Category Archives: weather

Seattle to SF Bay; Spirit of Sacremento Salvage

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A couple days after arriving home from Alaska, my phone rang and the office called and wanted me on a tug Southbound to SF Bay two days later.  I was home just long enough to mow the grass, clean out the gutters, do a few honey do’s and repack my bag.

Our job consisted of towing the gigantic derrick crane barge, D.B. General, to SF Bay where it would be used to salvage the derelict sternwheeler “Spirit of Sacramento”.   She had seen better days and has quite the storied past including being previously owned and used in a film by John Wayne.  Read more of her history here: Spirit of Sacramento.

So we crewed up at 2300, loaded and stowed all of the stores and supplies for a midnight departure from the yard.  The chief engineer was struggling with one of the Caterpillar engines running for around 20 seconds and then shutting down.  It was determined that a sensor had gone bad and he went about changing it out.  Once the repair was completed the same problem persisted and the port engineer (now onboard) and the chief decided the issue was more complex and in the effort to remain on schedule we would take another tug instead.  We spent the next couple hours shifting all of our personal equipment and clothes, groceries that had already been put into the freezers / reefers and boxes thrown away, ships supplies etc to the new tug.  It was a huge undertaking for a quick departure and everyone was spent.  Then we got underway for the 2 hour run to Seattle to get fuel.  We arrived about the time I should be getting off watch and we fueled for about 4 – 5 hours.  Then we met our barge as it was brought out of the river to us.  We made up and got underway and I managed about a 60 minute nap before my next watch.

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Transferring all of our stuff to the Polar Ranger.

I crashed after watch and skipped dinner to get caught up on some sleep.  On my next Midnight watch from 12-0400 we were just approaching the western end of the Straights of Juan De Fuca and the forecasts offshore really weren’t looking good.  As my watch ended and I racked out, we turned the corner into the Pacific and proceeded to get our asses kicked.  Forget about sleeping as all effort was spent just holding on.  During the next watch at noon I shot al little video.  The seas and winds had come down quite a bit at this point but we were still getting worked.  

After the storm of the first night, the weather was awesome!  We put out the hand lines hoping to catch some fresh albacore on the steam south, but didn’t get a nibble.  

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We had several encounters with massive swarms of porpoises swimming with us and playing in our bow wake.  It is a fairly common thing to see these guys while underway in the ocean.  

It took us three days to get to SF Bay and we pulled in under the Golden Gate in perfect conditions.  It’s always cool passing under the bridge, Alcatraz and the skyline of SF.  We towed the barge up the Sacramento River to Vallejo, which is where Cal Maritime is located.  We dropped our barge off to the contractor so they could complete rigging the crane for the salvage job.  The next morning two Westar tugs came and got the barge and took her upriver to the job site.  We were bummed that we wouldn’t be able to be involved with the operation or even see it.  The contractor said they would be back in three days so we laid at a deep water site across the river from where we delivered the barge.  It was another contractor who offered to let us tie up at their facility as it has sufficient water depth.  They also gave us keys to one of their yard trucks!  That was totally cool of them and allowed us to get out around Vallejo a little bit.  A note about Vallejo…….it’s a pretty run down rough area.  Don’t plan a family vacation there…ever.

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So what’s an AB supposed to do while tied to a dock and the sun is shining?  Break out the painting shit and get to work.  We also serviced all of the on board safety equipment and ran the emergency dewatering pump.  

On our last day of waiting, myself and the second mate, took the truck over to Cal Maritime for a tour.  The mate is a graduate of the Maine Maritime workboat program and I probably looked like his father.  The people at Cal Maritime were very gracious and gave us a full tour even though I made it clear that we weren’t going to be enrolling.  I think the most fun I had was wearing my new “Hawespipin Ain’t Easy” shirt around the campus.  The shirt was a gift from a fellow maritime blogger when I passed by mate exams earlier this summer.  Please go check out his selection of shirts and get one for yourself from Workboatwear.  The campus of Cal Maritime is really nice and the facility is really nice.  It’s too bad the town doesn’t match.  We toured the engineering labs, simulators (weren’t in operation), the classrooms, the training ship “Golden Bear”, the bookstore and had a nice lunch in the cafeteria.  When I was getting out of high school I had no idea an option like this existed.  For a young person wishing to go to sea, I would suggest this type of route.  It will give you a huge head start over hawespiping along with a degree.  

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Three days later our barge returned and the contractor crew spent some time stowing all of their gear and lashing everything for us to tow her back to Seattle.  The trip north was uneventful and the weather was superb.

All in all a great trip with a great crew and it ended up being a total of 14 days.

 

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Rounding Cape Horn on the tall ship Peking

Irving Johnson made this video that has been adapted into the film “Around Cape Horn.  In this short clip he really details the vessel and the dangers encountered by the crew as she rounded Cape Horn.  I find this stuff fascinating and thought you may enjoy it.

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.

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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.

TAO Buoy Service

We are currently just S. of the equator about 200 miles W. of the Galapagos Islands servicing a string of TAO Buoys ( stands for Ocean, atmosphere something, something).  The normal plan is to recover in the morning and deploy one in the afternoon / evening.   These buoys are LOADED with schools of fish,  mostly Mahis.  We’ve been eating really good!

Pictures and more details when better Internet is available.   Oh, lest I forget. ….it’s hotter than hell down here.  Good thing I stocked up on the Gold Bond.