STOPPING the Oiler
by Lary Harris

The 143's were notorious for being poor stoppers and backers.  I remember going into Singapore harbor on a liberty port call around 1976 on Kawishiwi.  We were pulling into the Royal Navy piers, with a local pilot at the conn.  We still had a pretty good way on and the pilot had made no move to arrest our fwd progress as we drew inexorably nearer to the ship berthed in front of our space.  Finally the XO (a Kings Point man) grabbed the Engine Order Telegraph and rang up All Back Emergency.  We came to a shuddering and smoking stop about 20 feet from the stern of the ship in front.  The pilot's only comment was "Last month Ponchatoula here, she not back down good either."  This guy must have been cursed with a slow learning curve.

Then, of course, was the time we were anchoring in the fairway outside Hong Kong.  This must have been 1975, as we still carried AvGas, and so were put out with the ammo ships and other hazmat carriers, about a 45 minute ride in the liberty boat to the boat landing.  Our captain, an Airedale with very little ship handling experience, had learned at PCO (Perspective Commanding Officer) school that one can gauge the speed of a ship through the water by casting a wooden chip over the side from the bridge and observing it's motion relative to the ship.  Our skipper, armed with a sack of wood chips courtesy of the ship's carpenter, began to cast them over the side as we neared the anchoring point.   About the time that the quartermaster announced that we had arrived at the drop point, the skipper observed that we were pretty much "dead in the water" and ordered "Let Go" (the anchor).  What the skipper failed to take into account was that we were in a tidal tributary and were "on the ebb" to the tune of about 5 knots SOG.  Well, soon enough the anchor took a really good bite and the chain began to whistle through the hawse.  Again, our more seasoned XO ordered 1/3 ahead and we did indeed stop, about half way through the rusty last shot of chain in the locker.  The brake on the windlass was smoking freely, and the heat caused the brake drum on the windlass to turn blue and develop at least three large cracks.  It took about another hour to haul the excess chain back aboard to get the proper scope.  Other than the long liberty boat rides, Hong Kong was a blast.
Best Wishes, Lary

I agree with Lary's comments,  the Neosho class was hard to stop. When you consider the fact that she was 38,000 tons and that the combined shaft horsepower was something on the order of 34,000, well that is not much horsepower versus mass. I remember someone telling me after I reported on board to multiply by 10 the distances I was accustomed to when trying to stop the ship. It was more like twenty times. Precision anchoring was a long and painful evolution. As I recall the starboard engine was higher rated than the port one.

Compare that to the Gearing Class WWII era Destroyer, I served on before Kawishiwi. Like Kawishiwi it had two engines, two locked-train reduction gears and two shafts. The differences were that it was fully loaded at 3479 tons (less than 1/10 Kawishiwi's displacement) and had a combined shaft horsepower of 60,000 (over 1.5 times the shaft horsepower of Kawishiwi. In a destroyer you could stop on a dime. On Kawishiwi it would take you ten dollars.

Jim Barton