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Cannon Trouble

The battle that took place on the morning of September 14, 2002 wasn't the best attended by any means but was momentous for other reasons. We'd hoped to have 8 boats on the water that weekend which would be a record for SCRAP but due to circumstances beyond anyone's control we had only five captains and 3 observers. Those in attendance for the show only were John Flores (ship in dry-dock) and first timer Matt Ankley with Joe Dworniczak (ship in dry-dock) pulling CD duties. Captains in attendance included Allied Admiral Dana Graham with the HMS Prince of Wales, Axis Admiral David Asman with DKM Z43, Mark De Antonio with the USS Brooklyn, your correspondent Ty Siouxpancic with the HMS Inflexible and back at the helm after a long absence was Mike O'Bannon with the DKM Lutzow formerly known as "The Mach 5."

All the captains were assembled lakeside by 9:45 in preparation for the start of battle at 10:00 and because some of the fleet were still refitting after Nats (which accounts for the absence of Joe's beautiful Von Der Tann) the award winning POW was sent into battle without the benefit of her rotating bow cannon. In an effort to draw even sides it was decided that the Axis fleet had captured an Allied ship and re-christened her SMS Unflexibel for the day. Thusly, the sides were drawn as follows:

Allied Fleet:

HMS Prince of Wales with 5 battle units
USS Brooklyn with 3 battle units

Axis Fleet:

SMS Unflexibel with 4 battle units
DKM Lutzow with 3.5 battle units
DKM Z43 with 1.5 battle units

Once all the ships were launched it became obvious that the Lutzow (who hadn't been wet in over a year) had developed a terrible list when her motors were swapped out but after a short delay the list was corrected (for the most part) by adding ballast in the form of rocks found lakeside. Who's your mama? Necessity! After Joe called the ships to arms and the battle had begun the crew of the Lutzow realized they had another problem; their stern cannon wasn't firing. This information they kept wisely to themselves. Then, while the other ships played cat and mouse, maneuvering to take advantage of their armament, the crew of the Lutzow discovered that besides their malfunctioning cannon (later discovered to have been pinned) her props had stopped spinning and she was adrift, out of control. Fortunately the prevailing winds brought her to our shore, but upon decoding the Axis distress signals, the POW set sail to intercept. Just as the Lutzow ran aground, the POW backed her stern broadside and let loose with a devastating salvo. The damage to Lutzow was later counted at over 60 hits to that side! There were also some complaints on the part of the Allied fleet that since she had run aground she was unable to sink, but later inspection revealed that the lack of a bilge pump stream was due to the absence of serious below-the-waterline damage. She had only one elliptical entrance wound where a BB had entered her hull at an angle, but it was likely above the actual waterline due to Lutzow's dramatic list and was hardly enough damage to sink the Lutzow anyway.

With the Lutzow out of commission and the Z-Boat having emptied her magazine into the starboard side of the Prince of Wales as it sailed to intercept the Lutzow, the battle was left to the Brooklyn, the POW and the Unflexibel. The rest of the sortie went seemingly without incident until the Allied declared "five, out of ammo" and brought their ships to port. In dry-dock, the terrible consequences of battle became clear.

The Brooklyn had taken a hit to her rear cannon in an unprotected area just behind the breech which rendered it useless for the remainder of the day and the POW was missing one of her stern barrels. Apparently the crew had neglected to remove a barrel pin and the pressure had broken the weld and blown the whole barrel off. Meanwhile, in the Axis shipyards, we were attempting to repair the problem with the Lutzow's propulsion system. We tried Gerry rigging parts to lengthen the prop shaft and we tried crimping an extension to the motor drive shaft but without the proper tools our efforts were for naught. With the Lutzow dry-docked the resumption of battle found both sides diminished in firepower and the Axis with lost tonnage.


POW now with 4 battle units
Brooklyn now with 2 battle units


Unflexibel with 4 battle units
Z-Boat with 1.5 battle units

A few minutes in to the second sortie, as the captains maneuvered their ships and fired their cannons, a pop was heard from the water. It was disregarded at the time but would later prove to have been an ominous harbinger. Unflexibel discovered that after making an adjustment in response to Dana's remark "your cannons sound weak" she had lost the use of her bow cannon reducing her effectiveness to 3 battle units. Witness the power of enemy propaganda! After a few minutes of carnage, when the Z-boat had her sights lined up on POW, those assembled heard the captain of Z-Boat exclaim with exasperation "I'm out of gas!" Remember the "pop" we heard earlier? The Z-boat quickly retreated without having emptied her magazine and declared her 2 minutes. So without further distraction or threat the Allied fleet was able to focus their full attention on Unflexibel. While the Brooklyn fired her bow cannon she attempted to herd the Unflexibel behind the destructive stern of the POW but all too soon she and her team mate ran out of ammo and called five. Unable to catch either of the faster boats, the crew of Unflexibel decided to expend the rest of her magazines in fire control drills before returning to port just as she had in the first sortie.

As the ships were being refitted it was agreed upon by the captains that rather than a second battle, our next voyage would serve as a third sortie. Therefore, although we reloaded our magazines and re-gassed our cannons, we left the battle damage untouched. So there we are, excitedly preparing for our next battle when I discover that Unflexibel had thrown a prop blade. It was actually the failure of an earlier repair and I will note for the future that CA glue is a poor substitute for solder when it comes to brass repair. I stood their pondering this fact when suddenly, BLAM - SHHHHHH! (I'd have written "POW" but didn't want to confuse the issue) All heads spun in the direction of the report and we saw David standing there with his hands out in front of Z-boat. The tiny destroyer had blown her main gas line off the regulator. No big deal in and of itself, but the explosion tore a 1" hole in the side of her hull. After replacing the hose and replacing the CO2 cartridge David turned it on again but this time the hose just ruptured violently. John suggested that the regulator was malfunctioning and all heads nodded. Joe observed that at Nats his dirty regulator had caused excessive pressure but everything David does is immaculate. Z-Boat has (I believe) an aluminum Sheridan regulator which has been submerged in the past and may account for the malfunction, but until David has a chance to dismantle it the problem will remain a mystery.

So despite escaping unscathed from battle damage the Z-Boat would have to stand down and the third sortie would look like this:


POW with 4 battle units
Brooklyn with 2 battle units


Unflexibel with 4 battle units

Without any target but their previous ally, the Brooklyn and POW began the systematic hunt for Unflexibel. With inferior speed, but more quadrants protected by cannon, the Unflexibel was able to hold her own and empty all of her magazines in battle for the first time that day. POW spent much of her time trying to back her sterns into Unflexibel, who countered by keeping her stern just out of cannon range and firing her longer-range stern cannon whenever a target presented itself. Early in the sortie POW was pumping a steady, albeit weak, stream and despite a huge hole torn in her bow by the POW's triple sterns, Unflexibel's bilge was gurgling intermittently. Unflexibel took the least amount of damage in this 3rd sortie by adopting her "stern to stern" tactics and was even able upon occasion to slip up alongside POW and make several hits on her unprotected flanks. Brooklyn was effective in sniping at her enemy, but with only 1 cannon she and her teammate were unable to inflect sufficient damage to win an Allied victory. Yes, you guessed it, despite a chain of calamities the Axis were able to squeak past defeat and bring home (just barely) a rare victory. Upon dry-dock examination the POW's pump stream was determined to be the result of 14 below-the-waterline and 5 on-the-waterline hits. Brooklyn sported 1 below but Unflexibel had none. Those below-the-waterline hits are what make for points and victory when you consider that above the waterline the Axis had taken almost 3 times as much damage. Here are the final scores:

Allied: 1245 in Damage Points

POW 25-5-14
Brooklyn 12-0-1

Axis: 1220 in Damage Points

Z-Boat 0-0-0
Lutzow 71-1-1
Unflexibel 36-3-0

It was a great day despite set backs for several captains and I'm sure everyone looks forward to October when we may actually have 8 boats on the water. I'll note for the record that disaster spreads itself around pretty evenly in SCRAP. Inflexible's last battle in May was a travesty. She burned up a bilge pump, melted a soldered connection, lost 2 turrets and sank in her 2nd sortie. It took 2 months to work up the will to make the repairs but I'm glad I did. This hobby can be fun, but it's always challenging. If it were just about toy boats I probably wouldn't continue to participate. It's my fellow captains that make it all worthwhile. Thanks guys.

Post Script: It should be noted that lakeside, the margin seemed greater due to questionable accounting practices which prompted the captains of Lutzow and Unflexibel to detour from their trip home and conduct a victory parade through a Chino suburb. It should also be noted that SCRAP customarily employs a generous interpretation of official MWC rules in that ships removed from battle between sorties are not penalized by incurring sink points.