Laura Grimm: R/V vs. RV, July 27, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Laura Grimm

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 4 – July 22, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Lake Erie

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: July 27, 2022

Weather Data from my home office in Dalton, Ohio

Latitude: 40 45.5’ N

Longitude: 081ᵒ 41.5’ W

Elevation: 1135 feet

Sky Conditions: Mostly sunny

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 7 mph

Wind Direction: NW

Air Temperature: 25 ᵒC (77 ᵒF)

Relative Humidity: 58%

Science and Technology Log

Research Vessel vs. Recreational Vehicle

I thought it would be interesting to compare some specifications of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson = TJ (research vessel) with my 2010 Toyota Sienna minivan + 2019 Viking camper = VV (recreational vehicle).  I would also like to thank Chief Marine Engineer (CME) Tom Cleary and Husband Phil Grimm for information concerning the specifications of the research vessel and recreational vehicle, respectfully.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson underway, as seen from a launch vessel
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson taken from the launch = TJ Research Vessel
a minivan and a camper trailer parked in a driveway
2019 Viking camper + 2010 Toyota Sienna minivan taken in my driveway = VV Recreational Vehicle

What is the size of engine?  How much power is produced?

                VV = 3.5 Liter, 3500cc, 211 cubic inch / 265 Horsepower

                TJ = 7,740 cubic inch, 2500 Horsepower.  12-cylinder mechanically injected EMD (a division of Caterpillar) diesel engine.  This engine is commonly used on locomotives. 

engine of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Engine of Thomas Jefferson
an engineer wearing protective earmuffs works on the innards of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson's engine
Engine of Thomas Jefferson with the “hood” open

What kind of fuel do you use and how big is your storage tank?

                VV = Minivan uses 87 octane unleaded gasoline & has a 21 gallon fuel tank.  Camper has a 20-pound liquid propane (LP) gas storage tank.

                TJ = The ship uses #2 ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and has a 131,789-gallon storage tank.

Where is the electricity stored?  Quantity?

VV = Minivan has a 12-volt battery + Camper has a 12-volt “marine”, deep cycle battery

TJ = The ship has two 24-volt starting banks (2 batteries in series) for the emergency diesel generator (EDG), and two 24-volt emergency power banks for general alarm and other emergency circuits. 

Where is the electricity produced?  Quantity?

                VV = Minivan: belt-driven alternator keeps battery charged.   Camper: battery can be charged by the van or with the charger/inverter when plugged into AC.

                TJ (underway / while at sea) = Three generators capable of generating 345 Kilowatts each (over 1 megawatt combined); one generator is online at a time.  TJ has increased its energy efficiency (LED lighting, more energy efficient AC and appliances, etc.).  Now, under normal house loads – not running any of the davits or cranes – TJ requires only 30% of the electricity generated with one generator.

                TJ (onshore / while at port) = The ship has the capability to use power from shore via a plug on the port and starboard side.  It uses power cables standard to all maritime ships.  Each of its NATO plugs is capable of carrying 480 Volts of 3-phase power (400 amps).  Typically, TJ only uses one of its NATO plugs while in port unless there is need for additional electricity.

Engineer, wearing protective ear muffs, checks fluids in one of three generators
First Assistant Engineer (1AE) Perry checks fluids in one of three generators
one of the generators aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Each generator can generate 345 Kilowatts of electricity

How does the driver / engineer know what is happening with the engine and generators?

                VV = Dashboard of the van, gauges, check engine lights and warnings

                TJ = Modern, Windows-based control room with remote capabilities.  This system sends information to the control room, Bridge, and the Chief Engineer’s office.  Lots of gauges and computer displays.  Multiple lights and warnings if there are problems.

engineer stands in the control room next to a control panel with at least four monitors, levers, buttons
 1AE Perry checks gauges in the control room

How about locomotion?  How does VV or TJ move forward or backward?

                VV & TJ = Both use an internal combustion engine that turns a propulsion shaft.  Both use a series of reduction gears (transmission in the case of the van).  Speed is maintained via a fixed gear ratio in TJ, unlike the van that has multiple gear ratios.  The Chief Marine Engineer (CME), Tom Cleary, tried to convince me that the mechanics of locomotion are very similar in both vehicles except the drive shaft of TJ is much longer and larger and at the end turns a propeller; where the drive shaft of the van eventually makes the wheels turn.

How do the drivers know where to go?

                VV = looking out the window, maps, GPS, and when all else fails ask the spouse

                TJ = refer to my July 18, 2022, NOAA Teacher at Sea blog post, “Who is driving this ship?”

Do both vehicles have windshield wipers?

                VV = 2 windshield wipers

                TJ = 9 windshield wipers + 2 Clearview screens which are rotational window wipers that work via centripetal force. 

a centripetal windshield wiper on one of the windows of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson's bridge; through the window we can see the foredeck
Clearview Screen – Centripetal Windshield Wiper

 How big is the freshwater (potable water) tank?

                VV = 23 gallons

                TJ = 47,382 gallons.  The ship also can make its own freshwater from saltwater using a reverse osmosis system

What is greywater and how big is the collection tank?

                Greywater is the relatively clean wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances.

                VV = 25 gallons

                TJ = 27,878 gallons

What is black water and how big is the collection tank?

                Black water is sewage or the wastewater from toilets.

                VV = 25 gallons

                TJ = 29,440 gallons

What about the hot water systems?

                VV = Has a 6-gallon water tank where water is heated using natural gas.

                TJ = Has two separate hot water systems.  The first uses electricity to heat water in a 60-gallon tank.  This water is available for decks 01, 02, and 03.  These are the three decks above the main deck.  The other system has two 60-gallon tanks plumbed in series that serve the laundry room, galley, and staterooms on decks 2 and 3.  These are the two decks below the main deck.  Pumps constantly move water through the systems helping to provide (almost) instantaneous hot water from the tap.

What is the size and amenities of the kitchen (galley)?

                VV = 2 burner gas stove, microwave, no conventional oven, two cupboards used for food storage, 1 cupboard used to store pots, pans, and other miscellaneous kitchen items, approximate size of counter next to the sink is 6 square feet.

                TJ = Areas including food prep, cooking, serving, dish washer, dry storage and steward’s office are all in an area roughly 800 square feet.

 What about where people eat (mess hall)?  What is it like?

                VV = One table (roughly 2’ x 3’) plus two benches.  Entire area is approximately 24 square feet.  A picnic table is also an option when available.  It is provided by the campground.

                TJ = Three tables (roughly 2.5’ x 10’), 20 chairs, multiple refrigerators, freezers, beverage & coffee dispensers, salad bar, sink, and snack shelves.  Entire area is about 250 square feet.

Do these vehicles have refrigerators and freezers?

                VV = 3 cubic foot refrigerator + ½ cubic foot freezer.  Ice is made with a mini-ice cube tray.

                TJ = All staterooms have a mini fridge.  There are a mixture of small and home-sized refrigerators and freezers in the galley and mess hall for the convenience of the stewards and crew.  There are also two very large walk-in refrigerators and freezers that are used by the stewards.  An ice maker is housed in the galley and is used to fill coolers, etc.

How many berths (beds) are aboard?

                VV = The camper and van each have two, making a total of 4 places where people could sleep.

                TJ = There are 36 places for people to sleep, and the hospital has one bed.

What is a “head” and how many are there?

                According to a Navy history website, “Head” in a nautical sense referring to the bow or fore part of a ship dates to 1485. The ship’s toilet was typically placed at the head of the ship near the base of the bowsprit, where splashing water served to naturally clean the toilet area.”  (Icky!)

                VV = One toilet/shower unit in the camper + a portable toilet if needed.

                TJ = Each stateroom has access to a toilet/shower unit + a public toilet on the main deck.

How many stairs are there?

                VV = Two steps into the camper

                TJ = It all depends upon how a flight of stairs is defined and who you ask.  If a flight is defined as at least 8 steps, the consensus among those asked is somewhere between 20 and 22 flights of stairs.  TJ is essentially a 6-story building after all.

What about doors?  How many are there?

                VV = Van has 5 doors (if you count the trunk); camper has 1 door

                TJ = Too many to count!  There are five doors, however, that are very important.  They are the internal watertight doors that isolate areas of the ship in case of emergencies.  There are also additional watertight doors that one uses to go from the internal spaces to the decks of the ship.

one of the watertight doors on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. it has a large, heavy handle. it says "Watertight Door Keep Closed"
Closed watertight door
view of the watertight door when opened; we can see the seal around the curved edges
Open watertight door

What is the outer cover made of?

                VV = Van is painted steel; camper is painted aluminum

                TJ = Painted steel.  The deckhands really do a fantastic job of keeping TJ in great repair!

What are the external dimensions of each vehicle?

                VV = Van: Length: 17”, Width: 6’ 7”, Height: 5’ 10”; Camper: Length: 16’ 7”, Width: 7’ 4”, Height: 10’; total length of the Van + Camper = 33’ 4”

                TJ = Length: 208’, Width (beam): 45 ‘, Height (from the keel to the wind birds): ~ 100 feet

Meet the Crew

Chief Marine Engineer (CME) Tom Cleary got his first paycheck for a boat job when he was 16 years old and has not stopped working on boats since.  This extremely competent engineer is originally from Cape Cod and has worked for NOAA for over 20 years – the last 11 years have been aboard Thomas Jefferson.  His off-ship activities revolve around his wife and four children, and maintaining an 80-year-old home. 

Tom states that that, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but still always better than a master on one”.  He enjoys the variety presented to him by his work duties.  No two days are alike.  He oversees 9 people, and his duties require mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and managerial skills. 

He is a classic hawsepiper.  This means that he did not go to a maritime academy to become an engineer.  He learned from the ground up first by working on sight seeing boats and ferries in the Cape Cod area to working on several NOAA ships.  From working as a deckhand, steward, to chief engineer – he has literally crawled up the hawsepipe.

If budget was not a limiting factor, what could I invent for you that would make your job easier?  He wanted to be clear that he meant no disrespect, however, he replied that he would like some robots.  Much of his job is spent dealing with people.  Budget management meetings, payroll, planning schedules, rating performance, training, drills, and dealing with “hotel” services for the crew (refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, hot water issues, etc.) take up much of his time.  Tom likes the crew, however, if there were fewer people and more robots working on the ship, he would have more time on engineering challenges.  (I wonder if he has contemplated the challenges presented by maintaining a gang of robots?)

Engineers Perry and Cleary pose for a photo in the galley. CME Clearly is wearing work overalls and a radio.
1AE Perry and CME Cleary

What is the difference between a boat and a ship?

According to Britannica Kids, “A ship is a large boat that can carry passengers or cargo for long distances over water. People have been using ships for transportationexploration, and war since ancient times.”

Parts of a Ship

Diagram of a ship with the following parts labeled: 1 - Funnel, 2 - Stern, 3 - Propeller, 4 - Port, 5 - Anchor, 6 - Bulbous bow, 7 - Bow, 8 - Deck, 9 - Superstructure, 10 - Starboard, 11 - Bridge
Diagram showing the main parts of a ship

“Most ships are much larger than most boats, but they have many of the same parts. As on boats, the front of a ship is called the bow. The back is the stern. A ship’s left side is known as the port side. The right is the starboard side.

A ship’s frame, or body, is called the hull. The keel is like the ship’s backbone. It is a central beam that runs along the bottom of the ship from front to back. The keel keeps the ship from tipping over.

Ships usually have many decks. The decks are like the floors of a building. Cabins for passengers, engine and control rooms, and spaces for cargo are often on different decks.

An engine inside the ship provides energy to propellers at the back of the ship. The propellers push the ship through the water. The rudder, which is also at the back of the ship, helps in steering. When the ship is not moving, a heavy metal anchor may be lowered into the water. This keeps the ship from floating away.” (Britannica Kids)

This excellent video clearly defines all the parts of a ship labeled in the diagram above. 

Watch this video to help you learn the parts of a ship!

Did you know? 

Earlier, I stated that I use GPS (Global Positioning System) on my phone to help navigate while driving.  Just what is GPS?  It is a highly accurate satellite-based navigation and location system. With a GPS receiver (like my phone), users can quickly determine their precise latitude, longitude, and altitude.

If I need to drive from Los Alamos, NM to Los Angeles, CA., I place these end points into Google Maps and GPS helps me plan a path to drive.  Some people use GPS-capable watches to help them determine how far they have run and how much elevation they have gained.  We also use GPS on the ship.  At any one time, the survey is using between 25-30 GPS satellites at a time – some from other countries.

Something else I learned today is that GPS is the system developed by the USA.  Other countries have their own systems that work in much the same way.  Countries cooperate and use each other’s satellite systems.  Here is a list of GPS-like systems used by other countries.

  • GPS = United States
  • GLONASS = Russia
  • Galileo = European Union
  • QZS = Japan
  • BeiDou = China
  • SBAS = Korea

Watching this NASA Space Place video, “GPS and the Quest for Pizza” will also help you understand how GPS works.

GPS and the Quest for Pizza

Personal Log

For the Little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey?  Hint: You use these to climb up or down.

Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a textured black surface
Dewey, what are you sitting on?

A: Dewey is sitting on a step of a flight of stairs.  All the steps on the ship have a non-skid surface.  They are very effective at giving you sure footing as you climb up or down the stairs.  There are flights of stairs inside and outside of the ship.  They go from one deck to another.  All in all, there are between 20-22 flights of stairs on Thomas Jefferson.  

Dewey the beanie monkey on a stair on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Dewey is sitting on one of the ship’s many flights of stairs.

Many a fine sailor . . .

With only a few more days to go on this incredible journey, I was excited to read on the next day’s Plan of the Day (POD) that I would be going out on the launch (small boat) to help with surveying close to shore.  We had a large area to survey and also pick up some “holidays” in areas that were previously surveyed. A data holiday is an area that was missed in a previous survey. I packed my backpack, got a good night’s sleep, and ate a small breakfast to prepare for the day.

a black-and-white photo of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco
TJ Launch = Bucking Bronco

Let’s just say, it was a rough day.  The waves were not terribly high (~ 2 feet), however, the launch rode like a bucking bronco!  I was fine for the first 30-45 minutes.  Then, I started to feel all hot and woozy.  After “revisiting” my breakfast several times and losing my TAS hat overboard, the crew brought me back to the ship.  I was taken to the infirmary where the medical officer took my vitals every 15 minutes for an hour and encouraged me to eat some saltines and drink Gatorade.  After a long nap, shower, and Ramen noodles for supper, I felt much better. 

At supper, the three crewmembers who were on the launch with me said that they tried to look for my hat.  They found a dead fish, but they thought it wouldn’t look very nice on my head.  I kidded back that Dewey, who was in my backpack, threw up a little bit, also.  It sure was an adventure!

I cannot say enough nice things about the crew members who took care of me in my time of need.  They were professional, kind, and had my wellbeing first and foremost in their words and actions.  I am very grateful.  Thank you!

Later that evening the Chief Boatswain Pooser told me, “Many a fine sailor has lost their lunch on the launch.”  It made me smile.  I was finally part of the club.

Laura, wearing a Teacher at Sea hat, hugs her husband, who is earing a NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson t-shirt, in front of a chain-linked fence; the ship is visible through the fence
Mrs. Grimm and her First Mate Husband Phil

Please note – As I complete this post, I am now home. I am on land, however, I have more to share. My final blog posts will be sent from my home office. (Funny. . . Why does the room seem to be rolling from side to side? No one told me that I would still feel the rocking of the ship the day after my disembarkation. I don’t mind. It is pleasant reminder of my time aboard Thomas Jefferson.)

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2 Replies to “Laura Grimm: R/V vs. RV, July 27, 2022”

  1. Thanks for the stories!! My sea-rocking lasted for four days after I got to spend 18 days at Sea on NOAA Ship Rainier in 2018. Check out the TaS Alumni Assc!

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