Oil  King
by  Pat  Gurr
21  Jan  2006
I once held the distinction of "Oil King". This title and responsibilities went to a qualified,
recently promoted-to-3rd-class, engineering gang crew member. If you remember the Oil
King was called to action over the 1MC after a dive to perform an inboard venting for all
fuel tanks and it was also announced that the smoking lamp was out. I would grab both my
#5 (I’m guessing the size) tin can with a wire loop handle and a T-wrench with small socket
affixed to the end. I would make my rounds to all the fuel tank vents which were located
against the bulkhead in various compartments. To vent the tanks I would use the wire
handle to hang the tin can on the vent, open the petcock and then using the T-wrench
open the small hull valve for the tank. Rarely did I get any air but when I did it was a small
amount and then fuel would follow and be caught in the hanging tin can. The valve and
petcock would then be closed and I would move on to the next fuel tank vent.

Another duty of the Oil King was to refuel the diesel fuel oil tanks and the lube oil tanks.
Also while steaming I had to read the fuel oil meter each day and produce a usage report
for the engineering officer. When the fuel oil tank on-line begin to show all the diesel fuel
was used up I would be called to switch to a full tank. The most I remember us using in a
24-hour period, running 3 main engines at full speed was around 5,000 gallons. And I
seemed to remember we topped off all our tanks for a total of 119,000 gallons. I also seem
to remember we were not allowed to go below something like 60% capacity as a
precaution should war break out -- Please correct me on this if I'm incorrect.

My worst task as Oil King was once refueling at the sub pier in Charleston. I seemed to
remember we were moored towards the end of the pier with several other boats in front of
us. The fuel supply hose wouldn't reach the Thornback so another crew member and I had
to use the four sections of flexible steel hose stored under the forward deck superstructure.
Because they had been spray painted many times and rusted over many times it was a real
job getting them unbolted and up on the pier. Even the male and female threads of each
hose had been painted. After using spanner wrenches to connect the sections we realized
we were still too short to reach the supply hose. So we visited two other boats and asked
permission to use their hose sections, which was granted. Well their sections proved to be
just as difficult to unfasten, carry up on the pier and couple together. We finally made a
completed line between boat connection and supply connection and started the refueling
process. The connections leaked when fuel pressure was applied to the hose requiring us
to halt the process while we worked to tighten the couplings. Finally we were able to
complete the refueling task and the boat was filled to capacity. Then we had to uncouple
all the hose sections, return them to the other boats and remount them. The refueling
process turned out to be an all day job. I remember Chief Scarry saying next time we would
moor closer to the fuel supply or tie up to an oiler.

Another time we were tied up to an oiler in the Med. I had to top off the lube oil tanks which
were located in each engine room lower flats. We had spent many hours cleaning and
wiping down both engine rooms including the lower flats to prepare for a Captain’s

I would check the amount in each tank with a calibrated dipstick for that specific tank and
determine the amount needed to top the tank off. When I checked the tank in the FER
lower flats the dipstick indicated it was down by 200 gallons. We were adding lube oil from
topside by 55-gallon drums from the oiler. I went topside and told the shipmates to put in
three drums and I then went aboard the oiler to pick up some personal supplies. When I
returned to the boat I was told they were finishing up the third drum. I went below to the
FER and looked down the deck hatch to the lower flats. The tank had overflowed, filled the
bilges and there was lube oil covering the lower flats' deck plates. And Captain Babbitt was
making his way aft doing the inspection. I went to J.C. Williams, EN1 (SS), who was in
charge of the FER and told him what had happened. I expected him to go berserk but he
just smiled and said he wanted to take a look. When he saw it he laughed. Captain Babbitt
must not have looked down the hatch to the lower flats as he never said anything. Later
when we got out to sea we had to flood the bilges with sea water, let the salt water and
lube oil slosh around together and then pump the bilges. The bilge strainer was on the
bottom of the bilges and once the salt water, which was heavier and on the bottom, was
pumped out that would leave the lube oil and the pump would not pick it up. So we had to
keep flooding over several days to emulsify the remaining lube oil with salt water and keep
trying to pump it all out to sea. It required several days to finally get most of it out.  We later
found out that during a yard overhaul the lube oil tank had been altered, reducing it’s
capacity and thus resulting in a faulty reading from the dip stick.


Another time I refueled the boat and when I made out my report for the engineering officer I
realized I had forgotten to refuel the No. 6 tank which held around 8,000 gallons.
Embarrassed, I told Chief Scarry and he told me to be sure and tell the engineering officer
because he would have to compensate when he trimmed the boat before our first dive. The
reason the engineering officer needed to know was now the tank would still be full of water
rather than the lighter diesel fuel. I thought I was going to be in deep trouble for failing to fill
a tank with diesel oil. I told the engineering officer what had happened and he just said,