Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ninjaneers Have a Busy Day

Our engineers have had an exciting day. Some of it was intentional -- like training. Some of it was not so intentional.

We started the day with BECCEs, Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercises, where the engineers practice responding to all kinds of mechanical and electrical casualties while on watch in the engine room. I don't think we were supposed to lose power during this morning's BECCEs, but sometimes that happens if the watchstanders get a little too aggressive in responding to the scenarios presented by ECTT (Engineering Casualty Training Team).

Then we rolled into a ship-wide Damage Control drill, where we practiced responding to a major fuel oil leak in the engine room that flashed off to an out of control class Bravo fire. Heat stress stay time in the engine room was only 45 minutes in an FPG (fire protective garment -- the fireman's suit worn by the people who go into the space to actively fight the fire), so the training team "extinguished the fire" as soon as the first attack team demonstrated proper fire fighting techniques -- three people on the hose, good communications, staying low, proper spray pattern, etc.).

We had just finished up our Training Team debrief after the drill, and much of the crew was sitting down to a well-deserved lunch when we heard ringingingringinging... once again it took me a minute to figure out that we had an actual emergency. This time it was flooding in MAA (pronounced "em-ay-ay") Stores, which definitely made me scratch my head, because MAA Stores is above the water line, and shouldn't have any water coming in to it. Turns out the fire main valve that goes into the Fore Peak tank just below MAA Stores had been left open while we energized the fire main for the aforementioned drill, and pumped about 250 gallons of salt water per minute into the Fore Peak tank, which pressed the water level all the way up to the top of the tank, and out the overflow openings into MAA stores. We had about six inches of water on the deck when ENS E.H. discovered it on his pre-watch round before going up to the bridge to stand break-in OOD. Definitely demonstrated the importance of thorough rounds to an impressionable young Ensign!

That emergency was quickly resolved and we stood down from General Emergency and stowed all gear. The really good news was that our MAA and Assistant MAAs had done such a great job organizing MAA Stores before we got underway that there was not a bunch of paper products (paper towels and napkins) stored on the deck, so we may have just lost a bag of coffee filters to the flooding.

Later in the afternoon, while preparing for small boat training, we lost power. Something about a power relay being faulty and tripping which shut down the generator. The EDG (emergency diesel generator) kicked on like it was supposed to, and provided power to vital circuits throughout the ship. But the engineers had another exciting couple of hours troubleshooting and fixing the mayhem from that gremlin's appearance.

And then, one of the air conditioners kicked off line for a while. Like 2 hours. And it was **HOT!** onboard. Mostly it was in the aft part of the ship, so berthing areas mostly stayed cool. But the messdeck, Chiefs Mess and wardroom all got pretty unbearable for a while. Once again, the engineers troubleshot and repaired the problem as quickly as they could.

It's days like this that make me appreciate the very hard job that Coast Guard engineers onboard cutters face every day. They do it generally with a smile, maybe a little cheerful bitching, but they do it. Day in. Day out. And as a whole, they come up with creative ways to troubleshoot and repair troublesome problems, mostly just with what we carry around with us. The repairs may not be permanent, or pretty, but they're good enough to get us through the operation and to our next logistics stop where parts should be waiting for us for more long-term fixes. And then they work through the port calls to get stuff fixed so we're ready to go again when the port call is over. I've seen it time and time again. And I'm impressed with it. Every.Single.Time.

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