Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Gulf

I am somewhere near 27.5 N and 91.5 W, a long way from Duxbury Bay. The water here is blue like you can’t imagine. It is also quite deep, about 6,000 feet. The colors are vivid, as are the sounds of diesel engines that power both the propulsion of the vessel and the large generators that keep the power on 24/7. The loudest noises come from what are called bow thrusters which is part of our dynamic positioning system (keeps the ship at one spot by fighting the drifting caused by winds and currents). The dynamic positioning system, better known as the DP, will wake you up, no matter where you are on the vessel, and it also jolts you into levitation, just briefly, if you are sitting in the galley having a cup of coffee. We work around the clock when things are working and the weather is not so terrible. We’ve had some poor weather with wind-generated swells to 7, maybe 8 feet. This was a week or two ago. Swells of this size make it difficult to sleep, take showers, or do anything else that requires more than a half second of steadiness. Most of us need that half second more than we realize.

But right now it is relatively calm out here and the work is moving along swiftly. The cook is busy on lunch (what will it be?), the night shift is wrapping up a mid-morning station, and the day-shifters (me included) are getting up and ready for our noon to midnight date with the sampling nets. Each day, when we are busy, is basically the same. Being busy seems to make the days go quickly and not being busy, or being ashore waiting on things, drags time to its slowest pace, and this weighs on everyone’s patience.

We see things that people rarely see throughout their lives. We see a wide variety of juvenile fish, gelatinous organisms like salps, deep-sea creatures, flying fish, shrimp, crabs, and things that you can’t really imagine and that I can’t describe very well. We see the sun rise and set across the most definitive horizon, oil rigs big and small, water that changes from mud brown to crystal clear blue, dolphins, birds that take refuge on the decks, miles of floating Sargassum weed, and we see and feel the ever constant ocean swell. The latter has been responsible for several upset stomachs and brains.

I look forward to getting home next week. To seeing my family and friends, to picking up where I left off, to eventually getting back on the water and hooking some striper, flounder, and mackerel. If I say “what?” a lot it is because of the bow thrusters and the DP system.