On a fast attack sub, the crew's head
consists of 3 toilet stalls in a row, with a urinal at the end and one shower
for about 80 enlisted guys. The officers have their own head
and the chiefs have their own, there is also one toilet and urinal in lower level and one toilet back aft in engineering. They try to only secure one head at a time to allow members to use the other heads when one or another is being blown overboard
. On older nuke boats, they used air at 100 psi over sea pressure (supposed to be 20-30 psi over, but who wants to wait that long?) to empty the (IIRC) 10,000 gal black water
tank. When they're "blowing sanitaries" they hang red signs warning you that the heads are secured and tanks
Of course there is always one guy...
ours was a little snot nosed punk from "Nawlins" who arrived about when I did. He was 18 and I was 24, the difference being about 3 GPA points and 5 yrs of college. He figured out his exaggerated accent drove me apeshit, and I quickly learned he went batshit crazy whenever I was right, which was pretty much always.
One day the head was secured, and of course my "buddy" had to use the can something fierce. Being my usual helpful self, I said, "Don't Speedy, they're blowing sanitaries!" He said, "Eff off! They're done blowing overboard
, they're venting inboard now!" He promptly sat on the throne and did his bidness.
When they blow the sanitaries overboard, the tanks
could be pressurized to 200 or 300 psi or more (sea pressure plus 100 psi) but they never blow the tank dry, they leave 50 gal or so in the bottom to ensure no bubbles escape. Once they secure the hull
valve and backup valve, they now have a 10,000 gal tank pressurized to 200 or 300 psi that must be equalized with internal atmospheric pressure before they can reopen the head. They release the air into the boat through activated charcoal filters, but since the pressure is so high, the air forces channels through the carbon and the inside of the sub smells like 10,000 gal of skunk farts are getting released - if they're venting inboard.
I took one sniff and knew the sanitary tanks were not being vented inboard, so they must still be pressurized. I shut the door to the head, and waited for Speedy to do the inevitable. As soon as he opened that 2-1/2" ball valve, a solid stream of what was in the toilet erupted straight up into his face with 200-300 psi of force behind it, followed by a very thick stream of what was left in the tank, blowing into his eye sockets, up his nostrils, into his open mouth as he struggled to gasp for air, comprehend what was happening and shut the 2-1/2" ball valve, not necessarily in that order. I knew what was happening, and several other crew members recognized that unmistakable sound of air and chunky liquid getting vaporized as it shot into the overhead and splattered everywhere!
"Oh ****!! Get the Doc, get the Doc!! I can't see, I got **** in my eyes!!" He's yelling and sputtering and gagging and trying to spit toilet paper and you know what out of his mouth... I was dying laughing, but finally ran to get Doc!
I told him what happened and he just shook his head and muttered "Effing Speedy! That guy is 80% of my workload!" (Speedy had recently gotten a tattoo in Hong Kong
, causing the Doc to quarantine him for 30 days or so, until his test results confirmed he wasn't positive for Hep C.)
Doc grabbed a water
hose, a bottle of Wescodine and some rags and we headed back to the head. It took poor Speedy about 8 solid hrs of scrubbing before the head was sanitized to Doc's satisfaction. Poor Speedy! That happened in 1986, but I remember it like yesterday!