Wednesday, November 9, 2011
From a Sailor's Perspective
I checked into my squadron after the ship was already on deployment, and I was immediately told that using the head was going to be an issue. The most common reason for a head to become inoperable is a loss of vacuum somewhere in the system. The system is basically separated into forward and aft sections. If there is a loss of vacuum in the FWD section all of the heads FWD frame 138 are out of order, and if the AFT section loses vacuum, then the heads from frame 138 back are out of order. The loss of vacuum is a daily occurrence with few exceptions.
Sometimes they can have the vacuum restored in less than an hour, but there are times that it can take a whole day to repair. I would guess that at any given moment 10% of the heads are not working.
Some of the issues have come from clogs. The engineers have found anything from feminine products, to clothing in the lines.
The head that is in my berthing does not stay in operation for more than a day or two before it is broken again. In the FWD area near my berthing there are four heads, including mine, in the immediate vicinity. Sometimes we can get lucky and one of the other will be working, but that is not the norm. Our head has been down for 8 days at a time.
When the toilets are out, the showers still work; we just cordon off the area with the toilets. Most of the sailors on board have just accepted that the vacuum system was a bad idea with good intentions, and we have to deal with it until we get home.
The major problem came about when the skipper ordered cipher locks installed on the doors to heads. Only ship’s company has placed locks on the doors to their heads. This effectively locked the squadrons out of 85% of the heads on the ship. When working in the hangar, the closet heads are down on the mess decks, but now they are all locked up. The heads that are not locked, do not work.
There was a period of at least 2 days when the only heads that were in operation were the ones that were locked.
It was put out to the crew that if caught urinating over the side of the ship the sailor would go to Captain’s Mast. It is pretty bad when a sailor cannot perform basic bodily functions for 2 days. I myself was at the point of not wanting to eat or drink anything for fear of needing to use the head, and not being able to.
It can take an hour or more to try to find an operable head that we have access to on the ship. Two days ago the skipper announced that he would reset the ciphers on all head doors to 1-2-3 so that the crew had access, but that has yet to happen. I also found this to be coincidental considering that I had submitted a comment to him in the CO’s suggestion box the same day he made that announcement.