[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
I got the engineering tour today courtesy of EO LT Todd Raybon. First thing required, steel-toed boots, borrowed from LTJG Morgan Barbieri. Then down, down into the belly of the beast. We went (in order) to the electric shop (see photo of to-do list, which Chief Dale Brown says is unusually short), the auxilliary division machine shop (which handles all mechancial equipment outside the engine room, like the small boat davit, the anchor windlasses, the “hotel” services), the engine room (about which more later), the evap or evaporator which makes our fresh water, 10,000 gallons a day, out of sea water in a six-stage operation, and main control where the engineers enact commands from the bridge in re engine configuration (diesels or turbines), engine speed, and run the electrical plant. Then we went aft and below to the DC (damage control) shop in repair locker 3, and past the refer flats to the aviation pump room.
In the main engine room there are two immense (taller than me) Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, which are actual locomotive engines. Think about that the next time you’re driving cross-country and you see a locomotive hauling a hundred cars. Did I mention we have two? One diesel was turning one propeller to produce our then current speed of 7 nautical miles per hour. The other prop was freewheeling , because if it isn’t turning while we’re underway the propeller produces drag, literally drags through the water, which slows us down. As an alternative source of power, there are two turbine engines which wouldn’t look out of place on the wings of a 707, which makes sense because they are, in fact, Pratt & Whitney 707 turbines. They push like it, too, we’re practically up on the step when we’ve got both going (see photo). You can actually see the shafts turning both propellers in the main engine room. I wish I understood more so I could make it sound as interesting as it actually is. It’s loud, it’s hot, it’s remarkably clean, and if CIC is the brains of the ship, the engine room is its heart. As the engines go, so goes Munro.
The control console in main control is named Eleanor. Eleanor has a baby named Charlene (see photo). Charlene was a gift from the previous engine room gang, and while I don’t wish to annoy her in any way by making personal remarks, she does have something of a reputation for, um, well, let’s just say she can be a teensy bit temperamental. As, I hasten to add, all bona fide divas are and should be. This would be okay except that Charlene also has special powers. Once Charlene was removed for corrective eye surgery in the machine shop and she set the number two switchboard on fire. Twice. She was babynapped by a retiring chief and she blew up his truck. Three times. But not before she got her picture taken in front of the Grand Canyon, among other places. I’ve seen the photos. The engineers are mindful of Charlene, and of Eleanor, who also requires a certain humility in approach. Speak softly and don’t carry a big wrench.
I was especially interested to see the aviation pump room, which was where the engineers basically lived for 48 hours last week trying to figure out why we couldn’t get fuel to the helo. Turned out it was a helo problem, but our guys found a way to make it work from the pump room. Because, hey, that’s what engineers do.
Todd has 48 people working for him in engineering. Later this week I’m going to follow one of them on a security round, where he checks bells and whistles all over the ship.