Friday, May 27, 2016

Scotty would never allow it

So one of today's tasks was to de-fuel the USS ENTERPRISE.

No, really.

Fortunately for me is wasn't the CVN-65 USS ENTERPRISE driven by buckets full of uranium-235. The kind of stuff that could put a hurt on my little corner of the universe if, say, I stumbled down the ladder carrying a bucket full. I imagine the people who did do that job for real charged a bit more than our shop rate.

Nor was it the NCC-1701 STARSHIP ENTERPRISE driven by buckets full of anti-matter. The kind of stuff that could put a hurt on a big corner of the universe if, say, I stumbled down the ladder carrying a bucket full. This USS ENTERPRISE (really, I don't name them, I just work on them) carried a maximum of 39 gallons of old fashioned diesel fuel, nearly 20 of which remained and was leaking into the bilge at the rate of about a quart a day.

Unfortunately the only way to get it off the boat was 3 to 4 gallons at a time in a 5 gallon bucket...out of the aft cabin, up the companionway steps, across the deck, and down the aforementioned ladder. Then, across the yard to the “used oil” shack to be dumped in a holding tank for later pickup and, well, I don't really know what the “and” is. It goes away in a truck. After that maybe it gets turned into lighter fluid or something. (I wonder what they do with depleted uranium-235 or extra anti-matter?)

This would be a better story if I did stumble down the ladder to dump 3 to 4 gallons of diesel on some unsuspecting passerby, thus putting a serious hurt on this, my very tiny corner of the universe. Better story, but a really bad day. But by being very, very careful during the eight round trips, careful almost to the point of guaranteeing something going wrong, the USS ENTERPRISE's fuel tank was rendered harmless and ready for removal. The worst was a very small squirt of diesel getting free from the transfer pump and landing, almost entirely, on the cardboard I had laid down over the floor. Given the overall awkwardness of the operation that amounts to getting away scot-free, and the tank is now sitting under the bow of the boat. I hear it will be used as a pattern to fabricate a new one. I hope they get it exactly right. The old one came out of its hole with about 1/16th of an inch to spare.

Other tasks today also included changing the head discharge thru-hull in a wooden boat, a smelly first for me. Not the smelly, head, or thru-hull part, but the wooden boat part. There was a new antenna / mount installed on a mast touched by lightning. Some more wires where chopped out of the “get all the wire out” boat, and I stroked a keel bolt in a way I will not share with the innocents of the world. (If you must; picture a tiny trace of H2O. Then envision the cost of dropping the keel off a boat to properly address a leak in that area. Now imagine what an owner might ask be done to banish the former without facing the latter. When I asked a second time to be sure that I had this “repair procedure” correct, Boss New described it as “a band-aid on a bullet wound”. But if it was my boat I would try the exact same thing and hope that is was a very small caliber bullet.)

A bit of embarrassment also came my way today. Part of a job running the wiring for a new navigation suite included the instruction to “wire this unit up to power using that”. “That”, was a two wire shielded cable; one red wire, one yellow wire, and the shield. The cable was left over from the old system and I had no idea of where the other end of it went. Since the wiring wasn't complete and the system could not be “powered up” while I was building it, putting volt meter to cable to check actual “power” wasn't an option. I wired red to the hot side and yellow to the ground side because, according to ABYC standards yellow is often “ground”. Except, in this case, yellow was “info” and the shield was used for the ground. So the first attempt to “power up” the new system, with the proud owner on board waiting to see all his new “gee-wiz” goodies come to life...was a bit of a disappointment.

In the marine industry it seems “standards” are more like “suggestions” or, maybe, “wishful thinking”. It was a quick and easy fix but there are still times when I feel like I'm playing a game that has no rules. I've gotten brand new “marine” units with white / black wires, red / black wires, and two black wires. (It didn't matter which way that one got installed.) I have never seen one come out of the box with red / yellow wires, and I don't think I've seen one come with tinned “marine” wire yet either. Eventually it all gets figured out and works, but to this old aviation tech it often seems a bit amateurish.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't done this way on the USS ENTERPRISE of either Navy or Sci-fi fame.

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