July 24 - August 6, 2006
July 26 update
Jenny wrote: (Local noon) It is overcast and blowing hard, with large swells coming at us from several directions and spray hitting even the upper aft "sundeck". We had hoped to be at NESCA by now, but the wind blew 35 knots all night and nearly that during the day, and to keep from totally thrashing the ship we had to drop our speed to 2 knots. That's 48 nautical miles per day, folks, and we have ~450 nautical miles to go before we get to the Vance Seamounts. The forecast is for continued high wind in this part of the ocean as long as the heat wave and high pressure stays over California, which may be until September, who knows. The plan at this point is to bypass NESCA and the weather should improve as we continue north to Vance.
Some of the swells smash resoundingly into the underside of the ship, but the ride is much better now that we are plowing more slowly into the seas. There is a 200m (600ft) container ship nearby headed to Portland that is also making about 2 knots. It's nice to have some company.
Liz wrote: Wow, I don't know where to begin. I have been on the ship for 36 hours now. I have slept for about 32 of those hours. Sea sickness not very glamourous. That being said, the ship is amazing and the crew is wonderful. My cabin is quite roomy compared to what I was expecting. The food has been great...pork tenderloin, omelets, fudgsicles, Starbucks mochas...I just wish I had more of an appetite. There is a DVD player in my room, so I have watched a couple of movies. I have an electric device attached to my wrist that gives me shock every few seconds. It is supposed to help with sea sickness, but I am not yet convinced of its powers. I am happy to be here though, and I am excited to start using all of the equipment once we reach our first location.
Joe wrote: Weather. This one word sums up nearly all coversations over the past 36 hours. Specifically, when will we pass through the weather? A brief history- we left the comfort of Moss Landing Harbor late on Monday night. As we started north to the first proposed dive site (Northern Escanaba Trough), some swell was evident; not a lot. Just enough to let you know you were in a realm that once entered, you were subject to a different set of rules. Namely, that wind and water are in control and you had better show them respect. The first morning of the transit was relatively calm. The weather forecast was calling for some swell and wind. Nothing unusual considering that we're heading to the Juan de Fuca hydrothermal vent region that is renowed for rough weather. Everyone came down for breakfast Tuesday around 8 AM and has some fresh fruit or Derek's gold star oatmeal. Afterwards, many people retired to their rooms to catch up on their sleep since it was a bit bumpy the first night of the transit. At 1 PM, we had the standard fire and boat drill. All 11 of the science crew mustered in the wet lab to be briefed by the second mate on safety and rules of the R/V Western Flyer and the ROV Tiburon. We all got the pleasure of putting on our gumby suits (= survival suit) and taking the obligatory group photo. During the fire drill, several of the science crew weren't feeling too well and had to return to their stateroom. Later that day (Tuesday) at dinner, not a lot of people were in the galley. The swell has appeared to pick up a little bit. The current that we're in is going north and the waves are moving south. The result of this interaction is a series of waves that are stacked up and causes us to decrease our speed from 10 knots to 2 knots. The winds haven't been too bad, but there were a number of large swells last night that caused several of the science crew to levitate off the bunks. The impact of one of the swells was enough to open the medicine cabinet in my stateroom and dump the contents into the sink.
The prognosis for the next four days isn't much brighter from the weather reports. There is a gale further north that is continuing to churn up the seas. We're currently (Wednesday) off of Point Arena with a ways to go. We'll keep our fingers crossed and our nose pointed north. If all goes well, our time spent near the gale will be short and our dive days will be long.
Jenny wrote: (local 5pm) The winds and seas have died enough that we are back up to 5.5 knots! The ship behaves noticably better at higher speed, so we predict more people will be at dinner. However, in the last 22 hours since the map was made for yesterday's update, we have progressed only 66 nautical miles, averaging 3 knots...that extra probably thanks to the northward current.
Here is a sand art drawing that my wife, Amanda, made for me specifically for this cruise. She is also a marine biologist who has been out at sea plenty of times on the R/V Western Flyer. She’s currently a science educator designing summer camps for the Monterey County Parks District. This past Monday, her group did sand art of something that was relevant to the upcoming week (overnight camps, whale watching, etc.). After she drew this sand art picture of me in a gumby suit as a demonstration, one of her campers asked if the “cruise” referred to the whale watching cruise that they are going to do this week. The camper also commented that Amanda had named her gumby suit “Joe”.