In Its Path

hurricane flags

One of my least favorite memories of the USS San Francisco was the stop we made in Guam in 1982. In an earlier blog, I talked about the first part of the visit where the wives came to visit. But in the middle of the stay, two things happened that made it a very bad memory. The first thing that happened is probably still classified so let me just say that during a routine evolution, sea water was found in a high pressure air line. You don’t need to know a lot about submarines or high pressure air lines to know that its probably not a very good thing to find sea water in them.

When 4500 pounds of pressurized air rapidly squeeze through pipes in any amount of volume, anything that is carried along with that air becomes like a carving knife on the surfaces they come into contact with. That air is used for a number of things inside the boat but one of the most important things is the emergency blow system that can rapidly return a boat to the surface in an emergency. Salt water in that system can also cause a very highly corrosive effect so it was important to get this taken care of as quickly as possible.

The second thing that happened was the approach of one of Guam’s typhoons. The wives were gathered up and sent back to Hawaii and we got to work trying to fix the boat. Normally, typhoons and submarines have a mutually compatible agreement… they come and we go under them. It has worked well for most subs for years. You still feel some of the effects but as long as you drive anywhere but where the typhoon is, you are pretty safe.

Guam typhoon

But if your emergency blow system is out of commission (as well as some other pretty important equipment) you will not be diving anywhere. If you can’t get it fixed you will be buttoned up next to the safest pier you can find and pray the storm surge doesn’t get you. Even though the lines are tied up pretty well, any appreciable surge would probably snap them like ribbons. All of the other ships were leaving so we would be on our own.

Auxiliary Division and others worked feverishly around the clock with the help of the tender guys and we did some pretty creative things to try and empty any traces of salt water from the HP air lines. Flush after flush with testing that continues to reveal the extent of the contamination. All the while, we were being fed information about the location of the typhoon as it got closer and closer. I can never remember being so tired in my life after we finally managed to get the all clear just in time to clear the port.

Guam typhoon 2

I think we were too tired to be afraid. But as Irene closes down on the east coast tonight, I can imagine how many people are feeling. We all know that hurricanes can come at any time. We get complacent and are willing to take the risk because of the joy of living close to the water and all its adventures. But no one can ever be fully prepared for Mother Nature’s fury in a way that will completely shelter them.

Prayers go out to all. Listen to the advice of the emergency workers. And we will see you all on the other side next week.

Mister Mac

3 thoughts on “In Its Path

  1. I am not sure what the deal with Typhoons and Guam is. I had a similar occurrence in the 70’s with Typhoon Pamela. I was aboard the USS Thomas Jefferson, and we were in the middle of refit when we heard the storm was on it’s way to the island.

    Like you Mister Mac, we were in no shape to get underway. We had a hull valve pulled in Machinery 2 (fortunately well above the waterline) and we set sail with a very busy A-gang working feverishly to make the hole go away. They did and we dove, a bit before the storm passed above us.

    I also was in the thick of the last “I” storm that hit the mid-atlantic states. That was Hurricane Isabel, and it came ashore as a Category 2 storm. It was my first experience with a storm of that caliber, so as Mister Mac says, be prepared, and for the rest of us, keep those folks in your prayers as they do a lot of damage especially on the “Outer Banks” and “Tidewater” as I saw first hand.

    Rick STS1/SS

  2. Mac Looking back I almost forgot about all the work we did to get that air/water problem fixed. Once again we (as in “A-GANG”)went many a day and night prooving that we were Jack of all trades and master at none. GO O-RING COMMANDO’S

    Boe MM1 (SS)

    1. Tony Boe, I remember a lot of sleepless nights but I also remember the Navy Achievement Medal given as we sailed away from Guam. I do believe I behaved rather badly shortly thereafter…lol

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