Monday, June 3, 2013

That was not exactly the plan

Today's blog is directly from Rozalia Project's Mission Atlantic Mission Report 11. 

Different perspectives on the same big day/Mission Report 11

“American Princess, American Princess, this is US Coast Guard Sector New England, what is your location and have you contacted a marine salvage or towing company?”

Of all the conversations we could be having at 2230 hours (10:30pm) on Thursday May 30, this was not at the top of our list. The fact that the name of our beloved vessel, American Promise, came through the VHF as American Princess was, in the end, a good excuse for a chuckle as we were adrift just outside the mouth of the Piscataqua River. We were just 2.5 miles from our mooring with a 10 hour-old transmission that smelled like burnt chemicals and propellor that would not spin. The good news is that it was an ebb tide (pushing us back out to sea as opposed to on the beach), a flat sea (making the deck stable), we are a sailboat with sails ready to go, we have a calm, trained crew, the stars were pretty and we are members of Tow Boat US so Steve from Portsmouth Towboat was on his way.

While one might think that being adrift and getting towed in at midnight would be the most drama  for the day, for many onboard, it was not. The day started in Portland, ME 12 hours before we attached Steve’s towing bridle to our bow. In the 48 miles between Portland and just outside of the “2KR” buoy at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor where we shut the engine down, we had interns complete their very first ocean sail, navigate for the first time, get seasick for the first time and we all saw our first TWO basking sharks!

We asked each of our interns to write two paragraphs about the day. Here is what they said... 

Tara: Thursday was a very exciting day for me for two reasons, the first being, it was my first real trip on a boat!  Aside from a few short, 3-hour trips I’ve taken with school, I’ve never really been on a boat.  Besides being seasick for part of the ride, it was AWESOME!  There is certainly something special about the way a sailboat glides through the water.  Also, being in the middle of the ocean at nightfall and being able to see every star possible is a very cool experience.

Though I’m going to school for marine biology and will be graduating next year, I really haven’t seen much wildlife except for what lives in the intertidal zone, so you can only imagine my excitement when we saw TWO basking sharks while underway!  Their fins were huge!  One of them ended up following us for a bit and the other popped up right next to the boat while we were heeled over.  We could actually see the tip of the second one’s tail fin sticking out of the water; we estimate he might have been about 15 feet long. I hope your Thursday was as exciting as mine!

Christian: You never realize how much you take a level surface for granted until you try cooking a meal on a boat that is under sail. I was able to have this interesting experience last night while I was cooking the very gourmet meal of noodle soup and bread with butter for the crew of American Promise.

I witnessed pots and pans flying from one side of the galley to the other, all while trying to balance liquids so they wouldn’t tip over.  I have heard about living on the edge, but never living at an angle…  I found it to be quite a fun challenge.

Michael: Last night was a totally new experience for me. When we were motoring towards Kittery our transmission pooped the bed. Before the crap-out, the engine had been surging and making strange noises. When the RPMs and the engine drone fell out of sync our Captain, James, went below only to find smoke in the transmission compartment. We quickly shut everything down and radioed for assistance.

Drifting in a quiet and black sea was eerie yet calming. I was assigned as the spotter on the foredeck, looking for lobster traps, buoys, and other vessels. Once it was clear that we were safe, I occupied myself with the spectacular stars.

Kate: As a dinghy sailor, from the Chesapeake Bay, I had never really sailed in the ocean before. It was an exhilarating experience that I would gladly repeat minus the slight seasickness. Getting to steer and tack the boat was a huge difference compared to laser sailing. The boat’s reaction time is much slower so I had to be careful not to over-steer the boat.

Raising and lowering the sails was a huge process that required almost the whole crew’s effort. Sailing after dark was also a new experience for me. Stargazing in the middle of the ocean was amazing and watching the beautiful sunset as we were underway was a priceless experience and my favorite part of our journey to Kittery.

Kaleigh: Dear Beloved Voyage Journal, As I gnawed on my first ginger chew, Captain James (we don’t call him that) said we were ready to sail. With all hands on deck, I struggled to establish my sea legs as we handled lines, cranked winches, and wrestled the gigantic white sheets to begin my first time as a crewmember on a sailboat. Voila! We were underway, and it was smooth sailing—such smooth sailing that as the vessel rocked slowly from side to side my eyes closed and my head fell to my chest as I lounged on the side of the cockpit. Bobbing back up, slightly embarrassed, I noticed the
same dozing demeanor on the faces of each of my fellow interns and my worry vanished. 

The voyage was marked by two thrilling basking shark spottings (!), navigation by numbered buoy markers, and a viewing of the eerie Boone Island as James retold the historical Spanish trade boat wreck story that nuances the land with haunted helplessness. Vivid sunset images eased my mind as my head hit the pillow in my cozy bunk aboard American Promise.

My observations... emergency training is priceless; when it seems something is wrong, have a thorough check - it probably is; and the natural beauty of the sea, stars and a few basking sharks is enough to eclipse seasickness, the ignominy of being towed and replace frustration with determination.

Good seeing the whole picture,

Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean

Today’s Report by: rzm and the crew

Report tags: all ages, inside, outside, expedition story, different perspectives on the same day

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