When several destroyers are tied up at a pier, it is readily obvious if one is listing to port or starboard. Commanding officers seemed very sensitive to this indicator of a sloppy ship, and in the Cold War era, nobody wanted to be considered “left-leaning.” The key to list control was the two pairs of water tanks located on each side of the boiler rooms. When water for cooking or boiler feed make-up was drawn from a port-side tank, or evaporator water was pumped to a starboard-side tank, the ship listed to starboard and conversely. A machinist’s mate, known as the “Water King,” was responsible for this juggling. In the early 1960s, the KIDD seemed to have a lot of problems with listing to port, and the Water King was frequently admonished to shape up. This petty officer, who had an extremely “salty” vocabulary, complained that it wasn’t his fault, and that he was being treated unfairly. The chief engineer, weary of the complaints from above and below, held a meeting with the Water King and the “Oil King,” a boiler technician responsible for the moving and storage of fuel oil. After a “frank and open exchange of ideas,” an experiment was conducted on a quiet Saturday afternoon in port. First, the Water King trimmed the KIDD to zero degrees list.
The Oil King then cross-connected his off-center tanks so that the oil levels were equal and all of the oil was balanced. The fuel oil valves were closed and the Water King cross-connected his water tanks to bring them to the same level. We couldn’t operate at sea with the water tanks cross-connected as any tiny leak or evaporator “hiccup” would leave us dangerously short of fresh water. When the water tanks leveled out, lo and behold, KIDD was listing 1.50 degrees to port. This was apparently due to a combination of off-center machinery, ammunition, and stores—something not easily changed. A solution became obvious. The Oil King pumped a few hundred more gallons of fuel to a little-used tank on the starboard side and the KIDD returned to an even keel. Thereafter, when the list began to grow, the Water King could cross-connect for a short time and the list would disappear. Subsequently, there were few complaints from command duty officers and a degree of tranquility returned to “snipeland.” Lest you think that all friction had disappeared, the snipes [engineering personnel] knew full well that every time we blew tubes to clean the boilers, a lot of soot was deposited on the boatswain’s nice clean decks—sorry, guys.