By Glenn Hendricks
Those times when the shit hits the vent and everything puckers up.
So, 1974, steaming from Singapore to the IO, in the Malacca Straight 18 hours out of Singapore. One boiler online, cruising at 70 turns. BTs are on 4&12 since they’re only running one of the three boilers on the AFS. MMs with a 4&8 4 man watch bill. MMOW, Throttles, Messenger/upper level, and lower level. I recall the EEOW was the A gang MMC
I’m on throttles and sound powered phones. Around 2330 the Bridge talker says to me “OOD says standby to answer all bells”
No shit Sherlock. We’re steaming, underway and all that. But I say “Main Control Aye” and tell the EEOW that the OOD is nervous in the service. He rolls his eyes and lights up a Salem.
Then the EOT starts clanging as the bridge rings Back Emergency full.
I yell to the fire room and close the ahead throttle and start the astern at the same time to manage the steam pressure. One boiler means that we don’t have a lot of leeway to play with and the BTs get pissed if you make ’em pop safeties.
I call up to the bridge to remind them that we only have one boiler online and that reaction is going to be a bit sluggish. My language may have been a bit more colorful.
Bridge says “OOD acknowledges but you better push it because we’re about to hit someone”
I tell the EEOW, he tells the boiler room to push it and we pull the main down to about 580PSI and hold it there with the astern throttle, as pressure climbs a little I bleed in a little more steam to the astern.
Then the collision alarm goes off.
We’re scrambling as people in their skivvies and boondockers show up in Engineering.
Then we get an Ahead 2/3 bell. Some merchant crossed right across our bow, we apparently missed it by a very short distance. Very. Short.
It’s now around 2345 and since the oncoming watch was in the hole we went up for midrats.
Had a hard time going to sleep that night, took a while for the adrenaline to burn off.