Tuesday, September 8, 2015


We've been underway for long enough this patrol that gremlins are starting to peak their heads out of hiding. It happens every patrol. Equipment runs and breaks; parts and pieces deteriorate in the harsh salt environment; springs get sprung; valves leak; wires corrode; bolts back out. It's a fact of life on a boat. Ahem, ship...excuse me.

I have a mental picture of what shipboard gremlins look like. They're certainly not the cute and furry little creatures from the movie, even though those had some wicked looking teeth. And I think there are different species and varieties of shipboard gremlins:

Genus: Nauticaus gremlinus (shipboard gremlins)
Species: Engineering -- Snipariun* mechanicum (mechanical variety) or Snipariun electricus (electrical variety) or Snipariun piparian (pipe-inhabiting gremlins -- these are particularly fond of the sewage system, but can also live in raw water, fresh water, cooling water, grey water, or fuel pipes) * in honor of John Snipe, father of modern naval engineering (google him)

Electronics -- Twidgeticus electronicus is really a generic catch all for electronics gremlins because they come in such a stupendous variety of shapes, sizes and aggressions for each type of electronics equipment we have onboard: navigation, radar, comms gear, etc.

Nauticaus gremlinus minor are small boat gremlins.

Snipariun mechanicum drink diesel fuel like whiskey. They love chewing up valves and the natural oil on their fingers and toes eats up gaskets wherever they touch or step. They bathe in lube oil and use hydraulic fluid for cologne. Their skin is toughened, almost scorched thick by the heat from the engine room. They are the most ancient of gremlins. They're clunky and they grumble.

Snipariun electricus are more delicate, but oh so much more wile-y. They are likely closely related to Twidgeticus electronicus; second cousins, maybe. Their fingers taper sharply to points and can shoot out a burst of electricity from 10 feet away. Their eyes sparkle like a class Charlie fire. They cackle in glee and belch brown outs.

Snipariun piparian like hairballs for dessert. Their very most favorite delectable treats are green scrubbing pads and baby wipes. They're sludgy and shit-brown. They drip a little. Individual specimens of Snipariun piparian have preferences for either sewage pipes or grey water pipes, but they can move easily between either system. Needless to say, these guys are stenchiferous beyond all imagining. If they fart--get an SCBA ASAP!!

Twidgeticus electronicus thrive in the cable runs throughout the ship. They're lightning fast, and actually I'm pretty sure a few of them rode a bolt of lightning down to our 1MC (public address system) last summer while we were in drydock. They are some of the most insidiously devious gremlins indentified. They snicker in your ear, taunting you to find them, and then scamper just out of sight when you get close. They travel in packs; it is very rare to find a single Twidgeticus electronicus on his or her own. They like plaid.

All gremlins like to hide. They stuff themselves away into hidey holes and come out briefly to wreak their havoc. Then they tuck away behind another piece of equipment to watch as chaos ensues while the engineers and Electronics Technicians try to lure them out again as they diagnose the problem. They're devilish hard to kill. Sometimes the best you can hope for is sending them into a nice long slumber.

Good engineering practices and solid technical skills are the best weapons against gremlins. But I'm pretty convinced there isn't any way to completely eradicate them from a 50-plus year-old ship.

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