Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sub Tender CO Fired

From Navy Times:
The commanding officer of a submarine tender based in Diego Garcia was fired Friday after his ship struck a channel buoy in June, the Navy said Friday. He is the 13th CO fired this year.
Capt. Eric Merrill, a career submariner, was in command of sub tender Emory S. Land on June 21, when the ship hit a channel buoy while heading into Mina Salman, a port of Bahrain...
...After an investigation, Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander of Task Force 74/54, relieved Merrill for “loss of confidence in his ability to command,” Hagen said. Merrill was awarded non-judicial punishment on Friday for violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 110, improper hazarding of a vessel.
CAPT Merrill was previously CO of USS Wyoming (SSBN-742)(Gold). Based on item #292 in this Notice To Mariners, it looks like the ship took out Channel Buoy #12. From what I remember, the approach to Mina Salman is fairly tricky, with a tight turn.

Have you ever been on a boat that hit something it shouldn't have hit?

Update 2021 16 July: Here's a picture of CAPT Merrill during happier times earlier in the deployment.


Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

In the sixties, I was on one sub that had a collision with a merchant ship while on a classified operation. Incident made appendix of Blind Man's Bluff. CO not relieved early but did not make Captain. Another sub "kissed" the bottom and broke the pitsword. Did not abort the operation and three months later on return to port, the CO got a slap on the wrist along with his Legion of Merit. Ahhh, the sixties!!

7/16/2011 3:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Went up to see how the OOD was doing coming into New London one summer night...everything was fine as we were gaily blasting through the local lobster pot field!!

The money quote from the OOD - "I was wondering what those small buoys were...!"

Ahhh, the joys of having a wardroom filled with guys from the middle of the country. Occasionally you find gaps in their knowledge from not having grown up around the sea...

7/16/2011 4:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We hit the bow on the bottom some location we were never officially at, but were going so slow, we just backed up . . .

7/16/2011 4:40 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I swear that SE Connecticut lobstermen put their old decrepit pots right in the middle of the normal transit lane so they could get the Navy to pay for new gear when the boats hit them.

7/16/2011 5:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

we hit the rocks surrounding the lighthouse coming into new london in late '70s, middle of a fog bank, CO had his girlfriend waiting on the pier, and his wife at the officers club. he was told not to try to dock, ignored everyone.

7/16/2011 5:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hit the mud in South America...lower hydrophone & pitsword busted but no message left the ship. It went down on the logs as only a red sounding.

7/16/2011 5:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh the way to Portugal hit something at 400 ft flank speed. whole boat moved over a couple feet. Didn't surface until a week later under ice sonar all caved in but no sracthes. Probably a whale

7/16/2011 7:09 PM

Anonymous Veemann said...

Didn't he have a pilot onboard?

7/16/2011 7:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We bumped the USS Jason trying to tie up to it in Diego Garcia in 1981. I was on the number 1 line. Ended up cracking the sonar dome and ruined our trip to Perth. Worst Westpac ever. Only 8 days at a liberty port in 6 months since we had to have repairs made.


7/16/2011 10:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How often does a tender actually get underway these days?

How often has he driven it?

Also wondered about the pilot?

7/16/2011 11:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dragged the keel off Andros Island. CO retired with 3 Stars. It's not what you know...

7/16/2011 11:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Have you ever been on a boat that hit something it shouldn't have hit?" - humm. I could answer that but I would have to kill ya.

7/17/2011 12:54 AM

Blogger John Byron said...

In 37 years never hit nothin'. But got hit three times by errant exercise torpedoes.

BONK. BONK. Twice had hull plating dished in by MK 46s with defective depth settings.

BING. Own MK 37 wiped itself out on the pitsword.

7/17/2011 5:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on a YP that hit a buoy once. Took it right off the port bow, everyone knew it, and we never heard of it again.

(I know, I know, totally the same thing, right?)

7/17/2011 6:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

SSN tied up in the PI during the early 1980s. A B-girl diesel boat tying up outboard us rammed our starboard screw, bending one of the blades over about 45 degrees. Suffice it to say that everyone in the Pacific Basin could hear us after that.

7/17/2011 7:43 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

It's telling that a Submariner would take the time and effort to consult Notice to Mariners from sources other than NGA. And that's all I'm going to say on the matter.

7/17/2011 8:47 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

@Ret ANAV - I Googled "Mina Salman Channel Buoy" and that's the first link that came up that seemed relevant. No conspiracy here.

7/17/2011 9:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am surprised nobody has mouthed off at how crazy this is.

Running aground and causing millions of dollars of damage ot the potential for millins of damage? Definitely cause for relief.

Hitting a channel marker, scrapping some paint, and few thosand to replace the buoy? Exactly how is that cause for the CO to be relieved, unless there is some background reason and they were looking for a public, less embarrassing reason to hang him out to dry?

And I am not talking about ring knocker club nonsense (although I am also surprised nobody here popped out his commissioning source yet).

7/17/2011 9:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was his girlfriend on the pier and his wife waiting at the O club? :-)

7/17/2011 10:05 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

@Joel: No conspiracy at all, and the takeaway from that is: The info is readily available for those who take the time to go look for it.

@Anon - 0933: Two words...The Sullivans.

7/17/2011 11:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Military Sealift Command assumed operation of Emory S. Land on 1 Feb 2008. Per MSC's website, "Ship commanded by Navy Captain. CIVMARs responsible for navigation, deck, engineering, galley and steward services and communications and supply functions." (

Anyone know what happened to the civilian master or whether this incident was related to the MSC/Navy command structure?

7/17/2011 11:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

24 years in and never hit anything I wasn't supposed to. That is the mark of a succesful ANAV career. Everything else was just fluff!

Jim C.
Retired ANAV

7/17/2011 11:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@anon 0933,
I believe this was a justified case for refief. There was significant damage and most likely requires a drydock to conduct repairs.

7/17/2011 12:05 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

+1 to Jim. :)

I always tell my students just that. If the bottom is clean and the hull is straight when the lines go to the pier, everything else is water over the dam.

7/17/2011 12:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Hawaiian Oparea on Bremerton about 300 ft. I was lying in my rack when I heard a boom up forward and the boat shook. Immediately went shallow and sonar reported increased flow noise up forward. Did a leak check, CO fired a message to SUBPAC and they agreed the boat is tight to stay out at CO's discretion. Later berthed at S-11 and divers went into the water. They reported the dome was dished in. Turned out a chunk of rubber left by the shipyard worked itself into the equalizing line to the sonar dome causing the dome to implode. Off we went to San Diego at reduced transit speed to dock in the ARCO as they had a dome just sitting there. Longest transit I remember.

7/17/2011 1:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Bremerton one:

Operating shallow . . . somewhere . . . and felt a weird thud/vibration kinda thing. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with us after that so the CO just said go back to what you were doing.

Pulled in (probably Guam) and had a nice impression of a net on the front of the sail. An inch and a half cable dents in the soft part (I forget which BQ whatever that thing is) pretty good! It was still there a few years later when I transferred.

Bremerton also got pushed into a concrete pier in Sasebo by one of the sorry excuses for a tug pusher boats they had there. Bent the towed array housing at least 10 degrees. That was a damn expensive repair and CO kept his job (same one as above, BTW)

7/17/2011 4:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I just don't "Get It".

This is a Major Command Job, but in name really. Actually in charge of the repair capability of the old girl. CIVMARs driving and navigating the ship under a MSC Master and an unaccompanied move for a major commander to Diego Garcia - what a bone job way to assign "accountability" for a task that you're not. Unless the CO countermanded the correct order from the MSC Master that caused the allision, ???.

Pass on the details of why this F'd up command structure is OK - unless something bad happens.

Getting all too easy to fire a CO who actually follows the CNO's guidance (previous TSSBP post).

Glad to be retired too!

7/17/2011 4:49 PM

Anonymous submarines once ... said...

Subase San Diego early 90's-moored Friday PM. Noticed that as the tide went out the draft marks forward went down as well-not the plan! Found out the sonar dome was sitting on some busted concrete that did mess up the dome.
Asked Squadron-You want me to submit the Oprep-3 for the grounding or are you gonna send it...not funny at the time!

7/17/2011 5:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I was a sonarman on that boat that hit that whale. was on the stack and saves those tapes from the deck to save everyone from that shit storm. No problem tho for the CO. Great time in lisbon but hell trying to tell the cabbies how to get back to the nato pier.

7/17/2011 5:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tied up to a OHP class frigate anchored in a foreign harbor with the frigate providing "shore power." Weather got rough and the camel between us lost the bumpers. We punched 5 to 7 holes in her thin hide in no time. They cut us loose (aka adrift) before we could get on our own power or propulsion. We deserved medals for how fast we got the plant up and answering bells. Instead, we got a Field Day.

7/17/2011 5:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Civilian Master on sub tenders or the Mount Whitney which also has a "hybrid" crew mix of MSC Civilian Mariners and USN sailors. These ships are still commissioned ships, not USNS in service status as are all other MSC ships. Senior MSC Licensed Mariner on these ships is the Chief Mate who functions as the "XO" to the Ships Permanent and Relief Masters on all other MSC vessels. Don't know what the relationship is like for Chief Mate and the Navy skipper on this tender. Typically Second Mate is the ships navigator with Third Mates serving as watch officers.

Having sailed five years with MSC on two ammo ships and a Fast Combat Support Ship, I will tell you that MSC Licensed Mariners are professional seaman--period. I would sail anywhere, anytime with all of them. Example, on my last ship USNS Kiska T-AE-35, Jeffery Cook the Permanent Master served aboard from the time she came over from the Nav to MSC in 1999 until taken out of service in January this year. Surface Navy didn't like MSC crew appearance on deck during unrep (long hair, beards, shorts, etc.), but we got plenty of respect for the way we provided logistics.

BTW, USN now has NO EXPERIENCED NAVY PERSONNEL to operate and maintain replenishment rigs because it is all done by MSC Civilian Mariners and has been for over 12 years. All the USN types know how to do is hook up the High Line or Span Wire and receive cargo or fuel.

I'm sure MSC conducted an investigation re: the collision and if any fault lies with MSC navigator and bridge watchstanders appropriate disciplinary action would be taken.


7/17/2011 5:51 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Eastpac in Bangor, workup for DMP on Buffy in 1991 (worst underway ever). SPM operator didn't lock the outboard all the way down, it drifted up, and when told to stop the outboard, it kept running.

Nobody noticed until the 2JV phonetalker and I (I was JA) both noticed it simultaneously in on the helmsman's station. OOD on the bridge couldn't figure out why the hell we were saying to open the tie breaker. Throttleman got a little over eager and winged the throttles open full astern (OOD had rung up back 2/3.)

There's probably still a few broken pilings at EHW pier because of that one. Yet amazingly nobody lost their job.

7/17/2011 6:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must be who you know.....

7/17/2011 7:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so where was the pilot? No comments on that so far.

7/18/2011 12:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pilotage into Bahrain is required. However, pilot pickup occurs at the Sitrah Light Bouy, which is over a mile further up the channel. The vast majority of the bouys marking the deep draft channel were newly installed in 2010, including bouy 12. At this position (still well away from the coast) visual NAVAIDs are rarely visible due to dust and haze, and RADAR NAVAIDS are very limited.

7/18/2011 4:07 AM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

Bolivar - Barbados - Mindin' our own damn business.

The Barbados tourist sub comes strollin' over to see the cool American submarine tied up to the pier. All watchstanders topside, the Duty Chief, and an officer too pooped to party that day, were waving him off.

I guess the "shooing" motion, in Barbadian, means "run up on the back of us as quick as you can".

The water was clear enough to see the screw from the surface and he had a window to see underwater.

Booonnnng! Oooh, shit! . . I'm outta here.

We made a little noise when we got underway, and we vibrated a little more, but we made it home without doing a screw replacement in a foreign port.

7/18/2011 6:23 AM

Anonymous STS2 said...

We hit a whale on the Louisville, that's right, a freaking whale decided to try and jump across the bow when we were surfaced going into Pearl Harbor, the took a sail to the midsection. It didn't work out well for the whale, and delayed our return to port by about 4 hours.

7/18/2011 6:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was riding the Billy Bates out of San Diego for sea trials when we hit the bottom. Ship went to Mare for dry-docking after that. Nice 3 foot deep, 6 foot wide, 9 foot long dent in the steel sonar dome. WLR-9 was gone but a nice stripe on the keel where the sand took off all the paint. There was still big chunks of mud stuck to the leading edge of the lower rudder, even after the transit from SD to Mare.

ESL needs dry-docking to make all the repairs from this latest incident.

7/18/2011 7:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because a pilot is on board does not mean the CO is not responsible. Exceptions are transiting the Panama Canal (and if you override the pilot there, bang into a buoy and damage a new ship you will lose your job) and drydock. The CO is not responsible for the ship when you cross the sill into drydock and regains when you cross the sill out of drydock.

And a lot of places pilots are marginally competant at best.

7/18/2011 8:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One word:
Or is that three?

7/18/2011 8:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And a lot of places pilots are marginally competant at best."

Competent, perhaps?

While transiting the Panama Canal during the Noreiga era, the pilot was competent enough to ask our CO if his tugboat guys could sell drugs to our crew before things could get out of hand. Smilin' Jack said "not on my boat."

7/18/2011 10:33 AM

Anonymous Cupojoe said...

Unfortunately, the CO is one of the really good guys. He got a number of ships through bad times, now he's on the other end. Just a terrible way to end a great career.

By the way, I can't imagine driving submarines for a career, and then trying to pilot this big lug in a narrow channel.

7/18/2011 10:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pulled into Johnston Atoll on the Tautog in '90 to pick up the ORSE team so that we would have fun things to do on the way back to Pearl after our 6 month westpac. The OOD managed to let the boat drift sideways into the side of channel catching the deployed outboard on the bottom. Pulled the boat over a few degrees and made a nice bump...
Luckily we were able to retract the outboard after testing it. Not the best way to start an ORSE, but it did seems to amuse the team. Luckily we passed that one after the failed PORSE coming out of PSNS the year before. (that was a real CF)
Didn't seem to affect the CO's career, but the OOD did live up to his nickname of "Crash" which he picked up after breaking both his collarbones in a bike accident.

7/18/2011 2:17 PM

Anonymous pauljose said...

Anon @ 1033:

Was that "Smilin' Jack" Francis on the Happy Whale?

7/18/2011 2:39 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Jack Francis = Blast from the (WAY!!!) Past. Broke the mold when they made that guy.

7/18/2011 5:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many other guys on this blog had the pleasure of working for Smilin' Jack? He was the perfect CO to guide the Whale through the stresses, strains, and pains of PSNS.

7/19/2011 6:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for CAPT Jack Francis on WHALE. Fantastic CO. Knew people, leadership, engineering, tactics, weapons, operation, & navigation. Can't say the same for his relief.

7/19/2011 9:56 AM

Blogger tennvol said...

Not a fan of CDR Deering?

7/19/2011 12:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The boat I was on was involved in a rather famous head on collision with a Soviet boat off Petropavlosk, and a bit close to shore. The Sonar room tape is said to contain the comment "Ah Sh@t!!!" about 5 seconds before impact.

This left a 100 foot gouge down the starboard side. The boat rang up a flank bell and didn't surface before reaching Guam well after dark. It went into a covered dry dock with quite a few Marines guarding the dock.

Later on coming out of San Diego for a week of local ops the boat hit it's own anchor chain completely trashing the prop. Turned out one of the junior officers, in disobedience to orders, lowered and thought that he raised the anchor over the weekend for his qual book. Without supervision. Unknown to him was the fact that the dial gauge showing the anchor position was wrong. Something well known to all engineroom watchstanders, the ones he didn't get to observe his evolution. Nothing seemed to happen to this fellow tho assume the CO and XO had some comments for him. The crew took to singing anchors away for him when he passed thru the mess.

Repairs cost a week, a new prop, one C5A trip to fly the prop in from Mare Island. And a lot of work by divers to get that nut off.

The CO was later caught by the public release of photos of the hull damage in the San Diego paper from the Petropavlosk incident. The Squadron Cdr was not amused. Apparently a new batch of prints was requested and the ship photographer lost a couple in the process. A fine time was had by all aboard during the third degree that followed by NIS of everyone on the boat.

7/19/2011 8:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the ESL during the MSC conversion. The ESL is not the other conversions with a hybrid crew. The ship exists to have a nuclear support facility overseas. The MSC crew drives and maintains the ship to support the Navy manned repair department. When I left in 2009, there was no intention of having Navy on the bridge, just CIVMARS. The ship had to remain a USS and have a Navy CO because of the nuclear support facility.

7/19/2011 9:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both Sub Tenders and Mt. Whitney have mix of MSC and USN crews. the decision to leave these ships in commissioned status driven by their missions. Anon 9:31 correct re: MSC underway bridge manning, helmsman, lookouts, Navigator, Mate on Watch, etc. Navy skipper on bridge as well, it's his ship and he is ultimately responsible.
As a former MSC Unlicensed Mariner I can tell you for sure that MSC was involved in any investigation and if MSC Mariners culpable in this incident they were sugject to disciplinary action.

Keep a zero bubble...........


7/20/2011 10:32 AM

Anonymous Mike said...

Early 90's on the USS Tennessee returning to Kings Bay after a scheduled dry docking. Coming up the inter-coastal when a sailboat pulled in front of us. Deep draft vessel constrained to the channel and a sailboat under engine power. Well to keep from running over the bastage we got a little sideways in the channel and sucked a channel marker buoy into the screw. Sank the buoy.

Back into the dry dock we went for a screw change. It took a rather large chunk out of the screw. Out of the dry dock and they discovered the installation was either done wrong or the QA paperwork was incorrect wo we had to go in again (three times on the same blocks). Skipper took us to sea for that patrol but we lost him soon after coming back home.

7/20/2011 10:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the Coast Guard ran interference for the SSBN's coming into and out of port on both Kings Bay and Bremerton.

7/20/2011 11:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They do now. Pre 9-11 it was just the c-tractor that brought the pilot out to you.

7/20/2011 4:30 PM

Blogger MT1(SS)WidgetHead said...

Now they do when we're coming and going.

A Cutter (most of the time) in back and a tug in front.

7/20/2011 9:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Technically they're coming in and out of Bangor (where the Naval Submarine Base is located), not Bremerton (where the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is located). In terms of the length of the Maneuvering Watch, that's a big difference.

7/21/2011 7:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A could-have-been collision...

Back in the early 90's I was on SSN 751. I was a nuke but I got the opportunity to visit the bridge on this particular transit. One spring we were out bound on the Thames - we had just waved the tugs good bye. On the bridge were the OOD, CO, PT, a couple look outs and me. Off our starboard bow there was some old man putting along quickly in his little fishing boat. He was oblivious that we were directly in his path. The CO asked the OOD if he was going to sound the ships whistle and the OOD replied "NO". When the guy was about 25 yds from collision, he noticed what was in his path. The look on his face as he executed a rapid u-turn was 100% priceless!!

PB Sterling ET1/SS

7/22/2011 8:14 AM

Blogger Thomas said...

My one trip through the Panama Canal (1992) left me thoroughly unimpressed with the Canal pilots. Supposedly Panama Canal pilots have a special qual to take submarines through. Our pilot stepped on board, took a look at the stern, and said (for real) "Oh, your screw is ASTERN of the RUDDER?"

Taking us through the Canal and locks, that numbnuts rang up every single bell with the exception of Ahead Flank. (Ahead Full through Back Emergency). Worst pilot EVER.

7/24/2011 7:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We snagged a tug's tow-line while transiting submerged from Bangor to sea a few years back. Cut his barge loose and did about $90k worth of damage to our sail. CO didn't get fired because everyone on watch said it was their fault, so the investigation team couldn't put blame on anyone. The tug captain did get fired a few weeks later, because the Coasties got him on a tow-line length rule while in the Strait.

7/28/2011 4:05 PM

Blogger Old Salt said...

I was there on Bremerton when they hit. The senior Officers I talked to said that the CO was running around the bridge yelling at the Pilot, (who didn't speak much English) and the MSC bridge crew. The CO has no say in the training and certification of the bridge crew. They come certified from the Coast Guard. SO, I guess we needed somebody to take this one in the shorts, and we can't blame MSC, cause that would mean conversion was a mistake. As a related note, the support and service we got from the ESL now vice the FC when it was military was a big let down. It took the nucs over 6 hours to get shorepower on. Supply and hazmat were on banker's hours. The best support we had was from the Navy guys that were left. Repair is a skeleton crew. Anon is right, the tenders are floating repair platforms for nuclear fly away teams.

7/29/2011 8:37 AM

Anonymous Jim K. said...

Hey, my old NAV. Figures.

7/29/2011 11:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capt Merrill was my CO and the best officer I ever served with. He took care of the crew and got the best from them. It was a privilege to call him Captain.

7/30/2011 9:57 AM

Blogger Sandy Salt said...

On the TENN in 2002 when the CO picked up one of the channel buoys heading out of K-Bay. Lost a pit sword, but CO, XO, Nav, & A-Nav survived because Squadron didn't want to ride all the way out because it was to rough and windy. Good time to be the Weps and even though I was control room sup was not ask to join the ADM at the green table.

7/30/2011 8:12 PM

Anonymous MMCM(SS) said...

I was onboard Wyoming when Merrill was CO. One of the best, highly respected, cared about the crew. It's a shame that this happened, armchair second guessing aside. GREAT submarine officer's career ruined because he scraped paint. Damn shame and just another scapegoat by this organization I've slaved for for almost 30 years. Retirement cannot come soon enough.

8/05/2011 8:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck finding another guy to take "Command" of a MSC Sub Tender. This is supposed to be a Major Command, not a bone job.

8/07/2011 2:10 PM

Blogger kamban said...

That's really cool buddy.....Obviously the lady was logical.


5/31/2013 6:05 AM


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