“Gentlemen, here’s the roster and assignments for the next 7 days”
I looked at the roster, I had the bridge for the next 7 days from 1800 hours till 0600 hours. I could handle that, I knew since this was my first assignment as Captain, I had to succeed.
The Commanders had 6 hour shifts since there were four of them, Billy opted for the shift starting at 2000 hours till 0400 hours.
I went to the Bridge to acquaint myself with the equipment. I was familiar with the bridge on the other ships I sailed, but not this one. There was some new equipment, one of the radio operators explained it to me. I stayed there until lunch at 1200 hours and then went to my cabin to rest.
At 1800 hours, I reported to the bridge relieving the Commander. At 2000 hours Billy joined me along with the Admiral. We were heading south toward the Antarctic Pole, now known as the Southern Continent. Much of the ice had melted and only in the last 50 years has the ice began to rebuild.
I watched the monitor for any blips indicating a ship was in our radar scope. We did see one fishing vessel, made note of it and informed shore patrol to check it out. They reported back it was a legitimate fishing boat and their papers were in order.
The rest of the trip, we didn’t see any other ships. I was relieved by the Commodore at 0600 hours. I went to the mess hall for breakfast, said hello to Billy, then hit the sack.”
When I got back to the bridge at 1800 hours, I found that we had sailed past the tip of the Continent and started up the Pacific Coast. I was totally amazed at how fast we sailed. We had covered what would normally take weeks, in hours.
I decided at the first chance I had, I'd review the design of the ship. There was something in the design that had allowed the ship to travel that fast. I wanted to know what it was. For the rest of the week, I was in the Bridge. There were drawings showing the construction of the boat. I looked at the ratings, but I couldn’t see any difference, but there had to be something.
The first day I was off. I went to the library and pulled designs of the older ships. Then I compared what I remember about what I saw on the bridge. I didn’t see anything that would tell me why we were so fast. I thought about this for a day, then I went to engineering.
“Chief, I have been trying to understand why we seem to sail considerably faster than the old ships. There has to be a reason and I haven’t seen anything in the drawings that would account for it. What is it, we seem to be skimming over the water.”
“That’s the secret, Captain. Check the keel and compare it to the older boats. Also check the difference in the engines.”
‘So you know and won’t tell me?”
“Yes Sir, we’re sworn to secrecy as the design is something new and they don’t want it copied. If you figure it out without me telling you, I can’t be held accountable.”
So the solution is in the design. The engines would give her more thrust, but there is something else.
“Colin, what are you working on?”
“I’m trying to figure out why we’re so much faster than the old ships we served on. It’s like we're riding above the water, but we can’t be.”
“So you think we’re moving so fast that were skipping along, like rocks when we threw them in a pond. I use to be the champ, the key was to select a rock with a flat bottom and when you threw it, it would skip, you know hit the water and then fly a distance in the air, land in the water and with the initial momentum skip again. With the right stone it would skip several times. Four or five skips was considered excellent. You would be lucky if you could get more than five.”
“Billy, you may have solved my problem. I need to check those drawings again.”
I found it hard to accept that skipping stones was the answer to my problem. The bottom of the boat was essentially flat except for two hollow runnersdown the center.Why hadn’t I seen that earlier? Chief said we had new engines, now I had to check that out. I knew what engines we had in the older boats, I worked for several months in engineering as a Ship Boy.
I didn’t have the specs for the new engines, when I asked engineering they said the specs were top secret and they couldn’t give them to me. The next time I was assigned to the bridge, “Commodore, do we have the specs on our engines?”
“Why do you want the specs on the engines? We don’t have them here, they must be in Engineering.”
“No Sir, I already checked.”
“What has you so interested in our engines.”
“We seem to be moving very fast, last night we were in the Atlantic and now we are in the Pacific. That means in a short period of time we have sailed south, went around the tip of the continent and now we’re in the Pacific. I am curious about the propulsion system.”
“I’m not sure but you’re right, we’re moving considerable faster than the other ships we were on. I’’ll ask the Admiral.”
That turned out to be a mistake. The Admiral quite emphatically said it was a top secret and none of our concern. Well, that only piqued my interest more. I guess in some ways I’m still a child, tell a child he’s too young or doesn’t need to know something, is the surest way to get him to look into it. Now I need to look into what I knew about the design and figure out how the ship moved. I was on the aft deck when I noticed a swirl of water behind the ship. I looked at that swirl wondering what caused it. There appeared to be two swirls about a meter off the center line of the ship. Then to hit me, this runners were connected to the motors. I needed to go to the library.
“Colin, where are you going in such a hurry?”
“I‘m headed to the library. I think I know why we’re going so fast. Have you ever heard of planing?”
“Yes, that’s what those stones do when they skip. They plane as they take off again . You don’t think that's what the ship does, it skips across the water.”
“Yes, exactly, only it doesn’t actually skip but it rides on the surface otherwise you would feel the ship going up and down.”
“I’ll check up with you later, my shift starts in 30 minutes and I need to get ready. Love you.”
A quick kiss and I was back heading to the Library. It didn’t take me long to check the physics of planing, evidently rockets and some newly designed high altitudes planes use this technique to cover long distances quickly. The page I was reading explained the lift that is produced is called hydrodynamic levitation which allows something to skim over the surface of water. That is what's happening with this ship.
I didn’t have to report until the next day for another 7 day shift starting at 1800 hours.That’s what I thought when the Commodore knocked on my cabin. “Sir, please enter.”
“Captain, the Admiral would like to meet you in his quarters, asap.”
I went to the Admiral’s quarters. Knocking, “Captain Steward reporting as order, Sir.”
“Enter Captain. Captain I’d like to know how much you know about the movement of this ship. It appears that some highly classified information has found its way into your possession. I'd like to know who in Engineering provided you with this information.”
“Sir, no one in Engineering provided this information. I realized that something was different in our method of powering our ship. I believe I mentioned this to you earlier.”
“Yes, I recall that but I also said it was highly secretive and you should not pursue it further.”
“Sir, I didn’t think I’d discover the secret, but if you have ever played skip the rock when you were close to water, you’ll understand how I discovered the propulsion system. I’m sure any one who is curious and has played the game will come to the same conclusion.”
“Captain, unless you want to go Mars, I suggest you keep this information to yourself, understand.”
Now I needed to go and see Billy. I knew Billy was on duty in the Radio room. As I enter the room, the Chief called ‘Captain on deck’Billy looked. "Chief, I need to see Commander Wilton for a minute.”
Billy came over and saluted, I returned the salute. We need to talk about my engineering skills. “Do not speak to anyone about my engineering history, understand.”
Billy understood that something happened. “Yes Sir”