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, May 08, 2010

"There Goes The Mail"

I can't remember if I've posted this video before, but for those who haven't seen it, here's the video of the sinking of the tug USS Secota (YTB 415) by USS Georgia (SSBN/SSGN 729) on 22 MAR 1986:

The famous quote in the title occurs about the 3:45 point. Memo to tug drivers: Stay away from the stern planes!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Twenty-four years-old, but still a powerful scene. One of my first impressions is that a sinking like that likely killed someone...turns out it killed two (10 survived).

Not to play armchair quarterback, but keeping the bell (main propulsion) on after the collision - along with the hard rudder pulling *away* from the tug - were both likely harmful to the course of events.

Basic seamanship courses teach surface ship bridge crews world-over to not pull away after a collision that 'holes' the other vessel, as it just lets the ocean rush in faster.

A collision like that will pretty much always sink the has been demonstrated all too often. Once the collision had happened with Georgia, it would've been best for them to 'stop the shaft' and recommend that the tug boat prepare to abandon ship while keeping nestled in close, rather than trying to pull away after the damage had already been done.

Condolences to the families that lost loved ones in this event.

5/08/2010 1:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. The tugboat in this collision had lost propulsion, as was documented in various news articles. If you listen closely to the chatter in the video well before the collision, I believe you can hear someone remark "...lost propulsion."

With that key piece of information in hand, a 688 o its toes would have had a running shot at emergency backing down and avoiding the collision altogether. Can't speak for the Trident/boomer girls' abilities there.

5/08/2010 2:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I was on the 729 when this occured and remember it and the aftermath like yesterday. I had only seen this video once before and didn't know it was on Youtube. The tug did lose propulsion and got hung up on the stabilizer which gouged a hole in the tug's hull (no pun intended). It sunk once it got free. It all happened so quickly there wasn't much you could do in real time.

5/08/2010 2:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 2:15, voice says something like "C'mon XOte"

Anyone know what that utterance might have been about, and who was speaking?

Providence NCO

5/08/2010 2:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tug did lose propulsion and got hung up on the stabilizer which gouged a hole in the tug's hull (no pun intended).

Again, it was both Georgia's momentum and continuing forward bell that created this problem. Not assessing personal blame...just describing what happened. I'm curious if they actually increased the bell order, as it certainly looks that way in the video.

Expecting the stern to simply pull away quickly before the collision wasn't terribly realistic. A Trident is a fairly 'linear' thing in the water - it's not like it's a shopping cart, and you just put the rudder out and the ship turns, especially at low speeds. All the forward bell really accomplished was to hammer the tug, hole it, and then pull away once the damage was done.

Not real crisp, but for whatever reason the sub force doesn't train as much for what to do if you 'hole' another vessel like the surface fleet does.

I'm curious if an emergence-back bell would've avoided the collision and ensuing deaths: done on the surface, a "back emergency" creates one hell of a wall of water pushing things away from back aft.

5/08/2010 4:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commented earlier. I was standing sonar watch at the time of the collision. If I recall the sequence correctly, right after the tug cast off lines the OOD (XO - Cdr. R.C. Wagoner) ordered all ahead full as soon as it became apparent the tug lost propulsion. The intent was to pick up enough speed to make a hard turn to get out of the way. Like the earlier commenter said, with a sub that big in that short of a time there wasn't much that could be done.
We had an investigation after this incident and we all re-hashed it hundreds of times. I was a 'NUB' on my first patrol at the time, even today I don't think that anything more could have been done.

5/08/2010 6:23 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon @ 6:23 PM

Good, the XO was the OOD at the time of the incident. Was it S.O.P. to video such evolutions?

Who's voice (@ 2:15) can be heard saying "C'mon, XO"?

The Registry of Naval Vessels (non active) indicates on 09/30/1985, the year BEFORE her 22 March 1986 sinking, SECOTA (YTM [not YTB] 415) had been stricken from the Naval Registry of Vessels.

More questions than answers, so far, including the NavSource photo of SECOTA (YTM-415), which is not a match for the tug in the video.

"On 22 March 1986, near Midway Island, USS Secota (YTM-415) had just completed a personnel transfer with the Georgia, when the Secota lost power and collided with the Georgia. Secota sank. Ten crewman were rescued, but two drowned. Georgia was undamaged[6]"

Very interesting indeed!

5/08/2010 7:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regret to say that I can't agree that anything more couldn't have been done.

This sort of sequence of events is rare, especially the loss of propulsion during a perstrans, but the right action on the part of the submarine OOD needs to be clearly identified.

As best I can tell, the OPPOSITE of what Georgia's OOD called for is the right answer - in other words, backing down hard via a 'back emergency' order instead of ordering a higher bell.

Am wondering what the JAGMAN had to say about Georgia's OOD's actions, as it seems fairly straightforward that you don't go to a higher bell when a collision is imminent or, worse, in-progress.

5/08/2010 7:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Vigilis was correct, almost willing to bet the transferee was one of the 2 fatalities. The OOD may have been very skillful in pulling off a grand illusion. That was no ordinary tug nor tug crew, then, it was a cover.

Perhaps the alleged dead doned scuba gear and disappeared. Wow!

Don C.

5/08/2010 7:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to think the Georgia is now an SSGN involved in similar deception.

5/08/2010 8:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don C.: Thanks for the idiot comments.

Vigilis: Are you high? Secota was sunk by USS Georgia.

5/08/2010 8:54 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon 8:54 PM

How can we have an intelligent conversation when you choose to cast an aspersion: "Are you high?", yet you fail to address pertinent facts?

Yes, the Georgis sank a tug. What was that tug's hull number? Look it up yourself, Secota (YTM-415) was stricken from the Naval Registry THE YEAR BEFORE the sinking incident according to this:

What a coincidence there happens to be a video of the 1986 collision, an observation on the YouTube video that the tug was "on the stern planes", but an official Navy report later that Georgia had suffered NO damage.

Think as you wish, but this is my last conversation with you unless you can demonstrate the slightest modicum of abstract thought either by sharing your own research or at least addressing what more thoughtful people bring to this forum.

Fair enough?

5/08/2010 10:35 PM

Anonymous Squidboy said...

I am the Georgia crewmember that posted earlier. In the video, you can see the transferring crewmember wave goodbye when he gets on the tug. He was subsequently rescued and taken to Hawaii and flew home from there. The two people that perished were crew of the tug, both in engineering. The Georgia was inspected in Hawaii, there was no damage and the patrol resumed as documented in the linked patrol report. The Secota's recorded dates of service are an odd anomaly but that was a long time ago. Finally, not sure who said 'C'mon XO' unless it was the camera operator.

5/08/2010 11:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If memory serves me the USS Jacksonville, better known as the Jacksoncrash has the record for items wacked. Barge in tow, helicopter dunked, pier retargeted etc.... I seem to recall another tug holed by a sub but the memory banks are rusty on that one.

5/09/2010 3:51 AM

Blogger Lou said...

I do not remember if the tug was holed or not, but in a fit of rage over the Georgia incident, a tug charged the Polk and bent the clam shell for tube 3 which forced the boat to turn around and go back into port. I heard that the tug had to go into anger management counseling after which, it was only allowed to work with skimmers.

5/09/2010 6:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having seen the relatively little damage done to the rudder of a submarine that did the "dynamic depth sounding" thing on a coral reef, it is not surprising to me in the slightest that Georgia's stern planes weren't damaged at all. Submarine control surfaces are amazingly strong.

From here, the loss of the tug does look to be substantially due to the fault of Georgia's OOD. Higher bells and tug collisions with stern planes do not make for a good mix.

5/09/2010 6:42 AM

Blogger Bill said...

Having survived a sinking and a life raft stint, it still brings my heart into my throat to watch this. RIP to those who didn't make it.

5/09/2010 8:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vigilis, the possibility of a typo never crossed your mind?

5/09/2010 12:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Squidboy: Why in the world was the XO standing watch as OOD?

I've never seen an XO that could hold a candle to any of the DH's or senior JO's when it comes to shiphandling proficiency. They're not bad people...they're just not nearly as freshly in-practice. IMHO, the best (only?) place for a ship's XO in an evolution like that is in a truly supervisory role...not OOD.

The fact that the XO ordered a higher forward bell speaks loudly of a substantial lack of understanding of both his own ship's handling characteristics and practical knowledge of the basic physics of 17,000 tons.

Sure, he couldn't have actualy stopped the sub with a backing bell, but he didn't need that: all he needed to do was to blow the tug away from the stern planes with a wall of water from a strong backing bell.

Speaking frankly, ordering a higher forward bell turned a bad situation into a deadly one. Did the JAGMAN investigation somehow miss this??

On balance, I'm sure the XO's a good guy, but plastering over a very bad shiphandling call doesn't help anyone, especially in post-mortem analysis that might prevent something like this from happening in the future...rare though it may be.

Am also wondering why the CO had the XO in the OOD role in the first place. Who was the CO?

What's done is done, and forgiveness is a necessary ingredient in life...but so is learning the right lesson.

5/09/2010 1:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another option that could've worked: simply answering all stop and/or stopping the shaft.

Still would have had a collision, but would not have jackhammered the tug with a full bell.

5/09/2010 2:18 PM

Anonymous Guinness said...

Wow. I haven't seen that video in a long time. The first time I saw it was in the Wardroom shortly after the incident. There's almost as much of an emotional impact now as then.

Lots of second guessing after this. In retrospect, a full bell and hard rudder did not swing the stern away from the tug. Would have been better to do a back emergency and stop all way on the ship. Of note, we had a piece of gear deployed that would not allow a backing bell (Squidboy should know about this). Obviously, we sacrificed that piece of gear in maneuvering to recover the survivors.

Also, the XO was not the OOD. Don't know where that rumor came from. On the bridge were the CO, OOD (a junior LT), and Pilot. Videographer was the Eng, and the tape was instrumental in exonerating the CO of fault.

The two individuals that were lost were both in the engineering dept of the tug. Speculation is that they were below decks, trying to get the engines restarted. Obviously, they were successful, right before the tug ripped itself off of the stern planes and sank.

A few years later, I ran into a Chief in the Pentagon. we got into a discussion about the incident, and he told me that in the tug's engines had been run without oil and damaged (If I remember correctly, had been in the post-shipyard testing period), and that the tug had frequent engine problems after that.

"There goes the mail." You can imagine the CO's reaction at hearing that comment, when viewing the video for the first time.

5/09/2010 3:46 PM

Blogger Bill said...

I don't drive subs, just surface, but stopping the screw when a catastrophe like this was going down seems like a good first move. Sort of along the lines of what my first skipper told me, "you can get into much more trouble when you're going fast than when you're going slow." To expand that thought a step further, stopping the sub could have brought the situation much more under control.IMHO

5/09/2010 3:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Guinness: Thanks for checking's good to hear from someone in the WR who was actually in the thick of things.

Who ordered the full bell...the CO? I'm frankly astounded that someone who had driven anything bigger than a 14' speedboat would try a stunt like that.

I'm a humble 688 driver, with maybe a mere 1,000 hours of OOD underway time, but was the go-to guy for maneuvering watch ever since I was qualified. Having grown up on a lake and also driven 14' speed boats, maybe that gave me an edge judgment-wise when it comes to a native feel for how to handle a ship.

Regardless, I'm all but speechless that someone with lots of experience (1,000 hours is not that much) would kick up the bell _several notches_ just as the tug was going to collide.

I mean...WTF? And the sub CO wasn't found at fault? Frankly, I'm dumbfounded. Maybe all senior submarine officers lose it when it comes to shiphandling?

Expecting the rudder to kick out the stern of a 17,000 ton ship is just nuts.

Regret ragging on this, but I'm truly shocked at the lack of awareness of just how wrong the conning officer's judgment was.

5/09/2010 5:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't know - lack of judgment seems to be a recurring theme among surface OODs and even COs in the sub force history. Watch the GREENEVILLE - OGDEN collision video and ask yourself what went through their minds.

5/09/2010 6:42 PM

Anonymous LT L said...

Expecting the rudder to kick out the stern of a 17,000 ton ship is just nuts.

But I've done it plenty of times on a ship 10,000 tons lighter. I'm thinking the CO and/or the OOD saw the situation and fell back on experience with 637/688s, opening up a whole new argument as to weather officers should specialize in one type of boat.


5/09/2010 8:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I've done it plenty of times on a ship 10,000 tons lighter.

Nah...speaking from experience, I very much doubt that's what he was thinking.

At a low speed - such as during a perstrans - even a 688 cannot move its stern quickly out of the way.

My best guess is that the conning officer didn't realize the gravity of the situation and was simply trying to avoid a collision (VERY badly) and save a 'gadget' from getting dorked via a backing bell.

Stopping the shaft would probably have sufficed to meet both objectives of saving the gadget and the tugboat...and a couple of lives.

This story is 24 year-old history, but hopefully the next guy in this situation will know what to do.

5/09/2010 8:36 PM

Anonymous squidboy said...

Guinness - thanks for your comments. Some elements remain clear in my memory, others a bit murkier and need a jog. I mistakenly commented that the XO was OOD. As soon as I hit 'publish' I realized I was wrong. The XO was usually topside for maneuvering and similar evolutions and I imagine he was topside for this. I also recall that we were on mid-watch when this happened. I had periscope liberty shortly before the tug came alongside and the fresh air and sunlight was almost disorienting at 2am GMT. At the moment of impact and afterwards I was sitting at the Q-9 console so I recall first hand what happened next.
I remember wondering at the time whether or not we made the right move. But after seeing the video I don't think it would have made much difference either way. The boat was already moving at a good clip and it wasn't far for that tug to go.
As for Captain Kraemer, I know he was the CO of NSB Bangor and I served under him there in 1991. He was the only CO I served under twice and I have nothing but good thoughts about him. I don't know what happened to him after he left NSB Bangor.

5/10/2010 8:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was Kraemer's first name, and what was his role in the collision?

5/10/2010 9:40 AM

Anonymous Former 3363 said...

So I took the time to read the "Command History" link that Joel provided. Someone stated earlier that there was "no damage". I beg to differ.

"USS GEORGIA returned the survivors to Hawaii and underwent emergency repair for minor damage sustained. None of the USS GEORGIA'S crewmembers were hurt in
the mishap."

While it is not disclosed, it can be surmised that the "minor damage sustained" had to be something on the stern planes or whatever "gadget" got damaged during the rescue efforts.

5/10/2010 9:54 AM

Anonymous JTav8r said...

As far at the tug (YTM-415) being struck from Naval Vessel Register, that register states it was disposed of by sale. it was suggested by someone who had been to Midway Island around that time that the tug had been sold to a contractor who was providing services to the Navy on a civilian, contract basis, hence the Sri Lankan crew and the vessel being there 9 months after it was "struck" from Navy registry. It was no longer a US navy vessel. The video quite clearly indicates that the tug existed on the date of the collision.


5/10/2010 11:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The video quite clearly indicates that the tug existed on the date of the collision.

For a few hours, at least.

5/10/2010 4:27 PM

Anonymous Guinness said...

I was not on the bridge at the time of the collision, so I can't give any insight into the CO's decision to use the bell and rudder to swing the stern. We all know that it didn't work, so there's no question that it wasn't the right move. I seem to remember hearing that the master of the tug called over to our bridge that he had lost power, and requested the sub put on a bell and hard rudder swing the stern clear. You can hear people on the video at the 0:40 point saying "right full rudder", and hearing that topside may be the yelling between the tug and the sub's bridge. Again, not a defense of the CO's actions, since he bears the ultimate responsibility (and does not take orders from the tug).

A follow-on to this incident: This patrol ended with the first SCOOP-EX, which is the forward-deployed crew turnover, and in our case this was to be done in Guam. With about two weeks left in the patrol, one of our MTs collapsed and died of a brain aneurysm. Squadron UMO (a full doctor) was onboard, but nothing could be done to save our guy. We stored the body onboard, finished the patrol (remember, that was during the Cold War), and offloaded him when we pulled alongside the tender in Guam.

Right after that, the TRE inspection team came onboard. I recall that inspection being very easy, probably out of sympathy for a very tough patrol.

5/10/2010 5:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to remember hearing that the master of the tug called over to our bridge that he had lost power, and requested the sub put on a bell and hard rudder swing the stern clear.

Thanks for that important piece of info, Guinness. Granted & agreed that the CO was responsible for doing whatever he did, but at the same time this does speak to the power of suggestion.

That the tug master asked for exactly what he got (i.e., something that might even work had the Trident been a tug boat) at least helps to makes some sense out of what happened. I would otherwise struggle to understand how an otherwise un-muddled CO would do what he did.

The headline to this article should read "Be Careful What You Ask For..."

5/10/2010 7:58 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...


"It was no longer a US navy vessel. The video quite clearly indicates that the tug existed on the date of the collision."

If no longer a US navy vessel, it surely was not designated YTM-415, was it? However YTM-415 is clearly painted on tug in the video.

Was it a Navy tug when it sank?

Or was it actually the forerunner of one of these:

5/11/2010 12:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never seen this before but spoke with the head sticking out of the hatch when he was later a civilian machinist at EB. The mail thing may have had to do with target data (thats the story, sticking to it). I notised at about 45 sec a blue shirt runing below. I don't have a good feeling about that. This I'll show my sons, what the cold war cost and one Hero on tape.
To add to Georgia trouble, (The other crew I believe had a man impaled by the rudder or stern plane operating gear, he lived but was terribly injured, a little before my TAD run in 88 (patrol 18).

5/11/2010 12:10 PM

Anonymous Guinness said...

No, the mail comment had nothing to do with a data package. The guy who made the comment was a chief in the engineering department. I won't specify which one, since I'm not really interested in using any names.

5/11/2010 12:26 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon 5/09/2010 12:59 PM
"Vigilis, the possibility of a typo never crossed your mind?"

Quite familiar with typos. That is why I know the difference between
09/30/1985 and 03/22/1986 is not just an incorrect year digit, it is also the wrong month and day.

As I implied in the preceeding comment, the civilain contractor operating this tug (known as the CIA during the Cold War) may have had something in common with its modern counterpart found here:

5/11/2010 12:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we all agree that crushing the gas pedal wasn't the right call. Got it. But in the last few years, SUBFOR has promulgated a hierarchy of priorities to guide decision-makers; ostensibly primarily for submerged operations, but also to be extended to surfaced operations with applicable modifications. It consists of a triangle with three layers. The first layer, the base of the pyramid, is SAFETY. Safety of ship, safety of crew. If you can't keep the ship safe, you're going to have a hard time satisfying the middle layer, AVOID COUNTERDETECTION. It goes without saying, but here's the part that doesn't really apply on the surface. If your ship can't avoid being counterdetected, it's going to be extremely difficult reaching the pinnacle of the triangle, MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT. The "piece of gear deployed" goes squarely to mission accomplishment, and should have been an afterthought following a Back Emergency bell, not a driving factor behind a higher ahead bell. Even stopping the shaft, while it might not have caused AS MUCH damage as what actually occurred, still would have allowed the collision (and most likely, the loss of the tug). Speaking from the experience of one who has run afoul of the triangle in recent history, decisions cannot be based on the upper levels of SUBFOR's hierarchy until the lower levels are satisfied, and not just satisfied in the delusions of those making the decisions. And yes, I know SUBFOR hadn't published this hierarchy in 1986...

5/11/2010 1:36 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Too said...

Even stopping the shaft, while it might not have caused AS MUCH damage as what actually occurred, still would have allowed the collision (and most likely, the loss of the tug).

My response: "Bullshit."

Both vessels were at roughly a 1/3 bell before the collision...just a notch or so above bare steerageway...for safety. The full bell OBVIOUSLY caused the high impact and dragging/scraping/keelhauling.

Stopping the shaft would have satisfied your precious triangle, saved the gadget, and caused a bump - not a CRASH - with the tug.

This isn't about hindsight. It's about doing the right thing should this sort of thing ever happen again.

BTW, anyone who's ever had the conn and thinks similar damage would've resulted from stopping the shaft versus a FULL bell doesn't know dick about driving a nuclear submarine. Nothing personal. Just sayin'.

5/11/2010 1:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vigilis that does not rule out a cut-and-paste error if the data was entered by hand, or a loop iteration error if it was entered by a script. I once discovered a major systemic data entry error on a NASA database, where the leading digit of data >1000 was truncated.

5/11/2010 2:22 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon @ 2:22

"...does not rule out a cut-and-paste error..."

Nor does it rule out intentional ambiguity left in place for over two decades.


5/11/2010 3:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vigilis extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and Occum's Razor is cutting pretty deep into your one concrete piece of evidence. But then, conspiracy theorists never really cared for academic rigor.

BTW, some MIT kids did an experiment and found that tinfoil hats actually increase EM signals.

FTA: "Certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason."

5/11/2010 3:32 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon @ 3:32 PM

"extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

Occam's razor is sometimes useful, but is hardly without exception. More to your point, can you quote (in full) any YTM-415 claim I have made that suggested only a single possibility rather than two or more?

Otherwise, perhaps the tinfoil hat you impy I wear (but about which you seem unusually familiar) is due to the leadfoil hat you may be wearing:

"Extraordinary circumstances defy recognition by untrained, incompetent, or complacent observors."

examples: The contemporaries of Isaac Newton who failed to recognize, or question everday things like the path of falling apples.

5/11/2010 3:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vigilis, in number of entities you propose that

1. Gov't Database is not accurate
3. The Government is hiding something

I purpose that

1. Gov't Database is not accurate
2. A mistake was made

5/11/2010 4:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm the black 2. above was pointing to censorship due to op sec, btw.

5/11/2010 4:43 PM

Anonymous STSC said...

The tug was probably sold in an 'as-is' condition. So the new owners didn't erase the paint saying 'YTM-415' right away. It was still providing services and nobody yelled at them about it. Back off the conspiracy theory brother!

The point is moot. The tug went down and 2 died.

I agree stopping the shaft would have helped more but that's all water behind us now.

Keeping the gadget in question working has and continues to be a significant concern - not enough to violate the Safety Pyramid but a concern nonetheless. This went from 'oh, bother' to 'oh SHIT' pretty damn quick.

It is always easy to Monday morning quarterback. We (except for Guiness I guess) weren't there.

Lesson learned & let's not repeat this tragedy.

I remember hearing about this story when in school but hadn't ever seen the video until now. Thanks for sharing it Joel even though it gave me chills watching it.

5/11/2010 4:52 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Too said...

Lesson learned & let's not repeat this tragedy.

No lesson has been learned until behavior has changed...and no behavior will change if no fault is found with the decisions and outcome.

Can anyone on ACDU speak to how (if at all) this deadly shiphandling 'lesson learned' is communicated to the fleet? My sneaking suspicion is: "not at all."

From Big Navy's perspective, if the C.O. wasn't found to be at fault, then he didn't do anything punishably wrong - and _that's_ a root cause of why the lesson isn't being learned.

For confirmation of what I've just typed, just look at the "triangle guy's" arguments above. Clearly, some people still think that a full bell was no big deal, and that it didn't make any difference to the outcome. Q.E.D.

5/11/2010 6:46 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/11/2010 6:46 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon 4:40 PM

I'll take that as a Q.E..D, thanks!

"...can you quote (in full) any YTM-415 claim I have made that suggested only a single possibility rather than two or more?"

Your answer (you refused to quote me as required):

1. Gov't Database is not accurate (you yourself suggested "a cut-and-paste error if the data was entered by hand, or a loop iteration error if it was entered by a script" [I readily agreed with you that these were possibilities].
2. ?
3. The Government is hiding something [Has the government ever hidden anything from us as far as you know? I know, they do it too often.]

Please learn to read more carefully, shipmate. - Vigilis out!

5/11/2010 6:48 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...


"The tug went down and 2 died."

And if you could just tell us the names of the 2 deceased and their employer, STSC, the conspiracy case might be rapidly closed.

News accounts describe the tug as Navy. Guy claiming firsthand knowledge decribes deceased as 2 "engineers" trying to restore tug's propulsion. Strange we don't know their names and ratings, no?

5/11/2010 7:04 PM

Blogger fourfastboats said...

I was a JO at the time of this incident, on another boat After it occurred I remember my CO giving us training and we discussed what we would do with any type of small craft alongside. PS. It was not order or increase an ahead bell.

The men who died were civilian and I believe Sri Lankan. They were not active duty Navy.

Not too many years after this occurred I met a man who had been the manager on Midway when this happened. The operation on Midway was run by a contractor and most of the employees were Sri Lankan.

One of my boats did a personnel transfer off Midway several years after this accident. A YTB was used for the transfer. It was a calm day and we were only a few hundred yards off the reef. While we could clearly see the surf breaking on the edge of the reef we were still in 1000s of fathoms of water. There shear drop off around those islands is amazing.

I really don't think there is any conspiracy here, just a tragedy during which two lives were lost.

5/11/2010 8:09 PM

Anonymous Guinness said...

I'll confirm what fourfastboats stated, that the majority of the tug's crew were Sri Lankan nationals, hired to work on Midway. Only the master of the tug was a US citizen. "Engineers" refers to the job responsiblities of the two lost individuals, not a navy rating. Since they are not USN sailors, they won't have a "rating".

I don't see why there is a concern on this blog about the date in the NVR. It makes perfect sense that a former naval vessel would be stricken from the NVR prior to being sold to a commercial company.

5/11/2010 8:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vigilis you are in need of medication, seriously.

5/11/2010 9:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see why there is a concern on this blog about the date in the NVR.

There isn't any such concern. There is an overabundance of concern for the mental health of one Vigilis, who's inner 3 year-old apparently needs a lot of attention.

5/11/2010 10:01 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/11/2010 11:57 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Are these the facts, gentlemen?

Eleven of the 54 comments above (at time of this writing) have been critical of the Georgia OOD's maneuvering. One was defensive, and two other comments were neutral. The Navy's official finding seems consistent with only the single, defensive comment (1 out of 14). - No input from me, but all interesting, thank you.

The sunk tug identified as YTM-415 was operated by a civilian contractor, we find, thanks to prodding by someone to elicit information. The prodding was mine, and again, thanks for the facts.

From Vigilis:
SAFETY (AFTER ACTION) TAKEN: As a result of the YTM-415 tragedy, a change in topside procedures was apparenty implemented requiring raising a "tug catcher" cleat toward the stern in case of need to throw a line.

To those of you who appreciate a knowledge forum, thank you for your inputs, I am sure BH appreciates it more than me. To the few making snide comments, I am glad if you managed to learn anything.

- Vigilis Out

5/11/2010 11:59 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/11/2010 11:59 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Too said...

What's lost in the video to the undiscerning eye is the fact that Georgia accelerated substantially with the tug alongside before the impact.

Look at the ships' speeds before the collision, and then after. It becomes readily apparent as to what happened: the full bell did the tugboat in.

That's valuable information and a good lesson in how to not try and drive a submarine at low speed as though it weren't 17,000 tons going in a very linear direction.

If someone can somehow make valuable use of when the tug was or was not struck from Naval records, I'd like to hear what that might be.

5/12/2010 3:58 AM

Blogger tennvol said...

@Been There, Done That, Too: Have you even seen a Trident in person? You sure haven't driven one, that is obvious. Stopping the shaft would have done nothing to prevent what happened. I also doubt that the full bell did much to increase the impact. Momentum and inertia played bigger roles than any human actions.

5/12/2010 11:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was never assigned to an OHIO class as a crew member, but I have been to sea on them a number of times. Relative to SSNs I have an appreciation for their maneuvering characteristics.

Whether stopping the shaft or a backing bell would have prevented the sinking can be debated until the cows come home.

However, increasing the bell was absolutely the wrong thing to do in this instance. While the ship did not accelerate enough to make the initial impact worse, the increased drag and pressure against the tug's hull as the speed increased caused increased damage to the tug.

5/12/2010 12:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is kicking the stern over on a submarine even possible? On most surface ships the rudder is behind the screw so increasing the bell (ahead) increases the flow of water over the rudder causing it to be more effective. Not so on a submarine with the screw aft of the rudder.

5/12/2010 3:07 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Too said...

Is kicking the stern over on a submarine even possible?

Yes, but only at a substantial speed. That was the flaw in the conning officer's (and tug master's) logic: if he had speed, he could kick the stern out a bit.

Big problem with that 'thinking': at low speeds, the rudder has almost no effect, especially with a boat that has 560 feet of hull going for it. There's just no contest between the hydraulic effects of those surfaces - hull versus rudder - at low speed.

Thus running the bell up just caused forward acceleration and jackhammered the tugboat because there wasn't enough speed for the rudder to do much.

Once the boat was up to speed, and the rudder did have some effect, the impact and damage to the tug were exactly what we see in the video.

My guess is that the conning officer well knew all of the above, but got it wrong because of sheer hope that the tug master's request would do the trick. In a more quiet moment, I very much doubt he'd have made the judgment that he did.

@tennvol: No offense, but your question and assertions make it very clear that you have ZERO time as the conning officer of a nuclear submarine. Go spend a few years doing that, and then come back with your's a little difficult to hold Basic Seamanship class on a blog.

5/12/2010 3:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be honest, reading the description of the actions taken made perfect sense to me as a surface puke. The orders given are identical to those used for a man overboard: ahead full and full rudder to the side you want to clear. The dynamics of driving that boat are clearly not the same as those for a tin can.

5/15/2010 10:20 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Too said...

@Anon (10:20pm):

What deep-draft would try what you've described when starting from a low speed?

A Trident draws about 35 feet of water. THAT would be the problem with throwing over the rudder at low speed and running up the bell with a powerless tug alongside.

Physics rules -- and so in this scenario the submarine HAS to go straight initially due to the hull's effects.

5/16/2010 9:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...I remember hearing about this story when I rode GEORGIA (GOLD) for a patrol back in '99. The crew told me about this incident, a time they caused a helo to crash into the ocean at night (hmm...not sure about that one), and the time they took out a palm tree with an exercise shot running up on the beach in Hawaii.

Sounds like a lot of tall tales, but this one certainly looks real. Also, the crew told me that the CO wanted to mast the hell out of the guy that said "there goes the mail."

Having driven Tridents...a word of advice. They are called buses / pigs for a reason. With their size and momentum, the best thing to do when you think your engines could die on you is conduct the BSP with the pig at all stop.

Better yet...don't drive a tug out into the ocean with shitty engines...period.

5/16/2010 2:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was aboard USS Von Steuben about 20 years ago when a tug collision occurred during a personnel transfer near Bermuda. High waves were an aggravating factor the Georgia didn't face. After the tranfer to the tug was complete and the two vessels were separated, the tug tried to clear away from the submarine using a maneuver similar to what the Georgia attempted, a high bell combined with a hard rudder. Unfortunately, the tug did this while atop a large wave with the sub in the trough below. The maneuver only served to pivot the tug atop the wave so that the props were left spinning free in the air in front of the wave's leading edge and directly above the boat's missile deck. The tug slammed down onto the boat and destroyed the clamshell over missile tube 2. The tug managed to limp into Bermuda and no lives were lost. We had to transit all the way from Bermuda to Kings Bay on the surface in heavy weather because the tube flooded and we had no idea what submergence pressure would do to the C4 missile. I only bother to mention it here because of the similarity in ill-concieved avoidance tactics.

6/14/2010 10:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor seamanship and a very poor understanding of one's vessel contributed to the sinking of YTB-415. The worse thing the USS Georgia could have done before the Secota was clear, was to increase power. The hull shape of the sub creates a suction which pulls surface water towards it. By increasing speed, the USS Georgia just pulled the Secota into it.

There's no way the Secota had enough power to pull away! The faster the sub went, the harder it pulled the Secota into it. The USS Georgia SHOULD HAVE gone all stop and allowed the Secota to drift away. That would have avoided the sinking and tragic loss of life. The OOD of the Georgia should have been court martialed!

6/14/2010 6:13 PM

Anonymous DaBris said...

Having served in the Army, not Navy I don't think that I'm qualified, for the most part, to comment on what happened here. But I DO have a couple of comments about the Tug in particular. First, a number of crew members of the tug are in Navy uniform. While I don't know about Naval practice that says to me that at least some of the crew was Navy, or perhaps ex-Navy. And with regard to the decom of the Tug before the incident happened, Government records are often screwed up; the Destroyer MURPHY (DD.603) was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1945, but for many years was listed as still being in the Navy until being sold for scrap in the 1950's. It is POSSIBLE that the tug that was decommissioned before this incident was actually a different tug altogether, and the YTM.415 was still in the Navy at the time of the sinking.


8/18/2010 10:22 PM

Blogger capnscruffy said...

"Am wondering what the JAGMAN had to say about Georgia's OOD's actions, as it seems fairly straightforward that you don't go to a higher bell when a collision is imminent or, worse, in-progress."

On tugs, my experience has been that there are times when - in fact - more power and more rudder is exactly what saves the day when a collision is imminent. Hard right rudder would definitely lifted the stern somewhat, regardless of comments to the contrary

10/30/2010 11:19 PM

Anonymous MMCM(SS) said...

This was the first time I'd ever seen the video. Heard about it many times, but had never seen it. I had the unfortunate experience to be on the USS Lipscomb in 1987 when we had a similiar incident in the Cooper River in Charleston. We were doing a dead stick shift to the floating dock at the Weapons Station and the tug came around and hit the vertical stabilizer. The tug sank within 1 minute. All were saved however, and the tug almost made it to shore. During the salvage of the tug, I heard one of the divers was lost. It bent up our towed array tube and the vertical stabilizer and we spent an extra week in dock for it.

I wont armchair, but having never seen the video, my first thought was to stop the shaft. If the bell was 1/3, there wasnt much way on the ship and the impacts of the stabilizer might not have been as bad. On the other hand, a think skinned 40 year old tug was no match for the momentum of the boat.

It's been 25 years, but I will remember those two men in my prayers.

8/05/2011 8:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Trident doesn't turn quickly even at speed. If they'd been super-snappy and had ordered a back emergency the second the tug lost power, things may have been better, but she was pretty much doomed from the get-go.

8/29/2011 3:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the tub crew were Sri Lankan and being foreign nationalist required permission from somewhere above our CO’s head to come onboard the Georgia. They were left top side until the approval came through. The Georgia’s EDEA (Bull Nuc) received the Navy Marine Corps medal for rescuing many of the survivors much to his own peril. His rescue swimmers vest had a tending line that would keep him tethered to the ship was to short to make it out to the men in the water so he cut the line, and his hand. This put blood in the water where there were already numerous sharks gathering. Several others on board received medals but none as high as that one.

12/14/2011 5:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former Trident sailor that served as a topside linehandler during many, many evolutions like this one, I've witnessed a few things - including the power of the Trident's propusion system. You get only a hint of that power from watching the sub accelerate in this video - but I'm here to tell you all that from a standing start "off the line" - this boat can accelerate so hard you will have to adjust your footing - and I'm not joking. The perception that a boat of this size needs several football fields to take off all way is erroneous. The deployed gear was not the problem in my opinion. The OOD ordered a full bell before the tug was clear of the sub. (Period.) My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with the victims of this tragedy and with all who serve in peril on the sea. "Semper ubi sub ubi"

8/16/2012 9:10 AM

Anonymous Madeline said...

Hey, there's a great deal of helpful information above!

9/12/2012 7:36 AM

Blogger justbob said...

As the small boat handling party phone talker in the video, I had a particularly unique over view of the events.

The tug master was a navy chief. The sailor seen running bellow deck and dogging the water tight door was a first class petty officer working on his masters qualifications. I was not aware of a second death until I found this discussion. Other navy personnel recovered were the midway cdo, 14 Sri Lankans ang the midway medical officer.

The evolution was prebriefed by the xo "fast attack bob" and the cob. Every thing was done by sop. The transferee was a first class nuke em.

The tug lost power just as we cast off and was on the stabilizer in a matter of seconds. The first order to manuevering was stop and lock the shaft. Per sop. That's why no fault was found with the co and ood

Unfortunately there was no sop for having a tugboat hung up in the running gear. The big concern was not deployed equipment. The screw wss what we were trying to protect. The engine orders were issued when it became apparent that the tug was in a dire position.
I was the one who called man overboard on the ja circuit that you hear in the video. I also relayed numerous engine orders to topside personel as the orders were for extreme bell changes that could have affected the efforts to recover personel in the water.

11/11/2012 1:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem was not the emergency hndling, but the handling before. If the crew of the submarine waited for the tugboat to be clear, before rushing away full throttle, nothing would have happened. It was the risky maneuver of the sub which caused the accident, as suddently the tug was slower in clearing off. And THAT completely unnecesarry risc-taking behaviour was not part of the investigations...

11/29/2012 5:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Interesting reading. I was the Chief of the Watch.

4/05/2013 5:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

JustBob again,

Found this thread again. As to "rushing away", I would have to call into question your knowledge of Personnel Transfer and Small Boat Handling Party procedure at the time of this incident.

Every aspect of the evolution was carried out per SOP. These were volumes of manuals covering all anticipated evolutions performed onboard. The USS Georgia Blue crew had a by the book command climate that entire crew bought into. Engine orders, speed, sea state etc were discussed in the pre brief . SOP was to cast off and increase bell. The tug was under power at the moment we cast off. That's in my opinion; the reason for the engine order for a bell change. The XO had me pass to the bridge JA phone talker to stop and lock the shaft when it became apparent that the tug was in peril. What went on up in the bridge can only be surmised from my point of view. I can say though, that anything contrary to SOP would likely have to be considered carefully. Given the time elapsed that the word topside from XO to me repeated back then passed to the bridge repeated then ordered via 21MC to maneuvering, repeated back the ordered to the throttleman (with parallel communication via control and the engine order telegraph and the engine order telegraph in the Bridge suitcase (all per the IC Manual and the aforementioned SOP) took away a big chunk of time from formulating and execution of a non standard plan in a situation not covered in SOP's.

The JAG investigation consisted of written statements from all crewmen with any possible information on the incident. My statement was about 11 pages front side only and was followed up with about 2 hours of questions.

What resulted was a change to SOP to minimize the ramifications of loss of propulsion during such evolutions. That document is classified so no discussion of other details regarding those changes are appropriate. Based on personal observations, knowledge of the SOP's and other pertinent documentation and regulations in place at the time, the correct conclusions were arrived at and appropriate changes were made after careful consideration.

Most of Naval procedures are written in the blood of our shipmates. This is a prime example of that old saying.

11/02/2013 2:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very troubling, first off WAIT until vessel/tug clears sub BEFORE applying sub power, then move sub.

After that hotshot mistake - cut power - but they maintained it until sinking was complete - great job -.

Seems to be a (compulsive stuck brain decision). Unacceptable to me.


12/23/2013 3:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh. the tug was operated by a private company - obviously contracted to provide tug services to Midway. From the AP story that was run shortly after the sinking (March 23 1986):

"The tug was operated by a civilian crew working for Base Services International."

2/10/2014 1:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I am still trying to figure out how the conversation went from the tug sinking after a xfer to conspiracy theories regarding the tug and whether there was damage to the USS Georgia. At the 0:30 mark you will hear warning sirens going off to indicate loss of power on board the tug. The fact is, 2 lives were lost. Who care about the made up conspiracies. Maybe the civilian company that owned the tug kept the USN livery until it had funds available to repaint it. Maybe you could research the company that owned that tug and find out for yourselves if you care that much. This incident happened, the tug, it's crew, the submarine and the chain of events recorded are real, not made on some sound stage or by some movie production company with money to spend in wasting a tug and 2 lives. Enough already with the conspiracy theories, obviously you weren't there and you aren't reading the posts by the people that ACTUALLY were there.

3/22/2014 4:06 PM


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