Sometime during 1980
aboard the USNS Kane in the Atlantic about two-hundred miles of Galway, Ireland
at 0130 in the morning while hove-to in a storm I was awakened by a rumbling
Expecting the phone to
ring any moment, and it not, I called the Bridge.
"Did you feel that?" I
asked the Third Mate - a young academy lad who had the
investigating it now." he said.
coffee...the weather the same?" I asked.
"The coffee's from the
turn-of-the-watch, but it's still good...or I can make a fresh pot Cap." the
be up in a minute." I said.
I dressed, and went to the
Bridge. When I got up there the Third was putting on more revs, and had the
rudder hard over trying to bring the ship's head back up into the sea, and
swell. As I poured me coffee, I could see the ship responding, however the Third
said it was taking alot more revs, and full rudder.
Shortly the phone rang,
and it was the Third Assistant Engineer calling from the Steering Engine
room..."Everything looks okay back here...but it's awfully quiet!" the Third
told the Third.
The Third relayed what the
Third said, and I took the phone..."awfully quiet" got my attention. Ordinarily
there's always a slight rumbling from the propellor wash rattling the
rudder...something was wrong. "Call the Chief ( Engineer ), tell him I want him
to take a look around back there too, and to get back to me." I told the
In the meantime, it
was back to keeping the ship headed into the sea, and swell. Each time though we
had to reduce the revs to slow the ship down...didn't want to go slamming
head-on into this stuph.
It wasn't long before the
Chief was up on the Bridge..."I can't see anything wrong back there Cap...but
it's awfully quiet." said the Chief.
"Thanks Chief...have some
coffee." I said.
"That awfully quiet thing
has me concerned...know what I think Chief?"
"Ever hear of a ship
losing part of its rudder?" I asked the Chief.
"Well, I once saw a photo
of one of the Troop Ships' rudder that had lost half of its plating...stripped
off neat as a pin...just the framing showing."
"That's why you need so
much rudder, and revs to bring 'er up?' the Chief asked.
"Yes...part of the rudder
is gone...and that's why it's relatively quiet back there. When it gets light
enough, you will go lay on your belly, and look over the stern...maybe
you'll be able to see something...don't fall in. In the meantime I'll get out a
CasRept telling them what's going on here.' I said.
"Alright...thanks for the
coffee...call me when it's light...this is somethin' else alright." said the
Chief, and left.
"Wind's droppin' off some
Cap...looks like the seas are moderating also...should be getting better.' said
going down to write up this CasRept, and turn in. Carry on like you're
doin'...call me if you need me, and when it gets light...good night...call the
Chief too.' I said.
Morning came fast. The
weather had moderated nicely, though we still had some heavy seas...it was
turning into a nice sunny day. The Third had called the Chief, and we waited for
Shortly, the door to the
Wheelhouse opened, and in came the Chief with this big smile on his face..."You
ain't got no rudder!' said the Chief laughing.
Up to this point in
telling this story I had forgotten who the Chief was..."...you ain't got no
rudder" jolted my memory. "Stilwell" was his name...a nice fellow...he had two
extra long incisors...when he smiled he reminded me of Count
"No rudder...none at
all...all gone?' I asked.
"Gone...completely.' said the Chief.
"Then how in the hell are
we steering this ship up into the sea, and swell?" I
"Beats me...but you ain't
got no rudder." the Chief repeated.
"Call the Engine
Room...tell them we're going to lower the Bow Thruster...probably need another
generator." I told the Mate on watch.
We dropped the Bow
Thruster, and tried that for keeping our head into the sea, and it worked
well...we had enough with our imaginary rudder, and speed increases. I then
myself went aft to the stern, plunked myself prostate on the deck, and took a
look. There it was, clear as
a bell when the stern rose high enough for it to clear the sea...that's how much
sea we had at the time...the skeg's pintle pin bearing hole...clean as a
whistle...with apparently no damage.
The pintle-pin, which in
actual size was several feet long, and nearly a foot in diameter had
dropped out, leaving the rudder with no bottom support. The upper Rudder Post
part which at the time we couldn't see turned out to be upon examination in the
ship yard also undamaged except for the "Palm" the part that fastened to
the rudder with six, or eight two-and-one-half-inch bolts, was bent slightly.
This "Palm", or plate was of two, or more inches thick steel, and measured
around about three by four feet...heavy stuph. The photo shown is of the model I built of a sister ship. Photo of the real thing taken some years later, is shown here. Also, see Blue Print for additional information.
So...the rudder just
decided to part company with us...didn't even damage the propellor. The
shuddering we felt was when the large Palm Bolts sheared...not any part of the
rudder itself remained. We needed a tow!
In my follow up to the
CasRept, I meantioned the rudder missing in entirety, and us requiring a
tow..."no other problems at the moment" I added.
Now to wait...in the
meantime it was puzzling how we could have kept the ship's head up into the
wind, sea, and swell without a rudder. It is for sure when a new rudder is in
place, and we encounter another storm, I'm going to see if just leaving the
rudder midships, and with just the engines, see if it would behave the
We received a message
saying our tow was on its way...it turned out to be a U.S. Navy LST of the new
type...the ones with horns. It wasn't long coming...actually before the day
ended. After a few attempts by the LST to position itself ahead of us as we lay
dead in the water, I suggested to make it easy that the LST just steam ahead
slowly, and I'd approach her stern using our trusty Bow Thruster. It was of
five-hundred H.P., swung a five foot wheel in a Kort Knozzle, and rotated
three-sixty. It protruded, when lowered, below the bottom of the hull, and was
fifty, or so feet aft from forward...a great device. For more on this thing, see
my story: The Ghost Of The Kane.
We got lashed up using the
LST's towing wire, and away we went...for Barry, Wales, and the ship yard.
However, the next day we received a message that we would swap towing
vessels...the British Tug RMAS Roysterer would assume the tow.
We dropped the
LST...forget the number, but the skipper...great guy to work with, was named
Rolls, or Royce...one or the other...sorry Cap. The Roysterer then proceeded to
pick us up. Her skipper was in a hurry...something about getting back to port
for some football game, and took us in tow toot-sweet.
He took off, and before we
knew it, we were doing fourteen knots. He asked that we put some revs on our
engines to "help him along"...I declined...it was enough keeping an eye on him
at fourteen knots...we just let the prop pin-wheel, and it was showing
It wasn't long before one
leg of the towing bridle parted, but that didn't slow him down...shortly
thereafter the second leg parted. Roysterer retrieved his tow wire, along with
our shackles...four of them, bale, and thimbled, nicely spliced eye, and then
stuck-out another tow wire with a "soft eye"...just a wire with an eye spliced
in at the end. We dropped that on bitt, and away again we went - fourteen knots.
So much for our nice towing bridle. I told him we wanted all our hard-ware back,
and sent a message too. Don't think we ever did. Anyways, I had to later order a
new made-up bridle...it was part of the ship's equipage.
We were going along nicely
in a beam sea...another nice sunny day, when Roysterer came up on the radio:
"You won't help us along with your engines, but could you please fold in your
stabilizer fins, and be miserable like us."... something to that effect
anyways. Roysterer was rolling like a banshee, but we had passive roll
tanks, which worked beautifully...we hardly were rolling.
I answered him with:
"Sorry about that old man, but we don't have stabilizing fins...just our
roll tanks." I don't remember how that was received, but that was all we ever heard
from the Roysterer, arriving the next day or so in Barry.
We swapped the Roysterer
for a smaller harbor tug, and proceeded to the Bailey Ship Building,and Repair
Facility where we stayed for a couple of months while a new rudder was
constructed, and installed. It was a wonderful stay...a very nice place...really
hated to leave, but we had to get back to the States.
About half-way across the
Pond, we encountered a storm, and a chance to see if leaving the rudder
amidships, and just using the engines, the ship's head would come up into the
sea, and swell...it wouldn't. Having a rudder destroys the torque of the
propellor...the ship just lays in the trough with the sea, and swell on the beam
as it steams along.
So much for
that. A Naval Architect, hired to investigate why the rudder fell off, concluded that the nut which held the pintle pin up inside the bottom of the rudder, backed off because it wasn't "hardened-up" ( tightened ), and also concluded that the Palm Bolts were similarly left...as he said: "Rattling slack".
Strangely, I was visiting aboard the Kane in Boston Ship Yard...my own ship at the time
also in for reparis. It was a very cold winter day...snow covering everything a foot or more deep...deep enough to keep the yard cranes from moving along their tracks. At the time the Kane had her shaft pulled...her propellor, and rudder removed. Little was I to know at that time I would have the Kane when she'd lose her rudder to carelessness at that time in the shipyard.