No way I or anyone else had time to take pictures. Not in that storm.
What happened was we were coming back from the Indian ocean
pretty much pedal to the metal to make some deadline I forgot about now in Pearl Harbor.
About 2 days out from Pearl we were overtaken by a huge typhoon. Our helicopter was out on deck
as we had a bunch of stuff stored in the hanger bay when we started having 20-40 foot swells hit us from the rear. Someone decided to send the flight deck crew out to put extra tie downs on the helicopter and while they were doing it the decision was also made to turn the ship into the wind
, and the swells like normal. During the turn we laid over about 40 degrees and a swell swamped us over the starboard side taking the three men
that were tying the helicopter down with it. Someone called man overboard
and that was when it started to get ugly. It was the mid watch and zero visibility outside. Instead of the normal procedures all hands not on watch were ordered on deck to look for the men overboard
. We knew exactly who it was, flares were already in the water
real close to them and everything. It happened so fast!
I was on watch in the engine room at first on the throttles and I remember getting a back emergency
full bell. That was bad! Later I learned that the OOD chose that instead of the Williamson maneuver out of stupidity mostly but also because he was scared to turn broadside to the wind and waves. The captain
took over then. Almost as soon as I had the screw rolling over backwards and dragging the crap out of the boilers in the process we took another hard roll. I think it was somewhere around 35-40 degrees. All I remember was the trash can that I normally sat on in front of my throttles hit the port bulkhead and took the chief engineer out of his chair on it's way. With that hard a roll and dragging the boiler down so hard in an emergency
bell the low water alarm
started going off in one of the boilers and the BT's ended up doing a shutdown on it. I was ordered to hold the back bell the best I could even though normal procedures were to shut the throttle but we saved the other boiler. That is how it got ugly at first. We backed through that crap, into the waves, and alongside the first man we found. He was dead. The wave cut him in half when he was washed through the lifelines
. I had known him quite a while too. We went to boot together and were from the same town.
As the SAR swimmer was bringing him aboard I was getting constant bell changes to try to hold our position for almost 30 minutes. Back full, ahead full, ahead flank, back full, 30 minutes was all I could handle of all that wheel
spinning and I got someone to relieve me. I took turns with someone else for the rest of the night on one hour shifts. One of us would be on the throttles and one on deck looking for survivors.The weather
was terrible! We were doing a search box all night and only going 4 knots in over 80 mph winds and well over 60 foot swells. All by ourselves! We kept getting full and flank bells to ride over the swells all night long too.
Sometime during the night someone spotted another flashing light in the water and we made for it. The SAR swimmer went in the water to retrieve what we thought was a body and while we were holding station for him a huge swell as tall as the mast
came out of nowhere from port I think and we rode
up and over then fell in from the side. When we fell over in the trough it was maybe 60 degrees or so over we went then when we started going up the other side the water came down on us and we capsized. The boiler went down and luckily before we laid completely over everyone topside got in and were able to shut all the hatches behind them. That was the scariest thing I had ever experienced! It seemed like we were upside down for hours but in reality it was just seconds then the top of the next trough rolled us back over. When we rolled the other boiler went down and things got real ugly from there.
The SAR swimmer was still in the water of all things. I remember him real well. He was a first class that had been in since vietnam
. He was also a Navy SEAL previously and a big time fitness freak. It's the only reason he survived. He was able to cut his tether and swim free of the ship when it rolled just barely.
Since our fires had gone out and we were cold dark and dirty we had no way to get to him. I was back out on deck at that time when we were told to try reaching him with shot lines. All of us that knew how to fire a rifle tried it and one of us, no idea who, got one close enough to him that he was able to reach it. It didn't help for long but it kept him close till another swimmer could get suited up and in the water with a heavier tether. When the next one went in he right away got pulled under the boat and hit pretty hard. It broke both his legs I think and we fished him out. ONly about 5 minutes had elapsed so far from the roll till this happened.
The chief engineer came up with a plan to do a residual steam light off and I had to go back down to the generator
room, where I was the supervisor, to make it happen.
I don't know how many of you old engineers out there have done this before, not many I'm sure, but it's very dangerous and doesn't always work
. This was my second time.
generators were out of commission from the roll and our electric
blower was out. It was underwater in the roll. All we had to restart the generators and the boilers was the steam left in the pipes.
First we hurried around aligning the steam system to do it. It was well over 150 degrees in engineering already too with no ventilation fans going.
First I just gagged the governor on the generator
I chose to light off and started cranking open the throttle as fast as I could to get it all the way up to speed as fast as possible. The rest of my team was taking turns on the hand oil pump
so it wouldn't blow up in the process. As soon as the electrician could put a load on it he did. It took about 30 seconds I think and I was having to hand throttle the generator the whole time. As soon as the power
came on in the boiler room they started the electric fuel oil
pump and feed pump and lit fires without a blower at first. We provided combustion air with a positive ventilation in the boiler room and a ventilation fan instead through the dampeners on the boiler. I know it was smoking to beat the band but it worked. They brought steam up a lot faster than they were supposed to and were able to power
my generator then so we could light off other equipment
. We did all this without blowing anything up and got real lucky. The first time I did it on another ship, we did blow up the boiler and killed everyone in the room.
I think it took about 15 minutes from no fires till we were making turns on the shaft again and we recovered the swimmer. We had to give up the search after that and the other two men were lost
. We were out on our own at the time with no carrier or other ships that can handle the weather
so we limped back to Pearl harbor for repairs
and had funeral services on the way. It was a really sad day for the whole crew.
In pearl, they discovered our expansion joint was broken so badly during the storm that we were scary close to breaking in half. Our rudder
post was bent, several main engine bearings wiped, the generator I used to light off had damage from the wet steam and was out of commission for a couple months, Both diesel generators had to get overhauled and lots of other damage. We still got ordered back to the gulf a week later. It sucked because I had just gotten leave approved and went home to marry my wife. I got called the second day home and told to come back. I didn't see her again for 9 months. We did the deployment in support of desert storm and came home to San Diego
when it was all over. The Navy decommissioned the ship pretty soon after that with some things from the storm still not fixed. In 2001 I think it was finally sunk at sea during target practice. My captain, who I consider the best I ever served under was killed in a car wreck the day we decommissioned.