Two Minute and 47 Second Club

by Ronald Mitchell

When on the 340 boat, we were prepping for a ‘deployment’ (read northern run). Skipper was new. Went out in Long Island Sound to go through our paces to see if we were up to snuff. We dove the boat and all that good stuff. So far, so good. Apparently, he was happy with most of that.

Then it was "Prepare to snorkel, one (or whatever) main engine(s)." About 20 minutes later, maneuvering reported “Snorkeling on (whatever we had been ordered) main engines." Skipper came on the 1MC and informed the crew in no uncertain terms that our effort wasn’t good enough, not even nearly good enough. He promised that we were going to stay out there until we got it right.

Many, many attempts were performed and none suited him so we did it again and again. One of the main problems was the FER. Most times we got the start bell and early on in this fiasco, the throttleman was all alone, since the oiler was on the trim manifold. Some waited for him to get relieved and come aft. I found that it required 3 arms/hands and one foot to light off snorkeling. And since I am not equipped that way, we had problems. Even after the compartment was rigged and the inboard opened, we still had to wait for the 3rd arm/hand to open the snorkel exhaust valve. AER could have helped but I guess they were waiting for a start bell back there.

One evening, I was on 16-20 and was shown that the return to center switch used to bypass the high back pressure on the exhaust line had a malfunctioning spring so that if one put it into the bypass position, it stayed there. Wasn’t that convenient? Freed up the left hand to open the snorkel exhaust valve!. Absolutely amazing. The next start was done in 2 minutes and 47 seconds from time of “Prepare to snorkel, 1 main engine” to “Snorkeling 1 main engine”. Rig for snorkel bill and inboard exhaust valve opening was done before oiler even made it to the FER. The skipper then came on the 1MC and congratulated everyone and said something to the effect that would be satisfactory and to knock off the drills “before we break something” I converted a steaming shirt to a great looking shirt with snorkel head valve complete with closing electrodes, waves and all that stuff and announcing that I was part of the “Two Minute and 47 Second Club”. That AWOL spring returned to its home and that was the end of the snorkel drills.