Quarters – Sub Base, Groton
For some reason, Captain Overhaul decided that the Blue Crew should have Quarters topside while in port, while we were finishing up the sea trail punch list items in preparation for our shakedown cruise. So while we were at the Sub Base that June, we would assemble for Quarters topside on the missile deck.
We were moored starboard side to the upstream side of the pier, and the YTBs, the Sub Base tugboats, were moored on the downstream side of the pier. We would fall in every morning at 0745, in ranks running fore ‘n aft, facing starboard. Captain Overhaul and the XO would stand somewhere over tube 9 and face us, with their backs to the YTBs. They would read the Plan of the Day and pass along any other pertinent information.
Promptly at 0800, the base would sound “Attention to Colors”, play the national anthem and hoist the colors. Of course, Captain Overhaul would call the crew to attention and salute while the anthem played.
One morning, the YTB Negwagon decided to start her diesel engine while we were at Quarters. The crew could tell that the engine was turning over because she blew pretty white smoke rings out of her stack while clearing and priming the engine. Puff, puff, puff. When the first cylinder fired, she made an explosion out of her exhaust that sounded like a cannon shot. Captain Overhaul jumped at least a foot off the deck. After that, the XO conducted morning Quarters until we left for shakedown.
Quarters – Weapons Station, Charleston
During our shakedown cruise, we operated out of the Weapons Station or the main base at Charleston. Having Quarters while moored at the Weapons Station was really nice. It was quiet and peaceful on the river, and we were generally by ourselves at the wharf. The warm South Carolina mornings were glorious, with bright sunny, cloud free skies.
We would muster topside in ranks running athwart ships, with a podium being located aft of the sail, between tubes 3 and 4. The crew would be facing forward and the officers would muster behind the podium facing aft. As usual, the nukes crawled up out of Nukeland through the AMR1 hatch and populated the rear most ranks.
One beautiful morning, the XO or CO was addressing the crew. I was standing in the back row, listening to the birds, watching the river and so on, completely ignoring what was being said, when I happened to hear the most common phrases used while moored, come drifting up the AMR1 hatch. “Loss of shore power. Rig ship for reduced electrical. Prepare to snorkel.”
The diesel engine exhaust valves were located in AMR2, with outboard in the ballast tanks. The exhaust pipe snaked its way from the outboard valve, across the reactor compartment and missile compartment, in the free flooding area under the turtle back, to the snorkel mast at the aft end of the sail. The exhaust pipe ended about half way up the snorkel mast so that it would exhaust underwater while snorkeling submerged.
There were drains in the exhaust pipe that were intended to let the water run out of the exhaust pipe while the ship was on the surface, but there was always residual water trapped in the pipe. The exhaust pipe was always flooded when the ship submerged, so one of the things that the AMR2UL watch did on the command to “Commence snorkeling” was to blow the water out of the exhaust pipe with high pressure air. This would allow the diesel engine to start and run.
So as I watched in eager anticipation, the snorkel mast silently slid up out of the sail to its full height. Then came the magic words, “Commence snorkeling.” With a mighty sneeze, the exhaust pipe was cleared and the diesel roared to life, showering the officers with stagnant seawater and oily diesel exhaust.
We were immediately dismissed from Quarters.
Back to Sea Stories