NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Ocean Starr
May 20 – 29, 2013
Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: San Francisco
Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
I’m sitting in my hotel room where I will spend the night prior to boarding a plane for Philadelphia. I still feel the rocking of the boat, a strange, but evidently perfectly normal phenomenon. As I look back on the last week, I am flooded with memories—the smell of the catch, the constant sound of the boat engines, the feel of the ocean as she makes herself known to the Ocean Starr, the sight of a multitude of krill, and the taste of Crystal’s jambalaya made from freshly caught shrimp that had the misfortune of finding their way into our trawl.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. In addition to developing an appreciation and deeper understanding of pelagic fish and the work that goes into managing our fisheries, I take away fond memories of my work and of the friendships forged. Although Fisheries Biologist Don Pearson, Biologist Sophie Webb, and graduate student Jamie Lee worked days, I had opportunities to spend time with each of them and learn from them.
When working the night shift, I found that our operations quickly settled into a comfortable routine thanks to Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma. Methodical and careful in his work, it was obvious how much he enjoyed taking the time to teach us and entertain us as we worked through the night. Although Lindsey, Brianna, Kaia, and Amber all have much more experience identifying fish than I do, we quickly formed a team that worked efficiently and cheerfully throughout the shift. Our work, however, would not have been possible without crewmen Rich, Nate, and Jason who braved the elements several times a night to release the trawl net and reel it back in. Rich especially enjoyed bantering with us and seeing what the trawls yielded.
During my time on the Ocean Starr I also quickly came to appreciate the rhythm of the day that our marvelous ship steward, Crystal, provided. She was always ready with an enthusiastic smile and thoroughly enjoyed applying her creative energies to sating everyone’s appetites.
In addition to Crystal, I got to know several members of the crew, all who were unanimous in their enthusiasm for their work. I heard time and time again how much they enjoy traveling and meeting the various scientists that board the Ocean Starr. All of the crew was incredibly patient when answering my questions. Dale Johnson graciously explained his navigational duties and briefed me on some of the equipment he uses. He explained how he keeps a constant eye on the radar which tells him the locations of other ships in the area. He also explained the electronic chart that he uses to navigate. As much as he enjoys the convenience of the electronic chart, however, using a paper chart is still an essential skill. Dale hones this skill frequently as he plans out the route on paper and transfers it to the electronic chart.
I enjoyed getting to know George Rayford, Jr., a QMED (engineering department) who caught the “working on the water” bug through his employment with a barge line that navigated inland rivers.
Captain Bud Hanson always referred to me as “Patty, Teacher at Sea.” I felt a bit like a princess with such a long title. He, too, was generous with his time and was patient with my questions. Captain Bud was delighted when I asked him if he would sign some flags that had been made by various classes in my school district—-I know that those classes are going to be thrilled when I return their little piece of their classroom that sailed with me on my adventure.
Thank you, NOAA, and thank you to my Ocean Starr friends. This past week has been an adventure I’ll never forget!