"Locks Keep Honest People Honest"

So there I was... back on my JO tour on the good ship Topeka, getting ready to get underway for some exercise, probably support for a JTFEX or something. In any event, I had been part of the team that had got the boat regenerated for carrying "special" weapons back when we did that sort of thing. As a result, we had one of the "special" safes -- you know, one of the two-lock ones where you aren't allowed to even write down the combination anywhere. I was one of the guys who had one of the combinations, and we had just changed it the week before.

Anyway, we had to inventory the "cookies" or whatever it was we called them at the time before getting underway that afternoon, and wouldn't you know it -- the lock I was responsible for wouldn't open. The CO ("He Who Must Not Be Named") was understandably perturbed, and told us to "get that #$%#&$@ safe open; I don't care how you do it". We called up the tender to send over the locksmith, but he wasn't going to get there for several hours. So, being industrious young officers and gentlemen, we took to cracking the safe. Despite having no training, we got it open within a couple of hours; I think it was supposed to be rated for either 6 or 12 hours. The locksmith showed up a couple hours later and put in new locks, and we were good to go.

As it turns out, it was probably my fault the lock didn't open. The CO had accused me and my partner of forgetting the combination, which was untrue; we had used one of the two most common submarine methods of remembering combinations you can't write down. The first and, I think, most common way back in the early '90s was to convert an easily remembered six-letter phrase to the telephone keypad equivalent, and use that as a safe combination. (38-25-63 was fairly common; this translated to "F&ck Me".) We had used the other method -- using the level/frame/item designation from the brass placard of a nearby piece of electrical equipment. This is where we went wrong. Since a submarine is fairly narrow, the last number is normally fairly low, as there are only a limited number of pieces of equipment that can fit on each level and frame. (The first number has the same problem, with only 3 levels on an SSN.) It was the last number that got us; as we were reading the lock instructions when trying to open it, we found a prohibition against making the last number between 01-05; since this was one of the locks that you rotate back to zero before opening, last numbers this low didn't give the lock enough time to always engage the opening mechanism. It worked when we tested it after setting the combination, but apparently not thereafter. (I never did tell HWMNBN exactly what we'd done wrong.) After that, we always added a certain number to the placard code we used.

Have you ever had a problem with a lost key or combination on the boat?