Friday, May 12, 2017

Interesting experience from my sub service

As y'all know I spent eleven years in the Navy and share my experiences from that time on Facebook. I do so to draw attention to not just me but to my fellow Submariners and what we endured, or endure still, in the service of our country. One thing that many of you take for granted every day is toilet facilities. I know what some of you Veterans from other services will say, "at least to had facilities and did not have to do your business outside in all types of weather." Yes, I tip my hat to you for that, but you didn't have to worry about your your latrine attacking you with high pressure sewage.
You see my first boat, The USS Daniel Boone SSBN 629 was built in the early '60s and did not have the updated sanitary service equipment of those like the Ohio class. The Boone and her sister ships did not have pumps to discharge sanitary tanks overboard. To empty out poopoo tanks we had to blow the contents overboard. This was done by pressurizing the tank to a particular amount above outside sea pressure then open hull and backup valves. It had to be done in such away not to make noise since that would allow other subs, bad guys to find you. Too much pressure made noise, too little and sea water would flow into the tank. Now remember we did this while submerged so the outside pressure was considerably greater than normal atmospheric pressure which is what the inside of the sub is kept close to.
Since the sanitary tanks were subject to such pressure you could not use your normal toilet. On the Boone, and others like her, the toilets were stainless steel bowls more or less with a ball valve at the bottom that was operated by a lever on the side and flushing water was provided by a handwheel which had to be open to rinse the bowl during flushing while the ball valve was being opened. Yes, flushing the toilet was a two handed operation, but this was not the worst part.
Remember me saying we used  high pressure Air to empty the tanks, actually we left a little in so as not to blow out air which makes noise. When the sanitary tanks are pressurized you are not supposed to operate the ball valves because well, instead of blow or venting tanks overboard, it will vent it inboard at considerable pressure.  Normally, the auxiliary machinist mate on watch would put up warning signs not to operate the ball valve. And if that failed to get your attention the blow by from the ball valves would create a weird greenish looking witches brew in the toilet bowl. Well like how some people fail to see traffic signs a few Submariners missed the "blowing sanitary tanks" warnings. You guessed it the poor soul would open the ball valve and release a high pressure geyser of human waste, both liquid and solid. When I say geyser I am not exaggerating. I have never witnessed the unfortunate act but I have seen the aftermath. It is blown onto the ceiling, the whole stall, and much of the head, it gets everywhere. Yes, I have seen what happens after the " shit hits the fan" literally.  Back to the poor soul, the unfortunate Submariners who have made the mistake of "venting Sans inboard" they are covered head to toe. And since the crap was under pressure it goes into places you don't want it nose, mouth, and even under the eye lids. Some people even had bits of crap embedded into their skin, little poop freckles. And the odor lingers no matter how hard you scrub. I know one guy in my division who blew sans on themselves and was late to relieve the watch because of it. What is funny is how he was bragging the watch before he never did and never would. I will say this, it could not happen to a nicer guy. He was kind of a jerk on patrol and no one had sympathy for him. 
Sometimes the machinist mates would deliberately forget to hang the warning signs, normally in the Officers head or forget to close a valve leading to the sink in the officers pantry. Usually only the Junior Officers would make the mistake but they were probably the intended targets as they can be little Hitlers at times. They have a shift in attitude after blowing crap on themselves once. I don't condone such conduct but, hey, sometimes it takes getting into the shit to cause change.
There was another drawback to blowing sanitary tanks, the smell. The blow by from the ball valves stank, the venting of the extra pressure after the tanks were emptied stank. You cannot vent the excess air to sea because of noise so that air is vented through filters into the sub. Those filters aren't very efficient, smell would get through and sometimes sewage would be blasted into the filter. You know what was bad? When the cooks made pork roast in smelled disgustingly like venting sans. It didn't taste the same thank goodness.
The Boone was the only Submarine that I served on that did not have sanitary pumps, "chunk pumps. When I transferred to Trident Submariners I never had to worry about " venting sans on myself. 

This is just a bit of my own and others experience serving on submarines and what we had to deal with at sea. Trust me, sub life is an interesting life.