SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
S251 Weblog 09 March 2014
18° 55.9’S x 140° 11.9’W
Course and Speed
300 PSC at 8 knots
Staysls and the Iron Pony
Clear skies, Wind F2 ENE
Todays blog is coming you direct from the engineering department on the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Some people may wonder why we need to have 2 engineers onboard a sailing vessel. To answer such an inquiry, let me take you through an average day in the engineering department.
Jimmy, the Chief Engineer, and I wake up for breakfast at 6 (provided we weren’t up in the middle of the night fixing some whirly-gig). We are some of the few people on the boat considered day workers, meaning on an average day we work during day light hours and don’t stand a night watch. After breakfast we will meet with our morning watch student assistant engineer. If the student engineer comes with me, we will spend a couple of hours walking through the engine spaces and performing preventative maintenance on all of our equipment. That includes our diesel generators and ship electrical systems, main engine, water makers, refrigeration system, sewage system, and a lot more. A large part of the engineers job is performing preventative maintenance; this helps us to stumble across a problem while it is still small and makes the repair much easier.
After the first walkthrough, we (still with our student apprentice) might go find Jimmy and pull him away from paperwork to go fix something that needs repairing that day. So far this trip we have done some minor repairs to the water makers, JETS vacuum pumps (they make the heads flush), one of our bilge pumps, and our domestic salt water pump and salt water plumbing.
If its a slow day and nothing requires our immediate attention, we like to let the student pick a piece of equipment to learn about. We will then spend a while reading manuals, looking at the actual equipment and discussing how it works, or if practical, taking apart the spare we have in our inventory. By the end the student will no longer consider that machine a magical piece of equipment, but an engineering marvel. So far this trip we have had Cole learn about outboard engines, Midori about refrigeration, Anna about the water makers, and much more.
At 1220 Jimmy and I break for lunch, then do more project work and teaching in the afternoon. Another large part of our job has to do with conservation. Since we are by ourselves out here in the big blue Pacific, we have to create most of what we use. Therefore, we make our own electricity through the burning of diesel, and make our own fresh water with our water makers. The engineers are responsible for making sure that we dont run out of water and the lights stay on. Rationing of water is especially important when we are in port, since we cannot make more water when close to land. This group of students has done pretty well this trip, using an average of 344 gallons per day, or about 10 gallons of water per day per person. Try imagine doing that in everyday life, not so easy with modern showers, dishwashers, laundry, etc!
At some point after class Jimmy and I will wind down our workday by enjoying the company of our shipmates on deck, watching the sunset, and playing cards. After dinner one of us will assume the duty and be on-call in case any engineering issues come up during the night.
I hope that gave you a good taste for what its like being an engineer on the RCS!