Sunday, April 30, 2017

Friday, April 22, 2016

The first sail without engine

was not long. Saturday 16 April, Twister sailed from Elsesro Marina near the Bergen city center to Ebbesvik on Lille Sotra island (about 10 miles) with LT at the helm and Henriette as first mate and all-around fender-offer. The marina is being demolished to make room for luxury condos, so the boat gypsies who had made it their home are scattered to the four winds.  The sail to Ebbesvik was very pleasant though chilly. We were becalmed for a short while under the Ask√ły Bridge (where the police responded to aspiring jumpers about 60 times last year). Aside from that I could hardly have asked for better conditions. Approaching Ebbesvik, I found the public concrete dock occupied. The private wooden dock nearby was empty.  After  one reconnaisance pass we charged into the narrow cove, came about and pointed the bow right at the dock as Twister lost her forward momentum. I stepped off with a dock line in hand very pleased with myself. The motorboat occuping the public dock kindly offered to move allowing me more practice docking under sail. As we neared the concrete wharf  I furled the jib and tried out the new skulling oar which turned out to be worse than useless. It honestly seemed I managed to make the boat go backwards. Skulling with the rudder, the tried and true method with Twister, was sufficient to maneuver her alongside. So far I'm feeling good about engineless sailing. 

Since Saturday I have been continuing the interior redecoration started when I removed the engine and fuel tank in October. The port side freshwater tank was removed using a drill, hand saw, crow bar, and liberal amounts of elbow grease. I also pulled out the old electrical panel and wiring (in retrospect I wish I had looked a little more carefully at how things were connected before I started yanking things out). The rough plan is to move the galley and chart table aft making room for two traditional settees (boatspeak for couch) in the middle of the cabin. The pilot berth will also be moved aft into the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank (I will not miss the smell of diesel).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dispatch From A Drilling (Coring) Ship

It's easy to forget one is on a ship aboard The JOIDES Resolution (named after Captain Cook's ship, she has crisscrossed the world's oceans in a manner befitting the name). The accommodations are bordering on luxurious, and most days the motion of the ship is hardly noticeable. Launched in 1978 with a major refit in 2007-2008 she is 143 meters long. Currently there are 125 people on board (now 124 after a medivac). It is like a floating city.
JOIDES Resolution, aka "JR" coming into Port Louis, Mauritius
The rig can drill in a water depth of ca 8000 m and then another 2000 m below the seafloor. On this expedition we have drilled in around 3000 meters depth and collected cores down to ca 300 meters below the sea floor. Carrying, cutting, and archiving sections of cores all day (which is mostly what I do), one can lose sight of the bigger picture. The sediments we are collecting were deposited up to 7 million years ago and tell the story of past climates. Paleontologists identify fossilized remains of benthic and planktonic foraminefera, diatoms, and radiolaria. Other specialists measure the the magnetism in the cores (the polarity of the earth's magnetic field has flipped many times in the earth's history). Combined with gamma ray emission, gamma ray transmission (measuring density), and other techniques these data allow scientist to date each section of sediment. Once the cores' ages are determined more detailed measurements are used to reconstruct the climate. The purpose of this expedition is to study the past behavior of The Agulhas Current and its influence on the climate (see this BBC blurb). As I write this, we are steaming north in The Mozambique Channel (between Mozambique and Madagascar) towards our next coring site.

The coring machinery includes a hollow steel tube (called the drill string) that is lowered to the ocean floor. This so-called drill string is assembled from 30 meter long sections and is fitted with a drill bit. Inside the drill string a ca 10 meter steel tube called the core barrel fitted with a plastic liner (the core liner, made from cellulose acetate butyrate), is lowered on a steel cable until it reaches the bottom of the drill string (which at the beginning of the drilling process should be hanging a couple of meters above the sea floor. The assembly is then pressurized with water (or mud) until two shear pins break, firing the core barrel into the ocean floor. The drill string then drills down around the core barrel until reaches the end.  The core barrel is then pulled up through the drill string onto the ship. The drilling crew immediately begin lowering another core barrel down the drill string as the core liner containing the core sample is pulled from the core barrel and handed over to the IODP technicians (of whom I am one). We cut the core liner with core inside into 1.5 meter sections which are immediately fed through three automated tracks with analytical instruments that measure among other things gamma ray transmission (density) and gamma ray emission. The core sections are then split lengthwise. One half becomes the archive section which is later sent to a core repository. The other half (the working half) is then studied further on the ship. As all this is happening another section of core is on its way up the drill string and we do it all again.

Check out for more information and for photos from this cruise.

A few more photos here.

14/04/16--I just came across co-chief scientist Sidney Hemming's blog from the cruise. She obviously has a much better idea what's going on that me:

And this map shows the ship's circuitous track during the expedition (ask my why the track looks like it does):

Monday, December 28, 2015

Back in Punta Arenas

The ASRV Laurence M. Gould arrived Punta Arenas this morning after the smoothest crossing of The Drake Passage I have experienced.  There was a good amount of ice in the vicinity of Anvers Island (the area where we were working) for this time of year. Some photos from the cruise here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Project Blog

The sun came out today so I took some photos. We are in Andvord Bay
where most of our sampling is happening. It is a fjord of sorts and very
sheltered from the open ocean, so life aboard is very comfortable these
days. Several glaciers descend into the water and the bay is littered
with icebergs and bergy bits. If you want to read more about the project
I am a part of, check out the official blog:

Monday, November 16, 2015

back in Punta ArenasThe

I find myself again at the end of the world - Punta Arenas, Chile. For the next 44 days or so I will be working for a Scripps Institution Of Oceanography group aboard the research vessel Laurence M. Gould. Wednesday we sail south to The Antarctic Peninsula. We will spend most of our time in a lovely little fjord called Andvord Bay.

Ice-strengthened research vessel Laurence M. Gould

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Free At Last

On October 2, I fired up the diesel engine for the last time. It was a short drive within the marina to a more substantial concrete pontoon. Soon thereafter Twister was relieved of her biggest burden. No, not me, you smart alecs--the noisy, smelly, and did-I-mention heavy diesel engine (weighing in at around 240 kg or 528 lbs). I had been involved in removing the engine once before and planned to use the same strategy--pulling the engine with a chain block and tackle supported by the boom. I anticipated the weakest link to be whatever would support the boom and used every available halyard and the topping lift. Of course the first step was to disconnect all the electric cables, gear and throttle cables, fuel line, prop shaft, and the four rubber engine mounts. As the motor gradually rose out of the cabin I was imagining the boom giving way and the engine dropping straight through the boat and everything ending up at the bottom of the harbor (I had seriously contemplated removing my passports and other important papers from the boat, but decided I had enough confidence in my halyards to proceed without further precautions).

The worst part is over

Sitting pretty
 Having removed the alternator, the engine came through the companionway hatch (ie door) surprisingly smoothly. After taking a break to catch my breath and take some photos, I raised the engine as high as possible, and it swung effortlessly over to the pallet on the dock.
Less damage to gelcoat than anticipated
The diesel tank, fuel lines, ignition, gear and throttle cables and lever came out without much fuss and I had it all waiting for the new owner who came to pick up the engine and accessories the next day. Twister is now ca 340 kg lighter than she was with the engine and a full diesel tank and she sits much prettier with the stern ca 10 cm higher than before. And there is so much space inside!

Naturally you may be asking, "now what?" The answer is, "not sure," but I have long contemplated sailing as God intended us to sail--engineless. The romantic appeal alone is enough to make me seriously consider this option. Another less romantic but more practical option is to buy a small outboard engine for maneuvering in tight spaces and as a bonus to propell the dinghy. At any rate, I was able to get Twister back into her slip using the rudder to scull, so maybe a dedicated sculling oar is the answer.