SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
February 16, 2014
S251 Weblog 16 February 2014
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Course and Speed
Sunny and hot in the morning, then afternoon showers
I’m Sarah, the Chief Mate of the Robert C. Seamans. Today I had an awesome day on the ship. We are at anchor in Nuku Hiva, a beautiful, green, volcanic island in the Marquesas. Our anchorage is in a protected bay with mountains towering high on three sides. We are about a mile in from the mouth of the bay, and there are smaller cruising sailboats anchored between us and the public dock.
This morning started early with students packing lunches and heading ashore for a driving tour to the northeastern face of the island, as well as a visit with the local mayor. She has been in office for 30 years and also runs a museum on the island. Meanwhile, 4 staff members must stay on the ship to keep the watch. Our responsibilities include making sure that the anchor doesn’t drag, putting away breakfast dishes and lunch fixings, doing boat runs to bring people back and forth to shore, and doing thorough checks of the ship to make sure there is no fire, flooding, or other emergency. We also spend the day attacking small projects around the ship, keeping the deck, lab and engine room in good working order.
Today I had the watch with Mickey, our assistant engineer, as well as Julia and Kelsey, two of our scientists. Even though the chores I listed above might not sound that exhilarating, we had a great day. I spent the morning listening to pop music. When we’re at sea, we don’t listen to music because it reduces our awareness of the workings of the ship. I really miss catching new music on the radio so I have a playlist of everything that came out right before this trip started!. With my music going I got to work greasing the moving parts of our rescue boat davits - the blocks (pulleys) that we use to raise and lower the boat over the side. By noon, with the sun directly overhead (that doesn’t ever quite happen in Michigan, where I am from) I was spraying down the deck with salt water every 10 minutes to keep my feet from burning. I’m not complaining though. This is the most beautiful place I can think of to do ship maintenance.
The four of us staff had lunch on deck under the shade of the awning (we sometimes jokingly refer to it as the “shade-s’l”) and then 3 of us chose to take a short siesta while Mickey stayed on deck reading under the awning and keeping a lookout (to make sure we don’t drag anchor). It was a great solution to staying out of the sun during the hottest hour of the day.
After napping, I staged a fire drill as requested by Colleen, our captain. As a sail training vessel, we go through extensive training for how to fight fires onboard, but in most cases the entire crew (including students) are on board to help out, each with specific assigned jobs. We wanted to see what would work when we had to respond with only 4 crew members onboard. Julia started the deck generator and the fire pump and had a fire hose running on deck while Mickey and I went to the engine room to investigate the source of the “fire.” It was a good experience - training and practicing are a huge part of keeping the ship safe. If you are reading this and wondering - shipboard fires are very rare when the ship is kept clean and stowed well, and when it is consistently being checked for hazards. On the Robert C. Seamans, we do “boat checks” every hour of the day to keep an eye on every space in the ship. Prevention is our biggest tool.
In the afternoon, we experienced intermittent downpours, which cooled things down nicely. I sat on the quarterdeck watching the rain and splicing an eye into a length of line that will replace rigging that is starting to wear out. At 1600, Mickey brought out coconut ice cream, a gift left for us by Sayzie, our steward. So the day continued to be fantastic!
At 1700, Julia and Mickey drove the small boats to shore and picked up half the students, who will take responsibility to the ship during the night hours. Those students are now onboard and have put out dinner, cleaned the galley and taken over the anchor watch. They will each stand a 2-hour rotation and take frequent bearings to ensure the ship stays in place, as well as logging hourly boat checks, like we did during the day. At this point, every student is trained on how to watch the ship and all have stepped up to the responsibility. From the singing, joking and laughing I can tell that folks are still having a fun time even after a long day ashore.
So there you go, a little description of life aboard from the eyes of a staff member. We are having a great time on this voyage! On a side note, happy Birthday Dad! I miss all of you Herards and I hope you are staying warm in Michigan!