Category Archives: Offshore

The Mighty Aviq Sets Sail

Aviq Track

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The impressive Aviq has put her stern to Everett. AIS shows her destination as “US^0U6Y<", which I have no idea where that is. I will miss seeing her in the harbor, however a vessel like this is meant to be on the sea, not tied up in port sitting dark. I wish her a good voyage and a sucessful year.

More pictures:
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Settling in and the Axial Seamount

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A couple of weeks back I reported to the University Of Washington pier to pick up some other crew members and drive to Newport Oregon. Newport lies along the central coast of Oregon and is also the recent home to the NOAA fleet (that was previously located in Seattle and moved by Sea witch Jane Lubechenko to Newport). It took me a bit to find my assigned room, settle my bunk and find the chief mate. The chief mate told me to report for duty at 0800 the next morning. I stowed the rest of my gear, then hit the pier to take a walk over to the local brewery for a refreshment and dinner. Unfortunately the brew house was jammed with people and a wait time over an hour, so I made it to the local watering hole down the road and a burger. I met some of the other crew and got to know one of the AB’s for a couple hours and get some of my questions answered. Our ship’s crew is 24 and with the science party and students onboard, the total is around 70 total.

The R/V: Thomas G. Thompson:
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The next morning instead of reporting for duty, the mate sent me on a grand tour of the ship with the 3rd mate. He was very thorough and showed me all of the spaces, safety equipment, set me up with the appropriate sized survival suit, went through the orientation papers, etc. After a couple hour tour, I was set to start working. The ship has been busy over the summer working at the Axial Seamount, approx. 300 NM off the central Oregon Coast. There is a large project being constructed in conjunction with the Canadians that is laying cable and instruments to observe the Juan De Fuca Plate. The Juan De Fuca Plate is one of the smallest plates of the earth’s crust and offers some desirable traits that makes the science party all hot and bothered. It is physically located close the NW coast of the USA, it is active, and is being pushed under the plate further to the East (name unknown). The project is constructing a cabled observatory that will run a main cable from a station at the beach and out to the edges of the plate and including the Axial Seamount which is one of the main focuses of the project. Branching out from the main cable are branch cables that include various instruments, cameras, sensors, etc. One example of the instruments being deployed is an inclinometer that can measure changes in angle as much as one-millionth of a degree. Another example was a seismometer that detected an earthquake one hour after it was placed beneath our ship. Click HERE for more information:

I arrived in time for the fourth leg of five legs planned for 2013. The 2014 season should finish the construction phase and finish testing and go live. The first through fourth legs of 2013 were with the Canadian ROPOS ROV team onboard. This of course is the first time I’ve even been exposed to ROV operations other than watching them on TV. They are engineering marvels up close. We probably launched and recovered the ROV 15-20 times during the two weeks of this leg. The ROPOS ROV uses a series of football shaped floats named lemons that attach to the main winch cable. The floats are calibrated for depth to 3000 meters and hold the majority of the cable’s weight so the ROV can roam freely near the bottom, much like a dog on a leash. As an AB, it was our job to attach or dismount the lemons each time the ROV was launched or recovered.

Here are some pictures of the ROPOS ROV and the control station:
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As the fourth leg started to wind down, word came down that a quick trip back to Newport would be in order to pick up two science party members and an important piece of equipment. We arrived into Newport on a perfect evening, tied up to the dock, put out the ramp, welcomed the two people onboard, craned the part onboard, lifted and stowed the ramp and threw the dock lines and headed back to sea.

Newport Oregon:
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We went back to sea about 50 miles off the coast and made one 18 hour dive to place the sensor and then high tailed it towards Victoria Canada to offload the ROPOS ROV and ROPOS Crew at their home base. About two hours into our northbound trip, word came down from the bridge to put out some trolling lines as there were several sport boats in the area fishing. Me being the tuna fanatic watched the hand lines the rest of the day. The hand lines I brought ended up being too short, so I combined four into two longer lines. The ship was going twelve knots so even a 20 pound tuna would prove challenging to keep hooked. I did get a bite from a tuna, but with the two hand lines combined into one there were two bungee cords inline and the tuna got sling-shotted out of the water about 3 feet high. Before I could get to the other side of the stern the fish was off. I pulled the lines in just as it got dark.

We arrived in Port Angeles, WA in the afternoon and anchored up in the bay. We had to clear out of the U.S. before we could enter Canada. We also had a 0700 appointment with the Victoria Pilot. We arrived, picked up our pilot, docked and offloaded the ROPOS ROV and Crew before dinner time. I went for a walk around the town and snapped the inner harbor and a few of the landmark buildings. At 10PM we departed and headed towards Seattle.

Victoria Canada:
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The next morning we were just off the ship canal in Seattle and had to wait until 0900 before we could enter the canal and the Ballard Locks. We can’t get the bridges open during rush hour, hence the wait. The weather was fabulous for trip through the lock into Lake Union:

Seattle from Lake Union:
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We now wait for our next science party and the U.S. ROV named JASON for the fifth leg. JASON should be here next week and we can depart sometime after just around Labor Day. Stayed tuned….

Pura Vida Delivery – Portland, OR to Anacortes, WA

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Last week I arrived home from Louisiana on Saturday night. Sunday I received word from Pura Vida’s owner that their yard work was just about completed and they would be ready to move from Portland to Anacortes as soon as the weather looked good. The weather looked good all week, so I had them lean on the detailer a little bit to finish up so we could catch the weather window.
Our plan was to rent a car, drive to Portland, bring the boat down the CR(Columbia River), up the Washington Coast, in the Straights Of Juan De Fuca to Anacortes and get a ride from my wife home. My good buddy Marlin Mike agreed to be my crew (more like said he IS the crew. He was bummed when at the last minute he had to scratch on the Red October delivery to SF last month).
Just we were about to go rent the car, I was called by dispatch for the assistance towing company (who will no longer be named in these posts) to tow in a broken down boat between Everett and Mukilteo. I was able to get underway in 20 minutes and made my way down river to the bay only to Aviq (picture above) out in the bay doing some maneuvers or training. I couldn’t get close enough to really tell. I snapped a few shots with the cell phone, but with the slip of a finger erased most of them when downloading them. I never found them again in the recycle bin. The tow was quick and I dropped them off at the dock so they could buy a new battery. Turns out they had a wire fall off of their alternator and the battery died, so they fixed the wire and replaced the battery so they could stay out and fish.
Marlin Mike & I rented the car, went home and packed it and drove to Portland. We met the boat owner, loaded all of our things, went and topped the fuel, returned the rental car to the airport, went to dinner and hit the bunk for a few hours of sleep. In the morning, we stowed the last items, laid down some lamps and picture frames that would likely have been broken and waved goodbye to the owner.

I snapped several photos heading downstream along the way:
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There are lots of tug and barge units running up and down the river, grain, fuel, aggregates, logs, etc. Most of the logs were based around Longview, WA and grain were more upriver, closer to Portland where they are offloaded from barges to silos and then loaded onto ships headed overseas.

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The downstream current gave us a few knots of speed along the way in most places. We came across some sort of a NOAA fishing survey. These two little boats each had one side of a net and were dragging it against the current:
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More pictures from the Columbia River:
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As we made it closer to Astoria, the cloud cover burned off and the winds kicked in. The wind wasn’t really in the forecast, but you know that goes. We could finally see the Astoria Bridge in the distance. This the last bridge before crossing the Columbia River Bar and into open Pacific Ocean. The bridge connects Astoria to SW Washington near Ilwaco:

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We crossed the bar at high slack and there was very little swell. The bar crossing was a piece of cake and we had a nice view of Cape Disappointment. Cape D is where Lewis and Clark first saw the Pacific Ocean. There is a USCG observation tower there now and a lighthouse. The Motor Lifeboat Station is just around the corner to the right of the bluff in the entrance channel to Ilwaco, WA:
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We made the turn North and set a waypoint just off of Cape Alava, which is about 25 NM South of Cape Flattery, the entrance to the Straights of Juan De Fuca. At this point Mike and I started on a rotation and he went to lay down first. The wind was persistent and the wind chop increased. Luckily there wasn’t really and swell to go with the chop so we just slowed down a bit and kept making way. About 40 miles North, off of Westport, WA, the winds really kicked up and we were down to 5 knots. The buoys to the North and East of us showed much better conditions, so we just made our way slowly through it. By morning we were just North of La Push and the water was flat calm again. We gave a big one finger salute to all of our fishing buddies who were at La Push for a five day fishing trip. Not one of them answered the radio at 0500. They were all sleeping off the previous night’s party and celebrating a good day of halibut and ling cod fishing. Lucky bastards!

As we made our way to Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island the fog set in. There is a ship in there somewhere and a snap of Tatoosh Island:
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We motored in for a few hours and the tide finally switched and gave us a few knot push into Anacortes. The fog was patchy at this point and we were able to get a few more photos. I’ve decided to invest in a better camera in the future so these photos have better quality. Entering towards Anacortes:
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We entered the marina, found our slip, tied her up, washed the boat, checked the engine room one last time, removed our gear and waited for my wife to arrive for the 1:15 hour drive home. Another successful delivery completed! Here is Mikey at the slip connecting the shore power cord:
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Down On The Bayou & RFPNW Course

A Plantation style house with the huge oak trees (this happens to be one of the local boat company offices):
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It has been a while since my last post, so it is time to end radio silence and fill in everyone on what has been happening in my climb of the Hawespipe.

Last Sunday I left rainy, cloudy Seattle and headed to Houma, Louisiana to take a RFPNW Course. RFPNW stands for Ratings Forming Part Of A Navigational Watch and is a STCW requirement for Able Seaman to serve as lookout or helmsman on bridge of a vessel.

Leaving Seattle, I had to fly to Denver and switch planes. The sun was out in full force and I was able to see the Rocky Mountains from the airport:
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The flights to New Orleans was uneventful and I picked up my rental car for the week. A tiny little Toyota Yaris! It probably looked pretty funny with me being 6’4″ driving around in this little shoe box. The car got insane mileage and the most I was ever able to fill up was 9 gallons (after driving over 350 miles). Here is the car:
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The place where I was staying only allowed check in after 3PM and before 7 PM, so I followed the bayou South through Galliano and Golden Meadow. The little bayous are full of shrimp boats, houseboats, older supply vessels, tugs and everything in between. The larger channels had many shipyards and it was not uncommon to see multiple vessels under construction, vessels being refurbished or other jobs like painting or inspections. The terrain here is flat as a pancake so getting a feel for where I was took a map and gps. The tallest elevation I found all week was a bridge over the Mississippi River. Because of the flat terrain, it was hard to see where all of the little waterways connected, where the bayou came close to the road, etc. You would be driving and all of a sudden turn a corner and see a tug boat pushing a load right next to the road. Totally different from the area I’m from! There were several amazing plantation style houses with the huge oak trees that had huge sweeping branches. Here is a picture taken through the car window. You can see a little bayou (back home, I’d call it a creek or small river). If you look closely you can see a shrimp boat just out of the photo and further down some other boats tied to the bank. This went on for miles. It was not uncommon for a boat to be tied up just a few feet from the side of the road:
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The further South I went, the more the marsh areas took over and the backwater bayous surrounded by trees and bushes disappeared. You could actually see into the distance. I came to a long toll bridge that leads to Port Fouchon and Grand Isle:
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Here is what the grassy marsh looks like. This is all part of the Mississippi River Delta:
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See all of the cranes in the distance?
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The bridge was something like 8 miles long and as I neared the end, I could make out Port Fouchon in the distance. The first thing you come to near the bridge’s end is a little community of houses, most with their boat tied up alongside or under their house. All of the houses, building and even the school (just down the road in Grand Isle) are all built up about 15′ to allow for storm surge to pass without flooding the building. I could dig having my sportfish yacht you the back door:
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The thing about Port Fouchon is that is absolutely clear that this is the epicenter of the Oil and Gas Industry in the United States, save for maybe the refining part around the Houston, TX area. This place was hopping, even on a Sunday with platform supply vessels, construction vessels, crew boats, trucks, cranes, and all of the other stuff buzzing around. Many other areas of the country have gas and oil, but the regulations prevent the drilling and the industry that comes with it. Louisiana has definitely embraced it and the amount of industry, commerce and jobs that support that industry are evident just about everywhere you turn. I drove around a little bit and snapped some photos:
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I think one of the boats I snapped a picture of is the boat New England Waterman work aboard. Be sure to check out his blog.

I also drove out to the end of Grand Isle, where there are lots of recreational beach houses(camps in local lingo). All of the building are built up to allow for storm surge.
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The time was clicking away and I decided I better start heading back to the place I was staying. With all of the wandering and goofing around taking pictures, I didn’t realize how far I had ventured and that it would take some time to get back before the deadline of 7pm. Heading back, the clouds built and then opened up with one of the those downpours that last about 10 or 15 minutes and then end. I made it to the place (a bed and breakfast poplar with traveling mariners – many of you mariners will know the place without me mentioning the name) and it looked like no one was around. Finally the proprietor came to the door and said “What are you doing here?” in a way that indicated that perhaps I had done something wrong or otherwise pissed her off. I said “I have a reservation” and she went on to tell me that she had given away my room when she couldn’t get a hold of me. This was completely inaccurate, as my phone works fine and I had made and received several calls from home and friends since landing in Louisiana and she may check her records better. This was all happening in a downpour and the though crossed my mind to load my things and go to a regular hotel. Just then she said bring in your bags. Everything worked out to be just fine and I never really figured out why she would say something like this to her customer. About an hour later, I heard her ragging the next guest as he arrived as well. Over the next few days and I got meet some of the other mariners staying there, it seems they all had a similar story. Here is a picture of the B&B where I stayed:
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The bayou behind the B&B:
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So I had a few days to do some travelling around the region and I made several trips to different areas. On one day, I was driving down the highway and passed an Ginourmous Bass Pro Shops. I turned around at the next exit and stopped by:
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This photo I sent home to my fishing buddies to see how big the fishing section is. This is only the part that would fit in the photo.
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I was walking down an isle checking out some of the stuff and two ducks flew by me so close I could feel the wind and they passed me. They live in the store and I saw them walking around a couple of times. My kids would like to visit here. I stayed about an hour and then carried on.

On Thursday and Friday I took the RFPNW course at Fletcher College in Houma. Their marine division is located in an area surrounded by more shipyards. Right behind the school is a shipyard with a large supply vessel under construction. Here is the school and a little bit of their equipment and surroundings:
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The RFPNW Course was from 0700 to 1600. There turned out that there were only three students that showed up. Because of the small class size, the class zipped by and we were out early the first day. After we took lunch break, we went a checked out the simulator that we would be using on Friday morning. The simulator cost $770,000 and is built by Konesberg (sp?). Outside of the windows is a screen that wraps around 180 degrees and when the controller enters a program or training scenario is shows on the screen. The graphics are kind of like an early version of a Playstation, but the way it moves with the swell, handling of the ship, radar, etc. you really felt like you were in motion onboard the vessel. Here it is on Thursday without being turned on. You can see the screen through the windows. I peeked my head out of the window and looked down near the floor and there were a series of projectors around the outside of the house:
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The control room is next door. This is where the controller can add swells, wind, rain, vessel traffic, etc.
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Friday we arrived, took a test of the material we learned on Thursday with 25 questions. We then each had one hour in the simulator. The master gave helm orders and we had to repeat the orders and control the ship as directed. There was a some extra time built into the hour to allow you to get the feel of the vessel. The simulated vessel is a 630′ x 115′ container ship and we were entering San Francisco Bay. The ship is similar in size as the Exxon Valdez. Coming from small boats, handling a large ship is totally foreign. I wish we had more time to play around with this system.
Here is the simulator turned on and you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance:
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Here is the control station where the controller was running the scenario. At one point he came into the simulator and was talking to me while I was trying to steer a straight course. He looked up at the screen and said I’m going to go turn down the swell. It had been building and was hitting me on the stbd. quarter. The floor was solid, but with the picture moving in the swells, your brain tells you that you are at sea and I could feel the swells. I looked at the floor a few times to verify it wasn’t moving (like you might see at Disneyland or somewhere like that).
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After the simulator training was done for each student, we were issued our certificates, and all of the RFPNW control (assessment) sheets. I could have taken this course near home for little bit less money. If I had, I would then be required to get 180 days of sea time after the course with 90 days over 200 tons and the other 90 over 100 tons. By taking the course / simulator at Fletcher, the sea time is reduced to 60 days over 200 tons. It doesn’t take much to figure out what a huge benefit that is. I am now in search of a job on a vessel of at least 200 tons to complete the sea time requirement. Once I have the sea time to go with the certificate, I will send all of it to the USCG and be able to add the RFPNW Endorsement to my credentials.

The last few pictures I took out the car window on the way to the airport on Saturday. It would be just my luck that Saturday was by the most sunny, clear day of the whole week and the day I had to come home. The photos are of the swamp trees with the moss hanging off of them. I thought it was pretty cool, but not the best photos out the window of a moving car.
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