SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 24, 2016
20 miles east of Lyttleton
Fair, light southerly.
Motor sailing under staysails.
This blog entry is the second of a two-part series of profiles on persons aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Chief Engineer Tom Klodenski and sign language interpreter Drew Pidkameny, both hesitant to write about themselves on the SEA blog, were nevertheless encouraged to contribute by resident anthropologist and blog czar Jeff Wescott. Tom wrote a series of questions for Drew to answer, and vice-versa. The entries for March 19 and March 24 are the result.
DP: As succinctly as possible, how did you come to be chief engineer of the Robert C. Seamans?
TK: While working on another vessel with a former SEA captain, it was recommended I get in touch with The Office. They had me on for my first program, the Plastics II Expedition, from San Diego to Honolulu via the north Pacific gyre in 2012. It went well and I've be back on and off since.
DP: Do you have any entrepreneurial ambitions?
TK: Big Newtons: Fig Newtons that are the size of playing cards. I still need to make some samples to determine if the fig to cake ratio translates well to the larger size, but I think these sold in a two-pack at 24/7 convenience stores could be pretty popular.
DP: What's something most people would be surprised to know about you?
TK: I like playing music; my next ambition is to learn the pedal steel guitar.
DP: Any advice for someone who thinks they want to be chief engineer of a sailing school vessel?
TK: Fix it right away if you can, because something else could break before you know it.
DP: What kinds of toilets are installed on the RCS, and are there any items that should not be flushed down them?
TK: I'm glad you asked. This has actually been a hot topic amongst SEA's engineering team recently. Not the items you shouldn't flush down them (yoyos, hot wheels cars, screwdrivers, etc.), but the toilets themselves. Let's catch up the blog readers.
First of all, as you may know, the bathroom on a ship is called the head. This refers both to the space and can refer the toilet itself. In the olden days of seafaring, when nature called, sailors went up to the bow, or head of the ship to relieve themselves. As the toilet was built into the ship's structure, there was no toilet per say, just, well, the head. This tradition was actually in place on SEA's other vessels until fairly recently. This was a boon for the engineers as it seriously reduced the amount of clogged toilets, though the environment was not very impressed. And though this has (un)fortunately been discontinued, anytime Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" plays, the engineers think back fondly to those magical years.
Flash forward to the modern day aboard SSV Robert C. Seamans
The future has arrived. Meet the Airvac Elf-2. A vacuum powered porcelain throne, elegantly sculpted with gleaming white glaze, these workhorses have been subjected to over 15 years of heavy use. We're talking 30 to 40 flushes per day, every day, for 15 years. That's about 219,000 flushes per head, multiplied by our four heads for over 875,000 flushes! Wow! How would your home toilets do with that use?
As you may have guessed, several are reaching the end of their lives, and unfortunately they are no longer in production. It's crucial that we maintain these units until they can be replaced in our major maintenance period next year. And so the quest begins. We have a bit less than one year to find a stainless steel toilet that can work with the Airvac vacuum sewer system. Google searches of "prison supply store" and "surplus internment fixtures" now dominate the port engineer's web browser as he scours the net for leads. With any luck, we'll be seeing their arrival sometime soon.