manned and ready reports to the pilot house!
Ships burn a lot of fuel. Lots, lots, lots. And sailors & Marines eat.
We can't make our own fuel and food like we make our own water, so we
have to get it from somewhere.
So we get it from oilers and stores ships. Most of them have been
transfered to the Military Sealift Command, where they have a small
cadre crew of Navy personnel but are operated by merchant marine sailors
and run by the ship's Master rather than a Navy Commanding Officer.
Good duty, but a lot of underway time. But back to getting fuel and
There are three kinds of replenishment. One is simply UNREP, or
Underway Replenishment, where fuel is passed from the supply ship to the
receiving ship via a fueling rig run across on a wire. CONREP includes
a highline transfer of stores, by means of a heavy line upon which a
wheel rides and supports pallets that then must be hauled across by
other lines attached. VERTREP is Vertical Replenishment by helicopter
for pallets of stores or ammo. The pallets come over slung beneath a
helo, and get set on the flight deck.
But how do we get connected for UNREP in the first place? The receiving
ship takes position behind the supply ship, then, when everythign is
ready, speeds up to come alongside. The trick is to drive the ship
close enough, but not too close, and to match speeds with the stations
lined up where they should be. Then the gunner's mates shoot lines
across--bright orange fine line called 'shot line', and that gets
attached to a bigger line which is attached to the span wire. Manpower
pulls these lines into position. Then the spanwire is tensioned to
support the weight of the hoses and the fueling rig. Once the spanwires
are under tension, the rig is hauled over with its hose following, big
loops of hose supported by the wire. The fueling probe seats into the
receiving bell and then they start pumping.
During all of this, the Officer of the Deck and Conning Officer have to
keep the ship driving right along, which can be difficult with the
dynamics of the water rolling between the two ships. A special line,
called the Phone & Distance Line, has markers telling how far away we
are from the other ships. Personnel man this line and keep it taut so
that it provides good indications.
Procedures are in place should either ship have an emergency and have to
break away fast. Obviously, no one is going to release the tensioned
wire, because that would be disastrous when the end snapped back.
Everything must be orderly to prevent more emergencies. Usually, ships
practice 'emergency breakaway' at the completion of the replenishment,
just so everyone stays in practice.
Once all lines are returned to their respective ships, the receiving
ship accelerates and then turns outward.
Traditionally, the receiving ship sends cookies or ballcaps or something
over on the line for the captain or master of the supply ship. Also
traditionally, ships play a 'breakaway song' over the shipboard
announcing system when pulling away from the supply ship. On the last
ship, I managed to get Joe Satriani's "Summer Song" played once. :o)