Friday, May 06, 2005

Sea Stories, Vol. 1, No. 1

Sit right down, kiddies, and let papa G-man tell you a bedtime tale of legendary lore from his days in the Silent Service.

One day, the old man, the XO, Eng, myself, and the crew set sail somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, taking the submarine out on sea trials. We called submarines "boats." I was standing a shift (we call that "watches") in the Maeuvering Room. The "Mo Room," is a little room in the Engine Room (ER) near the back of the boat (aft) where all the panels are kept which run the nuclear propulsion plant to move the boat. In a flash, a human form streaked past the starboard side doorway. And then another. Normally, I'd think nothing of it, because it was probably just some of the crew goofing off. But I was on edge, because for the first time, we were taking the boat down to test depth, the deepest depth that the boat is ever allowed to go down to. Horseplay is not authorized at such times.

I thought I recognized one of these characters that flew by. He sort of looked like either Humpty or Dumpty, one of two brothers in the crew, but I wasn't sure. So, I checked with the Engine Room Supervisor, my right hand man in the ER, on the sound powered phones. He said he hadn't seen them.

Slowly I watched a bead of sweat drip from the throttleman's upper lip area as we carefully reached test depth. I thought everthing would be alright now, so I began to relax. Just then, I heard the hatch to conerland slam shut. We folks in the ER refer to everyone who dwells forward of the ER bulkhead "coners," because the boat is shaped like their heads. Next thing I know, XO bolts into the Mo Room, after first asking to come in through the chains at the doorway, of course.

XO: Lieutenant G-man, did you see Humpty and Dumpty come back here?
G-man: No sir XO.
XO: Very well, carry on.

And he left. Now, my curiousity was peaked, so I made some inquiries after I got off my watch. Naturally, because any one man could sink the ship, but anyone could save it, a crew becomes very tight. But eventually, after much repeated effort, I learned that Humpty and Dumpty had a certain reputation about them.

I've always known that, like the coveted Oxford comma, experience is a valued commodity in the U.S. Navy, and also, test depth, test missile firings, and initial submergence are unique and fairly rare events. Oftentimes I've heard one sailor brag to another, "I got more time at test depth on the shitter than you've got at sea." What I didn't know was that Humpty and Dumpty were widely known to the crew as the "beat-off" brothers. They had purportedly earned this reputation for holding the bragging rights to the most number of ejaculations at test depth. And they always did the deed in front of an independent witness, so that they could have another to authenticate their success. The XO was bent on catching them in the act, red-handed (literally), and taking them to Captain's mast. Apparently, they outmaueuvered him once again, because a few minutes after we left test depth, he left the ER empty handed.