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"Stories from the PC-1181 by Bob Daly, MoMM2/c, PC-1181"


LUBE OIL AND SPEEDY GONZALES
Fast Oil Changes on the PC-1181

MAIN ENGINE OIL CHANGE

The Hamilton R-99DA diesel engines on the 1181 carried 850 gallons of lube oil in sump under each main engine. We used Navy symbol 9370 (SAE-40) lube oil. We also had a tank under the lube oil transfer pump that held another 150 gallons. The lube oil transfer pump was against the forward bulkhead of the main engine room on the port side. From this point you could pump lube oil from one tank /sump to another, fill the day tanks (for drip oil to various external working parts, or pump lube oil thru the engines during the pre-start "jacking over" of the main engines. This was done to coat all moving parts with lube oil before starting. For awhile we would do one engine at a time until someone found a way to pump oil to both main engines at the same time and with a second jacking bar with an extension on it, one man could do both engines at the same time. We were smart assed 18 year olds.

We took hot oil samples on the way into the dock after dropping off the last of the convoy ships. It was sent over to the base lab for analysis. If a bad report came back we had to change oil in that engine. This was not a simple process.

It took planning and a lot of sweat. We had to go to the base motor pool and requisition a truck. At the same time, one of the "Snipes" would go with the storekeeper to the supply depot to order 20 drums of 9370 oil. We also had to find 20 empty oil drums for the waste oil. If we were lucky our skipper would get us dock side which always made the job easier.

We had our own electric gear pump so that with a hose we could pump the waste oil to the drums on the dock. The guy on the dock had a very simple job. When the drum was almost full of waste oil he was supposed to put the hose in another drum. We spilled a lot of waste oil on the dock.

After pumping as much oil out of the engine sumps as possible we had to climb down into the sumps and with buckets and scoops to clean the remaining oil and sludge.

To do this part of the operation we had to pick up the deck plates and then remove engine sump covers. The cover had 20 nuts holding it down. (we could never understand the reason for so many nuts). After cleaning and wiping down the sumps, the covers were replaced and the fresh oil was pumped aboard. It was a full days work. And we never put 20 nuts back on the sump cover plate.

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SPEEDY GONZALES

In the auxiliary engine room on the 1181 we had a pair of Buda 844 six cylinder diesels driving 60 KW - 120 volt DC generators.

We had a Fireman 1/c, assigned to the auxiliary engine room, who used to change oil by a very novel method. It wasn't BuShips approved but it worked for him. (This was another 18 year old mind running amuck at flank speed). He came to the conclusion that if he got all his work done before we got in, then he was entitled to goof-off time.

The 844's had an Excello double sided oil filter on the side of the engine with a by-pass valve. Our intrepid motor-mac would by-pass one side of the filter and change that filter. The crankcase drain was equipped with a valve and our man used to drain the oil until the oil gage began to fluctuate. He would close the valve and add enough oil to stop the fluctuating oil gage. He then shifted the oil filter by-pass and changed the other filter. Draining the crankcase again until the oil gage started to fluctuate again, he would fill the crankcase up to the full running mark and he was done. This was done while the engines were running at full speed
and load.

He would start his modus operandi as we came through the submarine nets at the breakwater entry into Colon Harbor and be finished with both engines before we tied up at the subchaser docks at the Coco Solo Navy Base.

He got away with his scam until our Chief MoMM informed him that such great talent was needed in the main engine room. (The chief also didn't want to explain a burned out engine).

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FIRE AT SEA

Sometime in early 1944 we had a fire in the engine room of the PC-1181. We were southbound for Coco Solo, C.Z. from Guantanamo Bay with a dozen very slow merchant ships. As I remember, one of them was having engine breakdowns on a regular basis.

We were running at 1/3 speed with the port engine. Instead of starting up the other engine, we would get a ring for 2/3 speed on that engine to play catch-up on a zig or zag. We had an on-going problem with the shaft brake on the starboard engine. The brake band had somehow gotten a bath of fuel oil and when you went to 2/3 speed or better on the port engine, sometimes the starboard shaft brake wouldn't hold and the shaft would start to turn. The brake and shaft was buried under deck plates and the turning could be overlooked. With the brake dragging it produced a lot of heat and the result was that it somehow started a fire in the main engine room bilge.

On our ship we had four large CO2 bottles set amidships in the main engine room and was piped to all the bilges in that engine room. The four bottles were piped together in series with one main shut off valve. They were tagged checked and full. We closed all the hatches and shut down the main engine room exhaust blowers and then activated the CO2 system. And that was went we found out that the CO2 bottles were empty.

At this time the fire was confined to the area around the shaft brake and reduction gear housing of the starboard engine. We took a chance and pumped the bilges but found out that this was a mistake for it only spread the fire.

The Chief went to the bridge to inform the Captain of what our problem was. It was decided to run both engines at 1/3 speed to release the shaft brake and then we could tackle the job of putting out the fire.

We canvassed the whole ship for all the small CO2 bottles and lowered them into the auxiliary engine room. One by one they were activated and tossed into the main engine room. After a dozen or so bottles we closed and I dogged the hatch into the main engine room. We waited for over a half hour before we opened the hatch only to find that we still had Our problem.

The Chief said that now we didn't have a choice. We had to spread Foamite with the Handy Billy pump. This was our last chance to put the fire out ourselves. We started at the forward end of the main engine room and worked aft filling the bilges with foam. We filled the engine room with foam up to about waist high. All this time, both our engines were running and we were maintaining our station with the convoy. It was a wild afternoon. The spinning hydraulic couplings were throwing foam all over the place. Every time the air compressors kicked in or out I foam would be blown all over the overhead. After about an hour we started the main engine room exhaust blowers to clear the engine room of excess foam. It was flying all over the ship and into the seas. The foam had done its job. The fire
was out.

Next came the clean-up. Foamite is sticky and slippery like molasses. We washed the engine room down with sea water as best we could until we got to Coco Solo where we had access to hot water and soap. We had both shaft brake linings replaced and adjusted and never had that problem again. I don't think this episode was ever logged or reported. Some things are best left unrecorded.

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THE NAKED SIGNALMAN OF THE PC-1181

A few years ago at one of our ship reunions, our XO and Navigator Fred Westin, Lt., USNR (Ret.) was reminiscing about some of his trials and tribulations with the crew of the PC-1181In June of 1944, we arrived in Miami from Coco Solo in the Canal Zone for a major overhaul at the Merrill/Stevens shipyard on the Miami River. Since the work to be done was extensive, the crew was billeted ashore in a rooming house within walking distance of the shipyard. We had the use of the two ground floor rooms lined with cots. The head and showers were down the hall in the rear. In the front room there was a round table with chairs and a drop light hung from the ceiling with a green shade. It was a great place to read and play cards.

Fred recalled that Monday mornings always seemed to hold a few surprises for him as the crew always celebrated the week-ends with a certain amount of gusto and the Shore Patrol officer was always looking for him on Monday mornings.

One Monday morning started out more exciting than usual... It seemed that one of our signalmen had been picked up by the Shore Patrol running naked down the street after a young lady. When picked up, he informed the SP's that he was actually trying to protect the young lady from a would-be civilian assailant. Our signalman spent the rest of the week-end in the brig. Knowing our signalman as he did, Fred didn't believe the SP's report so he ordered an investigation.

Fred explained. "It seemed that on Saturday night, several members of the crew were playing poker in the front parlor when they heard screaming out side under the window.

It was a hot night and the men were lightly clad and in the case of the signalman-not clad at all.

At the sound of the scream, the poker players looked out the window and saw a man attempting to drag the young lady into the bushes just beneath the window. Since time was important, they leaped to they rescue led by our naked signalman. "The assailant ran one way and the young lady ran another and at that very moment the Shore Patrol arrived on the scene and took our signalman into custody. Needless to say but our "flags" spent the rest of the week-end in the brig. The young lady had disappeared and no one was there to support the story of our gallant signalman. The rest of our lightly clad crew members had vanished into
the shadows."

"After a couple of days we did find the young lady and she supported the story of our signalman and his buddies from the 1181. Not only were the charges dropped but there was talk of giving our signalman a commendation.

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THE SHAFT ALLEY AND THE NEW CHIEF

On the PC-1181, it was s.o.p. for a motor-mac to check the shaft alleys on a regular basis... To gain entrance to this compartment, there was a small hatch between the after engine room hatch and the 40 mm gun tub... It was a tight squeeze down a ladder and when you got to the bottom, you could go down either the port or starboard alley. Being a six footer, I used to go on my hands and knees. It was about six foot to an oil filled pillow block bearing that we had to check, then another five feet to the stem tube shaft packing gland. This was where the shaft went thru the hull to the outside. There was a water tight light fixture on the bulkhead and a bilge pump valve in each alley. As I remember, the whole compartment was painted with yellow zinc chromate and covered with a fine coat of rust. There wasn't much circulation of air and it had a damp, warm, oily smell.

Our job was to check the bilges, pumping if needed, then check the oil filled bearing. We kept a two gallon can of oil in each alley to speed this job up. Next we would check the packing gland on the stern tube bearing... It was important and necessary that this packing gland to drip sea water as a lubricant and for its cooling effect. The packing gland was made of bronze or brass and constructed in two pieces with four bolts running thru it so an even adjustment could be made on the gland. We kept a wrench in each alley for this purpose.

Checking the shaft alley in port was easy but at sea it could be down-right dangerous. With the ship pitching and rolling as only a PC could, you could get thrown against the turning shaft and get badly bruised. I have a few scars to prove it ...

Late in 1945, we had lost our CMoMM due the point system of discharge. The highest rated MoMM was a second class. The ship had requested a replacement CMoMM but got a CMM instead, a regular Navy man and just off a destroyer. He was a good man, but his expertise was in steam and not diesels.

We took him around the engine room and the boat, explaining all the functions of the various equipment that he would have to deal with as Chief. One of the areas was the shaft alley. By this time the starboard shaft packing gland had been adjusted to its limit. It was dripping more than necessary and required that the shaft alley bilge be pumped a few times a day.

The new Chief said that he was going to repack the shaft gland... I didn't think that this was such a great idea and said so. He replied: "I'll show you how we do this in the real Navy."

I still didn't think it was a great idea but went to get some graphite packing for him. By the time I returned to the shaft alley, he had already removed the bronze packing gland.

At this point in time, everything seemed to go into slow motion.

As he pushed the new packing into the gland with a screwdriver, everything blew out with a force of water that hit the forward bulkhead. Crawling thru this wall of water, we got out of there in a hurry. We dogged the shaft alley hatch and so ended the new Chiefs first day aboard the PC-1181.

We had to go into dry dock to repair the damage but that's another story.

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TOWED BACK HOME
PC-1181 towed to Key West by the LST-987

At the end of hostilities in the Pacific, the LST-987 carried cargo and passengers in the Far East and China until mid April 1946. They had lost most of the original crew members by that time to the discharge point system. Ordered to proceed to the United States, they stopped in the Philippines for fuel, water, galley supplies and some replacement crew members. John W. Gray, Ensign, USNR, from Wilmington, NC reported aboard to assist in bringing the vessel back to the West Coast. Leap frogging island bases across the Pacific they arrived at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in mid-June. All of the regular officers left the ship on discharge points and Ensign Gray, being the senior officer aboard, was given the job of bringing the landing ship back to the Marine Base at Quantico, Virginia.

They arrived at Balboa, in the Canal Zone on schedule, during the first week of July... Transiting the canal, they moored port side to pier #1 at the Coco Solo Naval Base... After reporting in, they were informed that they had been given the assignment to tow a disabled PC subchaser back to Key West. Ensign Gray refused, stating that he and his make-up crew did not have the expertise for such an operation. He was then ordered by ComPaSeaFron to tow the USS PC-1181 back to Key West.

On Saturday, 13 July at 1500 hours, pursuant to ComPaSeaFron dispatch 122138 July 1946, they got underway, cleared the breakwater and hove to a few miles offshore awaiting the PC-1181. By 1600 hours, the tow line was secured to the PC-1181 with 800 feet of cable let out and they were underway steaming north toward Key West, Florida via the Yucatan Channel. Traveling in company with the LCS-124, YMS-468 and AMC-204 [Minah], the forward speed of the convoy was set at 8 knots.

During the mid watch on Monday, 15 July, off the coast of Honduras, they ran into a frontal disturbance and seas started to kick up. At 0700 hours, the towing bridle on the bow of the subchaser parted. Despite the rough seas, they were able to lower a LCVP and with a savvy Coxswain at the wheel, the tow line was reconnected and were underway again at 1000 hours. After sunset, the tow line parted again at the bow of the subchaser. In the darkness, it took over three hours for the LCVP crew to re-rig the tow. By Tuesday morning 16 July, the seas had moderated and no further problems with the tow were encountered.

On Friday morning, 19 July 1946, at 0800 hours, they arrived off the entrance of the main shipping channel into Key West. A Navy tug was standing by to take the sub chaser in tow. The tow line was cast off at 0825 hours. Mission accomplished.

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USS WILDWOOD (PC 1181) -THE SHIP THAT ALMOST SANK ITSELF

Excerpts from a letter written by Dewey A. Dye, Ens., USNR to his parents on 2 July 1946. Dewey became an attorney and lived and practiced in Bradenton, Florida. He passed away in 1997. R.I.P.

Coco Solo Naval Base, C.Z.
Wednesday, 26 June 1946.

We received word that we would get underway for Key West on Friday, June 28, in company with the PC's 1208 and 1212... and to make all preparation for going to sea. We left early Friday morning and no sooner did we get through the breakwater when the PC-1208's electric steering control went out. We were naturally peeved since we all had to go back and stand by while repairs were being made. Later that afternoon we set out again, this time confident that we would arrive at our destination only a few hours late. Little did we realize what was in store for us.

During the first 24 hours things went along as normally as could be expected. We were running into an unusually heavy seas, taking water over the flying bridge. Most of the crew got seasick since they were new to the tempestuous ways of the Caribbean. We also discovered a leak in the shaft alley (a compartment aft of the main engine room where the shafts go from inside the hull to the outside). It was a fairly serious leak but we were keeping it down with the ships bilge pumps and the gasoline powered Handy Billy pump.

Saturday, 29 June. During the second afternoon we received a message from the PC-1212 that their generators units had failed and they were without electric power. This is a serious situation that's hard to understand unless your on a ship. It means no lights, no gyro compass, no pumps, no way to cook and no communications except by flag hoist. We were about 200 miles out at that time so we reluctantly came about again as Coco Solo was the closest base within hundreds of mile.

We were upset and annoyed about heading back to Coco Solo. We didn't realize until later how lucky we were to turn back when we did. About this time we ran out of gasoline for the Handy Billy pump and a new leak was discovered in the main engine room... We organized a bucket brigade to try to try to hold the water in check but it was useless. It was corning in much faster than we could ever hope to bail it out. We decided to close the shaft alley compartment up completely and let it fill, in hopes that the dogged water tight hatch would hold the water in check. Conditions stayed about the same throughout the night except that the water was creeping up in the main engine room and a new leak was discovered in the auxiliary engine room. By dawn the seas had increased in fury and we were rolling pretty badly... The motion of the ship was getting very sluggish. When we rolled, all the sea water in the flooded compartments would move to that side and tend to hold the ship over on her side.

Sunday, 30 June. During the night the depth of the water in the bilges in the main engine room was increasing rapidly and starting to do its initial damage. Sea water got into the main engine lube oil and somehow into the starboard engine blower, so both main engines shut down. We made emergency repairs and got them going in about two hours. The engines had ran until dawn when the starboard engine quit for good. Also, due to the rising water in the engine room, it was now over the deck plates, we lost both port an starboard fire and flushing pumps. Around 0745 hours the port engine quit and could not be started again. We were dead in the water without any means of pumping.

We did get one more spurt out of the port engine about an hour later but that only lasted for three minutes. We had developed a leak in one of the fuel oil tanks and it was draining into the auxiliary room bilges. Also water was rising in the 40mm magazine.

We could see then that it was going to "bail or sink," so we bailed... All that day and all the next night we bailed with buckets... Oil and water was coming up a bucket full at a time. It might have seemed a futile effort but I'm sure, as everyone else does, that that's what saved us. The seas were about the same, plenty rough, and the decks were coated with oil from the engine room. With all the oil on the rolling, it was impossible to walk anywhere. It became a case of crawling around the deck holding on to life lines stretched across the deck... We had been radioing for help since the main engines failed but because of the overcast we weren't too sure of our position.

During the morning, the PC-1208 rigged up a tow line to tow us. All this time the PC-1212, disabled and helpless with the loss of electrical power, was slowly circling us. We got the tow line over from the PC-1208 but in doing so, it got tangled in their screws. Here again, you've got to be on a ship to realize the dire consequences of this situation. Now, all three ships were in trouble. One was sinking, one was powerless with cable tangled in her screws and the third had to keep circling because she couldn't get her engines restarted if they stopped. Some men from the PC-1208 went over the side and a few hours later they had the tow cable cleared of their screws but only after we had cast off our end of the tow because the ships were drifting together. The next time, we passed them our towing line which they got aboard without problems. They started up with us in tow and everything was going along fine ... until three minutes later when the tow line broke. These two towing failures were topped off with the word from the PC-1208 that her towing cable was kinked up beyond further use. It was getting close to decision time about abandoning our ship. When you have it staring you right in the face, a swim in the middle of the ocean isn't very desirable.

When things looked the blackest, the seas got calmer and we were able to pass another tow line to the PC-1208 just before dark and finally it held.

Monday, July 1. They towed us all night long and just before dawn we sighted the lights of Christobal; in the Canal Zone. A heavenly sight, if there ever was one, especially since the crew had been bailing for over 24 hours straight. A commercial tug met us a few miles further in and after two tries we got the tow rigged to her. A couple of hours later, we were moored to the starboard side of pier #3, lying low in the water, with about a 10 list to starboard and three or four sets of towing cables all over her oil covered decks. The crew literally dropped where they were and slept.

A base fire truck and pumping trucks kept working for the rest of the day to get the water out of the flooded compartments to keep us afloat... It seemed that everyone on the base came down to look us over, "The Ship That Almost Sank Itself."

Divers will be going down tomorrow morning to assess the damage and after that survey, a decision will be made about going into dry dock for repairs. No one will ever know how close we came to going down except those of us who were there. I never want to do that again, believe me.

---Dewey


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