After submarine USS R-14 ran out of fuel and lost radio communications while searching for a missing ship in 1921, the crew stitched together blankets, hammocks and battery deck covers and then spent 5 days under sail to travel 120 miles back to Hawaii. The R-14’s skipper received a letter of commendation from Submarine Division Commander, CDR Chester Nimitz.
Seen here are the jury-rigged sails used to bring R-14 back to port in 1921; the mainsail rigged from the radio mast is the top sail in the photograph, and the mizzenmade of eight blankets also is visible. R-14‘s acting commanding officer, Lieutenant Alexander Dean Douglas, USN, is at top left, without a hat.(Source: US Naval Historical Center)
The story from R-14’s wiki page:
R-14 — under acting command of Lieutenant Alexander Dean Douglas – ran out of usable fuel and lost radio communications in May 1921 while on a surface search mission for the seagoing tug Conestoga about 100 nmi(120 mi; 190 km) southeast of the island of Hawaii. Since the submarine’s electric motors did not have enough battery power to propel her to Hawaii, the ship’s engineering officer Roy Trent Gallemore came up with a novel solution to their problem. Lieutenant Gallemore decided they could try to sail the boat to the port of Hilo, Hawaii. He therefore ordered a foresail made of eight hammocks hung from a top boom made of pipe bunk frames lashed firmly together, all tied to the vertical kingpost of the torpedo loading crane forward of the submarine’s superstructure. Seeing that this gave R-14 a speed of about 1 kn (1.2 mph; 1.9 km/h), as well as rudder control, he ordered a mainsail made of six blankets, hung from the sturdy radio mast (top sail in photo). This added .5 kn (0.58 mph; 0.93 km/h) to the speed. He then ordered a mizzen made of eight blankets hung from another top boom made of bunk frames, all tied to the vertically placed boom of the torpedo loading crane. This sail added another .5 kn (0.58 mph; 0.93 km/h). Around 12:30 pm on 12 May, Gallemore was able to begin charging the boat’s batteries.After 64 hours under sail at slightly varying speeds, R-14 entered Hilo Harbor under battery propulsion on the morning of 15 May 1921. Douglas received a letter of commendation for the crew’s innovative actions from his Submarine Division Commander, CDR Chester W. Nimitz, USN.