As the observant reader can readily deduce, I spent 21 years in the Navy, specifically in the Submarine Service. In the Navy, enlisted job specialties are called Ratings. My rating was Machinist's Mate (abbreviated MM). MM's operate and maintain the ships propulsion equipment, including, but not limited to, steam turbines, distilling plants, air conditioning plants, lubricating oil systems, etc., etc. Oh, btw, as a graduate of Naval Nuclear Power School, and Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, I and my cohorts also operated and maintained all the mechanical systems in support of the submarines nuclear power plant, 1 EACH.
Submariners are a rather eclectic lot, and among other things, we usually end up with one or more nicknames. The basis for these nicknames is as varied as the names themselves. I, of course, acquired more than a few of these along the way, some of which are probably not repeatable in a family friendly blog, but I'm certain were well earned.
Today's tale relates to one of the two nicknames given me aboard my first boat, the USS William H. Bates (SSN-680). The first nickname I received was Bob. It was the name that stuck the longest. In fact, people who reported to the boat after I did truly thought that Bob was my first name, and I was always slow to let them in on the truth. The source of that name is for another day, perhaps. Because the story of how I got pasted with the second nickname is far funnier.
It was 1987, and I'd only been a member of the crew for perhaps five or six months. My underway watchstation was Engine Room Lower Level (ERLL), (not so) affectionately known as "The Pit".
One of the many duties of the ERLL watch was to shift clean and inspect the strainers in the lube oil systems, once per watch. This involved putting the other side of the strainer in service, draining the off service side, removing, and cleaning the strainer. After reinstalling the strainer element, the cover was replaced, a bar swung down over the top of the cover, and a large screw in the bar tightened to hold the cover in place. The strainer was then refilled by opening the vent, and cracking open the shift valve until oil issued from the vent. Close the valves, clean the mess up, and move to the next task.
So there I am, shifting a strainer. The Auxiliary Electrician Aft, whom I will simply refer to as Mike, was visiting me whilst this evolution was in progress. So needless to say, I was paying more attention to the conversation, than to the task at hand...
I reached the step where I began filling the strainer with oil. This oil is under pressure, as it just so happens. This is when I made the discovery that I had missed one step. Sadly, for me, it turned out to be the one that involved tightening the cover.
Without warning, the cover popped up about 1/4", and I found myself with Old Faithful on my hands. Doh!!! I quickly shut the fill valve to stem the flow, but not before I was soaked head to toe in oil. Oil covered every nearby surface, and was dripping from the overhead. Mike had vanished, apparently fleeing at the first sign of trouble.
By all rights, I should have been in the deep darks over this. However, the command figured that I had a valuable lesson, and most of them found the whole affair too funny to be very upset over it. It took me the better part of two hours to clean up the mess, although oil continued to drip from the overhead for months.
The COB (Chief of the Boat) immediately sent me to the showers, and had the cooks save some dinner for me. I threw away all the clothes I was wearing.
A couple of my creative shipmates immediately began setting my ordeal into a song. I can't remember what I had for breakfast today, but 20 some odd years later, I can still remember parts of that song.
Sung to the tune of "The Beverly Hillbillies":
Let me tell you the story about a boy named Jed.
A nubbly lower level watch who nearly lost his head.
He tried without direction, to shift, inspect, and clean.
Opened up a valve and out came a stream.
Of lube oil, that is, 2190 TEP.
Next thing you know, Jed’s got it in his hair.
The COB said, “Jed, get the hell away from here.
In the shower is the place you oughta be.
Well save you some chow, yea…”
And thus, my nickname became "Jed".