Immediately, the call for hauling over hammock cloths and stopping them down was sounded. “Pipe sweepers” was the next command, and the decks were thoroughly swept while the deck washers removed their shoes and socks.
“Wet down decks!” and the washers sprang for the coils of hose attached to the fire hydrants. Every part of the decks was flushed with clean sea water and swabs, or deck-mops, were used where necessary.
All this was a familiar routine to Whistler Morgan and his mates. Later they would be assigned to their places in the watches and to their posts at all deck drills.
At the execution of morning orders at three bells, or half-past five, the decks were cleared of all loiterers and the order passed to break away the anchors. The steam gear was already in action. The derrick had hoisted aboard the running steamer before the chaser had arrived with the boys from Seacove and their companions, and it was now stowed in her proper berth amidships. There was no other craft outboard, even the captain’s gig having been stowed preparatory to going to sea.
Feathery smoke was rising from the funnels of the ship when Whistler and his chums had come aboard. Now great gray masses of oily smoke ballooned upward, drifting away to leeward before the gale. As soon as the anchors were tripped the bows of the great ship swung seaward. She began to forge ahead.
The Kennebunk was a huge craft, indeed, being of thirty-two thousand tons’ displacement. She carried twelve 12 and 14-inch guns in her turrets on the center line, while her torpedo battery of 5 and 6-inch guns numbered twenty. The “all-big-gun” feature of our big battleships began with the construction of the dreadnaught Delaware, in 1906.
The Kennebunk was heavily armored on the waterline and barbettes. She likewise had 5 to 8-inch armor along in wake of the berth-deck and armored broadside gun positions.
She had two steel cage masts and cofferdams along the unarmored portion of her waterline to protect the ship from being flooded if pierced by a shell between wind and water.
All machinery necessary to the superdreadnaught while in action was installed below the armored deck and behind the thick belt of armor at the waterline. Her system of water-tight compartments was perfect, and she had a complete double bottom.
In addition to her offensive machinery, she had several underwater torpedo tubes. Although she was supposed to be too heavy for great speed, her coal carrying capacity was enormous, and she could travel on the power of her oil engines alone in a pinch. Altogether, the Kennebunk was the very latest result of battleship construction, and was preeminently a “first line ship.”
But she had yet to prove herself.
Her brief trial cruise had shown her to be safe and that she could be handled by the minimum of men allowed on such a ship. Now with a full crew and direct orders for a month or more ahead, she was going to sea to make her initial record as a sea-fighter for Uncle Sam.