My Very First Time

by Joe Roche

That's not what I meant, you bunch of reprobates.

I remember when I got rated. Here I was, an FN(SS) one day, oiling in the engine rooms and all of a sudden I'm a throttleman. I don't know how soon after I made rate that I throttled my first watch, but it was a watch I'll never forget. I was a boot throttleman with a boot oiler. But what the hell, that's what being a sub sailor is all about. You accept the responsibilities you're given. Just like the game hide and seek we played as kids…."Ready or not, here I come."

I was standing watch in the fwd. engine room, which was the designated running room at the time. Now all that means is, when the word is passed to "Prepare to surface one/two main engines," the designated running room lites off their engines.

Well, here we are, submerged and making fresh water. Simple, quiet and hot. No problem! My slave is sitting in front of the Badgers, while I sit in the fairly cool hatch leading into the aft engine room hatch conversing with the other two fellow snipes when word is passed, "Prepare to snorkle." As we jump into action I'm thinking ahead about how snorkling wreaks havoc with the stills, and how I'm gonna have to keep an eye on them.

Anyway, we lite off #1&2, get them on line and the water is still good. At one point Control calls back to commence an aircharge. We lite off the Hardy Tynes & before I know, we are one very busy engine room. At this point I ain't sitting in my 'It's good to be King' chair. I'm thinking how big a difference it is when you throttle your very first time, compared to oiling... You look at things a little bit different. Things are progressing smoothly when all of a sudden the head valve slams shut, 1-2 inches of vacuum pulled... No biggy, but the manometers on the stills jump around a bit but we settle them down.

Next thing I know the head valve recycles 3-4 times. The stills go ape shit, the manometers are at the top of the sight glasses. At this point we're just passing salt water into the tank. The head valve shuts again for good, pulls the requisite 8" and shuts down the engines… We shut all valves, kill the air charge, the oiler is trying to save the barrel of water we're trying to make and I'm on the phone to control screaming about the assholes on the planes who just destroyed a perfectly good batch of water, but how I'm gonna blow it to the fresh water tanks anyway and the cooks ain't gonna need to add salt to whatever it is they're cooking. I hang up and begin venting the HPAC stages when I look in the lower flats and what to my surprise do I see, not eight tiny reindeer, but fucking water rising over the deck plates… Slowly creeping up to the HPAC motors. All of a sudden I remember a drain valve I forgot to shut. (Now this is akin to a quartermaster realizing his plot was 12 degrees off, a sonarman mistaking another submerged sub for a whale. Or a torpedoman realizing what just left #1 tube was only a water slug, not a torpedo). I believe it was Baker valve drain. Not sure, mind is blank now as it was then. After I shut the valve and scrambling around, I get the drain pump on the forward bilge and after a few tense minutes the water began to recede.

Well I aged about 15 years after that incident, dirtied my skivvies and firmly believe, that incident was the genesis of my hair falling out. But on the bright side, I never, ever, forgot to shut that valve again.