A Fistful of Yuan 9: The Last Field Service Trip

There was still one more trip to be made for the first hammer, and Jesse Perry’s trip report is where we pick up, after he arrives in Tokyo: (Again our Offshore Tips will be very helpful in visualising some of the mechanical aspects of the system.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 1983

Took 9:00 a.m. flight from Tokyo to Peking. I was met and taken to the hotel at 2:30 p.m. I called Amtech and was told that I would be taken to Tanggu tomorrow. Two offshore China Petroleum men were at their office. These two men came to my room at 4:00 p.m. for a meeting. They will pick me up at 7:30 a.m. and left at 5:30 p.m. Mike Pearce called at 6:30 p.m. and asked me to come downstairs for a talk and drink. Mike left at 8:00 p.m. and I had dinner and went to bed.


I was picked up at 8:00 a.m. and driven to Tanggu. Arrived at 1:30 p.m. and met for a couple of hours with O.S.C.P. people at their office. I will be taken offshore tomorrow. The jacket will leave in the morning. I was taken to the Seamen’s Hotel at 3:00 p.m…

SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 1983

They called and told me to be ready at 1:00 p.m. I was picked up and taken to the yard for a meeting. At 2:00 p.m. I was taken by helicopter to the derrick barge. The jacket is still in the yard. There is one A.B.S. man and eleven Japanese consultants. I had a meeting but nothing else today.

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 1983
I spent a couple of hours on deck with the crew. Most of the men are new to me. It started to rain at 11:00 a.m. No more work today. The winds picked up to 30 knots and the seas about 15 feet.


40 to 50 knot winds, rain and 20 foot seas.

An example of the Bo Hai’s frequently rough weather.


Weather clear. We pulled the Manzel Lubricator apart as it would not pump. The set screw was loose in the coupling from the drive to the cam shaft and the key had fallen out. I also found three cam set screws loose. We remedied this and assembled the pump. The storm picked up again and we pulled anchors and headed for Tanggu harbour. I got the Manzel literature and studied it as I did not like a filter arrangement that they had on the oil feed supply line.


Dropped anchor at 1:00 a.m. off Tanggu. I had a meeting from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. explaining what I had learned from the literature last night. The filter arrangement was for the air supply to the pressure supply pump for a 55 gallon drum. I did not know that they had this pump but they did. They said that the filter was where it was when they took the lubricator out of the box. Manzel’s drawings and instructions are lousy and some are missing or do not apply to this arrangement.

This illustrates an important point: you may have the best product out there, but if your documentation is poor, your customer may never figure that out. Manzel lubricators were fine, but they assumed that the end user “knows” how to put them to use, which isn’t always the case, especially when the end user is halfway around the world.

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 1983

Anchored off the sea buoy off Tanggu. 12 knot winds, cold but clear. Crew will not work again today. 1:00 p.m. 20 knot winds, 8′ seas, weather clear and mild. Still no work.


Up anchor and set sail at 8:00 a.m. On location at 1:00 p.m. The tug to run anchors never showed up. I tried to get help to grease the hammer and work on the lubricator. Men do not work when barge is moving. I tried later but men would not work. I got the interpreter to set up a meeting for me with the Project Manager. The jacket is supposed to be out tomorrow. We had the meeting at 7:00 p.m. He did not know about the work that I had to do. He told the mechanic that he did not want talk from him he wanted work tomorrow morning. He apologized to me and said that if I had any problems that I was to come to him right away. Weather started to pick up at 9:00 p.m.

SUNDAY, MAY 1, 1983

I got the lubricator running good. The oil level control not used. They had gone from the tank directly to the pump. The oil pressure supply pump is in Tanggu. We are using gravity feed. The shaft rotation alarm not used. I did not have all of the instructions for it. A man is to watch the pump…Some of the walking cam grease has come off of the columns. They had pumped the bores full of steam cylinder oil. I pumped some heavy grease into the bottom four grease fittings to try to seal them. This was the only grease that they had on board. The jacket left Tanggu this afternoon, is supposed to be here at 2:00 a.m. and will be set sometime tomorrow.

The “walking cam grease” is a very thick (about the consistency of peanut butter) open gear lubricant which we recommended for use on the columns, where the ram rode up and down.

MONDAY, MAY 2, 1983

I had them hook up hoses to the Vari-Cycle. They used bailing wire for clamps. I told them this was no good. They said that this is all that they had. I saw hoses hooked up all over the barge with it. I put air to the hoses and blew the hoses off for them as I had done in Tanggu in November. They said that they would make clamps. We found another can of grease, this was black and better but still not good. I used it on the top portion of the columns. The DALI Hao, 1200 Ton rig, set the jacket at 1:00 p.m. I was trying all day to get the hammer in shape with no interpreter. He was with the ABS man on the DALI Hao. The pile barge came along side at 6:00 p.m. Started to stab four corner piles at 8:30 p.m. A small crane barge helped. This is their first pile job and they used the two cranes to pick the piles from the pile barge. The lubricator pressure pump got here today from Tanggu. Three mechanics played with it for two hours before I got it to work for them so that I could get them to work on the hammer. I have the lubricator hooked up to gravity feed and the pump is not necessary. At 11 :00 p.m. we used the weight of the hammer to breakout the diaphragms. This crane is so slow that it would not lower the pile fast enough to break the diaphragms out. No driving tonight, I went to bed at 1:00 a.m.

To get some idea of what is going on, click here for information on the installation of conventional platforms. The diaphragms are situated at the base of the platforms, and prevent the ingress of mud into the jacket legs. When the piles are stabbed (threaded down the jacket legs, the pile toes are supposed to break the diaphragms so the piles can sink by their own weight some distance into the soil, after which pile driving can begin.

The slowness of the crane is a major fault, and not just for productivity. It impedes the crane operator’s ability to react to unusual situations, which can be a safety hazard, in addition to causing property damage.

The use of bailing wire for clamps is also a safety hazard. Generally speaking, with air and steam hoses, the connections (especially if they’re quick disconnects) are tied off with some kind of cable more substantial than baling wire. Four years before this, I had been involved in litigation where an inadequately tied air connection came apart, and a coupling hit a man on the side of the head, seriously injuring him.

TUESDAY, MAY 3, 1983

They picked the hammer at about 8:30 a.m…(t)he hammer came upright and off the deck about a foot. It swung around all over the place before the operator finally set it down. It tore up one supply shack and two oxygen bottle racks, that was when I took off for cover. We were lucky that none of the bottles blew. The pad eyes were torn off the bell. I had them weld pad eyes onto the hammer guide beams, while they were doing this I tested the Vari-Cycle now that the hoses clamped. They made another clamp and fixed the hose in the boom. I finally got the exhaust trip to move out by adjusting the nut on the end of the piston. I had to drill another cotter key hole in the shaft to get the nut in the right place. We drove the first pile 15 feet to the lifting pad eye, about 50 blows. It took them about 3 hours to burn the pad eyes off and grind the burn area. We then drove this pile down, 5 to 10 B.P.F. We then drove the other three piles to the pad eyes and while they burned them off I had them lay the hammer down and checked it. We then drove the other three piles down, 5 to 15 B.P.F. After I had the hammer set on the pile right, I would go up with the men on the controls and lubricator. During driving, when the boom angle had to be changed or the crane had to be swung, I would stop the hammer and go down onto the jacket to instruct the foreman and then go back up to the controls. That up and down gets old after awhile. I got up at 6:00 a.m. and went to bed at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday. I had them lay the hammer on deck and told them to leave it alone until I got up.

“B.P.F.” means blows of the hammer per foot of pile penetration into the ground. 5-15 BPF is usually considered easy driving.

When we picked up the hammer for the first pile, I told the manager that I wanted the tugger lines crossed on the bell. This would give me a better arrangement to rotate the hammer as I wanted it on the pile. The manager explained this to the men. The men decided that it was not necessary and would not do it.

The Chinese were not unique in this decision making process; I experienced this with my own unionised, Scotch-Irish workforce.


I went on deck at 10:00 a.m. I wanted to change the piston rod packing that blew on the last pile. I was told that the hammer would not be used until tomorrow night and that they would do it tomorrow. They were removing the jacket lifting arrangement and cables and will stab and weld add-ons today and tonight. I told them that I would need two wrenches to fit the packing gland nuts, that I could not use adjustable wrenches. They said that if they did not have them that they would make them…They stabbed three plum piles at night before the wind came up at 3:00 a.m.

The ability to use improvised tools to effect maintenance is an advantage with Vulcan equipment, one that proved an advantage in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Bo Hai.


At 8:00 a.m. they told me that the rain would stop at noon and wanted me to get the hammer ready. We changed the packing in the rain and cold, 15 knot winds, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. We knocked the diaphragms out of two piles, on the second one the pipe cap cables broke and damaged the top insert of the stabbing bell, 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. We laid the hammer down and replaced the pipe cap cables and repaired the bell, 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. The wind came up at 5:30 and they shut down for the night.

FRIDAY, MAY 6, 1983

I was up at 5:30 a.m. for 6:00 a.m. breakfast. Started to pick the hammer at 7:00 a.m. Lost one hour, compressor for the Vari-Cycle would not start. Two portable compressors on board. I think that the Japanese left them here from their occupation, World War II. We knocked the diaphragms out of the third plum pile and drove the three of them, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Stabbed #4 plum pile and made cut offs on driven piles. Stabbed seven (7) intermediate batter piles, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. I told the interpreter that I was worried about the shock load on the cables and lead lifting bale when they broke out the diaphragms. He told the captain who he said was the man in charge. The captain wanted me to inspect it after each break out. I told him that I would not as I would not take responsibility for doing this. The bale is designed to pick the leads and hammer and not to do this type of work. 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., knocked out two batter pile diaphragms. Stopped work at 9:00 p.m. and moved away from jacket. A bad storm is due in about an hour.


The storm blew over by 5:00 a.m. We moved back to the jacket, 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. Changing lifting cable and pipe cap cable, 8:00 to 10:30 a.m. I met with the manager and explained that my 21 days would be up Tuesday the 10th. I told him that it would be $350 per day after that. I also told him that I was supposed to be home then but I would stay longer if I thought it necessary. They tore a hole in the roll bar when they stood the hammer up, 10:30 a.m. I told them that it was okay but they repaired it, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Knocked out diaphragms on the rest of the piles. They could not get a couple of them last night and I told them why. I had them get lined up properly, which they had not done last night, and then shook the pile with the tugger lines. Drove these pile to the lifting pad eyes and burned them off. We then drove four of them down. The packing gland started to leak, so I had them lay the hammer down, 4:30 p.m. We greased and checked the hammer and tightened the packing gland, 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. They stabbed three final sections on the plum piles and started to weld at 9:00 p.m.

One of Jesse’s consummate skills was his knowledge in how to get off a derrick barge. Back in 1981, the evening before Ian Stones left for the south and we had dinner together, Jesse had Ian (and me) in stitches telling him all the methods he had used to get off of derrick barges, and this was yet another example of this.

The “lifting pad eyes” referenced immediately above were those on the pile, which are used to pick the pile up with. Towards the head of the pile, they are burnt off before they get to the platform as the pile is driven downward.

SUNDAY, MAY 8,1983

We finished driving the rest of the lead pile sections and then drove the final sections on two of the plum piles to grade. This made the total footage driven about 1800 feet. The hammer was in good shape and running well…They started to stab and weld add-ons. There would be no driving for a day or so. A helicopter was going in this afternoon. I made arrangements to be on it. We had a couple of hours meeting and I left for Tanggu. I had to show some of the other passengers how to fasten their seat belts and strap on their life jackets…I checked into the Seamen’s Hotel for the night at 5:30 p.m.

MONDAY, MAY 9, 1983

I waited from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. for transportation to the office. When none showed I finally got through by phone to someone who spoke English. They in turn, got the Engineering Department and said that a car would be over in 20 minutes. About a half hour later, a bus pulled up and seven of the Engineering Department came out.

These were all fellows that I had met before and they were happy to see me. We met for a couple of hours and had lunch. I gave them a rundown of the whole operation and told them that they needed piston rod packing and some good grease. I gave them a sample of the walking cam grease that I had brought in with me. They left at 3:00 p.m. and I was taken to the train station at 4:30 p.m. I got to Peking at 9:30 p.m. Caroline met me and took me to the hotel. The restaurant was closed at my hotel. I took a cab to the Jianguo Hotel for something to eat, as I had nothing to eat since noon…

TUESDAY, MAY 10, 1983

I took a cab to the airport at 6:00 a.m. Flew Peking, Shanghai, Tokyo, San Francisco, Houston, West Palm Beach. I took a cab home at 11:30 p.m…

When Jesse returned home, he had worked for Vulcan for eighteen years and was nearing retirement age. He had so much “comp time” from traveling that he proposed to start working half time to use up the comp time and make retirement more of a process than an event.

But this process was cut short. On 5 July 1983, after work Jesse went to his favourite hangout, the Wonder Bar in West Palm Beach. While there he had a massive heart attack and went on, as Chairman Mao would have put it, to meet God.


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