One of the duties that was part of our
coastal cruising back in those "early" days, was to take aboard
various submarine reserve units and allow training and qualifications.
Sometimes there would be as many as fifteen to twenty reserve sailors on board
and they would stand watches, mess cook and be kept abreast of the latest that
was being used in submarine gadgetry!
As the mighty RATON AGSS 270 steamed into San Francisco Bay, we made our berth at the carrier piers at NAS ALAMEDA. Shortly there after, our reserve group came aboard and settled in and we made our way to sea for a weeks training drill. After a busy week of dive, snorkeling, and surface work, we returned to the base at Alameda for the weekend.
Friday evening found the crew heading ashore for some "Libs and Such." A lot of the reservists went along with crew to the various night spots. At about 1800 hours a reserve IC Electricians Mate Chief made his way to the after battery hatch and mentioned that he was heading over to the club to have a few. This particular chief was qualified in the boats and had served on active duty for several years, then left the submarine force and went into the reserve program.
The chief was a resident of South America and had a very much "south of the border" drawl! The below decks watch came around and shook me awake for the mid below decks watch, oncoming. I was up and dressed and in the control room at 2330 to assume the guard. "Not much going on, most all the troops are ashore etc."
Having taken over the duty I went forward and made the torpedo room check off then continued aft and below to the various machinery spaces. When I got to the after battery I checked the level of the No. 2 Sanitary tank. On this boat, No. 2 was a big tank indeed - it was comprised of the original tankage plus the capacity of the reserve lube oil tank, holding a bunch of stuff to say the least!
The tide was outgoing so thought it best to get with the program and "flush the No2" to sea. I made the line up and closed off the many and various drains and valves. The air blow and vents and overboards were in the forward engine room, the latter being outboard the No. 2 main engine.
I placed the customary paper into the pull handle on the doors (2). Rat sailors knew this to be the indicator that the tank was being blown to sea, do not use! As the 225 lb. ships service air was pressurizing the tank I thought I heard a familiar noise, that of a latch and thud from the area of the water closet duo. I looked into the after battery and saw the pull ring was ajar, I yelled out" dont touch nothing"!
Too late! The blast was enormous, the doors were acting like deflectors, under and over and around every opening the high pressure spray afoul with the you-name-its from the contents of the tank was finding its way out and through the three inch valve beneath the commode - followed with frantic high pitch yells in Spanish!
I jumped behind the engine, opened the overboards and back up, opened the vent, secured the blow and could do nothing but wait for the pressure to subside! Meanwhile the lights had come on in the berthing spaces in "HOGAN'S ALLEY" with and swearing beyond the norm, muck and such, dripping from the overhead with the beat of a winter rain storm - what a mess!
Finally I looked into the compartment through the engineroom hatch, the pull ring twisted one way then that, the door swung open. After several moments out stepped the IC Electrician Chief from South America. His bushy eyebrows were plastered with a hamburger looking substance, with shredded bits of what ever embedded into his equally bushy mustache, his ribbons were blown free from one side and had a very positive down angle, his hat was twisted to one side in a comical angle, sewage dripping onto his almost unidentifiable jacket! His mouth was moving and it was more like a quiver.
I looked in disbelief, he looked at me and said in almost understandable English, heavy with his Colombian accent, "I tink I pull de wrong handle"!
The following day found the duty section mustering in the forward torpedo room - along with the Chief dropping his drawers for the hemoglobin shot in the right or left padded area of his behind. The mess was a real task and the cleanup was completed with lots of iodine, soap suds and hot water.
The off going section got on the beach late in the day, all had a very pronounced "stiff stride" the Chief did not return for the rest of the next weeks cruise!
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