Monthly Archives: September 2015

How to recover a buoy

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We do a lot of buoy deployments and recoveries onboard the Thomas G. Thompson.  These are not navigational buoys but rather scientific moorings.

The first thing is to find the buoy.  Sounds simple, but many times they are missing or half sunk as a result of being struck by a ship or something.

Then we slowly approach and hand a special transducer over the side and trip the acoustic release.  The release basically drops the anchor and the buoy and mooring line float free.

We lead the winch wire or retrieval line over the hanging block on the A-frame and lead it around the starboard side of the ship.  A recovery hook is attached to the winch line and stuck on a pole that can be held out over the side.  At this point, the captain manuvers the ship to the buoy to begin the recovery.

Like this:

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Once the hook is attached, the ship slowly moves forward and leads the buoy around the stern while the deck gang mends the winch line around the back of the back of the ship.  We tow the buoy for a little while to stretch out the mooring line and keep it from getting fouled.

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Once it is trailing nicely astern, we haul in on the winch and bring the buoy to the stern where we can attach tag lines and control to buoy when it comes aboard.

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Then using the A-frame and winch the buoy is brought up on deck.  The mooring line is stoppered off to the deck and the buoy is broken off from the mooring line.  The buoy is then moved out of the way with a deck crane and secured.

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  The winch line is then attached to the mooring line and reeled in to complete the recovery.  Often there are instruments attached on the line that we must stop and remove.  Depending on the depth and complexity the recoveries can take from 2-7 hours to complete.

We then take them to a pier somewhere to get serviced / repaired for a future redeployment.

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Lots of catching up to do!

I’m so far behind on this blog it’s scary. 

When I last posted, we had been on a long trip from San Diego to the equator and back.  The fishing was great, but so was the work.  Eventually I’ll get all of report and photos done.  We returned to San Diego and unloaded to science party and had an empty ship for our transit to Portland, OR to the Vigor shipyard. 

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We spent 5 days there repairing our bow thruster and having an ABS hull inspection.  We loaded a large buoy while in the yard called “Cha Ba” (means whale tail in Quilliayute Indian) and deployed it off the Washington  coast en route to Seattle.
In Seattle we loaded a group from Whoi who placed a series of buoys around Station Papa in the Gulf of Alaska.  My second time there this year.  If I ever see Station P on the schedule again, I’m avoiding it.

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From Station P we went to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands and offloaded the Whoi group and took on a new group which was placing 85 underwater sensors around Umok Volcano, one island to the West of Unalaska (Dutch Harbor ).  That trip only took a few days but the fog was thick and we never really got to see the volcano despite completely circling the island.
We finished that trip and offloaded again in Dutch Harbor and finally steamed for home.  Once we got into the Gulf of Alaska again, we got clobbered by nasty weather.  We also passed to Aviq and Fennica heading to Dutch Harbor as part of Shell’s artic drilling campaign.
When we arrived in Seattle, I was off the ship for two glorious summer months!!

I spent my time riding my motorcycle,

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tuna fishing,

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home projects, working on my motorcycle, working on my buddy’s tuna sportfisher, running some relief tuna charters for another friend, towing disabled vessels for vessel assist, drinking dome Crown Royal and managed to squeeze in an ECDIS course.

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I reported back to the ship two weeks ago and right now it’s blowing 30-40 knots off the coast of Vancouver Island.  We are on a project for the Canadians and are also working with a cable lay ship and Bob Ballard’s ship, the Nautilus. 

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We have onboard the Jason /Medea ROV from Woods Hole and are basically killing time until the weather improves enough for the ROV to dive again.

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Unfortunately for the science party, they’ll be lucky to get another day of ops before thier ship time runs out.  They have a laundry list of things that won’t get completed.

I now have the seatime for a 1600 Mate N.C. license and have just completed this week the last of the OICNW assesments that I needed.  When this hitch is over I will apply to the USCG to upgrade my license and begin to study for a monster test.

Will try to get the updates done weekly, as has been my goal.