Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Under Pressure

So in last night's Pigboats game, Lt. Vaugirard and Lt. jg Yoder and five men had left the Pike, and were using the captured sailing junk they had christened the Pickerel to pick up ditched American plane crews - and a captured Japanese fighter pilot as well. The Pike was forced under by Zeros, but they ignored the Pickerel. The Zeros were replaced by a floatplane which looped and stooged around, keeping the Pike underwater. Finally, from the direction of Davao came two corvettes.

The Pike was trying to get to the rendezvous south of Talikud Island, which was due west, but turned south to present her smallest profile to the corvettes. Even so, they got enough of a return to chase down into the Pike's general area. The Skipper did not want to delay things any more than necessary - he wanted to get to that rendezvous! He ordered silent running, and depth to 150 feet. The Signals Officer, Lt. jg  O'Grady detected a thermocline at 230 feet. Unfortunately, the Pike's test depth was 250 feet. Since there were fifty feet between the keel and the tops of the periscope shears, They would have to go to at least 285 feet to get under the thermocline. The Skipper ordered them down to 300.

"The Engineers build in a safety margin" said the Skipper. "We'll be fine!" Then Lt. jg Rizzo dashed in from the back of the boat, his pants soaked to the knee. "We blew out the packing in the port shaft. Windy (Mr. Windham, the Engineer) is trying to re-pack it, but we're taking on a lot of water aft!" Ensign Bollings, taking over for Mister Yoder as the Diving officer, set the rear planes on full rise, but the weight of water aft kept increasing, and they couldn't use the pumps while running silent.

The Skipper sent all non-essential men forward, but that too was soon useless. Mr. O'Grady suggested a bucket chain from aft to forward. This was also implemented. He then went back to the hydrophones. The continuous pinging of the corvettes above him had stopped. He couldn't hear their engines. All he could hear, at every point of the compass, was a soft roar. "It sounds like there are ships everywhere around us!" he said to  Bollings. "That's weird! Wouldn't they run into each other up there?" It was a puzzler all right. The creaks and groans as the pressure hull was compressed made it hard to think. He listened again... What would make that kind of noise, all around, everywhere at once? He had it!

"Skipper! I figured out the puzzle!It's a monsoon up there! It's pouring out, and those covettes are deaf - and probably mostly blind too!" reported O'Grady. "Are you sure? Could they hear the pumps?" asked the Skipper. "They can't hear a thing, sir! Neither can I!" replied O'Grady. The Skipper turned to the others in the conning tower."Let's get out of here! Rise to 230 feet and head  due west. Secure from silent running! Get those pumps online!" With the pressure lessened and the pumps working, the leak in the port shaft was soon sealed.

Meanwhile, on the Pickerel, the clouds gathered and the sky darkened. As they were approaching Punta Praet, the southern cape of Mawes Island, beyond which was Talikud, the clouds opened up with a crash. The battened sails slammed and rattled against the masts as the wind swirled and capered. The men lowered sail, and the Pickerel began drifting. The wind was from the southeast, so they were slowly being pressed  northwest, up against Punta Praet.

Mr. Vaugirard, the XO, ordered a sea anchor be built of spars and canvas, and that helped slow the boat, but the leeway was inexorable. The XO ordered Johnston to the bow with a lead line, to test the water's depth, and the other four crew below, to start converting the useless gasoline engine into an anchor which might *hold* the boat. When Johnston began ticking off the rapidly shelving bottom, the four sailors brought up the engine, wrapped in a line.

Just then, Yoder heard diesels from the southwest, the direction of the wind. He called out, and Vaugirard turned to see the shadowy form of a Japanese corvette take shape in the murk. "Shit!" he said.

Session over!


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