Sea Trials

By Bruce Schick, Whale's Tales (Louisa, VA, 2006), pp. 36–37

Christmas was coming, and the skipper was moving heaven and hell to get us home in time for the holidays. Finally all that was left was to go out for sea trials to make sure everything was working properly.

Off we went. Cold as a whore's heart. No matter for me. I was finally going to sea in my own submarine. Everything worked great, and we headed back to Philadelphia to load the last of the stuff. Back home for the holidays. Spirits were soaring.

When preparing to enter port, ships set the special sea and anchor detail. On a submarine, an officer, usually the torpedo officer, a chief petty officer, and a couple of sailors go out on deck. They activate the forward capstan so that number one mooring line can be handled, take the lines out of the line lockers and arrange them on deck, and make the anchor ready for letting go. The anchor is made ready so in case the ship should lose steering in a narrow channel, it could be dropped to prevent running aground.

The shipyard provides its own mooring lines, so all we had to do was make ready the anchor and capstan. We would need only an officer and the chief. Water was breaking over the bow and freezing. We were coated with two inches of ice. It was really cold. But no problem for the torpedo officer . . . we had an ensign on board. Moreover, the ensign had been first lieutenant, in charge of the anchor and capstan on a destroyer, so he was eminently qualified. After all, a destroyer's anchor and capstan are much bigger than a submarine's.

The chief and I bundled up, got into safety belts, found a couple of hatchets, and crawled out on deck. There is a track built into the deck, and we wore safety belts with a heavy piece of line and a steel device on the end that attached to and slid along the track. On our hands and knees, we chopped ice, fastened to the track, and crawled to the bow, chopping as we went.

When we got back to the shipyard, the hospital corpsman issued us some medicinal brandy. Never worked so hard for a drink in my life. And we got home for Christmas.

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