Category Archives: Science

Where to start

My energy for blogging seems to have faded somewhat.  I mean, I want to blog more, but finding the time to peck out posts and especially add photos (they seem to be most time consuming) is the most difficult.  When I get home from a hitch at sea, and have energy, I don’t usually have the will power to sit down and report.  Theres all that other stuff like mow the lawn, fix things around the house, prep the rental house for new tenants, change the oil, drink some beers with the boys, etc. 

So here it is in a nutshell:  I worked my ass off in 2017!

It went something like this: I was home January part of Feburary at which time I had 3 wisdom teeth pulled out.  Everything went fine and I was healed up in no time.

I worked the last half of Feb. in the shipyard on the TGT.  Most of time was spent needle gunning small spaces around the ship that we normally would never get to.

I had a few days off and flew to Honolulu to meet the R/V Sikuliaq.  We sailed approx. 38 days to Newport, OR.  The science on the trip was studying ocean currents and eddies and we deployed and recovered lots and lots of drifting sensors.  The focus is on the mixing that occurs when warm ocean currents collide with cool ocean currents.  It is interesting stuff but when asking the scientists about it, they quickly get so technical that they may as well speak Klingon. 

I got home in early April and had about a month off before heading back to the ship yard for 3 more weeks.  Lots more chipping and needle gunning!

I had two days off and then left on a tugboat to Alaska for 53 days.  We left Seattle with tandem barges.  We dropped the first barge in Ketchikan and carried on with a 380′ to Juneau, Yakatat, Anchorage, Dutch Harbor.  Then reloaded for a trip to Bristol Bay and Naknek.  From Naknek we went further North and made a roughly 90 mile trek up the Kuskowim River to the town of Bethel (good Verizon coverage FYI).  Then on to Dillingham and then back to Bristol Bay where we layed on the wire waiting for enough salmon to be caught, delivered to the cannery, canned and delivered to the dock so we could load it for Seattle.  Ended up in detention, as we call it, for seven days before we could load.  Lots of Beluga  Whales in the Naknek River.  Once loaded, we went back to Dutch Harbor, and finally back to Seattle and home.

For 10 days.  Then I left on another tug to Alaska for 45 days.  This time we hit Whittier, Valdez, Dutch Harbor, Beaver Inlet, Dutch Harbor and back to Seattle and home. 

I had 6 days off and in mid Sept left for a second relief hitch on the R/V Sikuliaq.  This time I met them in Nome, Alaska and we dead headed to Newport, Or (can’t get away from that place!) where we did an OOI buoy deployment trip.

I got home from that trip right smack dab in the middle of deer season so I loaded up the next day and went hunting for 5 days.  Didn’t get one but it felt great putting some miles on the old LPC’s (leather personal carriers).

Had just over 2 weeks off and returned to the shipyard to help put the final touches on the Thompson, do sea trials, shakedown cruises and student cruises and get ready to put her back in full service.  We’ve had a few bumps along the way, but overall it’s gone smooth and the ship is performing well.  We left the shipyard around the 17th of December after 556 days (or something like that).    We are back at our home dock and there are a few yard guys and contractors here working their punchlists.  We have one more big inspection, by the National Science Foundation, next week to certify that we are ready to perform the science mission we’ve been assigned.  Then we will return to our dock for about 10 more days of outfitting before steaming over the horizon.

We are scheduled to go to ports in New Zealand, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa,  Austraillia, Phillipines and to the ice edge in Antartica.

For me, I’ve chosen my schedule very carefully to hit the ports and places that interest me most.   In another 34 days, I’ll hit my “hump day”, or halfway point in my 200 day hitch.  That. Is. Not. A. Typo.  I missed all but 10 days of summer at home in 17′ and in 18′ I’ll be home for almost all of it.  The main reason for such a long hitch is that I will be within an angel’s kiss of enough time for 3rd Mate Unlimited.  I still have to take a celestial navigation course this summer before I can apply.

I have a metric shit ton of photos from the last year.  I’m not sure I have the patience to get them all posted in some sort of orderly fashion but I will try to get some for you to see.

Here is a video I shot from our rescue boat just after we came out of the shipyard.  They were conducting testing on our dynamic positioning system at the time:

R/V Thomas G. Thompson

Hope everyone has a safe and prosperous 2018.

TT

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Summer Happenings

Returned home from the South Pacific at the end of April and have been nonstop since.  Here are some notes about what has been happening.  I told myself to not wait so long between posts and keep this blog more updated and will try to in the future, especially since I can’t use the slow internet excuse now that I’m home.

So here goes:

A couple days after getting home, I went to Westport to run halibut charters for my friends Mark and Merry at All Rivers and Saltwater Charters.  They have built their business into a year round sport fishing operation with the main focus being on tuna during the summer on board their four Defiance 29 Pilothouse boats.  They also run salmon, bottom fish, halibut, ling cod, and river fishing trips.  They have some very reliable, professional captains and I fill in occasionally to allow them time off for weddings, days off, etc throughout the season when I’m not at sea on my regular ship.

The way the season works is there is a deep water halibut opener every Sunday and Tuesday until the overall area quota is caught.  In recent years this means maybe a total of 3-4 total days of halibut fishing.  This year, we fished Sunday, Tuesday, the following Sunday was blown out due to weather, and a final Tuesday.  Then the season was over.  I had originally avoided committing to the final Tuesday in anticipation of a 5 day research vessel trip onboard the Clifford A. Barnes.  I had been contacting the Port Captain over and over to get confirmation the trip was a go but had no reply and no firm plan ( turns out he was in Korea) so I went ahead and committed to run a charter on the final Tuesday halibut opener.   Shortly after committing, I was also confirmed to run the research cruise starting on Wed (be onboard 0630).  I finished the halibut trip, finished receiving payments and hauled ass for home (3 hour drive), got home a 2230 Tuesday night, repacked my clothes and gear, crashed out and my wife drove me to Seattle at 0530 Wednesday morning.

This was my first trip as captain of the Barnes and took place at the Elwha River near Port Angeles (also where the Port Angeles pilot station is for large ships entering Puget Sound).  The marina is very tight and is where one of the three Westport Yacht factories are located ( recently purchased by the Chouest Family).  There are usually a few Westports parked in a already packed marina.  The long time Barnes captain of 27 years was on board to walk me through the boat, answer questions but mostly to train me how to maneuver this old girl.  She was built in 1965 as a USCG Ice Breaking Harbor Tug and has a fairly deep forefoot and nearly flat stern.  Captain Ray says “she handles like a salad bowl with a too small rudder”.  I took her from our home dock in Lake Union, through the Ballard Locks and out to Port Angeles.  Our pre-arranged moorage spot ended up being directly behind a 125′ Westport Yacht with two more parked across the narrow fairway behind us (where we would normally turn).  To ice the cake, the opening day of halibut season in this area was during our stay, which meant a whole bunch of small boats coming and going, coming and going to the fuel dock adjacent to our berth and just adding to my trial by fire.  After a couple of days of tutoring me on the finer points of the Barnes,  Captain Ray headed home and left me and my mate, Ken, to run the rest of the trip,  everything went fine and I really got a pretty good feel for this old girl.

The cruise itself was an extension of an earlier project monitoring the effects of removal of two hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River and studying the sediment flows from the river mouth into the bay.  It is the third time I’ve been able to do this cruise in the last few years and the change each time is extraordinary.  On the evening of the forth day (Saturday evening) the science party disembarked choosing to drive back to Seattle instead of steaming on the Barnes (8.5 knots cruising speed) approx 9-10 hours. Ken and I departed around five in the morning and arrived back at the UW around 1400.  Ken’s family picked him up within minutes of getting tied off and I hung out for a bit until my buddy Mikey arrived.  We went downtown, parked, found a killer sports bar and ordered some grub and cocktails and went to the Key Arena (former home of the Seattle Supersonics – fuck you very much NBA) and went to The WHO Concert.

Yes THE WHO are old.  YES they still rock and put on an amazing show.  Check that off of my bucket list, before they kick the bucket.  Got home around 0030 Monday morning.

Out the door 0630 to head to Ballard to Crawford’s Nautical School for a license prep course.  Crawford’s has been in operation since 1923 in some form or another and is family run and owned.  Crawford’s differs from many other prep courses that offer similar training.  They operate on a four week rotating schedule with week A being rules of the road, B being Nav Gen, C being Deck Gen and Deck Safety and week D being Bridge Resource Management (BRM).  Then you self study from home or in class until you feel you are ready to test at the Coast Guard for your appropriate license level (smaller license levels can test at Crawford’s).  I’m working on my 1600 Mate Near Coastal license.  I sat in on the four weeks of classes with the only variation being that instead of doing week D (BRM) I went to a different classroom with a few other students and studied Terrestial Navigation since I had already BRM.  T-Nav includes navigation along coasts by dead reckoning, taking bearings from known points such as lighthouses, buoys, prominent land features, etc., figuring distance traveled with speed by wheel or RPM, tide and current calculations and things like vessel intercepts, and hurricane avoidance. It also has some celestial navigation included like azimuth of the sun or star, amplitudes of the sun and sunrise / sunset calculations.  For my license level the T-Nav module (test) is 15 questions and I can only miss one in order to pass.  Another major difference that is different at Crawford’s vs. another school or course, is that once you pay the course fee, it is good for one year.  You can come and go as you like or as your work schedule allows.  This is really nice for the working mariner, however you must be diligent and stick to a plan in order to finish.

While in class, my regular ship, the Thomas G. Thompson passed our window on the way to the shipyard for the next year.  Seattle Times did a nice write up here TGT heads to yard.

If anyone plans to test or upgrade their license, I highly suggest reading the following post from fellow blogger Crewboat Chronicles detailing the process.  I referenced this post many times through the process and found it extremely helpful.  Read it here:  Hawsepipers guide to applying, studying, passing Master / Mate 500/1600

My original plan, prior to actually taking the course, was to take the four weeks of courses and then study from home for about a month before testing.  Once we got into the meat of the program, it became apparent that I would be much better off with instructors from Crawford’s assisting me.  To get to Crawford’s takes almost exactly 45 minutes to drive from my house.  That’s with no traffic.  This is Seattle, there is traffic.  Slow, painful traffic which turns my drive into at least 1.5 hours each way.  To compensate for the traffic, I started leaving home at 0500 and staying at class until 1900 each day.  This also allowed me to study alone for a couple hours in the mornings and evenings and really get a lot done but have assistance for questions during the day.  It worked awesome and I made a tentative plan in mind head to test this coming week.

Then my port captain called and needed me to run two five day trips on the Barnes back to back.  This cut my plan down by one week.  I didn’t want to try and take a couple weeks off from studying and then try to re-enter and have to make up ground, so I decided to try and take the tests Wed, Thurs and Fri just before the Fourth of July so I called the USCG and scheduled testing times at their local regional exam center.  When I scheduled with them, they put me on the schedule, but they said call back Monday and confirm with Bill ( he runs the testing room) as he would be returning from vacation.  On Monday when I called Bill, he said no testing on Friday because they were getting early liberty for the 4th of July, but that I could instead test on Tues, Wed and Thursday.  That cut my study time by one more day.  The tests are given in modules and for my license I need 6 modules.  You have to take a minimum of two each day and they must be done on consecutive days.  If you pass four, you are locked in and can come back at any time in the next 90 days to complete missed modules.  Miss three or more and you must do a full re-take of all 6 modules.  When my study schedule was reduced, I made a tactical decision to focus all of my effort on four modules: rules, t-nav, nav gen and chart plotting.  I would leave deck gen and deck safety for last and didn’t spend any time studying them.  Not at all how I would have liked to approached the exams, but shit happens.

The first day of testing you must take Rules first and then it is your choice which modules to do next.  I missed one on Rules.  Then I took t-nav because I wanted to get it while it was fresh in my brain.  I could only miss one…I missed three.  Ended the day 1 for 2.  Went back to class (5 miles away) and studied until 7 pm.  Thursday I started with the chart plot (15 questions can only miss 2).  I missed two and passed!  Then did nav-gen and passed.  Ended day two 3 of 4 total.  Day three I now must pass at least one of the final two subjects ( the two subjects I really haven’t studied at all).  Passed them both!  Ended five for six.  A huge relief!  Then I reported to the Barnes and spent a couple days provisioning and loading gear.

We had a successful first day and made it to our anchorage and experienced a trip ending mechanical failure.  We organized getting the science party disembarked with our small boat the next morning  and have made plans for a tow back for repairs.  The good news is that crab season just opened and few of the crew had pots and a cooker onboard so we had a fresh crab lunch yesterday while logistics were being worked out for our tow.

Repairs so far seem like they should go pretty quickly and we will be on schedule for our next trip.  This current trip will likely be rescheduled shortly after.  I will work in a week of study and go pass that last module.

Whew, that was a long post!  Everyone be safe and have a good summer.  More news coming soon!

T

6 Minute Buoy Recovery

A while back I did a post about how to recover a buoy.  Click Here to review.  Now we have a video of how it is done.

While working in Nootka Sound a couple weeks ago, we were contacted by Oregon State University and asked to help recover a science buoy that had broken free from her mooring. The buoy was moored off of central Oregon and during one of the massive Pacific lows we’ve had this winter it broke loose and started drifting North. We were only about 40 miles away when the weather cooperated enough to get offshore and try for the recovery. Everything went extremely well and the total recovery only took 6 minutes! It helped that the buoy was relatively small and didn’t have any instruments hanging below the buoy to gum up the works.  Of course since OSU is a rival to the U of W we had a good time letting them know we saved their ass.  They paid us two cases of beer when we returned to port.
Yours truly hooking the package.

I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year and a prosperous 2016!  Be safe and thank you for watching.

TT

 

Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island

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Returned home a week ago from a brutally long hitch of nearly 4 months at sea.  Didn’t feel especially inspired to fight our painfully slow internet and make many posts along the way.  Most of the hitch was spent in different legs along the Washington and Oregon coasts deploying and recovering science gear.  One trip extended down to Cape Mendicino, CA and another to Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island (pictures included).

This was the second year in a row we’ve made the senior student trip to Nootka.
We did lots of water sampling, mud coring, plankton tows, plastic tows etc.

It is such an amazing place and a great place to be when the winter storms are raging outside the fjords.

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We had to run offshore during the trip to make water this year.  While offshore, we recovered a wayward science buoy from Oregon State University that broke free of its mooring near Newport, OR.   There is a video of that coming later.

https://blueoceanmariner.wordpress.com

Aerial drone video of the Thomas G. Thompson

http://okmok.ucsd.edu/index.php/2015/06/19/drone-video/

The drone video is from June when we placed sensors around Okmok Volcano in the Aleutian Islands.   You can see the deck is loaded with the sensors,  which when assembled and dropped to sea floor, measure the magnetic field inside the volcano.  Scientists can tell when and where the hot magma is moving.

The video was shot in the fog, but we were only a couple miles from the island.

https://blueoceanmariner.wordpress.com

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.