Carmen Andrews: The People and Places Aboard the R/V Savannah, July 19, 2012


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews
Aboard R/V Savannah
July 7 – 18, 2012

Mission: SEFIS Reef Fish Survey
Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Fernandina Beach, Florida
Date: July 17, 2012

Latitude:      30 ° 28.53   N
Longitude:   80 ° 11.73’  W       

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 27.6° C (81.68°F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots
Wind Direction: from the Southwest
Surface Water Temperature: 27.88 °C (82.18°F)
Weather conditions: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

There are 16 people aboard this fisheries survey cruise. There are seven crew members and nine scientists, including me. The work can be difficult, and at times it is dangerous. The accommodations aren’t spacious and the work schedules can be long: 12 hours on and 12 hours off for the scientists. The boat’s crew has 4- hour on and off work schedules. Two men at a time are on watch for each of six 4- hour shifts.

I got to know everyone on the R/V Savannah during my time on the survey cruise. Here are some interviews that I conducted with scientists and crew. Their jobs — and the life choices that led them to do these jobs — are equally impressive.

The Scientists

Shelly Falk

Shelly making modifications to a fish trap

Marine technician Shelly Falk, making modifications to a fish trap

1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I work as a Marine Technician at MARMAP. It is part of  the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. On this cruise I catch fish and work them up in the wet lab. In the past, I have worked with video technology – setting it up and maintaining it. I usually work with something called an SCS program, which collects time, location and depth of fish sites.

2. Where are you from originally?

I’m from Ilion, New York. It’s a little town upstate.

3. Where do you live now?

I live in Charleston, South Carolina.

4. What background and skills are needed for your job?

After high school I took my core academic classes at Herkimer Community College in Herkimer, New York. Then I transferred to Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach. That’s where I earned my B.S. degree in Marine Science. There were many field experiences. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources requires a bachelor’s degree for this work. I needed experience dissecting fish. Learning to gather video data is a new skill that requires on the job training.

5. Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

Marine science gave me an overview of physical oceanography.  At Coastal Carolina I took courses in Marine Chemistry, Marine Biology and Marine Mammals. These courses also gave me an overview of these fields. My favorite class was Biology of Sharks, because I went to Bimini in the Bahamas for ten days as part of this course. That was the best experience leading up to this job.

6. What do you like best about your job?

I like the field experience and the hands on tasks of being at sea. I also like the variety of this kind of work and not knowing what I’ll find every day. Every day is a new experience. It’s never the same.

David Berrane

Fisheries Biologist David Berrane

Fisheries biologist David Berrane, on the rear deck of the R/V Savannah

1.  What is your job title and what do you do?

I am a Fisheries Biologist and contractor for NOAA, in Beaufort, North Carolina. On this cruise I do fish survey work and dissection. That’s known as conducting field sampling exercises. The samples I dissect are sent to MARMAP in Charleston, SC. Back in my Beaufort lab I analyze collected samples using video. One of my most important responsibilities is maintaining equipment and supplies. I am also responsible for purchasing supplies.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I’m from Yorktown, Virginia.

3.  Where do you live now?

I live in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

A person doing this job needs to be interested in being outside in the wild world and nature. It’s difficult and challenging work. You need experience operating in strenuous conditions. I spent my youngest years in Poquoson, Virginia — living near the water — crabbing and fishing. I’ve been handling wildlife since I was old enough to catch it. I went to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I majored in Environmental Studies. Before working in this position I was a camp counselor and assistant park ranger.

5.  Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

I had a good teacher for algebra. He would put a problem on the board every Monday. He gave us extra credit if we could solve it by Friday. I got interested in science when I finally came around to realizing science is the world around us. I had started college as a business administration major and found I didn’t like it. I changed my major to environmental science after visiting Puerto Rico and seeing a scientist working in the rainforest. I decided that I wanted to do that.

6.  What do you like best about your job?

I like going out and doing the field work. I like being on a team of good people and having fun. Seeing the traps come up and seeing new fish is like being a kid on the canal bank again, catching fish. I’m still interested in seeing new kinds of fish – the polka dot batfish were some fish that I saw for the first time on this trip.

Polka Dot Batfish

Polka Dot Batfish

The Crew

Mike Kruitwagen

Marine chef, Mike Kruitwagen in the galley

Marine chef, Mike Kruitwagen in the galley

1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I am a Marine Chef. I create good food to make everyone happy. My goal is to provide healthy, diverse meals. I boost morale, and give the scientists and crew something to look forward to. My kitchen is limited on this boat, but I try to make everything from scratch.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Bridgeton, New Jersey.

3. Where do you live now?

I live in Houston, Texas.

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

Someone needs a passion for cooking and boats to do this job. You need to be able to adapt. I got my training in culinary arts from the San Diego Culinary Institute in San Diego, California. I have been preparing meals on boats for six years. Before that I worked as a caterer and personal chef.

5.  Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

I didn’t realize back in school that measuring and converting amounts would be so important to my work. Multiplication and division are very important to increasing and decreasing servings for the number of people that I prepare meals for. I also needed to learn about chemistry of cooking – how acids and bases affect cooking – like when to use baking soda or baking powder.

6.  What do you like best about your job?

The best part of my job is all the travel. I’ve been to Hawaii, Southeast Asia, San Diego to Seattle and places in between. I started in New Jersey and now I’m in Savannah, Georgia. I like meeting new people and having new experiences. Every day is a learning experience.

Raymond Sweatte

R/V Savannah Captain Raymond Sweatte making a log entry

R/V Savannah Captain Raymond Sweatte making a log entry

1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I am the Marine Supervisor and Captain of the R/V Savannah. I begin preparing for a cruise like this by communicating with the chief scientist. We discuss the equipment that will be loaded – bait, ice, freezers. We also discuss the objectives of the cruise and the locations of fish traps. I make sure that provisions, fuel and potable water is aboard. Very importantly, I check to be sure all safety equipment is aboard and in good working order. The top priority of every cruise is safety, and then I focus on the science objectives being met. I try to serve the scientists as much as possible, by making sure that the boat’s crew is available to support the science project.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I’m from Beaufort, South Carolina.

3.  Where do you live now?

I live on Wilmington Island, Georgia.

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

There is more than one way to be a captain – one way is to attend a Merchant Mariners’ Academy, and then going to sea to get experience in all areas of seamanship. My route involved working on a boat and then going to the Maritime Professional Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I have a USCG 1600 Ton Masters License. The Coast Guard licenses mates and captains to operate vessels. The licensing goes from OUPV or Operator of Uninspected Power Vessel, who can take up to six people on a vessel, up to an Unlimited License , which would license a person to captain a vessel like an ocean liner or super tanker.

5. Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

I enjoyed marine science courses. I always loved math and find that I need algebra and geometry. I liked science too.  I had to learn how a compass works. The boat has many simple machines like pulleys – they are called blocks on a boat. I have to understand mechanical advantage. There are also hydraulic levers called A-frames and J-frames to move loads in and out of the boat. I have to do stability calculations to balance loads with respect to the center of gravity, so the boat isn’t top heavy. I also have to calculate be sure there isn’t too much weight at the front or back of the boat.

6. What do you like best about your job?

I like being out at sea. I enjoy the peacefulness of the sea. Everyone works together with the same goal – that’s the only way to manage. We sometimes spend more time with crew than our families. We need lots of give and take. I’m also able to meet many scientific groups with missions that will hopefully help environmental conditions. I like the idea of being involved with these projects.

Pete Casserleigh

First Mate Pete Casserleigh piloting the R/V Savannah

First Mate Pete Casserleigh piloting the R/V Savannah

 1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I am the first mate of the R/V Savannah. I maintain records of safety inspections and deck equipment maintenance. I have about ten binders on a shelf that store the information that I have to read and record. John Bichy, the marine tech and I do this work together. I also manage the fueling system that runs the twin diesel engines.These engines power the boat.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I’m from Metairie, Louisiana. I moved to Dallas, Texas in high school.

3.  Where do you live now?

I live in Guyton, Georgia. It’s 30 miles west of Savannah

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

Even though I would still like to eventually finish college, in the marine industry you don’t need a college degree. Licenses are the qualifications that are needed.

After high school I went to Delgado Community College in New Orleans. I was attending college with a general studies major when we were attacked on September 11, 2001. I left college and  joined the Coast Guard because of 9/11. I was stationed in Kauai, Hawaii.  I served as a boatswains mate on the cutter, Kittiwake for three years. I was also quartermaster of the watch, assistant rescue and survival petty officer, and I did some other assignments that dealt with rescue and safety. When I was transferred to Savannah I was the boarding officer, which is a law enforcement position. I got my captain’s license in the Coast Guard. The sea time allowed me to get a 100 ton masters license. Since leaving the coast guard, I’ve worked for ferry services that ran out of Savannah to surrounding islands. I also worked as a ships safety inspector before taking the job I have now. My safety training and experience have led this job.

5.  Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

In school, math and science were the courses I enjoyed the most. I liked biology too. Math plays an important role in chart plotting, conversions, and navigation. For example, fueling is measured in inches. I have to use measurements in the metric system and the conventional measuring system. Depths can be measured in meters and fathoms. Algebraic reasoning is essential to pass certification and licensing tests.

6.  What do you like best about your job?

Being on the water is something I have always wanted to do – I love being out on the water. My office is a boat. I enjoy all the fringe benefits of being on the ocean – the sunsets, the fishing — and knowing that working on a research vessel is going to a good cause. The tough part is leaving my family.

The R/V Savannah’s Other Science Work Area

There are two laboratories on board. The wet lab activities were described in the previous post.

The dry lab contains numerous technological tools that give constant information on several screens. One of these shows CTD data – water conductivity, salinity, temperature, in addition to several other readings. There screens that show the boat’s position and course settings. Others show current velocities in the ocean column. And very importantly, there are screens that show weather conditions around the boat. This data includes wind speed and direction, air temperature, among other weather data. The dry lab also stores many the video cameras that get submerged when the traps are deployed to the ocean bottom. There are battery charges and data card readers on the lab benches.

Dry lab showing video gear

Dry lab with video gear

Video captured near fish trap

Monitor showing video captured near fish trap

Monitor showing depth and current velocities in the water column

Monitor showing depth and current velocities in the water column

Personal Log

Here are some pictures that show what my life was like aboard the R/V Savannah for two weeks:

My bunk

My bunk

The science head a.k.a bathroom

One of the two science heads a.k.a bathrooms

My state room, shared with two other female scientists

My state room, shared with two other female scientists

Gag grouper and meatloaf dinner

Gag grouper and meatloaf dinner

Wahoo dinner

Wahoo dinner

Black sea bass and stuff pork roast dinner
Black sea bass and stuff pork roast dinner
My favorite pic of me

My favorite pic of me (courtesy of Pete) — after setting the autopilot for the homeward course, and pushing the throttles forward to power up the twin Caterpillar diesels, I was feeling really good sitting in the captain’s seat.

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