Tuesday, June 07, 2005


In submarine terms, a "bell-ringer" is something that calls you back up to communications depth. For blogging, I use it to denote something in the comments that I move up into the main story. In the comments for my "First Post" on this new blog, I found a sea story from "dittydumdumditty" that I thought deserved a post of its very own. Here's what he said:

"Sounds like all the posters here are nuke boat sailors. Here's one from an old DBF. I was in the commissioning crew of USS Barbel (SS580). Being a completely new class and type (teardrop hull, diesel power) we had a lot of problems. Spent many days going in and out of drydock in PNSY. Barbel had a mushroom anchor on the keel with controls on the forward deck. Once going into dry dock, we reached the sill of the dock and wouldn't move. Divers went over the side and discovered the anchor hanging down draging in the mud. Another time we came out of dry dock and moved alongside the pier. Tied going out, river running, single screw. All recipes for disaster. Current kept pushing us away from the pier. Called for another tug. IT came steaming up, and ran up over the starboard stern plane. Right back into dry dock for repair. But, I digress. The story I started out to tell is about an incident that took place when we were in dry dock. We were charging batteries from shore power. I had the below decks watch (DO they still call it that?) Bob Roth was EM1 in maneuvering with another EM hopping gravities. LTjg O'Dwyer(known as slewfoot) was OOD. Barbel had two 500 volt batteries (252 cells in each battery) The breakers on the dry dock were still configured for the old 126 cell batteries, so they had been bypassed. All three of us enlisted types were sitting in maneuvering. Barbel also had a unique maneuvering board. No sticks, just hand cranked wheels with indicators to show what position the contactors, etc were in. The EM3 began toying with the battery controller, which was in the parallel position. Just as Bob yelled "DON'T GO TO SERIES", it happened. The contactors dropped into series, a great ball of fire came out of the cubicle, and everything went dark. There was a lower level hatch in the passageway immediately adjacent to maneuvering and it was open. Lt. O'Dwyer came running back to maneuvering to find out what happened. We saw his flashlight come through the maneuvering room door then disappear. He went down that open hatch. Incidentally we also blacked out PNSY that night. Since there were NO ELECTRICAL BREAKERS in the line from the base power plant, we knocked the entire yard off line. "


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