We are heading home—Still. It is nearly 5 days steam from our last sampling site to the final multibeam survey we have to do. It is still almost a day away. The routine has definitely changed from what we have been living the last nearly 40 days. Routine is one of the aspects of being at sea that I never really had time to talk about. Routine at sea is important. There is a lot of monotony (doing the same thing again and again) that you have to fight against to keep yourself (and everyone else) from getting slack at your job. And being inattentive at sea is dangerous it is so easy to get hurt. Everyone has bumped something, scraped something or bruised something(we have a couple of black fingernails on the team). That is partly because when you are at sea, even when it’s relatively calm, you are always pushing against the motion of the ship in everything you do… it’s easy to be distracted, loose sight of things – bump something and routine helps you keep you going in the right direction.
One of the rules and routines on the ship – is you wear safety gear when you are on the deck and putting something over the side—you will have noticed in the pictures that we are all wearing hard hats, and working life vests when we are on the deck – we are also wearing steel-toed boots. Those boots, for good reason are not allowed inside the ship – you track in salt water and oil and mud. So we all take our boots off each time we come in and put them on when we go out—there is quite a collection of them in the assembly spot waiting for the next time we go out.
But today they are all packed up – we spent the last few days packing up… everything had to go back into the tubs and boxes it came in, get cataloged and then taped up to ship home. The labs are feeling empty—but they are still full of tubs… because we can’t load them into the vans that they will be shipped in – yet. It’s too dangerous to be out on the deck.
Part of what we are fighting now is the weather – we have had 4 days of high winds (over 20 knots) and big seas of 4 meters (yes, that is more than 12 feet). It is hard to walk in these conditions let alone work. It’s also rough on sleeping and eating – a number of people are under the weather again because it has been relentless (wondering why you haven’t heard from James lately?). There has been no break because we are sprinting home – and until now there was always a station or a change of course that would break up the beating we are taking. That’s an important point—where the wind and waves are from relative to the direction we are steaming – and our speed determines how bad the motion is—since last night the wind has come around a bit so rather than following us, we are heading into it – and the waves are coming from the side—it makes for a rough ride. It’s hard to show that in pictures – but the wind and waves are coming in on the starboard side and we’ve been taking some water over the rail.
Just a couple more days. It has been a great cruise but weather like this just makes you want to get home.