Tag Archives: ocean

Honolulu Fish Auction

The Sikuliaq is tied up at pier 35, just across the wharf from the Honolulu Fish Auction.  The Auction runs 6 days per week and as much as 100,000 pounds of fish can move through each day.  Beginning at 0100 boats arrive and offload the catch that they are delivering for the days auction.  At 0530 the auctioneer rings the brass bell to open the live auction and within a few moments fish are being sold.

Buyers from many different brokers, hotel restaurants,sushi bars, markets, etc. arrive and start inspecting the quality of the fish around 0430 and the live auction  starts around 0530.  As soon as the fish is purchased, a tag is placed on the fish to identify the buyer, the price per pound and a check is cut that day and sent to the fisherman.
All types of fish such as yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, mahi mahi, swordfish, wahoo, opah, and several bottomfish species such as paka paka , onaga are available to bid on.

Tours are available, or you can just come in and watch the action like I did.  If you go, remember to wear closed toed shoes.  Everyone is required to walk through a one half inch deep both of disinfectant as they enter.  It’s also climate controlled inside so bring a light jacket.

The fish are offloaded from the boats using big trailers they tow around with forklifts and brought over to the building.  They are weighed, sorted and tagged.  Once they have been purchased, the fish move out the far side of the building and are loaded into the buyer’s trucks.  Very efficient!

Above a tag shows the price paid was 2.40 per pound, the fish weighed 57 pounds and on the far right, almost out of the picture, shows who the buyer was.

Here’s another example:

Walking back to the ship, the skies opened up and we got a little wet.  It has been stormy and not so nice here the last few days, but it is a warm rain.

Our ship is nearly loaded and we will be casting off sometime soon.  Have a good week.



Barge recovery with an Orville Hook

All of our ocean going tugs (and most west coast ocean going tugs) carry an Orville Hook.  The system was developed by Sause Brothers tug captain, Bud “Orville” Fuller.  This video was required for me to watch when I first signed on for my first hitch on an ocean going tug.  Enjoy:

Worldwide Shipping Lanes Video

Here is a cool video that makes it really easy to see just how busy some of world’s most busy shipping lanes really are. Most people don’t give two hoots about how most things they use daily come from. Almost everything we use daily is shipped via ship, train, or truck, and sometimes multiple variations of these combined. In this video you can clearly see the pathways that enable shippers to get from point A to point B and how popular those routes are.

Through the use of AIS (automatic Identification System), this video is possible:

Fjords, bears and natural beauty: Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island

Last week we finished a two and a half week long trip to the West Coast Of Vancouver Island (WCVI). We left Seattle with clear sunny skies and made the transit to Victoria to clear customs. Victoria is a really scenic waterfront city with a unique inner harbor. We arrived just as the last of three large cruise ships was arriving in town for the evening. The city was jammed with tourists. A band played on a waterfront dock and few piers down from us and it was warm. A perfect late summer time to hang out in a waterfront town.




The next morning we departed early and just as we passed Race Rocks, we entered thick fog for the rest of the day. We entered Barkley Sound and began knocking out sampling stations and ended at the head of Effingham Inlet.

This first week was all about taking water and bottom samples throughout the numerous islands, fjords and channels. The main focus was to search for a microscopic sized cyst that is highly toxic. The cyst causes many issues including red tide found in shellfish. The water data that is recorded is used by the next science party the following week. More on that later. Needing to sample such a vast area, we would take a sample with the CTD and the water column would be recorded for temperature, salinity, oxygen, light, etc., then capture water at various depths and move to the next station a mile or two away and repeat. Two or three times we would re-rig the crane wires and drop a bottom core contraption down to collect a bottom sample (mud). They would also tow a little net on the surface that collect material and later sampled for plastic.





The next morning the fog had lifted off the water and hung at about 100′. We wandered throughout the Broken Group Island chain. There are countless little hidden bays, coves, little beaches, and anchorages. We only saw a few boats. This would be an ideal place to bring your kyak and explore for a week or two. Upon leaving the Broken Group and the inland deep fjords, the clouds pushed East and we were met with bright sun….and wind. Plenty of wind. We had to make a run to the North and had about 22 miles of open coast to transit right into the stacked seas.

The Barnes, our converted ice breaking inland harbor tug (notice: no mention of coastal or ocean in the description) made it through but she has this really funny roll / yaw / motion due to the shape of her ice breaking hull. The net result was that everyone but the captain, myself and the Mike the marine tech were sick. A couple really sick.

We made it through and arrived in Tofino. Tofino is one of those towns that was once a sleepy little commercial fishing town and maybe some loggers lived there too. Then the surfers found out about the surf and the whole place exploded. Now it has coffee shops, board shops, hotels, restaurants, art stores, a tatoo parlor and numerous whale watching / fishing / float plane/ and bear watching tours.




From Tofino, the trip included going to the head of most of the big inlets (fjords).






















Taking a bottom core (mud collection). See the little tube with a perfect mud sample:


Near the end of the first week, our anchorage for the night was near a natural hot springs. We pulled in and anchored, launched the small boat and I ferried a could loads of people to shore so they could go soak. I didn’t go because there was about 15 minutes of daylight left and I wanted to catch some rock fish to eat. That plan failed because by the time I got everyone to shore and then made it to the fishing spot, it was really dark. Early the next morning, Mike the marine tech and I left in the dark and when the light came we nuked the rock fish and ling cod in about 25 minutes. We both filled our catch limit and headed back to the ship, loaded the small boat back onboard and pulled anchor right on time. I cleaned fish in between sampling stations much to the horror of the squeamish girls onboard. That night we had a BBQ and some excellent fish tacos!

That night the science party disembarked and the new group arrived and worked late into the night setting up all of their equipment. They use the recorded water sample data that was collected by the first group and look for areas over anoxic water (areas with no oxygen) to do their research.

The main thrust of the project is to test new equipment that will be used in other areas of the world with large anoxic zones, primary Peru, Pacific Baja Mexico and Bermuda. Tofino Inlet, with it’s close proximity to Seattle and it’s very anoxic condition, make it a perfect place to test this equipment. Tofino inlet is basically a long deep fjord (approx 100 meters depth)extending way up into the mountains. A few miles from the head of the inlet are a couple of small islands on either side of the inlet and between them is a high spot (approx 30 meters depth). This high spot essentially cuts off the flow of deep water trapped on the upper end of the inlet. The tides can exchange to top layers of water only. The deeper layers remain stagnant and have so for approx 100 years. They have found microbiology living in these waters that have only been found in areas such as deep hydrothermal vents.

The equipment being tested relates to falling particles. I’ll do my best to pass on what was explained to me. It goes like this: About 1/3 of the world’s CO2 is in the deep ocean, another 1/3 is on the surface (in alage) and the plants etc on land, the last third is in the atmosphere. Some of the CO2 that falls into the ocean is consumed in the food chain such as algae and plankton, etc. Some of that dies and falls to the deep ocean floor effectively removing it from the system. Their equipment is meant to catch these falling particles and measure the rate at which they fall. The idea is that if enough falls to the deep ocean it won’t be in the atmosphere causing global warming.

The way they catch these falling particles is with big nets that hang way down in the water column from a surface float. The particles land in the net and then are collected in a little bottle at the bottom where they can be taken into the lab and studied.


The second way is with traps. These traps will be free drifting in the ocean and have several chambers in the collection bottle that close at different intervals. Here is what the traps look like:

We saw quite a few bears on the beaches during the low tides. If you are closer in to town, the bears are used to the tour boats pulling right up to the beach and tourists taking thier picture. Out away from town they are more skittish. That is unless there are some tasy crabs under those rocks for lunch:







The last couple days the clouds returned and it rained lightly. We had absolute flat water conditions all the way back to Victoria and on to Seattle. I got home late Friday evening and left again on Sunday evening to drive 3.5 hours to Portland, OR for ARPA Class. (see previous post).

I would absolutely love to cruise the entire West Coast of Vancouver Island over about a month or two!

Stay tuned for more posts in the coming few weeks!

Sometimes your the hammer

Sometimes your the hammer, sometimes your the nail. The last couple of weeks things broke, were lost, changed and screwed up. Some of it was ship related issues like one of the main engines, Cat 3516’s, developing a knock and it was discovered that a lobe on the camshaft was bad. It’s not something that they can fix out here (no parts) and Samoa isn’t a good place to get Cat Service either. A second main engine lost a generator. I should say it lost a generator for a couple days until the engineers were able to make repairs and get it back online. The air conditioning on my deck is out. The fan motor bearings went out and they are some special bearings made from unobtainium. Normally we all leave our cabin doors open throughout the day and get some airflow while we are working. It actually stays cooler now to keep my door shut during the day. Also our hydro-boom developed a slow hydraulic leak. The hydro boom sticks off the starboard side of the ship and is how the CTD is launched and recovered. The fix the leak the boom will need to be removed. That is something that needs to be done in the shipyard.

The science party had their own issues as well. If you look back a few posts you’ll see photos of the VMP 6000 that looks like a big torpedo. We launch the VMP over the side with a crane and it sinks away toward the bottom and returns to the surface a few hours later full of data. It failed to return from a evolution. The VMP is completely autonomous and is completely on its own while performing its mission. It also is not propelled in anyway so once we launch it, we say goodbye and then return to the deployment site a few hours later to look for it when it resurfaces. At night it has a pressure activated strobe light and at daytime it has a little flag (much harder to see). It also will send an email via satellite with its position. It never returned. No email, no strobe, no flag. Gone. It likely suffered an implosion at depth. This happened on about the 65th deployed of our trip. Scientists get pretty attached and bonded to their equipment and instruments. The guy who lost this unit was seriously bummed, however he is also very smart. He had his instrument insured for full replacement value! There is a pretty good size deductible, but just a fraction of the overall cost of the equipment, which is around $250,000 (USD). It will take about 12 months for him to get a replacement and then they’ll be back.

On the mooring side of things, we recovered all of the remaining moorings. Our totals for the trip were 12 deployments and 19 recoveries. We were able to recover all of the equipment, but a few had some pretty large tangles in the line. One in particular, the line was so hackled and twisted it will have to be scrapped (see photo). Overall not bad and things went very smoothly.

The CTD gave us fits the last couple of days (again). The marine techs had to re-terminate the wire several times. There are three small gauge wires inside the cable that carry the data signal and one of them is grounding out. This typically happens near the termination, so by cutting off 30 or so meters and re-connecting they can fix the issue. It did not this time. Since we had recovered the last of the moorings, the VMP was lost and the CTD was not usable without more work, the trip was cut short about one day and we headed into port at Apia Samoa, arriving approx. 1930.

The next day, the deck crew had everything offloaded by 1000, except for 2 – 20′ containers that needed to be lifted off by a shore side crane. Our ship’s cranes cannot lift the weight of the container and it’s contents combined. Everyone was jonesing to knock off and go snorkeling, drinking, swimming, shopping, etc. The shore side crane was sitting on the dock near the ship, but the operator left for a two hour lunch. They finally returned and then sat around killing another hour. They finally got set up to lift the first of two containers off and get the offload complete. Just as the operator started to take some strain with the crane, the boom folded in half. The look on the operator’s face was one of total disbelief. He was able to whip down to slack the wire enough so we could get disconnected and he could rotate away from the ship.


Some calls were made to find another rane. None could be located. Thankfully the entire science party except three were still onboard. We had to hand unload both containers by hand, use our ship’s crane to lift the empties to the dock and then re-load them by hand. This took several hours and lasted well into the evening. Sometimes your the nail.

Since our next science trip begins from a different port, we didn’t have any equipment to load just fuel and stores (groceries). Some public out reach type stuff happened and we had some visitors. Late in the day a motorcade arrived and the Samoan Prime Minister came onboard for a visit. We finally finished the fueling operations, again late in the evening. As soon as we knocked off, a bunch of us walked next door to the marine reserve and went snorkeling for about an hour before dark. It felt really nice after all of the deck operations of the last couple weeks. We departed Samoa this morning and are on a short transit to our next port of call. Look for more posts soon.

R/V Thomas G. Thompson

My first Able Seaman job has landed. The pesky RFPNW seatime has made the search much more challenging because I don’t currently work for a company with ship large enough to earn the required seatime. For any other newbs reading this, here is the word of the day: Persistance. I called, emailed, called, visited, called, and emailed some more, all of the companies I could find that had the appropriate sized vessels. Many of the Port Captains and HR people at these companies know my name from my frequent calls. I was just about to jump on a tug making freight runs to Western Alaska, which was a really cool job, but didn’t satisfy the seatime for RFPNW, when the current opportunity arose. After looking far and wide, the University Of Washington (my backyard) called and offered me a relief position on the Thomas G. Thompson Research Vessel. This is working out perfectly, as the Thompson is 3056 tons! Here are some pictures:





Here is the ship’s website.

I don’t know alot about the trip I will be on, other than we are loading the ROV Jason and heading out in the Pacific. I will be posting progress along the way. Until then: Stay thirsty my friends!