Life in the Engine Room

We are heading home on the surface on 2 main engines running in the forward engine room. I had the first watch and not feeling well, the affects of a mm and whiskey liberty. Sitting back on the supply locker benches I watched the engine gages and while the oilier checked for leaks down below. The 1st class in charge wanted to do some minor work and asked if the engine load could be shifted aft on number 3 and 4 main engines. The chief agreed and called Maneuvering for the engine change. The oiler shut down the engines. Everything he did was correct since I reviewed his qualifications prior to getting under way and made some minor mental changes as to how things are done in a safe and proper manner. In warm sea water, the heat from the shut down engines and the ambient temperature of about 90 degrees made life terrible. Sitting between those two "pressure cookers "a wet towel around my neck and a jug of cool aide did little to help. Sleeping was impossible due to the humidity.

It was so hot and humid in the engine rooms under way that our uniforms were scivvies amd open toed leather sandals with a wet towel around our necks. Leaving the engine room after a four hour watch we sometimes got relief by getting permission to go on the bridge and feel the cool breeze under our arm pits.

In the noisy engine rooms conversations with hand signs or hand movement was a normal practice, since the noise prevented normal conversation. For example if you wanted to describe sex you make a circle with the thumb and pointer finger with one hand, with the other hand put the pointer finger through the hole and move it back and forth. Another example if the bilges need to be pumped your hands were made into fists and moved up and down quickly and then were pointed downward. So all the basic requirements for the watch stander could be done with your hand signals.

Sitting between the two engines as they ran at standard speed was boring. The oilier did everything in the engine room. Watching, listening and smelling was my job. Any change discovered by my senses would spring me into action, trying to determine what was that strange noise, what was the smell, why is that pressure gage reading low and on and on. Towards the end of the watch about 15 minutes before the hour my hearing was tuned to the sound / rush of air coming through the forward hatch indicating it was being opened. This meant that your relief and others were coming to relieve the watch stations afl. And were on time. I was relieved by using sign language and went forward to the crew's mess deaf, for a while. If a movie was showing, I would read the actors lips. All engine men could do this stunt.

As the days wore on the seas were calm which made it comfortable for the crew to eat and sleep. If it was rough, the bridge watch, when relieved, would bring there wet rain gear, binoculars, gloves, boots, etc.,to the engine rooms for them to dry out. The nice an and tidy engine room would look like a laundry.

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