My friend Gerry had a notable birthday this week and his daughter organized a surprise birthday party for him aboard the USS Hornet museum ship in Alameda.
She did a great job of bringing friends there who had known Gerry all the way back to his Stanford eating club days, as well as some of us who have been fortunate to know Gerry from the PAARA ham radio club, especially its well known Field Day activities, made famous in Silicon Valley in large part because of Gerry's tireless Field Day work for many years. Gerry never had a hint of what she had in store for him and when he stepped onto the fantail where the assemblage of his friends was waiting for him, he was totally surprised and blown away by the event. He was very excited to see some Stanford folks he had not seen for twenty to thirty years. Imagine that!
Speed Control System
Besides a great lunch with friends on this historic aircraft carrier, we also got guided tours that took us all over the 41,000 ton ship to see its amazing facilities and systems. After climbing down many steep ladders, holding tightly onto metal and chain link railings, we ended up in the forward engine room, where high pressure (and low pressure) steam was used to turn one of the four propeller shafts. Each steam turbine generated 37,500 horsepower and the four engines together produced the equivalent of 500 1999 Corvettes: 150,000 horsepower. This would move the giant ship at an average speed of 32.5 knots (37.4 mph or 60 km per hour), for 12,500 nautical miles (14,400 miles or 23,200 kilometers) on one load of fuel oil.
The throttle for this incredible system is a little more complicated than the rubber pedal we press down with our right foot in our cars. It requires the use of the Engine Order Telegraph for the skipper on the Bridge to signal to the engine room how much steam he wanted, and thus how much speed he wanted, at any given time. There were a number of discrete steps he could choose, all the way up to full speed and then flank speed, the top speed.
The Real Top Speed
Except flank speed wasn't actually the top speed! There was one other step after that, with the indicator dial pointing straight down at "BENDIX." What does Bendix mean? It is the name of the manufacturer (probably the Bendix Corporation) of the indicator dial used aboard this and many other ships, a trade name! Having no speed related sense at all in the word itself, "All Ahead Bendix" came to mean "as fast as she can go," although one source says the use of this phrase "tends to irritate the Chief Engineer" .
Everyone found this to be quite marvelous. Well we're not sailors, though a few of us had been when much younger. Hopefully we have no Chief Engineer in our lives who we might irritiate, by using a rather arcane expression. When we're moving in a direction that is fully aligned with our life goals and purposes, one indicator of that is our willingness to let out all the stops, put aside all reservations, doubts and fears and blast forward with full steam ahead. All Ahead Bendix!!