Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Lorain, Ohio
| | Capt Fisher & the Eugene W. Parney [Ending]
By the time I headed down from the pilot house to go aft for lunch the midships area of the ship was doing the Watusi, and looking more like the middle of a trampoline than a steel deck of a ship, humping, and falling 8-10 feet overall. You could hear the hatches moaning under their tarp covers, and I just knew that half the battens were loose if not all of them. But at least one good thing was that I didn't spot any stretch marks on the main deck, and they would have showed there before anywhere else the way the ship had been working in that sea.
They had cleaned up the mess, and galley area by the time I arrived, but were still securing a few items just in case. The porter was moping up the soup, but thankfully Hamburgers were on the menu, so I ordered a cheeseburger, and fries with a milkshake, and took note of all the ashen faced crew members mumbling at their food refusing to look at me. As if it had been my fault that this had happened? Because I was on watch at the time?
"They don't blame you, Mr. Keller," said the second cook handing me my food, "they know the Captain did it. Wally already told them so."
"Then why the looks?" I asked.
"We all thought you got thrown out of the window when she was on her side the way she was. They saw something shaped like a man fall up there from back here."
"Must have been a tarp," I thought outloud, but headed for the officer's mess just the same.
Usually I ate lunch in the crew's mess with the rest of the 8-12 watch, and the 3rd engineer so that they could clear the officer's mess right away, and enjoy some time off before supper. But since everybody on the ship was at work, or in the mess rooms eating that wasn't an option.
"He still hasn't added water to the ballast tanks," the Chief grumbled entering the officer's mess right behind me. "but I'll be God ****ed if I'll go full bore into these seas, and loose the entire plant for some f**king bonus!"
And so went lunch as me and the 3rd engineer exchanged grins back and forth over the Chief's colorfull language, and foul mood as we ate.
By supper time the Chief engineer had had enough, and by the time I was coming on watch again he went up to the pilot house to talk to the captain in person. The wind was now howling so bad out of the NE that nobody was allowed on deck for fear that they'd be blown over the side. So the Chief had had to walk over the empty ballast tank tops through the cargo holds to get there. This ship didn't have tunnels as it had been built before the 1940's and towards the end of World War I in fact.
I don't know what he said to the old man, or vise versa, but he wasn't happy when he left the pilot house. And then a half an hour later as we slammed into those seas head on the plant suddenly died, and all power was lost for close to three minutes before the lights came back on. All forward momentum was lost in those three minutes, but the ship still did the watusi amidships. Not that we had gone very far since heading up into the waves early in the day anyway. The NE shore line still was nowhere to be seen on our radar scope, and it was indeed the highest out of the water of any shoreline on Lake Superior.
"What were you telling me about that Destroyer in a typhoon, John?" The captain's question came out of nowhere, and was directed right at me.
"Well Capt," I said, "they fill their ballast tanks, and make bare steerage way to let the storm pass by them, in effect becoming a floating island.
"Give the engine room a call, and tell them to put in Plan 2 for ballast." Captain Fisher said looking directly at me. And I had no doubt that he was giving me the order as a consolation for the previous watch's debacle.
Even putting more water in the boat didn't change things much, and even though he kept having me put in more ballest every half hour I knew that the Chief had no intention of stopping until the ballast tanks were all full once he had been given permission to run water into them. At 2200 all the ballast tanks were full, but we were still going full steam ahead, and the lights were flickering at every other wave that we slammed into. Until at last:
"Call back to the engine room, and tell them to cut her back 5 revolutions, John."
"Yes sir," I replied.
And every 15 minutes after that I had to make a call back to the engine room for 5 less revolutions until at last, around an hour after my watch the Pargney stopped slamming into every wave, and barely made headway.
We made sight of the NE shore line around 1000 the next day, and once up in her lee were able to put the much smaller seas, and wind at our back, and head once again for Duluth, Minn. I later found out that we were the only ship out there on Lake Superior during that storm. Had we floundered, nobody would have ever known what had happened. The Eugene W. Pargny only ran one more year after that, that I know of, and she was scraped in the winter of 84-85 in Thunderbay, Ont. which is on the northern shore of Lake Superior. And they never found a stretch mark in her steel hull either. ****, our grandparents made good stuff, didn't they.
And that ain't no bull**** either.