12. Tankers

William Caves, the bosun of the torpedoed tanker Harry F. Sinclair, Jr., said that flames from the gasoline spreading over the water were 75 feet high. In view of such a frightening picture, it is difficult to warn you against panic.

Yet the records of torpedoed tankers bear out that, barring a direct hit, panic is your greatest danger. Captains have been forced to report that their men were lost because they would not obey orders. When flames are shooting skyward and the sea is afire, stake your life on a veteran's judgment. Men who have yielded to blind, hysterical impulses have seldom come out alive.

Said Alfred Carini, chief mate of the torpedoed Pan-Massachusetts: "I lost everything but my head, and because I kept my head, I did not lose my life."

LIFEBOATS INBOARD. -- William Caves advises against having tanker lifeboats already swung out. If the men get to a boat before an officer or bosun, they are liable to launch it into flames.

LIFEBOAT CAPACITY. -- It is difficult to


maneuver a lifeboat in oil slick, and particularly so if it is loaded to capacity. If possible, a tanker lifeboat should not carry more than half its complement. Fifteen persons, for instance, would be an ample load for a 28-foot boat.

LOWERING. -- Because there is a grave chance that some of the men are not going to reach their stations, every tankerman must know every boat job.

Be sure enough men are in the boat to handle it when it hits the water. Four are sufficient. The radio operator was alone in the Harry F. Sinclair's #2 boat. When it be became waterborne, he could not prevent it from drifting into the flames. His charred body was recovered.

LIFELINES. -- The lifelines should be lowered before the falls are paid out. Lifelines coiled in a City of New York boat fouled on the men in the boat, and four of them were yanked over the side. They lost their lives.

LADDER. -- Ladders are constructed to reach the water when the tanker is light. On a loaded tanker the end of the ladder reaches into the water, dragging astern. The ladder should be secured on deck so that this is avoided.

PAINTER. -- If you cannot fireproof the painter, use 30 feet of wire, with a Manila tail leading into the boat.


STEERING OAR. -- Because of oil slick, a steering oar is preferable to a rudder in getting away from the ship.

OARLOCK. -- A Navy-style steering oarlock should be used. The ordinary type is of little service for a tanker. The steering oar has to be lashed to it, and the lashing is liable to burn.

OVERBOARD DISCHARGE. -- If the torpedo has hit within the vicinity of the overboard discharge, any boat launched near the overboard discharge will be in danger of being swamped.

LIFERAFTS. -- Because you have no control over them, rafts are useless for tankers, except under the most favorable conditions, and are to be considered as death traps.

RAFT RELEASING GEAR. -- As long as the rafts are put on board, they should be given as much utility value as possible. Because a hot deck may prevent you from getting to the raft, you should secure a line to the releasing gear so that the raft may be released from a distance.

RAFT SKIDS. -- A steel skid should be built between the mainmast and the break of the poop, at about #8 tank. The ladder should be lowered from the fore part of the poop. The waterborne raft will not collide with the lifeboat, but it will be close enough so that a line can be passed to it from the lifeboat.


Another steel skid should be erected between #2 and #3 tanks. The raft will float back abreast of the bridge, where a ladder should be lowered.

OIL SLICK. -- In the thick coating of oil around the torpedoed W.E. Hutton, John J. Smith and his crew found it difficult to maneuver their lifeboat. Certainly then, a man who plunges into oil slick, hindered by a cork jacket, will encounter much greater difficulty in getting clear.

Captain E.V. Peters jumped for a lifeboat as a sea swung the boat away from the hull. He fell into water that was thickly covered with fuel oil.

Christian A Hansen, the first mate, reported: "Captain Peters was a good swimmer, but you can't swim in that. It paralyzes you. We heard him holler, 'Here I am,' and we yelled, 'We're coming,' but by the time we could row back toward the ship there was no sign of the captain."

L. Leslie Pilbean, a British ship's baker, and a veteran of six torpedoings, used a successful method of swimming in oil slick. When his ship, the Ulysses, was torpedoed, he had to swim in oil slick for two and a half hours. Some of his shipmates were lost, because they tried to swim


on the surface, which is like attempting to swim through thick mud.

Pilbean survived because he swam under water, came up for air, and went under again, repeating this process until he was rescued.

CORK PRESERVERS. -- No man from the Harry F. Sinclair who hit the water with a cork jacket got away. Richard Haigland, the chief mate, was knocked out by his cork life preserver. His charred body was recovered.

Even in going down a rope you will find a cork jacket treacherous.

WIND. -- When your boat is waterborne, watch out that the wind does not change. Get to windward of the oil slick or flames as soon as possible.

WET TOWELS. -- Captain Robert E. Christy, master of the torpedoed Pan-Massachusetts, got safely through the fire that framed his cabin by wrapping heavy wet towels around his head, face, and hands.

MOORING LINE. -- Twenty men perished in the flaming sea surrounding the Pan Massachusetts, but Captain Christy with three others were among the survivors. They made fast a mooring line on the fo'c'sle head, lowered the line over the side, waited until the bow was clear of flames, and slid down the line into the water.


TORPEDO FUMES. -- The fumes from the torpedo made all of the E. E. Hutton men so ill that they vomited. A wet handkerchief, to which has been added a few drops of aromatic spirits of ammonia, tied over your nose and mouth will help prevent this distress.

SWIMMING. -- Anderson, an oiler from the Harry F. Sinclair, swam under water. From time to time he looked up and saw the flames. He stayed under until he was out of the flame area. Few men could have accomplished this.

A messboy from the same tanker came up, fought the flames back, took a breath, and swam under water again. He was severely burned. A woman's bathing cap, fitting over the ears and fastening under the chin, would have greatly reduced his burns.

Both men agreed that with cork jackets they would not have got through.

Other seamen have dived into flames and managed to swim under water to safety. It is extremely hazardous and is strongly advised against. If a seaman must swim, he should do so to windward.

JUMPING. -- If you must jump -- as a last resort -- wait for a clear spot, gauge the distance, and be sure you are facing to windward.

SHEAF KNIFE. -- As soon as the vessel is at sea, sheaf knives should be distributed to tankermen.


Oily hands prevented the E.W. Hutton men from opening jackknives.

PUMPMAN. -- Every Saturday morning, John J. Smith, the E. W. Hutton's pumpman, made it a part of his routine to oil and grease the davits.

TANKS. -- The smothering lines should be open at all times, and while ballast is being pumped, all those tanks not being used for ballast should be steamed for about 12 hours.

Live steam entering a tank under pressure is a dynamic gas which by its movement disperses the pockets of oil gas, with the continuing flow of steam forcing the mixture of oil gas and steam out through the open trunk. This action is aided by the heat of the steam, which causes the oil gas to separate into several components, the most readily volatile being driven off first. This steaming will eliminate the danger of an explosion.

LIFE SUIT. -- A life should be considered an indispensable part of a tankerman's equipment. Each man should either wear the suit while working or sleeping, or else he should have the suit always in a position to be donned in the shortest possible time.

PORTHOLE. -- One man in every room must be responsible for the porthole -- to see that the deadlight is dogged down at 5 p.m.

FLASHLIGHT.--In every room a dry cell


battery light should be hanging on the bulkhead by the door. The room should also be supplied with a flashlight.

STOREROOM. -- The storeroom should be unlocked at night.

CIGARETTES. -- Since coastwise tankers are not required to carry slop chests, all lifeboats should be supplied with watertight cartons of cigarettes.

RADIO SHACK. -- The radio shacks on tankers should be moved aft or an auxiliary set should be installed there. If the tanker is fitted with a mizzen mast, an auxiliary vertical aerial should be rigged.


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