeomen (YM). The Quartermasters keep track of the navigation plot, they maintain the chart library, the Bridge, the Flying Bridge and the Charthouse. The QMs used to shoot morning and evening stars with a sextant and keep a running plot underway with Sun lines. The HMs were always referred to as “corpsmen,” they ran Sick Bay and administered the medical records for the ship. One or two of the corpsmen were rated as “independent duty” corpsmen and were very highly trained. Pissing off a corpsman was a great way to find that one’s shot record had mysteriously disappeared.

Small ships had one PK, larger ones may have two or more. If the ship was deployed and a mail delivery was made, the PK was everyone’s best friend. PNs maintained the enlisted service records and cut orders for transfers and training. They did the papers for sailors going on leave. The YMs handled the administration of the ship, they basically were the office staff for the XO. YMs also maintained the personnel records for the officers.

That’s pretty much everyone on a small warship.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shipboard Organization, Part I

Before I get to lighting fires on the USS Theoretical, let’s run through the organization of a smaller warship. Many of the names of the divisions were different on different ships, so if you know of a ship that had different names for divisions, that’s fine.

The Captain, also known as the Commanding Officer: On frigates and smaller destroyers, the Captain was a commander. Cruisers and large guided-missile destroyers were considered to be “major commands”, the Captain had the rank of captain and that was a second command tour job. The officer commanding any commissioned naval ship was the Captain, even if it was an ocean-going tug and the Captain was a lieutenant. Captains generally served 24-month tours.

The Captain is responsible to the outside world for everything that happened on the ship. The Captain could have been sound asleep in his rack when something bad happened, but he still swung for it. Only landlubbers and naval aviators referred to a ship’s captain as “Skipper.” To the Captain’s face, you called him only that. “The CO”, “Charlie Oscar” or “the Old Man” were acceptable terms to use to refer to the Captain, but never in his presence

The Executive Officer: The XO was the officer who was responsible to the Captain for the good order and discipline of the ship. The XO ran the administration of the ship, made sure it was kept clean, and personally inspected the berthing, messing and galleys of the ship on a daily basis. Being an XO was as close to a thankless job as there was. XOs served 18 month tours and were lieutenant commanders on all ships from frigates to cruisers.


Departments were headed by Department Heads. Department Heads were graduates of what was once called “Destroyer School,” then renamed “Department Head School” in Newport, RI. It was the only Navy surface officer school that was long enough to merit a “permanent change of station,” which mean the family could come with. In the 1970s, when retention sucked, the Department Heads on LSTs and some auxiliary ships were second-tour division officers.

Department Heads served split-tours; 18 months on a frigate or small destroyer as a first-tour lieutenant, 18 months on a large guided-missile destroyer or cruiser as a lieutenant commander. There were other second-tour jobs, such as a staffie on an afloat destroyer squadron or cruiser group staff.

Of the three line department heads (Operations Officer, Weapons Officer and CHENG), the senior one also served as Senior Watch Officer. The Senior Watch Officer was responsible for the training and staffing of all in-port watches and all underway watches outside of the Engineering Department, unless the Senior Watch Officer was also the CHENG. In reality, the watches in Radio Central, Sonar Control and CIC were the responsibility of the respective division officers, but they had to answer to the Senior Watch Officer. A young officer was well advised never to make the Senior Watch Officer mad, unless the young officer wanted to be in charge of an in-port watch section full of morons, malingerers and all-around dirtbags and wanted to stand underway watches with people he or she despised.

Division Officers ranged from ensigns fresh from Surface Warfare Officer Basic School in Newport, RI to full lieutenants on split tours. They were nominally in charge of their divisions; their real job was to learn how to manage people, to qualify as an underway watchstander and to qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO or, as the aviators put it, a "black shoe"). Tours ranged from single-tours on one ship for a minimum of 36 months to spit-tours of 24 months and eighteen months. Some did split tours of 30 months and 18 months, for four years at sea. This was the initial separation point between those who had potential and those who were wastes of oxygen.

Now, for the departments and divisions:

Engineering: Read this and this.

Operations: The Operations Officer headed this department. Operations Department was made up of these divisions:

OC Division: This was the communications division, the radiomen (RM) and the signalmen (SM) were in OC Division. Radiomen did not talk on the radios, they tuned them up and patched them to the remote stations on the Bridge, in CIC and elsewhere. The radiomen ran the teletypes, sending messages off the ship and receiving them. Back in the day, this was done by HF morse code; the radiomen typed up the messages as they came in. After World War 2, the use of HF TTYs came into use. In the 1970s, satellite UHF TTYs replaced most use of HF TTY, though HF was used for backup purposes and for training. The signalmen worked the flag signals, they used semaphore and flashing light.

OI Division: OI Division had one space: the Combat Information Center, “CIC” or”Combat.” The sailors, once known as radarmen, were now “operations specialists” or OSs. They plotted radar contacts, maintained the status boards, plotted sonar contacts, controlled aircraft, and did most of the talking on the radios, other than the tactical freqs on the Bridge.

OE Division: OE Division fixed the equipment that the radar and radio girls broke. They were the Electronics Technicians or ETs, a rate that got them no end of grief once a certain Spielberg movie came out. The Electronic Warfare technicians (EW) were usually part of OE Division.

OT Division: This division was only on larger ships, it was the Cryptologic Technicians or CTs. I officially do not know what they did, but they seemed to come and go as the ships went near different regions of the world. The division officer was a restricted line officer, not eligible for command at sea. Being a CT officer was a specialty job.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Steaming Watches

Before I get into writing about how to get a steamship ready to sail, I need to give a breakdown of the watchstanders in the engineering plant. Of any parts of the ship, the engineering plant was an industrial plant and had many of the same safety rules as one might find in a factory. Steel-toed shoes were mandatory, only cotton or fire-resistant uniforms could be worn and hearing protection was required in a steaming plant from the time fires were lit to the time they were pulled.

EOOW- Engineering Officer of the Watch. The EOOW is in charge of the entire engineering plant for his/her watch. The EOOW is the direct representative of the CHENG; everyone in the Engineering Department, other than the CHENG, has to obey the orders of the EOOW. The EOOW takes orders only from the CHENG, the Captain and the Officer of the Deck. The EOOW stands watch usually in Main Control, a good EOOW will, from time to time, roam the rest of the plant. EOOWs were usually chief petty officers or officers, though a sharp first class petty officer sometimes qualified. One had to be qualified as an EOOW to be considered for command at sea. For officers who were not assigned to the Engineering Department, qualifying as EOOW, especially on a steam plant, was a difficult task.

Fireroom Watches

BTOW- Boiler Technician of the Watch. There is one BTOW for each steaming fireroom (frigates had one fireroom, destroyers and cruisers had two). The BTOW runs the fireroom. When the Automatic Combustion Control System (ACC) is engaged, the BTOW operates it. Normally the ACC runs on its own, but the BTOW can control it if necessary ("remote manual operation").

Upper Levelman- If the ACC is not working, the Upper Levelman operates the main feed pump to control the water level in the boiler.

Lower Levelman- No ACC, the Lower Levelman operates the forced draft blowers.

Burnerman- No ACC, the Burnerman controls the fuel oil flow to the burners.

If the ACC is running, those three watchstanders do maintenance to idle equipment, preserve and paint stuff, and do the things necessary to keep the fireroom in good condition.

Fireroom Messenger- The duty gofer, the fireroom messenger wakes up the next watch at night. This is an "under instruction" watch, the fireroom messenger is training to do the duties of the other boiler operators. If the BTOW wants a cup of coffee, the fireroom messenger gets it.

Engine Room Watches

MMOW- Machinist Mate of the Watch. The MMOW is in charge of the Engineroom. More than that, one of the enginerooms also functions as Main Control; it has all of the intercoms and telephone lines to the Bridge and elsewhere. The MMOW in Main Control is supposed to serve as the emergency backup to the EOOW.

Throttleman- There are two large valve control wheels that operate the valves that admit steam to the main engine's turbines. The Throttleman is the one who is answering the engine bells from the Bridge. In maneuvering situations, such as coming into or leaving port, there is a Throttleman for the ahead turbine and one for the astern turbine.

Generator Man- runs the steam turbogenerators (SSTGs). In the Knox Class frigates, there was a separate auxiliary space with the three SSTGs; Aux 1 had a generator man and an assistant. No steaming spaces were ever manned by less than two people, for safety reasons.

Engineroom Messenger- Beside being the go-fer, the Engineroom Messenger took the hourly readings and oversaw the operation of the evaporators.

Non-Hole Watches

The main engineering plant was known as "the Hole." The other watches were:

Switchboard Watch- Kept an eye on the electrical distribution system. Some ships had separate switchboard rooms, other ships had their switchboards in the engine rooms.

Sounding and Security Watch- Kept an eye on all of the remote equipment, such as the air conditioning plants and the air dehydrators, which supplied super-dry air to the radar waveguides. Sounding and Security would visit the shaft alleys and other unoccupied spaces, and present hourly readings to the EOOW.

DC Central Watch- This watch was stood in Damage Control Central. Sounding and Security also checked in here. The DC Central watchstander's job was an emergency watch, he or she was the one who would open the DC plates (large diagrams of the ship) and start plotting reports in an emergency while the rest of the ship went to Battle Stations, known as GQ for General Quarters. All underway emergencies, such as fires, were handled at GQ.

Duty Oil and Water King- This was more of an on-call position on smaller ships. The Duty Oil and Water King checked fuel samples and tested the chemistry of the boilers. If chemicals needed to be added or other actions taken to keep the chemistry within operating limits, the Duty Oil and Water King would make recommendations to the BTOW and to the EOOW.

A Field Guide to Naval Engineers

The Engineering Department of a naval steam warship had, at a minimum, these people:

Chief Engineer: The Chief Engineer, or CHENG, or Engineer, was a department head. On a destroyer or frigate, the CHENG was usually a lieutenant. On a large guided missile destroyer or a cruiser, the CHENG was a lieutenant commander on a second department head tour. Aircraft carrier CHENGs were commanders or captains who had previously commanded their own ships.

MPA: Main Propulsion Assistant. The MPA oversaw B and M divisions (boilers and main machinery). On a smaller ship, the MPA was the division officer for those divisions. On a larger ship, the MPA had division officers working for him/her. MPA on a carrier was a second-tour department head job.

DCA: Damage Control Assistant. The DCA ran R division (HTs) and oversaw the ship's damage control program. Each division in a ship had one or more Damage Control Petty Officers, who maintained the DC gear of their own division. While still a part of their own division, the DCPOs were responsible to the DCA. E (EM, IC) and A (EN) may be under the DCA on a small ship. The DCA on a carrier was a second-tour department head.

After that, if there were more officers, you could have a division officer or officers for each of the engineering divisions. The guiding rule on a ship was if there was a piece of gear and nobody knew who was responsible for it, it belonged to the engineers.

Sailors (enlisted) in the Navy have rates. A "rate" is the specialty that the individual is trained in. In common usage, the abbreviations were used, with some exceptions. These are the rates that existed in the last decades of the use of oil-fired steam-driven warships. If you combined a sailor's rate and paygrade, that was the "rating."

BT- Boiler Technician. The key rate of the steam era, for it was the BTs who operated and maintained the ship's boilers. Everything that happened on a naval ship happened because the BTs were doing their jobs. The firerooms (never "boiler room") were hot places to work and, if there were some steam leaks, it was humid as well. The Oil King and Water King were BTs.

EM- Electrician's Mate. They ran the switchboards and maintained the electrical distribution network. They are the "3-wire electricians."

EN- Enginemen. They operated and maintained the auxiliary diesels and most of the environmental equipment (HVAC gear). Because they also maintained and manned the engines of the ship's boats, they were referred to as "fresh air snipes." They were the core rate for "A Gang."

HT- Hull Technician. HTs were the experts in maintaining damage control equipment and they were the core of the damage control parties. HTs were also the ship's welders. They maintained the sanitary system on the ships; they were sometimes referred to as "shitter techs."

IC- Interior Communications Technician. IC men maintained the interior communications systems: Dial telephones on larger ships, sound-powered telephones, intercoms and announcing systems. They are the "2-wire electricians."

MM- Machinist's Mate. MMs operated and maintained the engine rooms, containing the main engines. They also operated and maintained the steam-powered turbogenerators, though the maintenance of the electrical side fell to the EMs.

MR- Machinery Repairman. MRs were the ship's machinists. If something had to be made from metal stock, MRs made it. A destroyer or frigate may only have one or two MRs.

Oil King: The Oil King tested, kept track of, and generally pumped fuel oil from storage tanks to settling tanks and then to service tanks. The Oil King directly controlled the distribution of fuel oil during refueling.

Water King: The Water King was in charge of maintaining the chemistry of the ship's boilers. At the working temperatures and pressures of naval boilers, if the chemistry was out of whack, corrosion would occur and very rapidly. "Salting up" a boiler was a casualty to be dreaded.

The Oil and Water Kings were BTs.

The divisions and their rates:

A Division (A-Gang)- EN
B Division- BT
E Division- EM and IC
M Division- MM
R Division- HT and MR

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Overlooked UAV

The Raven UAV. It doesn't have the ability to shoot missiles, like the Predator, but it is probably the more valuable UAV in Iraq, at least to the grunts.