Replenishing ships at sea is an ongoing part of what U.S. Navy sailors do all the time, but it’s dangerous and sometimes accidents occur.That’s what happened when the amphibious assault ship USS Essex hit the USNS Yukon, May 16 on its way back to San Diego. The Essex experienced a rudder malfunction and the two vessels collided resulting in untold damages, but no injuries.
While sailing from Norfolk to New York this week aboard the amphibious assault ship the USS Wasp I witnessed the exact same manoeuvre conducted in foggy weather and high seas. It was an impressive display of patience, skill, and ingenuity performed by new and experienced sailors alike.
The Wasp met up with a tanker about 60 miles off the eastern seaboard to take on fuel and supplies, but in the end the weather forced the captain to take on only the fuel. It’s important to get refueled as often as possible because if the tanks get too low it can take 10 to 12 hours to refill them and performing this procedure for that long makes it even more dangerous.
The sailors aboard the Wasp were good enough to let me into their work day and answer all my questions while they refueled.
The following slides show refueling from beginning to end and offer an insight into what happened aboard the USS Essex.
Three lines need to be connected from the Wasp to the freighter and sailors at different points will fire a line from this M14 to the deck of the tanker — this shot topside is supposed to be the easiest
The is the rubber slug that will carry the line across to be tied to a thicker rope that will bring communication cables across
The fog on Tuesday was patchy and thick so the Wasp's crew had to wait for hours before the two ships safely met up
The ships are between 160 and 200 feet apart — this line has flags to let the captains know how far apart the two ships actually are
This is the simple phone communication that will connect each side — apparently this method stumped the Soviets for years and they could never figure out how to do this as well as the U.S.
The petty officer in charge told me if these cables snap they could cut people in half just like in the movie Ghost Ship
But there were no mishaps today — like almost every day — and after taking on 400,000 gallons of fuel — another ship pulls up to the tanker for its turn
While onboard the Wasp — the bridge lets loose with Creed's song 'Bullets' over the ship's public address system and begins to pick up speed
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