Sea Stories

Deck Log Cleanup

Steve Ewing

Underway on deterrent patrol, a boomer's log is classified Top Secret. We kept a Deck Log, submitted in the usual way, which essentially was one page after we went "alert": Underway on SSBN Deterrent Patrol. When we came off alert, the deck log resumed.

The Top Secret log was called the Patrol Log, but otherwise it was a Deck Log, kept on standard Deck Log sheets with the regular entries. At the end of the patrol, it was submitted to Johns Hopkins University, where "a little old lady in tennis shoes" analyzed it.

A neat log was desirable; it was also necessary to ensure that the sun rose and set each day, easy to miss while meandering around submerged for a couple of months. The little old lady would actually submit feedback and highlight any missing information like that. Therefore, while on the USS Kamehameha (SSBN 642), at the end of each month I was directed by the Nav to go through the logs, correct any mistakes, make sure the sun maintained its proper cycle, and rewrite the whole page if there were more than two line-outs on it. Sometimes a re-write was required just to squeeze in any missing data: pumps started and not stopped, stuff like that.

So there I was one day, slogging my way through this tedious chore, when I turned the page and was confronted by an almost blank sheet! It was from my watch, and the circumstances came back to me: we were at pericope depth, and simultaneous with going deep we commenced all sorts of evolutions; trying to keep up with my plotting and logging I just skipped about fourteen lines to come back and fill in later.

Needless to say, it was a bit later than I had planned for: now I had to fill in fourteen lines from a few weeks ago. Luckily our OODs were well-drilled and followed the script: let's see... make your depth XXX feet, all ahead two-thirds, lower all masts and antennas, lower number-two scope... I had left fourteen lines for a reason, and was able to easily fill them in. Damn, I'm good, I thought.

While I'm bragging, there was another PD incident, this time on the USS Springfield (SSN 761). We just got a new QMC; I, the QM1, was on my last cruise before going to shore duty. We were at PD, I was on watch as QMOW, and the chief and I were quietly chatting at the plot.

Time to go deep. The OOD gives his orders, and lowers number two scope. These guys weren't as well-drilled as on the Kam, and he hadn't said, "Lower all masts and antennas," which I liked because it saved having to log the lowering of each mast individually. There weren't any masts up, anyway... the chief was astonished: I was chatting with him and writing in the Deck Log, when I suddenly spun around and punched up the antennas display on the plasma screen (ah, these modern boats!). Yep, the ESM mast was bumped! You can't go too deep or too fast while raising or lowering it, and it was just as vulnerable when only raised part-way (as it routinely was at PD).

"Chief of the Watch!" I said loudly, speaking really to the OOD, who stood between us on the conn, "The ESM mast is bumped!"

The OOD immediately ordered all stop, and came shallow, until he could safely lower the mast. I was sorry I couldn't tip off the COW quietly (it was his job to verify all masts down when coming from PD), but there was no time. The QMC was sure impressed, though, and one moment of annoyance at having to write "Lowered the ESM mast" earned me a good reputation in his eyes that made the rest of the cruise a breeze.

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