Sunday, September 21, 2014

Drydock Recovery/Patrol Prep

Apparently this isn't going to be as easy as I thought, blogging as an XO. It has nothing to do with the subject matter -- there's **always** plenny to write about. No, it has more to do with actually finding a spare moment to sit down at the laptop and put words on the screen.

In my defense, the last few weeks have been...intense. Insanely busy. Barely controlled chaos. Packed full every. single. day. Where to start?

Last time I blogged, we had just gone back in the water after being on the blocks for just over 10 weeks. That was the Friday before Labor Day. By the time I got back to the ship on the following Wednesday (I made a quick trip down to Wilmington over the weekend to close on my house -- Hale Hikina), the crew and the Yard were in a mad dash to get the ship underway for sea trials. We originally had planned for 12 days in the water prior to sailing, but both the ship and the Yard made a massive push to get us outta there after a  very short seven days. It was a close thing, not knowing until mid-evening the night before that we had met all the CO's requirements to be ready to go.

The crew was fantastically responsive and adaptable. Damage control gear was onloaded and restowed; equipment was tested, repaired, tweaks made, tested again; stores were onloaded and stowed; charts were reviewed; drills were briefed, run and debriefed; checklists were broken out and followed. People were flexible and worked incredibly hard to make it all come together. Needless to say, we had some motivation -- to get home.

We all had big chunks of rust falling off of us (metaphorically speaking -- most of the physical rust was gone from the ship by now, thank goodness), as we prepped to get underway and make the 12 hour transit down the Chesapeake Bay. We didn't do everything perfectly, but we did it well enough to be safe and get where we were going. Along the way, we swung ship, which means we went round and round in circles adjusting the magnetic compass, trying to eliminate deviation that makes the magnetic compass read differently than the gyro compass. We also had the small boat in the water, both to transport Yard workers and the compass guy to and from shore and to do drills and requalify people as boat coxswain and boat crewman. We anchored, exercising both anchors. The starboard anchor gave us a few fits, not wanting to seat itself in the pocket (tuck up into where it usually goes) when we hauled it up; but eventually with some tenacity and creativity from the focs'le crew, they were able to get it haused.

The transit down the Chesapeake Bay was mostly uneventful, though I know the CO and EO were taking phone calls all night long in accordance with (iaw) their Standing Orders to the watch. When asked, CDR Randall (the Commanding Officer -- shame on me for not introducing him before now!) said he got phone calls about every 40 minutes because of shipping traffic. All. Night. Long. Oof. We crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel at about 0345, I think, and headed out to sea.

The day of transit off the coast was another full day. We ran a main space fire drill, abandon ship drill, man overboard drills, both shipboard and small boat pick up. We left the small boat in the water so they could do more training and continue working on qualifications, while onboard the ship, new conning officers practiced driving the ship and chased after a couple of red cherry fenders tied together as something to aim for. I'm sure there was much more going on in each of the departments as well, but that's what I can remember from a couple of weeks removed.

We pulled into Wilmington on the morning tide. Families were waiting on the pier. Liberty was granted around 1145, after the CO let me have the privilege of reading a Team Commendation Award the EO (Engineer Officer, LT Todd DeVries) had written for the great work the crew had done while at drydock.

Things didn't really slow down once we got back home. The crew got a (very) few days of standdown early in the week, and then we had a couple more workdays. I don't remember what all had to be done, but we don't have long before we leave again on patrol. We fueled, had two deliveries of ammo to onload, stores onload, supplies onload, small boat ops to keep going with getting people trained up, lots and lots of purchasing of stuff (especially since FY14 is winding down -- spend, spend, spend!!!), more equipment testing, receiving and stowing all the goodies we had ordered that came in, DILIGolf tournament planning, DILI 50th Anniversary planning (definitely more on those two events to come), route planning, chart preps, new people reported onboard, some folks left off to A school, inport damage control drills were run, a crane came to help us repair some gear on the mast, a new-to-us small boat was delivered from the boat pool, and I'm getting wore out all over again just remembering how busy we've been. There were some random personnel issues thrown in there as well which helped to keep me occupied in the intervals.

I don't really know where September went. Last time I up and looked around, it was still August, and I was sunning myself on the beach, waiting (unsuccessfully the first time) to close on my house. A lot has happened in the meantime. And more to come over the next few weeks.

Now -- bring me that horizon!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Drydock

DILIGENCE has been in drydock at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore since late mid-June. I have what I’d call a tolerance-hate relationship with drydocks…I recognize the fundamental need for the deep maintenance that gets done on the ship, but I have a visceral dislike of actually being in drydock. The ship is torn all to pieces, things don’t work the way they should, the normal routine of either underway or inport is disrupted, there are a bunch of people I don’t know on the ship, and everything is dirty.

Yard workers working to replace wasted metal plating on the hull
I have a theory about all that dirt: normally, a ship is cushioned in the water. Any vibrations from work on one part of the ship are dampened by all the water surrounding the hull. In drydock, since the ship is out of the water, there is no cushioning or dampening, so all the dirt and grime that has built up over the course of 50 years vibrates out when work like needle-gunning or water blasting is done. And those vibrations ripple out in intensity from the site of the work…if work is being done on the focs’le (on the front of the ship), the vibrations will shake out the dirt in aft steering (at the back of the ship), so that you can never really tell where the next mess will come from.

The Palomino look -- primer going on the boat deck
This drydock has focused mainly on shaft work to make sure the shafts will continue to be able to rotate safely in alignment at high rotations per minute (rpms) to turn the propellers and move the ship and hull, freeboard, superstructure and mast preservation where contractors took all the exterior metal (other than the decks) down to bare metal and then primed and repainted everything. There are plenty of other smaller projects that are in progress also, but those two items are the big drivers for how long we’ve been on the blocks.

Besides the work that the Yard is doing, the crew is also cranking out a lot of ship’s force projects. The Tiger Army is a group of voluntolds from each Department that tackle a different project each week, like PPPing (prep, prime paint) the interior fire stations, PPPing a number of interior hatches and doors, removing vestigial degaussing cable from a number of spaces, PPPing some interior bulkheads, and cleaning the galley and getting it ready to reopen.

 Each Department has their own worklist as well: the Engineers have been busy PPPing equipment and pipes in the engine room and throughout the engineering spaces, repairing brackets and guards for equipment including dehumidifiers in the berthing areas to make the living spaces more comfortable and less wet, replacing air handling motors to improve the circulation on the ship, and a bunch of other projects. Many of the Engineers are also inspectors for drydock work items, making sure that the Yard workers and contractors are completing the work to the specifications required by the Coast Guard. You’d think that since we were in a Coast Guard facility, it wouldn’t be an issue. And while the Yard workers do great work, they are human, so our inspectors are a great backstop and are critical to the team work necessary between the ship and the Yard to make sure the work gets done right.

FSC Mike Eckstrom, FS1 Justing Henkel, and BMC Robert Vanlandingham
 on bucket brigade
The Engineers also spearheaded an impromptu, pick-up project that became more reasonable when we had some flooding in CPO (Chief Petty Officer) Berthing. While the hull was being painted, the overboard discharge holes were plugged up so that paint wouldn't get into them. The plugs were left in after the workday. And then it rained. A LOT. The first time it rained overnight, so MKC Terry Tice woke up at 0130 to the disturbing sounds of flowing water within his berthing area. Somehow the deck drains are piped into the same line as the air conditioning units. Since the discharges were plugged, the rain water backed up from the deck drains into the a/c units, and came out in the berthing area. The second time it happened it was during the workday, and we were able to get control of it before the water got too deep. 

MK1 Bobby Messick, FN Josh Evans and FN Marvin Campbell
scrape up carpet goo
Because the carpet got all wet, MPA decided it was the perfect time to rip up the carpet, clean the deck and seal it against some fuel that had been spilled ages ago. The guys did a great job on it, and no diesel fumes linger.

ENS Brent Lane and ET1 Calen Isbell taking me on a tour of the mast
The Operations Department has been doing a ton of different work too. On the bridge, the Navigation Division PPP’ed  bulkheads, joiners and the console, updated navigational charts and are still working on prepping for our next patrol. The OSs (Operations Specialists) and Maritime Enforcement Specialists (MEs) are also prepping for next patrol, updating checklists and references, indoc’ing newly reported personnel into the many security requirements the ship has, and doing their own workspace improvement projects. The Electronics Technicians (ETs) have done a ton of work too, removing some obsolete equipment and installing some new gear…which all has been totally overshadowed by their installation early last week of the DirectTV satellite equipment. Huge morale boost for the crew! And me J I had DIY’s Rehab Addict on in the background for the rest of the week.

The Support Department has been busy supporting everyone else, from buying all the stuff the other departments need to get their work done, working  towards FY14 closeout, taking advantage of being onsite with the CG Yard Clinic to take care of medical readiness items like periodic health assessments (PHAs) to OMSEP (oof, I cannot for the life of me remember what that stands for, but it’s all the work safety type stuff like hearing tests, respirator fit tests, and lead monitoring) to dental appointments and flight physicals to making sure crewmembers’ pay and benefits are squared away, checking in new people and checking out departing members, and getting ready to reopen the galley with a deep clean on the food storage spaces and planning out  an amazing menu for when the galley opens today!!! Biscuits and gravy on Thursday!! Yay!

GPOW in the Quarterdeck shack and
waterjetted superstructure waiting to be painted 
And last but not least, the Deckies have been cranking away at rescue and survival (R&S) system preventative maintenance and ground tackle (the anchors and equipment to work the anchors) PPPing. Deck Department has also contributed a number of members to the Tiger Army since their worklist has been shifted to the end of the yard period because of all the exterior PPPing going on by the Yard. The Boatswain’s Mates (BMs) are also the main inspectors for that work, making sure that the environmental tests were completed each morning so the paint will be solid for years. Too much humidity is bad for the new-fangled paint systems, and can cause massive failures. Paint falling off the hull while the ship is in the water = bad, bad, bad.

Yup, we’ve been busy. Folks have also gotten the opportunity to take some well-deserved leave, attend schools, go TAD on other ships, and get some required training knocked out.
The bright side of drydock -- props shining in the morning sun

I guess looking at all that good stuff that’s gone on during the yard period, I shouldn’t be so down on drydocks! The ship looks awesome and we got a ton of work done while we were here. And the best part is, we're back in the water as of this past Friday. Equipment testing today, fueling tomorrow, and closer every day to getting back underway!