NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Playing Hooky

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Yesterday we got some weather in the afternoon. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so snarky about Erik’s weatherman capabilities; we had a front come through and now there’s a hurricane forming to the southeast of us and a couple typhoons in the neighborhood as well. I’ll admit it, I put my wetsuit on yesterday as the rain and wind approached mainly because it sounded like it’d be warmer in the water than in the boat (and it was). Then I made the mistake of offering to “help” swim. The varsity team got down to business, and this JV benchwarmer was out of her league. I swam one smallish bommie and got the heck out. Here Derek and Megan regret having swum in the morning because they were destined to stay in the weather all afternoon.

I’d been threatening for days that I’d take a day off when the weather turned bad, and this morning looked like my day off. So I wasn’t out with the groups towing, but I did manage to get some photos of the Avons launching. It’s the rituals of a job that are something you can pick up in a fairly short time. Every net is different, but every launch goes through the same steps. There are three Avons perched at various spots on the boat deck and one atop the marine debris container. One of the ship’s crew, either Kenji or Doug, uses a crane to get the boat into position at the port side of the ship, and the coxswain (boat-driver) hops aboard while it’s still on the wire. Then the boat gets lowered to the water and immediately disconnected from the wire. Once the engines are started and the antenna is up, the loader gets in via a ladder, then stuff gets passed down: the lunch cooler, various mysterious boat boxes, a couple tanks for emergencies and for filling lift bags, a water jug, and the divers’ gear bags.

Next up, the remaining two or three team members get on. First a double bap from Ray (being given to Flower),

followed by a hard-hat bap from Bruce (this one is being administered to Jim, the Human Crane).

Then down the ladder and away the boat goes. That’s my team boarding Avon 3 for a day of foul weather.

All the gear is packed like a puzzle in the bow, along with the anchor bucket. The towboards separate the gear area from the net area. That blue tarp you saw in the loading picture keeps the boat a bit clean but mainly keeps the cargo net from getting caught on the oars or anything else on the bottom or sides. That whole area from the towboards back to the steering console is for debris. The four boats are usually pretty well spaced out during the day, but we radio back to the ship every half-hour and check in with one another on how full the boats are from time to time. Sponsons are the floaty things on seaplanes and, by extension, the inflated parts of an Avon. So “half-sponsons” means the pile of debris is about a foot deep. “Sponsons” is up to the top of them. “Console” means it’s at the level of the console, a little over 3 feet. After that, you just keep piling and stomping or get another boat to take some of the load.

Today was not a great day for marine debris. The day’s grand total was under a ton. The first boat had 90-some kilograms, the second had 134 kilograms. But in spite of one off day, we’re creeping out of the container and onto the deck. The crew built a corral to hold additional debris. On the last leg, they overfilled the container, filled the corral, stacked cargo nets full of net debris along the passageway where we store our wetsuits and hardhats, and finally just stacked debris wherever they could. We’re not there yet, and with a cruise five days shorter than the last one, probably won’t get there, but it is gratifying to have overflowed the container with a week of ops left.

So what did I do on my glorious day off? Relaxed, baby. Ran the Komen Hawaii Race for the Cure a day late and on a treadmill instead of around Kapiolani Park. Worked on some workshop proceedings. Enjoyed a delicious hot lunch. Watched Johnny Belinda, an old Jane Wyman film that Ray recommended. Tear-jerker, but pretty good. Tomorrow, it’s back to the salt mines, this time on Max’s boat with a new team. Yes, this is my new fearless leader, caught in the act of devouring something from a fish. I don’t want to know, and I’m sure you don’t.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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