The Wet Crew Incident

A note from the webmaster:

Sometime in early 1983, the gold crew was involved in an incident where they took in a large volume of water through the bridge hatch. I had just reported on for duty with the blue crew at that time and at the off crew office in Groton, the rumor was that the goldies had tried to submerge the boat with the bridge hatch open. Of course, it wasn’t really that simple as you can read below.  For a time following the incident, the two Kamehameha crews were known as the “wet” crew and the “dry” crew instead of gold and blue. 

In any case, the resulting inrush of water did cause a lot of damage in MCC and left the boat in Charleston, SC at the weapons station for a couple extra months while the MCC equipment was repaired/replaced.  This was one of the few good deals for the Kam nucs since all of our equipment was in good shape and all our PMs were up to date having recently left the shipyard. For a short period of time, the nucs were getting liberty while the forward guys worked!

I received this telling of the “wet crew incident” from Dan Schreiter who was really there on the bridge when it happened.

You asked for the details of the "wet crew" thing.  I have some newspaper clippings from Charleston somewhere in my attic that tell a story that's nothing like the truth.

We were surfacing over and over to qualify lookouts and I think even planesman and COW's.  Just out of the yards no one was qualified for anything.  Then we did a final surface without air and one of the ET's didn't open a valve and the forward ballast tanks didn't get any air.  We were being held up by the full rise on the stern planes.  Someone did notice (I think ICC Steve Maclaren) that the lo pressure blower was too quick reaching the right pressure, but they went ahead anyway.  Once it was surfaced the helmsman let off on the planes and went from ahead standard to 1/3.  So with no air in the forward tanks and no planes holding us up the nose went down.

It was a lookout UI (Dan Schreiter).  5th day on the boat I think.  SN Johnny Watts was the lookout, the OOD was a LT. Ditilio???  Never saw him again.  And an ICman Greg Brozio was hooking up the phones.  A QM, Colin Sowry was in the doghouse on the JA phones.  Someone said "we look really low in the water", then the top of the sail was cutting the water and Sowry was in the doghouse screaming "Get this thing up".  He was cut off by David Brooks, (who flew to the boat from Sub School with me 5 days before) when grabbed the cable and shut the hatch.   That was all we saw.  No one came up for quite a while, then the XO CDR Frick came up and told us there was a lot of water down there.   I guess a solid stream of water came down the hatch and soaked the operations compartment pretty good.  The main concern was the battery well and a lot of mattresses went to cover it up to avoid getting salt water in there.  We didn't even get wet on the bridge.

We all had to talk to a Captain who asked us what we saw, which was nothing.  It did a lot of damage to MCC and it was embarrassing but not nearly as bad as it was made out to be.

I also received this account from Kevin Couture:

Hello. I wrote you from work yesterday using my yahoo addy. My name is Kevin Couture. I was on the Kam from 11/79-5/84. I was on the Blue crew before we went into PNSY, then on the Gold crew after we got out. I was a Nav ET. I also stood radar watch , and even did two patrols in Sonar when they were shorthanded. 

On the day of the incident you spoke of on your page I was standing radar watch. We were coming to the surface and we set the watch on the bridge. We had sent up lookouts and the OOD. We were on the surface but we hadn't fully blown the ballast tanks yet. We were using the low pressure blower to complete blowing the tanks and rise to the proper depth. There was a valve in the Navcenter that needed to be opened in order to complete that process but it hadn't been opened. The LPB should have shut down but the backpressure shutdown didn't work properly, so everyone assumed that everything was working properly. 

We were still riding too low in the water however and a swell came up over the top of the sail and water started coming in though the sail into the sub. Lenny Carter and I climbed the ladder and closed the inner hatch and we blew the ballast tanks and came back to the surface. I ran into the Navcenter and closed several pieces of equipment before water could get into them. 

I have a copy of my last set of evals that refers to that briefly. I wish I could remember more names, titles and duties of those involved but that was 18 years ago. If you have any further questions please let me know. I may have some pics of the boat at my parents house from a dependent cruise they once took. I will look the next time I am there. Again, great work on your page. 


Another eyewitness account, this one from Darren Golden

Hi Greg,

I have a little more info on the wet crew story; as I remember, the problem with the low pressure blower was that the LPB had been modified in the yards, but the line-up hadn't been up-dated to reflect the change. After all, if someone fucked up and didn't open a valve as per the bill, then that poor squid would probably get hung out to dry, so to speak. There were no Captain's masts or Courts Martial, after all. The OOD on the bridge was a rider who was only there to qualify. BTW, it was  Lenny Carter who shut the Control room hatch.

When the incident happened, I was in my rack. I had been on the helm for the previous watch and we had been at 410 ft. As we had been drilling non-stop preparing for DASO, I was not surprised by the collision alarm. I was however surprised by the 1MC announcement: "Flooding in Control, Flooding in Control!" I turned to someone and said "That's the stupidest drill I ever heard of." Then, of course, I saw the water coming down the ladder to berthing. We then grabbed our mattresses and chucked them back to the guys in the lounge, who crammed them over the battery well hatch. I was told later that only 1 cup of water made it into the battery well. As far as the repairs go, as I recall, we were only laid up for about a couple of weeks as most of the damage was to MCC and we just swapped out the computer modules. We still had DASO to do.  I hope this helps to clarify the story.

TMSN/SS Darren "Rock" Golden

I received this great entry from Dan Schneider:

Greg, I too was was witness to the "wet crew" incident and here is my account of that faithful night.

I was in Control standing watch as CEP (Contact Evaluation Plotter). My memory is sketchy since it was so long ago (and so many beers ago). I was stationed on the port side of control just aft of the BCP with the Con to my back.

 It was night and we had just surfaced. Two guys (don't remember who anymore) went up on the bridge to rig it for surface running. It was quiet and seemingly routine when all of a sudden I heard a loud, rushing noise coming from my right.

I turned my head to see what the heck was making the noise, when I saw a large column of water about the size of the hatch. I hate to admit it, but my very first thought was... "Cool! It looks just like it does in the movies!". That thought quickly turned to concern when the water started splashing up on me.

I reached over to my right about a foot and a half to hit the collision alarm. It was all I could think to do. I saw water coming in the people tube and I didn't know the reason why. I'm still not 100% sure I did the right thing, but I guess I was better safe then sorry.

I remember one person trying to crawl up the ladder to shut the lower hatch but he was knocked down by the force of the water. The lanyard used to close the hatch was not hanging down like it was supposed to be. A person right behind him was able to push against the water and slammed the hatch shut. I remember being amazed that closing the hatch could cut the sound powered phone cable so easily.

I also remember the COW hitting the emergency blow valves without being ordered to do so by the OOD or the DO. In control, the water never really got deeper then our ankles and I remember a lot of scurrying around as folks down in berthing started packing mattresses over the battery well to keep water out of it.

Meanwhile up in control, I'm still tracking contacts in my wet clothes. Somehow I was wet from head to toe, but the two guys who were up in the doghouse ended up being drier then me. It was over over hour before I could relieved to go change into something dry. It's amazing how long your feet can stay wet inside shoes!

The majority of the water found its way into the MCC fan room and was basically pumped into all the panels in MCC. We spent two full weeks plus some replacing everything in there. It was not fun. Salt water can be very nasty.

Sorry if this doesn't give anymore details on the incident.

Dan Schneider (MT3/SS) USS Kamehameha SSBN 642 Gold Crew 1982-1986

One more account from Craig Blichfeldt 

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