Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mississippi River cruise

What to write......

Today I slept in late. I went to bed at around 1:00 and awoke at nearly 9:30, dragged myself to the shower, and arrived in my office pod by 10:15. During the night 2 more vertical casts were made and when I awoke we had just entered the southwest pass of the Mississippi River delta and were heading north to Venice. It was a slow trek upriver and I spend several moments simply looking at the surrounding delta scenery and watching the mighty Mississippi and all it's boat traffic drift by. This part of the day went slowly but as the day wore on things sped up. The trip up the river and back down is analogous to the kind of day I had. At the surface everything moved steady and smooth, with tini ripples undulating on the surface, but underneath the river water and all its bedload rushed quickly to the sea where it was swept away by the currents.

I checked in with all the ship scientists. The 3 vertical casts went fine overnight. Unfortunately the waves and swells throughout the night had continuously hit the container lab's A/C unit causing it to short out. In addition to this the shortage caused some problems with the underway pump. So by 9:00 AM the underway pump was useless and not collecting any useable data.  This all seemed relatively manageable, but based on the inability to collect data during the last 3 days due to weather we all were very disappointed. When we finally hit Venice, we found a place to deploy the vertical cast in ~20 meters of water. Our first data collecting point for the day.  Yippy. This was the one bright spot during the day. In the midst of this slow moving river trip I was running around making phone calls to homebase and then relaying info to the captain. We have a scheduled modification to the ship in Port Fouchon, where it will be outfitted with an A frame and additional equipment, namely a CTD sensor. The addition of the CTD will also require additional ship personnel. Currently the Ryan Chouest is able to fit 26 people, we currently have 23. After the CTD is added we will require an additional 3 personnel and possibly 2 more.

So the captain and I had many discussions trying to figure out how we could figure out the boat capacity and sleeping arrangements. Not only that but I made calls to different contractors arranging people to come onto the boat and work on various issue such as sticky doors, shorted air compressors, etc. while the major contruction was taking place. Taking care of a ship in addition to pilotting the ship is a logistical nightmare. By 6:00 PM the captain and I had everything all worked and we were able to relax. All I can say is I have a new found respect to everyone who works on a ship. There are some many things that need to be taken care of, I know have a really solid idea of where the saying 'he runs a tight ship' comes from and it has a whole new meaning to me. In addition to 'everything is in ship shape'. The AB seamen all have their specific roles and jobs that they complete deligently everyday. The OB also follow a strict schedule. The cooks make meals for each crew shift. Breakfast at 5:30-6:30 AM, Lunch 11:30-12:30 PM, Dinner 5:30-6:30 PM, and then dinner for the night shift at 12:00-1:00 AM. So the two cooks are cleaning and cooking non-stop and the galley is never in disarray. They also do things like make banana bread from overripening bananas in between. The engineers are also impressive, constantly working in the engine room fixing anything that might arise or anything that may arise on the ship. This way of life is very intriguing, it has a stillness that drifts above the unlying chaos of the ship. Man constantly harnessing a floating beast that is being pulled and tugged upon by both the air and the sea. 

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