Have you ever wondered what life is like on a nuclear submarine? Are you quarantined for Corona Virus? Well now you can pass the time by living like a real submariner and get a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the Silent Service.
House - Submarine / Boat / Ship
Doors – Hatches
Ceiling – Overhead
Walls – Bulkheads
Floor – Deck
Kitchen – Galley
Dining area – Mess
Bathroom – Head
Living room – Control
Bedrooms – Berthing
Master Bedroom – Captains Stateroom
Closets – Lockers
Bed – Rack
Hallways – Passageways (or P-ways)
Basement – Lower level
Ground floor – Middle level
Upstairs – Upper level
Stairway – Ladder
Home Office – Yeoman Shack
Area where your electrical panel, furnace, etc. is – Machinery space / engine room / “The Plant”
Family – Crew
Anyone or anything outside your home – Contact
Home appliances/equipment – Machinery
Tagout – a safety system where red tags are hung on machinery that shouldn’t be operated because it could be dangerous to the person operating it or other crew members down the line
One dozen fresh eggs
One gallon of fresh milk
Other normal food (chicken, ham, frozen veggies, etc.) as you have space for
As many boxes of powdered eggs, powdered milk, and canned ravioli as you can fit in your pantry
Peanut butter and jelly and several loaves of bread (the closer to expiration date the better – it will go stale, don’t worry about it)
Several bottles of Tabasco sauce
A few boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix and tubs of icing
Fill your freezer with ice cream and chicken patties
Get a couple really nice steaks and maybe a few lobster tails
Buy as much coffee as you can afford
The mess chief needs to cook 4 meals a day – 0600, 1200, 1800, 0000
Serve normal food for as long as you can, but save the steaks & lobster tails
Pull your oven out from the wall and jack one side up with some blocks under it. That way when you bake your cake it will be 5” thick at one edge and 1” thick on the other, giving you an authentic “Angle and Dangle” cake
You aren’t allowed to use your microwave or outdoor grill
The 0000 meal will always consist of either chicken patties or canned ravioli
The steaks and lobster are only to be served after your 2 week quarantine has ended. The other option is to serve it if you find out you’re going to need to be quarantined for longer. In this case it’s best if only one crew member knows about this, directs the preparation of this dinner, and doesn’t tell anyone about the extension until after the meal. This is called the “bad news dinner”.
Leave peanut butter and jelly out and the bread bag open so the jelly gets runny and the bread gets stale. You can have stale peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anytime you want a snack. If you have bananas, let them sit somewhere and get brown, then put them out. This is another snack option.
Always have a hot pot of coffee on brew. If there is no hot coffee, make some. Submarines must NEVER be without coffee.
Preparing your submarine
Now you need to prepare your house to be like an authentic submarine. First, cover all the windows with light blocking curtains. Then turn out all the lights in berthing, and in control you are allowed a single red lightbulb. Disconnect your modem/wifi/cable TV and turn off your cell phones. Also lockup all your booze, only the Captain has access, but he’s not actually allowed to serve any. Set the thermostat to an uncomfortably cold temperature and take all the blankets off the beds.
Now assign roles to your crew. Here are some ideas to get you going but keep in mind some of these roles may need to be combined depending on the size of your crew:
Captain – Also referred to as the Commanding Officer (CO). In charge of the overall safety and well-being of the boat and crew. The ultimate decision maker. Wake them up at every opportunity to inform them of anything that happens, or just do it for no reason at all.
Chief of the Boat (COB) – Senior enlisted leader in charge of crew morale, and by that I mean suppressing morale. Keep in mind the motto, “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” Also in charge of off-watch cleanup / field day. This person should drink a lot of coffee and always be grumpy.
Engineering Department Master Chief – Senior enlisted engineer, in charge of day to day operation of the plant and also drills
Mess Chief – Responsible for all the meals, and also urinalysis (yuck)
Sonar Operator – The eyes and ears of the submarine, provides observations of the outside world and records all contacts
Radio Operator – In charge of all communications to/from your boat
A-ganger – In charge of plumbing and any other nasty stuff that needs to be done
Electrician or Machinist Mate – In charge of all the electrical/mechanical items in the boat
Yeoman – In charge of all the paperwork and mail
First, establish a watch rotation. The old school way of doing this is a staggered 6-6-6 system – 6 hours on watch, 6 hours off watch, 6 hours of personal time. This means a rotation schedule so someone gets up at midnight, stands watch till 0600, spends 0600 to 1200 doing maintenance, and sleeps from 1200 to 1800, and then starts the routine again at 1800. You can also do 8-8-8, it’s the same as above but it means everyone has the same watch every time and it doesn’t screw with their sleep schedule as much.
Now, assume watch stations. Everyone needs a notepad and pen, or better yet a clipboard, to take logs on. Logs are vitally important to the ships mission.
The senior officer on watch at any given time is the “Officer of the Deck” and in charge in the Captains stead. They are responsible for the safe navigation and operation of the ship, and give orders to the crew. They should record all orders issued in their log, as well as any status changes to the ship.
The sonar operator is the only person allowed to be near a window. They can look out but they must record the time, range, and bearing of every contact they observe in their log for the entirety of their watch. Occasionally the Officer of the Deck should announce a heading change, or “clear baffles” in which case the sonar operator moves to a different window and resumes their log taking.
The Electrician and/or Machinist Mate should wander around the basement (assuming that’s where your circuit panel and ventilation equipment are) and write down the status of every piece of equipment or machinery (i.e. is it running or secure, if it’s running what is it’s status, etc.) in their log. They should also stick a voltage meter into a socket every hour and record the voltage and frequency of the electricity in the ship. Repeat this every hour for the duration of the watch.
Radio operator – This is the only person who gets to use a cell phone, internet, or TV, but they have to do it while locked away in their own room (the Radio Shack). If you’re the radio operator don’t let anyone else in the crew into the shack to see your internet access, tell them it’s because it’s a Top Secret space and classified things are going on and they don’t have a need to know. For some time each day, greater than 10 minutes but not to exceed an hour, the radio operator is allowed to turn on WiFi to the house for the rest of the crew to use. Don’t announce that you are doing it, though, and turn it off at a random time somewhere in that 10 minute to 1 hour window without alerting anyone.
The Yeoman - can go get the mail once a week. They should sort the mail in the most confusing way possible, also don’t tell the crew and don’t give them any important mail for at least another week. They must also occasionally collect the crews logs and file them away somewhere.
Off watch – This is your time to do maintenance. After completing after-watch cleanup you need to find maintenance tasks. This is a great time to catch up on things around the ship. If everything in your ship seems to be in working order, find something to take apart and then try to put it back together. After all, the Navy’s planned maintenance motto is “If it ain’t broke, fix it ‘till it is!” If you are all caught up on maintenance, and have taken something apart and put it back together, then paint something.
Watch change – proper turnover is essential to the operation of a submarine. The oncoming watch should wake up, go eat first, and then come relieve the watch. The off going watch stander hands over their log book and tells their relief about everything they did/saw on their watch. Then they can go eat. After the meal is done they should clean the house for an hour, specifically in their watch space. The person designated as COB should walk around and yell at everyone to clean harder and point out any deficiencies in their cleaning.
Watch relief – if you need to go to the bathroom, you need to find someone to take over your watch while you do it, even if it means waking another crew member up. A crew member already on watch cannot relieve you. If you get caught abandoning your watch to go to the bathroom, or for any other reason, you will get sent to mast.
Uniform & Laundry – Everyone needs to designate 7 pairs of underwear and socks, 7 shirts, and one pair of pants and shoes. Each person must do their own laundry, except the Captain, and is only allowed to do it once a week during their off watch or personal time. The Mess Chief is also responsible for doing the Captain’s laundry, but should attempt to do it at the time that is most inconvenient for the rest of the crew. Because it’s the Captains laundry, the Mess Chief is allowed to bump people, even if they have already started a load.
The A-ganger should tag out all the heads in the ship but one. Rotate the tagouts regularly to confuse the crew. Also randomly, tagout the kitchen sink at inconvenient times for the Mess Chief. If anyone violates a tagout they will get sent to mast. The A-ganger is also in charge of waste removal (“blowing sans”). Only use one trash can in the house, in close proximity to the galley. If it gets full, mash the trash down into it. The A-ganger will take it out only once per week, specifically during a meal time.
Field day – Once a week the whole crew needs to clean the ship from stem to stern. Officers (i.e. the captain) and anyone on watch are exempt. In true submarine fashion one person should do the bulk of the cleaning while the rest of the crew tries to hide. It’s the COBs job to walk around and find them and yell at them to get back to cleaning. This should always take much longer than is actually necessary – ideally you should schedule at least twice as much time as you think it would take to clean your house, and the COB should be yelling the whole time.
Racks – You are only allowed to use a 6.5’ by 2’ section of your bed. If you want to be truly authentic use plywood or other available materials to build an alcove that size on the mattress. Got that big fancy California king mattress? Not any more! Don’t forget to put a top on it about 16” above you. This is now your rack.
Berthing – everyone in the house should sleep in rack(s) in the same room, except the CO. To make it truly authentic, hot rack – when someone gets up to go on watch, the person going to sleep should get into the same rack, so it’s still nice and warm.
Drills – Drills are simulations of problems or emergencies to test the crew’s ability to respond to them. The person designated EDMC should occasionally announce drills and then simulate (or actually cause) a problem in the house. Announce loudly “Drill Drill Drill” and then yell out the problem. Things like fire and medical emergency should be simulated, as should the responses (i.e. don’t actually discharge a fire extinguisher at a fake fire, you may really need it later). However, things like electrical casualties can be real (walk down to the circuit panel and flip some breakers off). Everyone not on watch should drop what they are doing and try to fix the problem. Everyone asleep should wake up to come assist.
Mast – The captain of a submarine is judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to disciplinary infractions. Mast is basically “Navy Court”. To hold a mast, the Captain needs to sit across from the accused at a table with a green tablecloth on it. Other crew members come and present evidence and testimony of the persons guilt or innocence. People are also allowed to vouch for the accused’s character. Generally people sent to mast are already assumed guilty, and the Captain is really just deciding degrees of punishment. Common mastable offenses include: gundecking logs (i.e. not actually doing them, writing down false information), being repeatedly late for watch, being repeatedly out of uniform, violating a tagout, and insubordination. Punishments include: restriction to the ship (i.e. they are going to play the submarine game long after quarantine is lifted), forfeiture of up to 50% of their pay (or allowance as the case may be), extra duties on top of normal watch and maintenance, and a reduction in rank. These punishments can typically be carried out for up to 2 months. The captain has some leeway with this and can get creative, for example one of the more creative punishments for uniform violations is the “fashion show” – they must put on every uniform they have, one after the other, and the rest of the crew inspects them for any flaws.
Nukes vs. Coners (pronounced “cone-er”) – A submarine is comprised of 2 groups of enlisted personnel, nukes and coners. Coners are the people that run the day to day operation of the submarine – the mess chief, yeoman, radio operator, sonar operator. They make sure the ship accomplishes its missions. The electricians and machinists are the nukes, they are responsible for the safe operation of the nuclear reactor and all the machinery that keeps it running, as well as the electric plant. For maximum authenticity, if you have children (or adults) in your ship who don’t get along and like to scrap, make sure one is assigned a coner rating and the other a nuke rating. The bickering makes it authentic.