24 June, 2000
24 June 2000
How Do You Propel 420’ of Icebreaking Steel?
With some great big honking engines, and a talented crew to keep them running! How big are these engines? I asked that question of you in June 11th’s journal and today we’ll revisit the questions as these engines power us toward the southern tip of Greenland. The answer - the four generators of USCGC Healy’s Integrated Power Plant (IPP) each generate 10,800 horsepower for a total electrical output of 29 megawatts of electrical power. Some of this power is used for “hotel services” such as lighting, heating and ventilation. The rest goes to the two motors that drive the propellers that drive this ship. Each of those motors delivers 15,000 horsepower, for a combined power of 30,000 horsepower to propel this icebreaker during each mission.
How do you find out if it is actually capable of this power? Find something the ship can push that won’t move, and crank those engines up. This is one of the things done on Leg 3. The ship eased into a large pressure ridge and started pushing. The ship could have broken through the ridge by backing and ramming (see Sandi Kolb’s journal), but that wasn’t the goal. The ice held and the engineers discovered the ship was developing too much torque and heating up one of the transformers. This is something they will test and fix during their transit of the Northwest Passage.
These engines require a talented group of individuals to keep them running in peak operating condition. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the ship’s engineering crew. LCDR Neil Meister, the Engineer Officer, and Lieutenant Troy Kunas, the Assistant Engineer Officer, lead these 35 men and women as they keep on top of a system LT Kunas describes in the following way - “The power distribution and monitoring system are hands down the most complicated system I’ve ever worked with”. That is saying a lot considering Troy has 20 years with the Coast Guard and 10 years of experience with the Polar Sea and Polar Star, the Guard’s other two icebreakers. He is what is known as a “mustang” - he worked his way up through the ranks to achieve officer status. He designed many of the controls on those two vessels and “that experience led to him being hand picked for the HEALY”. That selection has been both an honor and a hardship. While attending the HEALY’s construction and sailing on its test cruises, LT Kunas will only have been home 30 days in 18 months upon HEALY’s arrival in Seattle. A challenge when you miss your wife of 20 years, 16 year old son, and 14 year old daughter. Before the HEALY position, the longest Troy had been on a ship was 7 months. He loves running the integrated power plant (IPP) of this cutting-edge vessel, but looks forward to getting back to his family in Seattle as soon as possible.
The engineering department on the ship is divided into areas of responsibility. They make up nearly half the ship’s crew and have enough work to keep all the public utilities of a small city quite busy. The E & E (Electronics and Electricians) officered by LTJG DeNucci are divided into those responsible for the propulsion system and those responsible for all the other electronic and electrical systems. The MK’s or Machinists are also divided into two main groups. Again, those responsible for the propulsion system (Main Prop) and A-Gang, those responsible for things like air-conditioning, heating, water. The third group of engineers is grouped as “Damage Control”. They are responsible for fire protection, machine work, and fabricating pieces of equipment that may not be available on the ship. Pictures of each of these groups follow, but I’d also like to introduce a couple more of them to you “in person”.
MK2 (Machinery Technician 2nd Class) Jeff Pierce grew up in McMinnville, Oregon, not far from where I teach. Jeff somehow knew long ago he wanted to be in the Coast Guard. As a first grader, when it came time to write down a little bit of info about himself, in the space next to what he wanted to be when he grew up, Jeff wrote “Coast Guard”. Perhaps it was seeing USCG ships at the Oregon Coast where his family would go and he would watch the boats. Regardless of what triggered the interest, Jeff went right to the Coast Guard recruiter the day he turned 18. He spent a year and a half on the USCGC Polar Sea sailing to places like Australia, Antarctica, and later to the North Pole. He went from one of the fleet’s largest ships, to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan where he served in a ten-man unit that had one 25’ boat and one 21’ boat. He really enjoyed the history of the place, both its early role in American Settlements (third oldest) and its pivotal role in WWII. During that war, it was a key link for iron on its way to Detroit and was heavily guarded by the army and defended from potential air attack by an anti-aircraft detachment. Jeff again got a traveling assignment on the USCGC Healy where he likes being on a good ship with good people, but like most people I’ve talked too, this extra long assignment makes it a long time away from home. Jeff’s seven years in the Guard have, and will, take him all over the world, something he didn’t really imagine would be possible as part of a job.
ETC Jim Flynn, Chief Electronics Technician, grew up in Juneau, Alaska and joined the Coast Guard when he was recruited as a freshman in college. He has diverse experience in the Guard serving on the USCGC Yocona out of Kodiak, Alaska, working at Air Station San Diego, and also working at a LORAN Station in George, Washington. Yes, that is the town of George, in the state of Washington. His wife and two children live in Seattle, and like many of the crew, Jim has been apart from them for a long time with the initial construction and testing of USCGC Healy. Due to its extremely advanced electronics systems, upon which nearly everything on the ship is based, the ship has presented unique challenges for Jim and all the other folks in his department. In spite of the headaches generated by a vessel dramatically more electronically complex than any other Coast Guard ship, ETC Flynn wouldn’t trade the opportunity to work and travel on the HEALY for anything.
Each of the members of the engineering crew deserves to have their own story written, but with limited space, a few cameo appearances will have to do. All of them are key components in the efficient operation of this impressive vessel. The departments are shown in the photos below. To each of them, I owe my thanks for making me feel at home on USCGC Healy.
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