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1965 built, US flagged steamship Pacific Tracker lays at the ready in Portland Oregon, picture by Martin Leduc

Popeye the sailor tells a storyThe Officer's Lounge
...funny tales from the sea

Marine Engineers have a reputation of being direct, methodical, dry - even boorish. After all, spending four hours clearing the 265 pounds of mussels from the strums boxes does, sometimes, give that appearance. The Officer's Lounge on is a little place online for ship's crew to relax and laugh, as we explore marine and engineering lore.
Seaman, with their inherent sense of order, service, and discipline, should really be running the world.

I would like to submit to the rest of the world that, yes being methodical, careful, even maybe - anal, isn't the best of reputation for a profession. But it's the attention to details that makes great engineers. Really, it is !

This area is here to

...and we do that by...short stack


Who's more important

A Captain and Chief Engineer were having the age old argument about who had the tougher job. Each believed they could perform the others duties without a problem. To prove this to each other they decided to swap positions while leaving port the next morning. The next morning the Captain took over the watch from the second engineer after all the machinery had been brought up.

The Chief took over the watch on the bridge from the mate once clear of the dock. It wasn't long before the Captain found things to be going wrong; all the machinery temperatures were rising to dangerous levels.

The Captain quickly called the bridge where the Chief answered.

Captain : Chief, you'd better get down here quickly. I'm about to lose all of the machinery!

Chief : Relax Captain, we just ran aground!


Dear Abby,

I have two brothers, one is a marine engineer and the other was just sentenced to death for killing a nun. My mother died of insanity when I was three. It seems to run in the family. My father sells drugs to kids. My two younger sisters are prostitutes. My former girlfriend died of AIDS. I`ve met this girl who was just released from prison.... (she smothered her illegitimate child ).

I love her very much and want to marry her. My problem is this. Should I tell her about my brother who is a marine engineer?


"I want to be a Ship Captain when I grow up because it's a fun job and easy to do. Captains don't need much school education; they just have to learn numbers so they can read instruments. I guess they should be able to read maps so they won't get lost.

Captains should be brave so they won't be scared if its foggy and they can't see; or if the propeller falls off they should stay calm so they know what to do. Captains have to have eyes to see through the clouds and they can't be afraid of thunder or lightning because they are closer to them than we are.

The salary that Captains make is another thing I like. They make more money than they can spend. This is because most people think captaining ships is dangerous, except captains, because they know how easy it is. There isn't much I don't like, except girls like captains and all the girls want to marry a captain so they always have to chase them away so they won't bother them.

I hope I don't get sea sick because I get car sick and if I get sea sick I could not be a Captain and then I would have to go out and work."

Written by a 10 year old schoolboy
Acknowledgements to the Journal of the AMOU, the IFSMA Newsletter and Bow Wave, Vol. 6, Jan '95, Issue 1

Beer - your style


Off watch and need some ideas what book to read?

Well then here are some nautical/marine themed books to look up next time your at your favourite library or bookstore.



These are actual evaluation comments of an employee...


The Store Keeper

We were deploying to the Gulf. Time was tight, tempers short. One of our fire-pumps was playing up, the suction strainer was knackered, and needed to be replaced. I knew we carried one, and authorized it to be drawn from the stores. Now, I know that a Store's called a Store because it's for storing things in, and if it was meant for issuing things from it'd be called an Issue, but......

15 minutes later, I got a call from the chief of section. The Dusties wouldn't release it. I went down to find out why. With dead-pan face and irrefutable logic, I was told "Yessir, I've got the part. Nossir, you can't have it. 'Cos I've only got one, and if I give it to you I won't have any left. Wot'll I do if someone wants one then?"

I'll leave what happened next to your imagination, but the fire pump worked fine after that.
Submitted by Chris Hartwell

Points of view


Experience pays

There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion-dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail.

In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated: This is where your problem is".

The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.

The engineer responded briefly: One chalk mark: $1.00 Knowing where to put it: $49,999.00.

It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

run over sv



It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you: regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own opinions from reports in the world press. I am sure that they will tend to over-dramatize the affair.

We had just picked up the pilot, and the apprentice had returned from changing the "G" flag for the "H" and, it being his first trip, was having difficulty in rolling the "C" flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to the last part, I told him to "let go." The lad, although willing, is not too bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone.

At this moment, the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the vessel's progress, and, thinking that it was the anchor that was being referred to, repeated the "let go" to the third officer on the forecastle.

The port anchor, having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly let go. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the hawse pipe while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for the windlass brake, and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out. I fear the damage to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer to port, right towards a swing bridge that spans the river up which we were proceeding.

The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my vessel. Unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a car, two cyclists and a cattle truck on the foredeck. My ship's company is at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I would say are pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the ship, the third officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practical use, for it fell onto the swing bridge operator's control cabin. After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer, I gave a double ring full astern on the engine room telegraph, and personally rang the engine room to order maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the sea temperature was 53 degrees and asked if there was to be a film tonight; my reply would not add constructively to this report.

Up to now I have confined my report to the activities at the forward end of the vessel. Back aft they were having their own problems.

At the moment the port anchor was let go, the second officer was supervising the making fast of the after tug and was lowering the ship's towing hawser down onto the tug.

The sudden braking effect of the port anchor caused the tug to run in under the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring for full astern. The prompt action of the second officer in securing the inboard end of the towing hawser delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes, thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.

It is strange, but at the very same moment of letting go the port anchor there was a power outage ashore. The fact that we were passing over a "Cable Area" at that time might suggest that we may have touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the high-tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable; but owing to the shore blackout, it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.

It never fails to amaze me; the actions and behavior of foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The pilot, for instance, is at this moment huddled in a corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after having consumed a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in the "Guinness Book of Records." The tug captain, on the other hand, reacted violently and had to be forcibly restrained by the steward, who has him handcuffed in the ship's hospital, where he is telling me to do impossible things with my ship and crew. I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the third officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars may enable you to claim for the damage to the railings around No.1 hold.

I am closing this preliminary report, for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of the police sirens and their flashing lights.

It is sad to think that had the apprentice realized that there is no need to fly the pilot flag after dark, none of this would have happened.

For the weekly accountability report, I will assign the following casualty numbers - T/750101 to T/750199 inclusive.

Yours truly,
Capt. I.M.A.Screwup,

To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.




What I've learned as I've matured as a Marine Engineer


Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer.
Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.
- Dave Barry


Who's in charge...

A chief Engineer I was sailing with, was sharing stories of his time as a cadet on a Russian cargo ship.

He recalls a pompous, green, 3rd Officer who felt that they should be grateful that he was onboard, we all know the type. The experienced bosun quickly tuned in to him, and one day was tasked by the Chief Officer to clean the funnel deck. With instructions in hand, and two seamen to assist, he proceeds to the bridge and request that the 3rd Officer call the engine room and have them switch the exhaust system from the funnel to the underwater - wet system, so they could perform this job.

The Second Engineer gets the call from the bridge with the order from the 3rd Officer, knowing full well something was afoot, replied, "sure... that will be a few minutes". A little while had past, and the 3rd Officer begin to grow angry at the lack of response to his orders; so he phone the Engine Room again. The Second Engineer gets an earful on how important it is that he follows his instructions with immediate dispatch as he is the Officer of the watch and that non compliance will not be tolerated, and will be reported to the Capt and Chief Engineer - "so at once, switch over to the underwater / wet exhaust system". The Second Engineer didn't say anything, as it was obvious who was in charge.

Some time later, the 3rd Officer grew irate with the "lack of respect" and calls the Chief Engineer to give him an earful about the engine room. Shortly after, the Captain and political officers (Russian ships had political officer at the time), come up on the bridge, from either end, expecting to use the straightjacket. Needless to say the 3rd Officer was quiet for the rest of the trip.


Lock out tag outA little gem from the Darwin Awards website...

(1999) A US Navy safety publication describes injuries incurred while doing don'ts. One page described the fate of a sailor playing with a multimeter in an unauthorized manner. He was curious about the resistance level of the human body. He had a Simpson 260 multimeter, a small unit powered by a 9-volt battery. That may not seem powerful enough to be dangerous´┐Ż but it can be deadly in the wrong hands.
The sailor took a probe in each hand to measure his bodily resistance from thumb to thumb. But the probes had sharp tips, and in his excitement he pressed his thumbs hard enough against the probes to break the skin. Once the salty conducting fluid known as blood was available, the current from the multimeter travelled right across the sailor's heart, disrupting the electrical regulation of his heartbeat. He died before he could record his Ohms.

The lesson? The Navy issues very few objects which are designed to be stuck into the human body.

August 2000 Dan Wilson elaborates:

I'm a former Navy petty officer, enlisted for six years as an electrician aboard a US Submarine. I got a lot of training. This story was used frequently during my training in the US Navy as an example of what can happen when procedures and safety measures are not followed. I considered the story an urban legend until I found the incident report referenced in the official Navy electrical safety guidelines. I now know it is true.

The actual event is slightly different than described above, and even more deserving of a Darwin award. This sailor stuck the sharpened ends of the probes through his thumbs intentionally. You see, he had just taken a course that taught a critical concept called "internal resistance."
Internal resistance is resistance to electrical power flow that exists inside any power source. It causes the terminal voltage to drop when load (current) increases. You can demonstrate this concept, if you're careful, by monitoring your car battery's terminal voltage, while someone starts up the engine. The reading will be ~13 volts while the engine is off, but during the period where the starter is cranking it will drop to 8-9 volts. The voltage drop is due to the internal resistance of the battery.

This sailor, like all other electricians in training, had already been through a safety class in which one of the exercises is to measure your body's resistance by simply holding the probes between your fingertips. (Most people read 500Kohms to 2Mohms.) Evidently, adding information from the internal resistance class, this sailor wanted to determine his own body's "internal resistance.". So he intentionally pushed the sharpened probe tips through the skin to eliminate the rather high skin resistance and get only the "internal resistance". This, of course, caused his death.

How, you might ask, with only a 9V battery? Easy. One of the "rules of thumb" that the Navy teaches is the 1-10-100 rule of current. This rule states that 1mA of current through the human body can be felt, 10mA of current is sufficient to make muscles contract to the point where you cannot let go of a power source, and 100mA is sufficient to stop the heart. Let's look at Ohm's law. Ohm's law (for DC systems - I will not discuss AC here) is written as E=IR, where E is voltage in volts, I is current in Amps, and R is resistance in Ohms.

When we did the experiment in the electrical safety class to determine our body's resistance, we found a resistance of 500K Ohms. Using 9V and 500K Ohms in the equation, we come up with a current of 18 microAmps, below the "feel" threshold of 1mA. However, removing the insulation of skin from our curious sailor here, the resistance through the very good conducting electrolytes of the body is sharply lower. Around 100 ohms, in fact, resulting in a current of 90mA - sufficient to stop our sailor's heart and kill him.

As my electrical safety instructor said, "The reason we now have to teach the electrical safety course to all electricians at least twice per year is because some joe was bright enough to be the one person in the world who could figure out how to kill himself with a 9V battery.", Submitted by: Brian Lallatin, Enhanced by: Dan Wilson, References: US Navy Safety Publications


Quit your gripping!

After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a 'gripe sheet,' which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from the midget.

Other Areas of the Officer's Lounge Other areas of
- Play practical jokes on unsuspecting mates - Top of page
- Telling jokes - Officer's Lounge
- Learning about seafaring lore and culture - The Common Rail - our forum
- Telling funny stories about seafaring - The Monitor - our blog

- Learn about "nerdy" stuff

- @dieselduckster on Twitter
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