Tag Archives: storm

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.



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.


Gulf of Alaska, Ocean Station Papa

We steamed out of Seattle straight into a gale headed for Ocean Station Papa. Station P. lays approx. half way between the W. Entrance to the Straights of Juan De Fuca and Dutch Harbor Alaska.
  The next seventeen days were mostly
misery.   Well not quite that bad as the low pressure systems move through pretty quick and it take a couple days for the next one to arrive.  Our worst was gusts to 55 knots with seas around 25 feet.  The worst part was at the start of my watch the wind would be from 270 and by the end was at 360.  There was no good heading to be on, they were all fucked.  We were hove to babysitting some drifting instruments and the ships dynamic positioning systems was totally overwhelmed do the mate and I took 15-20 minute turns hand steering as best we could.  Couldn’t get any pictures.

This trip was pretty boring other than deploying two weather buoys in 4200 meter deep water and recovering one.  The rest of the time we spent deploying drifters in the morning, buoysitting all day then picking them up in the late afternoon.  Then we would hove to overnight and repeat.  I swear to god it felt lkke ground hog day each day.  It got daylight at 0900 and dark by 1600. 





The drifters or swifts: (we called them lawn darts)


The noaa waverider buoy we deployed:



Probably the best fun was when the chief scientist sent some students out to spool some line on the deck winch.  The line is coated in vectran to reduce drag through the water.  They spooled most of line (loosly) to one side of the drum.  The ship took a heavy roll and the line totally fur balled on the drum.  it took them nearly 12 hours to pull it off by hand and respool correctly.




Hard lesson learned by the youngins.

Toward the very end of the trip the weather looked like it might turn out pretty nice, which was great for the crew but not great for the science party.  Thier research focuses on the mixing and turbulence caused by breaking waves.  No waves – no data for them.  Since we were something like an 85 hour steam back to the coast, they decided to steam in and hold off about 200 nm off the coast and hope for another system.  Our first day closer to the coast was really nice with the air temp at 57 find no wind….



It did slowly build to about 25 knots overnight and the science group was estatic.  At that point, time was up and we slow steamed back to Seattle.

We have another three week break in our schedule before our next trip so I hopped on the baby brother to the TGT, the Clifford A. Barnes for a five day trip.  We are currently sampling mud in Hood Canal.   More details later.


Station Papa Bound



We are departing for Station Papa, 700 miles from anywhere, in the Gulf of Alaska. The science party is focused on studying wave heights, launching sea rider gliders and placing a new mooring.

Click the link for more information about STATION PAPA.

Click to see the current sea conditions at STATION P.

It should take us about four days to get out there. If the internet works, I’ll try to send in an update.

Visiting Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island Canada





We just returned from Nootka Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. This was an 11 day senior thesis project for all the seniors to complete their field projects prior to graduation. Some of them studied bottom samples (mud) near the site of an old mill, others studied microbiology, a few studied the mixing of fresh and salt water in the deep fjords and the effects of tidal flushing and others starfish wasting (the starfish on the West Coast are melting away due to a virus). We carried a small boat so that some students could work on their projects in areas we couldn’t take the ship.

As we departed Seattle, there was a very strong low pressure system approaching the coast. As we passed the West end of the Straights of Juan De Fuca and Cape Flattery we were pounded by high winds and swell. Our ship looked like it had an Ebola outbreak as there were sick students everywhere! Luckily for them, we only had to transit approx. 12 hours on the outside before reaching the inside protected waters of Nootka. As the storm passed we had some very nice days. The fjords in Nootka Sound are very narrow in places, sometimes less than three of our boat widths, and very deep (nearly 200 meters). This place is off the grid. We had an internet black hole while we visited the area due to the steep mountains. The locals nearly all travel in small aluminum pilothouse boats. There are a few roads, but many of the towns are 30-50 miles by dirt road. A few use float planes to get around. There are several fish farms in various inlets and we saw one active heli-logging operation. This would be a great place to take your boat and get away from it all.

Scenery Photos:



















































As we returned to Seattle, we were met with another storm on the outside. A final parting gift for our students to remember. Overall Nootka is very scenic and would be a great place to visit when there were more time to explore the many coves, inlets and nearby lakes.

To all mariners at sea: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Stacked Tight & Coring the Coast

In October we ventured out to the Washington Coast for a short trip involving seafloor coring. We had some pretty rough days with the winds clocking over 50 knots. Typically we may get hammered with a large NW swell this time of year but mostly things were out of the SW. Not overly huge, but 20 feet and 10 seconds is no fun! That’s Stacked Tight! Here is what it looked like:

Rough weather from the bridge: (Notice the rusty water from the roll tank vents on the upper deck)

From the stern:

The coring took place along the Washington Coast along the continental shelf. Earlier mapping trips had identified some locations with methane gas seeps. This trip was to try to drop a core into those seeps and try to analyze the mud for microorganisms that thrive in the seeps.

Birds following us around. Do they think we are a fishing trawler with some scraps for them?:

The first step is the get a detailed map of the area with our ships multi-beam transducer. We just make several passes like mowing the lawn at around four knots while the marine techs tune the sonar beam to capture an image of the actual seep bubbles. When the weather really kicked up, this is the only part of the operation we could do. All over the side ops were cancelled.

Once the seep is identified, they drop a core over the side and try to hit the top of the seep. This is more of a luck type operation than skill. The core is basically a huge stack of weights on the end of a section (or multiple sections) of hardened drill casing. A clear plastic sleeve fits inside the drill casing and when the core is brought to the surface and secured on deck, the clear sleeve containing the mud slides out from the drill case and can be cut at different intervals and frozen in the ships science freezers. Once ashore the samples will keep some researchers busy for the next year or two in a lab somewhere.

The core and weight are nestled in the cradle near the guy in the blue hard hat:

The core has been removed from the cradle and lowered over the side:

The core being brought back onboard. Notice the mud on the casing. Then the sleeve is removed from the casing with the mud inside:



All of the lifting and lowering of the core are done with our huge trawl winches located down inside the ship. The winch wire is reeved up through the crane base and over a two meter block that attaches near the end of the boom of the crane. The crane is only used to swing the core over the side and then it is placed in a large crutch to help support the weight. The core is dropped with the winches until is plunges into the bottom. We can almost instantly tell if we hit the spot by how much tension is metered when we begin to pull the core off the bottom. If the tension remains fairly low then we know we hit a hard spot or rock and the core did not penetrate. If the tension really spikes then we know it was really driven into the sea floor.

This was a fairly hard operation to photograph, as I was running the winches most of the time. Here is the view from the winch control. We can see the trawl winches in the winch room on the monitors:


We returned to Seattle’s Pier 91 to unload our science guests. I snapped a panoramic photo with my cell phone. Pier 91 is where much of the Alaska Trawler Fleet calls home.