What was nice about being an Interior Communications Electrician is the amount of time I got to spend in clean, comfortable, air conditioned spaces throughout the ship.
Except for those times when I found myself in spaces that were dirty and hazardous to one’s health…which was most of the places we worked in, now that I think about it.
One place in particular I came to loath was the Electromagnetic Underwater Log Rodmeter Compartment, more commonly known (by us, at least) as the Pitsword Trunk.
It was an unusual space, about 4 feet by 4 feet by 15 feet. At the top was a hatch, which weighed about as much as a small humanoid (think Verne Troyer), which needed be kept closed at all times (except when somebody was in there working). You would climb a ladder down about 6 feet, and step onto a narrow, slimy shelf. From there, there was another ladder which went down to the bottom, which was generally covered by about a foot of seawater.
What was the purpose of this room? Glad you asked. Check this out.
Sounds high tech, doesn’t it? Don’t get the wrong impression. Until VERY recently, most military equipment (especially Naval equipment) is antiquated and…for lack of a better word, clunky. Imagine Steam Punk, only not as ornamental.
What this “rodmeter” did was stick out a few feet past the bottom hull of the ship and, through means still a mystery to me, indicate how fast the ship was going.
When I say “stick out,” I’m dead serious. The reason I was always down there was because whenever we entered shallow water, somebody had to go down and retract the rodmeter (or extend it if entering deep water). See that big steering wheel looking thing? Its about the size of a steering wheel (hence the comparison). That is what raised and lowered the rodmeter, which was about 5 feet long.
Its the process that annoyed me the most. It would be one thing if I just had to go down there, crank that wheel, and be done with it.
Step 1: To lower it, first you lift the rodmeter almost all the way out of the sea valve (the actual opening into the ocean) packing assembly. MAKE SURE THE SEA VALVE IS CLOSED FIRST!!!!!
Step 2: Climb the ladder down from the shelf to the bottom and stand in a foot of sea water.
Step 3: Grab yourself some liquid soap. Lube up the rodmeter, all five feet of it. Seriously. It’s not homoerotic at all.
Step 4: Climb back up to the shelf to operate the wheel that raises and lowers the rod(meter). Turn the wheel to the right about 3 times, which will lower the rod(meter) into the orifice on top of the sea valve packing assembly. This orifice is a perfect size match, and inside there are 5 rubber gaskets (which should have also been lubed up with soap…did you forget to do that? You better climb back down there and do it). Lower the rod until it hits the top of the sea valve, then lift it up a few inches (about 3 turns of the wheel).
Step 5: Go back down the ladder and stand in the water again. This time, you can sit on that metal thing while you work. It chirps every few seconds to remind you that its there (its some sort of sonar device mounted on the floor). Its not a peaceful chirp, like birds or crickets. It’s like an ear piercing “CHIRP…CHIRP…CHIRP MOTHER FUCKER!”
While sitting on the disgruntled chirping box, establish a firm seal with the gaskets by tightening the four packing nuts on top of the packing flange (a metal thing that sat on top of the orifice).
Step 6: Climb back up the ladder to the shelf. Open the sea valve and watch water flood into the compartment. It looks like you didn’t tighten the gaskets just enough (or you tightened them too much and they slipped out of place). Close the sea valve before the compartment totally floods. Repeat step 6.
Step 7: Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you are able to open the sea valve and NOT flood the compartment at the same time. The best you can hope fore is a strong trickle of incoming sea water (as opposed to a geyser). Once the rod is fully inserted into the packing and through the sea valve (75-77 turns of the wheel to the right), climb back down to the bottom and tighten the the packing nuts all the way. Don’t tighten them to much, or else the packing will get crushed, which makes raising the rodmeter almost impossible for mere mortals.
When finished, take your soap, slippery wrench, and flashlight (oh yeah, bring a light with you, there is no light at the bottom of the compartment) back up to the top, being careful not to slip on the soap-covered ladders (especially since your boots are now soaked with soapy seawater). Close the hatch, tighten down all 8 dogs (the latches that keep the hatch closed…sometimes a hammer is needed for that part).
Oh yeah, the hatch to the pitsword trunk is located in the CHT pump room.
CHT is the Navy word for SHIT.
Yes, in the Navy, shit gets its own pump room. All the water from all the toilets, drains (sink, shower, washing machines, urinals, etc), and garbage disposals on board flow into this tiny, dirty, hot, smelly room. Climb the ladder out of the pumproom (another 15 feet), go back up five decks, and tell the shop you have lowered the pitsword.
Go take a shower.
Whats funny is that the pump room, to me, always smelled like poo and that orange scrubby cleaning product (for hands, there was always a bottle next to the small sink at the end of the room). To this day, I can’t smell that orange scrubby stuff without smelling 500 peoples poo and shower runoff.
Next time I’ll tell you about when me and an E-5 flooded the trunk and had to call the emergency response team.