This morning I decided I wanted to do more deck maintenance so I headed back to Division 4 and met up with the Bosun Tom Tucker once again. There weren’t many jobs being worked on that I would be able to follow around so he decided to send me with two of the cadets working on their Commercial ship and RTSC 1/c Jon Baker to do bilge soundings.
When I heard this was what we were doing I was confused because I thought the bilge was in the engine room and we were doing deck maintenance. Tom explained to me that the bilge runs throughout the ship, including the engine room, so I wasn’t technically wrong. They told me that bilge soundings are done every day to ensure that there isn’t too much water in it. Too much water could cause stability issues with the ship. I was impressed with the way the cadets were able to take the soundings.
To start, you unscrew the top of the bilge tank in the area you are sounding by using a ‘T’ shaped handle. Once the top is off you grab what is called a sounding tape that is really just a metal tape measure with a weight on the end of it. The weight on the end is to help the tape find the bottom of the tank so it won’t get stuck. You then use blue chalk and mark up the tape as far down as you think you need. For instance, one tank was measured at only 7 inches of water the last time it was checked, even though the tank is 38 feet deep. We drew a line from the end of the weight to the 9 inch mark thinking that it would be plenty. Once the weight hit the bottom of the tank, we pulled the sounding tape and looked at the highest water mark. Most of the tanks only had a few inches of water which is what we wanted. This task took a while to complete but it is important that the readings are accurate. If there was too much water in the bilge, it would need to be pumped out through the oily water separator and it is a long drawn out process to complete that.
After Bilge soundings were complete, Tom had one more task for me. He sent me and 3rd Mate/ MMA Alum Arthur Levine, to the paint locker in 2 hold to make a stencil. He wouldn’t tell me what it was for but I had to spell out “TESTED ON” so I knew it was going on a piece of machinery.
To make the stencil you take large metal letters and overlap them together. It isn’t a hard job but it takes a while to get every letter and make sure it is lined up correctly. Once your word or phrase is spelled out, you tape them together and place it on a sheet of cardboard. I then had to draw a line around the letters so I knew where I had to cut it. This step made me think of when I was little and used to trace my hands to cut out and make turkeys around Thanksgiving. After I cut out the cardboard I taped the letters to it and my stencil was complete. Mate Levine then told me to head to the cabin deck near the aft nav lab and wait there.
A little confused, I headed over and Bosun Tom Tucker had met me there. He explained that I was going to put on a harness and then spray paint the crane. The large crane on the back of the Kennedy was recently tested to check the weight it is able to hold and this information needed to be displayed on the actual crane. I put on a harness and then climbed up a ladder to hook onto my safety line. The line was supposed to catch me if I fell off the ladder. Don’t worry though I didn’t fall. I taped up the stencil and started spraying it with black spray paint. Before lunch I was able to spray paint “TESTED ON” and “1/19”.
After lunch I needed to make longer phrases which took much more time so I had a group of cadets help me. This was 4/C Teagan Duffy, 1/C Daniel Hall, 1/C Erin Sullivan and 1/C Clay Schrader, both from Texas A&M Maritime Academy. We had to spell out both “SWL Loadline 13 Tons” and “SWL Fastline 2.5 Tons”. SWL stands for Safe Working Load meaning that these are the maximum loads the cranes are able to safely handle. We laid out the letters and realized we only had 1 stencil for the letter ‘S’ and to spell out just one of the phrases we needed 2 or 3.
Once the stencils were completed we headed back to the crane and I climbed back up. It was pretty windy up there so a lot of little droplets of black spray paint managed to get on the crane. When I finished with the spray paint my hands were completely covered and my face was bright red. Overall, this has been one of my favorite projects of Sea Term and I’m excited to do more things like this!
Around The TS Kennedy
Instructor Colleen McRae instructs cadets on how to use their sextants.