Tag Archives: Oregon

Sikuliaq, tugs, shipyard and training

I’ve been home since just before Thanksgiving and enjoyed a nice holiday season with the family and got a lot done around the house too.  

Shortly after Thanksgiving I took a Vessel, Company and Facility Officer Course at PMI in Seattle. 

 Right after that I flew to New York City, rented a car and drove about an hour and half North along the Hudson River to complete my TOAR ( towing officer assessment record) on a very old diesel electric tug named the Cornell.  The program is offered by Diamond Marine Services and helps mariners like me who have a good chunk of their toar complete but are having a hard time getting the time at the wheel to finish the maneuvering portions.  In my particular case, the tugs I work on mostly tow freight barges from Seattle to Alaska.  When we pull into port, the chief mate, second mate and ab’s are all up on the barge to make her fast.  Only the captain remains aboard to maneuver the tug (sometimes the captain and chief mate trade roles).   It could take years before I could knock out all of the assessments, especially since we don’t do many of the maneuvers often or where I could break away from my job to get time to do them.  Diamond’s program lets you complete all the maneuvering with their tug and deck barge.  

As soon as I returned from New York, I turned in another application at the USCG in Seattle .  It took nearly 2.5 months to get my new MMC in the mail as they were so backed up with mariners trying to beat the rule change deadlines at the end of 2016.

I did one quick little overnight tug job from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada and back in January to deliver a barge to a shipyard:

Seattle, the Emerald City (evening):

Vancouver, Canada (very early am):

Mt. Baker along the way:

In early February, I was scheduled to work at Vigor Shipyards (formerly Todd Shipyard) for one month onboard the Thomas G. Thompson. She’s in getting a full makeover and re-power refit, re-pipe, paint, and many other upgrades. Shortly after getting my schedule all figured out, I received a call from the University of Alaska to make a relief trip on the R/V Sikuliaq.  I had to change my shipyard stint from one month to two weeks.  Trust me when I tell you that two weeks was plenty!  The ship is all torn apart and a ton of work to get done.  It was interesting to see the progress being made.  It will also be interesting to see if it will be done on time or not.

Shortly after accepting the relief gig on the Sikuliaq, I got called by my tug company to make a run to Dutch Harbor for roughly 35 days.  It’s their slowest time of the year so when I told them I found some relief work they were totally cool with it because they had several people to try and keep busy.  When I return in April they should picking up steam and probably keep me super busy over the summer.

So shortly I’ll be leaving home to join the Sikuliaq.  She’s got an ice class hull designed for science trips in the Arctic.  I’m meeting her in Hawaii and taking her to Newport, Oregon stopping by Musician Seamounts for some project that I’m not yet sure of.  She’s 261′ long, 55′ wide and was launched in 2014.  Until recently, she had a terrible reputation as having a awful ride.  A problem was discovered with the ships roll tank and once that was corrected the ride has improved dramatically according to those I’ve talked to.  We shall see.  Here are some more pics:

Everyone be well and I’ll try to keep updates rolling……..if the internet works.


The Devil’s Hellhole


975 mb low

The weather map shown in the photo, has a 975 milli bar low over near the U.S. West Coast.  Guess where we have been…..yep, that’s right.  Getting our asses handed to us for a couple days. The worst of it had 70+ gusts and 35′ swells.  We made less than three knots over a 24 hour period.  The area near Cape Blanco which lies near the S. Oregon / N. Cal. Border I’d where we got worked.


Settling in and the Axial Seamount


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:









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:


















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:



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:








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:




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….