These are the stories of the Bluegill as told by the crew members that lived them.
FLOODING IN THE ENGINE ROOM
By Roger Collins
As many boat sailors know, the process of snorkeling is risky at best. This is a story which I am recounting as well as my memory will allow. When running the engines in a submerged mode, hereafter referred to as snorkeling, there is a serious problem with regard to listening to the sounds by sonar. In order to offset this situation, at times the engines would be run for 45 minutes and Sonar would listen for 15 minutes to ensure we were clear of any close contacts. On this particular day, the O.O.D. was a young JG by the name of Fernandez who was bothered during the 15 minute "quiet" period by the Snorkel Induction slamming shut due to sea spray. In his infinite wisdom, he ordered the Snorkel Induction locked open so that Sonar could listen. Murphy's Law being as it is, we caught a large wave. This opened a 14" pipe directly into the Forward Engine Room, where my friend Carlos Balan was the Throttleman during this incident. It might be noted that the Engine Air Induction dumped into the lower flats, where the engine picked up the available air. There was a cover plate in the upper level which was normally left open for the fresh air. Fortunately, Carlos had this plate on for some reason or the accident could have been much worse. As it turned out, Carlos hit the emergency release for the Induction and stopped the flooding just as it reached the upper level deck plates. I was due to relieve Carlos in 30 minutes and rest assured, Carlos had every minute of his watch.
There is a picture of the Bluegill surfacing while visiting Saigon in the pictures of the boat and here is a better description of that event. We were sent to Viet Nam to show the flag. This was just after President Diem's Palace was bombed by his own Air Force and we were to show the US backing for him. We planned to do a routine submerge and surface to impress the local people and the press. As a point of fact the Mekong River runs from brackish (partially salt water) to fresh water. Some of you knowledgeable on water density are aware that salt water is heavier than fresh water, thus the crux of the problem. The Diving Officer had compensated the boat just prior to entering the port while at sea. When we pulled the plug, the boat sunk like a rock hitting the bottom solidly. At that point, the collision alarm was activated, which resulted in an Emergency blow to bring the boat to the surface as quickly as you would expect. The actual footage from the local media showed the boat submerging fast, the periscope shuddering at the contact with the river bed and the expeditious surfacing. It was noted that an American submarine showed how quickly it could submerge and surface in the local press.