I'm Sailing Away.....

Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
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Trip End Jan 20, 2009


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Monday, December 15, 2008

The first order of business after leaving the straights of Juan de Fuca was to calibrate the Sonar system, this went without even and we were quickly on our 5 day steam to the first work site.
As if Keith didn't have enough to worry about with a split open head, we also had to go through the ritual of the Sippican with him. A Sippican is a temperature probe that we launch usually daily over the side of the vessel to measure the speed of sound in the water. It comes in a gnarly looking tube and is launched from a handgun looking device. It's a right of passage to trick the new guy the first time he does a sippican probe and everyone was in on this one. We told Keith that the probes were explosive and a charge would go off like a 12-gauge shotgun, sending the probe straight to the bottom. In reality, when you pull the pin, the led weight plops into the water and freefalls to the bottom, very anticlimactic. So, in preperation for the "firing" of the probe we dress up the victim in saftey glasses, a work vest, gloves, ear protection, etc. and make a whole ordeal about safety and how dangerous these things are. When the pin is pulled and the probe falls gently into the water, the practical joke goes into phase II by shouting "oh shit, it's a dud...DON'T MOVE" this will test exactly how much the newbie beleives that he is holding a potentially explosive device. Anyone who can't contain their laughter runs off to get the "disarming procedures" and work on "neutralizing the device". After a length of time (usually 4-6 minutes) someone shouts "all clear, and you reveal the joke to the victim, who usually can't beleive they've been taken for a ride. I've done this to many newbies and it's sort of a right of passage, or fraternal initiation. Keith passed with flying colors.

 Trying to stay busy during a 4 day transit is hard, I mostly worked on processing the calibration and surfed the internet. Having internet on the boat has been the nicest thing ever, although I believe it might be spoiling me. Speaking of spoiled, I have found the food to be absolutely out of this world. there are at least two entrees at every meal and plenty of sides to go with them, the buffet style galley area allows me to get as much of what I want and none of what I don't which is exactly my style. The cook Paul, switches the themes often enough that it keeps from getting bored of any one thing. There is a soda fountian and two different types of juice avilable at all times, as well as cereal and chips and other snack type foods always in the galley.
For those who feel guilty about eating so much (like me) in the aft tool room there is a treadmill, dumbells, tension bands, and stationary bike that can suddenly become a modular bike if the waves get high enough. It's a super luxary to have a workout room on a boat, this is the first boat I've ever been on that actually acknowledged that it's hard to get exercise on a boat, and has done something to counteract that.
If you're not into the whole "getting healthy" thing then that's ok, there is a TV lounge with surround sound, leather couches, and more DVD's than a single person could watch in a year. There is a cleaning staff that works daily to keep the boat clean, and it shows, they do a great job and even come in our state rooms once a week to vaccume the floors and change our sheets for us, this is honestly over the top service when it comes to a research vessel. I've heard stories of vessels where they do that for you, but I thought they were nonsense fairy tales like the tooth fairy and the easter bunny.
One day a list was posted in our work area with all of our names on it, and days of the week, I looked at the title, "Laundry Day" I aked the capitan where I go to do my laundry and he replied "no, just drop it off in the aft room, we do your laundry for you". I almost shit my pants on the spot. Now I've seen it all! Not only is there internet, huge staterooms, all you can drink soda, a workout room, and now they even do my laundry for me, holy shit this is like a holiday resort cruise/survey!
After four or five days of transit we arrived at our first site which was a little extension to the side of the route that had previously been surveyed. We worked for about a day at this site and then continued on the the point where the Aquilia stopped.  Doing this little "test line" was the perfect way to get all the bugs out of our system we were able to turn out a product without having the pressure of data constantly coming in and needing to be dealt with. This job is starting off good in so many ways, I'm leary of enjoying myself too much because that's when shit usually goes wrong.
So, I guess I should explain in a little more detail exactly why we're doing what we're doing. Before a fiber optic cable can be placed on the seafloor, they have to do a survey of the route where they plan to lay it. We are searching for underwater mountains, valleys, cliffs, or any type of geology that would prevent the cable from staying where it is originally placed. If anything out of the ordinary is discovered along the route, the on board client representative may request that we go back and develop on either side of the route to try and find a better path. The job is fairly easy but because of the possible development, it's nearly impossible to correctly guess how long a survey will take. I'm not even going to make a guess as to how long it will take until we have crossed the mountian chain in the middle of the Pacific, because who know's how much development we'll end up having to do there.
As I've said before, there are some people who just add up the total survey distance, divide it by the max speed of the boat, and BAM, that's how long it will take you. That is absolutely WRONG! If you ever let those people into the upper management of your survey company they will run you straight into the ground. Nothing about survey is predictable, and you have to just go out and stay out as long as it takes for you to get the job done. Sometimes it's months on end....
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Where I stayed
R/V Mt. Mitchell Room C-502

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