Embarrassing the XO on the Enterprise

Ok, kids, time to tell you about the time we disconnected #2 main shaft on the Enterprise.

The shafts on the E go from the main engines to the propellers. They look like 5 foot diameter pipelines held up every 30 feet (or so) by pedestals. They hold the shafts about 5 feet off the deck, so the top is about 10 feet up. (Fun fact: when you’re going to start the main engines, you spin them backwards at less than 10rpm, let it coast down, wait 3 minutes, spin it forward, wait 3, spin backwards, wait, continue until you get underway. When they do that, we would stand on top of the shaft and logroll like lumberjacks.) The last section of the shaft before it goes through the hull to the propeller is in a compartment (shaft alley) all by itself, way down low (about 3 decks below the main deck). It has a section about 6 inches thick between two of the flanges that you can unbolt and take out to disconnect the propeller from the main engine to do repairs on the main engine while underway. (Another fun fact: the GE contractors that came out to work on our main turbine at that time had a hydraulic torque wrench to undo the bolts holding on the nozzle block of the turbine, it put out some hellacious torque. The nuts were almost a foot in diameter. Their hydraulic wrench couldn’t undo them, they were too tight. One of our guys, Donk, stood on top of the turbine with a sledgehammer and a slugging wrench and broke the nuts loose for the techs. They wanted to buy him.)

So my crew was down in the shaft alley with big equipment, undoing the bolts to disconnect the shaft. It’s big, hot, heavy work, and they’re all (about 23 guys) down there working (if they weren’t on watch). It’s miserable, hot work. Now I was their chief (E-7, a senior nco), and the chief’s mess (where the chiefs ate) was on the main deck right next to the hatch going down to my shaft alley. The chief’s mess had real ice cream, tubs of Baskin Robbins ice cream. (The enlisted mess decks had the soft serve ice cream machines, and the mess cranks would dump the left over kool aid in the machines for flavor.) So to be a nice chief, I got a tub of real ice cream and a box of plastic spoons and took them down to my guys. You would have thought I was Santa Claus and they were all 4 year olds! They all broke and dug in, a good time was had by all. After about an hour, back to work, everyone is a little happier.

About an hour and a half later, the ship’s XO (executive officer, the #2 guy on the ship, second only to the commanding officer) comes down with a case of warm diet Dr. Pepper (that was the best he could do) to show his appreciation to the guys for this big job they’re doing. They pointed to the mostly gone tub of ice cream and said “That’s ok XO, our chief took care of us. Thanks anyway.” He took his case of warm diet Dr. Pepper and went back to his lofty domain rebuffed.

We finished disconnecting the shaft, which was a major engineering feat taking about 2 days of round the clock work. The main turbine work got done, we put the shaft back together, and we were fully functional again. An interesting interlude to months of doing donuts in the ocean.


Originally posted on reddit by r/POstalDOgDad

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