by: Gil Wendling

Appeared in the Tinosa Blatt, September 1980, page 7

(Ed's notation: During an all day dive, a slight amount of air pressure builds up within the boat. This is the result of bleeding a few inches of air into the boat, which is used to check for hull openings upon the initial dive and the normal operations. The pressure in the boat builds up slightly as tanks are vented inboard during the day. Upon surfacing, this slight build up of air pressure is first vented through the careful, initial opening of the conning tower hatch, known as "Cracking the Hatch.")

I remember one time when we were surfacing with a lot of pressure in the boat. Usually we just cracked the hatch. This time the old man said, "OPEN HATCH." I did and he and I both shot up to the bridge - "Why did you do that?", he asked.

"Just following orders, Cap'n."

Crack the Hatch

Sketch by Jack Monroe

"I thought you would," He replied. The Captain then began to tell me to question commands if I did not understand or thought they were wrong. "After all, submariners are a special breed with inquisitive minds and are accountable for keeping me from making mistakes."

I learned right then to be alert, pay attention, and question some commands which helped clarify the move.

I also remember the time we left Perth, Australia with a group of Aussie Rangers to be put ashore on Borneo.

On the way, we stopped to refuel and practice landings at Exmouth Gulf.

The plan was to inflate and load the rubber rafts with men and equipment, submerge, and let them float free.

About the time the new skipper Captain Weiss, (who was going to remain on the bridge), said, "Flood ballast tanks to put decks awash," Commander Bell decided he would come down to the conning tower. At that precise moment, the old man gave the command to flood negative, (you know what that does!) We submerged immediately.

The water came rushing in the conning tower along with Commander Bell with the hatch resting on his chest as Watrous and I was trying to close it.

However, cool heads prevailed. Those in the control room closed the lower hatch, I grabbed the switch on the voicebox and commanded to close vents and blow up, sound the surface alarm. All this while Watrous released the hatch, held on to the lanyard, and pulled Commander Bell downs and shut the hatch.

Of course, this was only a few seconds, which seemed like an eternity. By the time the dive was aborted, we had about a quarter of the conning tower filled with water. Luckily no major damage. However Commander Bell's chest was black and blue for the entire patrol.