Thanks For The Bottom Blow, Mr. Trump

This politics over the last week has resurrected a memory.

When I became a Navy officer in 1984, the Navy was in transition from steam power to gas turbine for ships, discounting the nukes—which only makes economic sense for aircraft carriers and submarines, now. My ships were steam, but Jaguar steam—to borrow a metaphor from one of the engineers on my first ship.

1,200 PSI, superheated—”dry” water vapor. Superheated means that via the gas law, you can make water vapor tantamount to any gas vapor, under extreme pressure. Since water is the medium in which we live and work: duh, right? You use low-pressure but rapidly oxidizable aerosol fuel to get it there—an aerosol, non-gas, to make a gas and be gentle on all the machine bits, like turbines and tubes.

Anyway, when you distill sea water, then introduce it to the engineering plant—four boilers….two online at all times—you get debris. Not talking about flotsam, but particles, microscopic, they accumulate over time.

These boilers have several chambers, lots of tubes; but one chamber is called the “mud drum.” This is where all the sediment eventually ends up. It’s the absolute lowest point in the closed system, thanks to ubiquitous gravity.

…Periodically, it gets too full of itself and we have to hold an election. Since the system is at 1,200 PSI, you only have to open the lowest valve. It’s a lowest-common-denominator sort of thing.

The whole ship rumbles, as though relieving itself from an awful bout of diarrhea.

We call it a Bottom Blow, and the metaphorical jokes that abound over decades are plentiful.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. While not a Navy engineer, or qualified deck officer, you know your bottom blows.

Perhaps you’ll be the first Commander in Chief to get that.


  1. Blain on November 14, 2016 at 18:20

    Richard, great metaphor.
    I’m a retired marine engineer and the headline peaked my interest. Great metaphor. I must have performed hundreds of bottom blows while working as second engineer on board steam ships. It’s the process of continually having to add distillate to the boilers, due to continual steam leakage, that slowly causes the boiler water to become dirty. Sort of distillation in reverse. I used to “blow tubes” every day as well.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 14, 2016 at 18:57

      Yes, sir. We blew tubes regularly. We also stroked tubes. :)

      • Blain on November 14, 2016 at 19:06

        Just your own hopefully.

  2. Tom Murin on November 14, 2016 at 19:27

    If I recall correctly, you were on a missile shooter – so you can use “Dud Eject” as a metaphor too.

    While I was on gas turbine ships (FFG and PHM) – we referred to “Operation Bottom Blow” when they were getting the dirtbags out of the navy, or at least off the ship.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 14, 2016 at 20:10

      First ship was a Leahy Class, USS REEVES, CG-24. It’s a rather unique Class in that it had zero guns except CWIS.

      But it had 80 surface to air SM2, 8 of them tactical nukes, BTNs (this made the job hard). The electro-hydraulic, 1950s era mechanical system that ran the “revolvers” fore and aft, plus the rail, shuttle and launcher system was a fucking wonder and overseeing it all was my first fucking sleepless job.

      I’d give almost anything to be right back there, South China Sea, 3am, something’s fucked up and it’s assholes and elbows to get fully operational again.

  3. Tim Steele on November 14, 2016 at 20:36

    Captain Trump to Washington DC: “Half-mast the skivvies, prepare for ram.”

  4. Sheena Hunt on November 15, 2016 at 12:23

    Heh, reminds me of my time in the petrochem industry; on some rigs they would use ‘pigs’ to clean the pipelines when they got gunged up. And to fire them? A pig launcher, naturally.

    The only bottom blows I see are venting liquid out of compressors we use for various jobs in the water industry. Very small fry to those on a steam vessel. Wish I could have seen/heard/felt that!! :)

    Oh, and just converted 1,200 psi to metres head… whoa. Serious pressure. We tend to see ‘only’ 100-120mwg tops in a water main…..

    • KARL on November 15, 2016 at 13:31

      Pigs are mainly used to drain the pipeline as much as possible, to have an accurate measurement of the volumes loaded or discharged and to empty the pipeline for the next product to be handled.

      • Sheena Hunt on November 16, 2016 at 01:42

        I just found the concept of launching a pig down a pipeline sounded funny… A bit like the ‘cat cracker’ at our large local oil refinery. I imagine local moggies being lobbed in and broken down for parts. The reality, though, is not quite that. ?

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.