How To Save Toilet Paper

By Ned Stevens


Repairing malfunctioning equipment aboard ships or at isolated stations sometimes was a challenge but ingenuity won again.

There were times that there were not spare parts available to make the repairs on equipment. This could be for several reasons. One the spare part was not allowed or a replacement had been ordered and had not been received. It was even possible that multiple failures of a part occurred and the spare or spares had already been installed. Sometimes the district had spares that were stored in the district and was transferred to the requested unit. An example of this was AC generators for restricted loran stations.  The stations generally had three generators.  Two of the generators were to be fully operational at all times. If a loran station had two generators that were not operating you could bet A C-130 was in route with a spare generator onboard.

 On ocean station, sometimes spares were obtained from a relieving vessel, or shipped ahead to a stopping point by the vessel.

An example of this was on one double victor patrol; the CGC Winnebago was en route for double victor patrol and had a air search radar failure before reaching Midway island.  The needed part was not normally carried as a spare part, but the 14th district had the spare part and air shipped it to Midway Island.  As a result the Winnebago had a working air search radar when it got to the relief point.

Then there were times when things, like relief was many days away or weather conditions did not allow parts to be air shipped to the necessary station.  One of these times occurred at LORSTA Attu. The boiler control circuitry failed. The only solution was to use a spare relay from one of the loran transmitters to restore its operation. Or the time on the CGC Winnebago when the Radio Beacon Coder failed. This time a threaded rod from the MKs and a solenoid from the electricians restored the Beacon Coder to full operation.

The failure that required the most ingenuity occurred on the CGC Winnebago during a double victor patrol. This was not an equipment failure, but a supply failure. How were the CPOs going to survive without paper towels in their head. One solution was to hang up a towel for multiple users. The chief HM said no as that was unsanitary. The solution was to build from scratch an electric hand dryer. The ETs, STs and the MKs got their heads together and custom built one of those electric driers that shot out hot air for a time once the start button was pressed. The MKs fabricated a box from onboard sheet metal, the blower came from the sonar equipment spares, and the timing and control parts came from radio transmitter spare parts. 

The CPOs sure were happy with this solution.


 Ned Stevens is a retired Coast Guard CWO4


Return To Coast Guard Stories