As stated previously, I enjoyed the reunion. Perhaps the best part of the experience was revisiting the old boat after 20yrs. The current ships company were very gracious in giving its "maiden" crew the opportunity to see the ship one last time. I understand that Phil Sea will be undergoing an extended dry-dock period for upgrades. I would by lying if I didn't mention that my primary interest was the engineering spaces. Don't misunderstand, the Pilot House, Flight Deck, Combat Systems, Bridge, and focsle are quite remarkable. However, IMHO there is nothing more intriguing than a power plant. Clearly I am biased, as I spent a substantial amount of my time in the engineering and auxiliary spaces.
So, after having to endure the tour through the non-engineering spaces. I was thrilled to get a peek at the CCS, MER1 and AUX1. I was taken aback at the elimination of the DCC, PCC, and EPCC. Gone were the signal conditioning enclosures and seemingly millions of incandescent light bulbs. The consoles and enclosures were replaced by SMCS terminals which are oddly powered by M$ XP. Imagine that you're underway steaming at 40knots and you get the ubiquitous BSOD. That's some scary shit. I would imagine that these consoles have two processors and some level of redundancy to protect the ship from an unreliable OS.
I spoke with one of the watchstanders and he informed me that the system has been known to fail at inopportune times. Nonetheless, he did emphasize that not having to take manual readings with clip board and pen was quite lovely. Each watchstander gets a PDA which has a USB connector which enables you to simply download a trendlog spreadsheet to the PDA. The data is then stored and can be reviewed by EOOW and analyzed for abnormal behavior.
The changes certainly save taxpayers money, as the ship can be manned by fewer sailors.
Apparently with the technical advances and various innovations, the ship's crew has been reduced by one-third.
In case of computer failure, the watchstanders are trained in contingency strategies, that is they are expected to know where every temperature gage is located in there respective spaces. These are done during various drills. Ironically, manually recording lube oil temps and climbing over the main reduction gear was our normal practice underway. Heh, times have changed indeed. I would imagine that preventative maintenance can also be simulated too. It was not unusual that an improperly/properly performed PMS check was the cause of an inadvertent failure on some equipment.
Lastly, the other very interesting development was the introduction of females aboard combatant ships. During my days in the US Navy ('85 - '91), woman typically served aboard Tenders, Oilers and other non-combatants. The only exception was the humongous aircraft carriers. It seemed odd to walk by berthing areas designated "women only" and various other changes. There are roughly 30 females and nearly 320 males. I could imagine 6-month deployments are rather interesting. In truth, after being underway for 48 consecutive days without pulling in for a liberty call. I would have welcomed having a conversation with a woman. However, it seems hard to believe that more problems are introduced when people are asked not to be human. Perhaps some would argue that it is no different than corporate America.. Being confined to small and tight quarters is very, very different. Perhaps if the numbers weren't so lopsided, there would be fewer tempations? Who knows.
There were many changes aboard the old boat, very good to see her for one last time.