Chuck Gregory, August 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 24, 2007

THOMAS JEFFERSON Interviews

The Questions

  1.  Name and rank (or job title).
  2.  How long have you been working for NOAA and what did you do prior to working for NOAA?
  3.  How did you “find” NOAA?
  4.  Describe your job on board the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
  5.  What is the best part of your job?
  6.  What is the worse part of your job?
  7.  Immediately after my Teacher At Sea Internship I plan to turn my experience into a Hollywood blockbuster. What person do you want to act as you in this movie?

Interview #1: Commanding Officer (CO) Tod Schattgen 

  • CO Schattgen has worked for NOAA for 22+ years
  • Before NOAA, the CO graduated from the University of Missouri at Rolla with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
  • He “found” NOAA by attending a NOAA recruiting session during his senior year at the University of Missouri at Rolla. [He obviously liked what he heard and saw!]
  • His job as CO is to safely and effectively operate a world class hydrographic survey ship and provide quality data in a timely manner to our customers.
  • The best part of his job is the people, mission and driving the ship.
  • The worst part of his job is the politics.
  • The actor he would like in his role as CO would be Nicole Kidman.

Interview #2: Field Operations Officer (FOO) Chris VanWestendorp 

  • Chris has been with NOAA for almost 2 years.
  • Prior to joining NOAA, Chris spent 6.5 years in the Navy as a submarine officer aboard the SSN Oklahoma City. He chose not to stay in the Navy and began looking for other job opportunities. While getting his degree in Marine Science and working as a NROTC instructor at Savannah State University, Chris befriended a NOAA Corp Officer who encouraged him to look into the NOAA Corp.  At first Chris had no idea what the NOAA Corp was, but, after doing a little homework, he became interested enough to apply.
  • Now, Chris is third in command of the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  He is in charge of the ship’s survey operations: planning the logistics of a hydrographic survey, data management (acquisition and processing), managing the Survey  Department personal, and he has indirect oversight of the Junior Officers.
  • The best part of Chris’ job as FOO is the challenges he faces on a daily basis while at sea. In addition, Chris enjoys doing something that he and the general public can actually see once the product is final.
  • Ironically, the worst part of Chris’ job can also be the challenges he faces on a daily basis while at sea. These challenges can make for hectic times and difficult decision making.
  • Chris would like Val Kilmer to play his role as FOO aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  [However, he feels the ship’s personnel would vote for William Shatner instead.]

Interview #3: NOAA Corp Ensign/Junior Officer Megan Nadeau 

  • Megan has been with NOAA for 1.5 years.
  • After high school, Megan took classes for two years at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) before receiving her B.S. degree from the University of Maine (UMaine). After receiving her degree, Megan took a job in a local store while looking for a job in the marine sciences.
  • Megan was first exposed to NOAA while at UNH, but didn’t really investigate NOAA as a career until a U of Maine graduate student encouraged her.
  • Now an Ensign in the NOAA Corp, Megan’s job is to drive the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  She is qualified as an Officer of the Deck, giving her command of both the Deck and Bridge of the ship.  In addition, Megan is the ship’s Information Technology Officer, Tides Officer (ensuring the ship has up-to-date tide data from the area being surveyed), and she makes sure the ship’s store is open and operating smoothly.
  • The best part of Megan’s job is being on the water – she loves the ocean.  And she loves driving the ship! She also enjoys finding wrecks, and updating the NOAA charts.
  • The worst part of her job is being lonely and away from her family and friends.  But, Megan is quick to add, she had made her own family while aboard the THOMAS JEFFERSON.
  • Megan would like to be played by Kate Bosworth, currently staring in the new “Superman Returns” movie.

Interview #4: NOAA Corp Ensign/Junior Officer Andrew (Andy) Ostapenko 

  • Andy has been with NOAA one year.
  • Before NOAA Andy was a paralegal in Duluth, Minnesota.
  • He found NOAA through the NOAA Corp internet. Working in Duluth he knew about the work NOAA was doing, but not about the NOAA Corp.  The NOAA Corp website changed all that.
  • Andy’s primary job aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON is navigation.  He is responsible for the ship’s charts, plotting safe courses, and driving the ship.  His collateral duties include standing watch, working on the hydrographic survey launches, deploying and retrieving the launches, and he is the “Keys, Flags & Labels Officer”.
  • The best part of Andy’s job is being at sea and driving the ship.
  • The worst part of his job is adjusting to life at sea.
  • The person he would like in the role of Ensign Andrew Ostapenko is either Val Kilmer or Matt Damon.  [I think I’ll have to let Matt do this one as the FOO has already asked for Val.]

Interview #5: Senior Survey Technician Peter (Pete) Lewit 

  • Pete has been working with NOAA for the past 17 years.
  • Before coming to NOAA, Pete spent four years in the Coast Guard.  And before that he received his Associates degree in History and English from Westchester Community College. During his time at Westchester CC, Pete had to take a science class. He signed up for a course in geology and “the light bulb came on.”
  • Pete originally spoke with a NOAA recruiter in the fisheries division, but he was told there were no jobs available. So he went into the Coast Guard and then spent nine years working for a mapping company.  One day he spotted a tiny NOAA ad in the New York Times asking for people interested in doing map work.  He applied.
  • Pete’s is a hydrographer on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  He examines the data that gets on the charts, writes reports, recommends changes, and assesses the data.
  • The best part of Pete’s job is the feeling he gets as being part of an organization that’s been around for a long time, plus being able to use his skills to create modern charts from reams of data.  He likes being a part of history.
  • The worst part of Pete’s job is being at sea, away from his family.
  • The actor who will play Pete in the Hollywood blockbuster is Jeff Goldbloom.

Interview #6: Assistant Hydrographic Survey Technician Melody Ovard 

  • Melody has been working for NOAA for just over six months.
  • Prior to working for NOAA, Melody applied her B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington to a variety of jobs: as a Reserve Boatswain’s Mate in the Coast Guard, as a subcontracted SCUBA diver, and in a benthic ecology lab.
  • Her marine biology background also kept her abreast of job postings on NOAA’s website, and when the right job appeared she applied.  The rest is history!
  • Her job aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON is to collect and process data, including working on the survey launches.  She writes reports and helps to maintain the survey equipment.
  • The best part of Melody’s job is finding uncharted objects and wrecks, and learning about the equipment.
  • The worst part of her job is that she can’t get time for herself.
  • The person she wants to play Melody Ovard in Hollywood is Sandra Bullock.

Interview #7: Chief Electronics Technician Eric Thompson 

  • Eric has been with NOAA for 1.5 years.
  • Before working for NOAA Eric was a federal government contractor.
  • He found his NOAA job posting through government websites.
  • Eric’s job aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON is to maintain all electrical equipment: sonar, radar, communications, etc.  In addition, he assists with deploying and retrieving the survey launches, and he occasionally goes on a launch assignment.
  • There are two best parts of Eric’s job: 1) being on a survey mission looking for unique objects on the seafloor (e.g., wrecks) and using specialized equipment, and 2) going to new and different ports of call.
  • The worst part of Eric’s job occurs when the Direct TV is down – usually resulting from a lightening strike.  The entire crew is after him to fix it!
  • The person he wants to play Eric Thompson in Hollywood is either James Doohan (Mr. Scott on Star Trek), or “Carrot Top” Thompson.

Interview #8: Chief Steward Dave Fare 

  • Dave has been with NOAA just over 1.5 years.
  • Before working for NOAA Dave was a Chef in a restaurant.
  • He heard about NOAA and the job opening by word of mouth (friends).
  • His job as Chief Steward is to cook and supervise the cooks, deliver quality meals, develop the menus, and maintain the ship’s store inventory (e.g., food and mess supplies).
  • The best part of his job is making sure the crew is happily fed.
  • He says there is no worst part to his job.
  • The person he wants to play Dave Fare, Chief Steward in Hollywood is Charlie Sheen.

Summary 

  • My Hollywood blockbuster will be entitled “NOAA’s Skark”
  • It will mostly take place aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
  • It will star Nicole Kidman as the righteous Commander Tod Schattgen, and Val Kilmer as the dedicated “FOO”.  The supporting cast will be:
      1. Kate Bosworth as the charming Ensign Megan Nadeau;
      2. Matt Damon as the young and talented Ensign Andrew Ostapenko;
      3. Jeff Goldbloom as the worldly Senior Survey Technician Peter Lewit;
      4. Sandra Bullock as the captivating Melody Ovard;
      5. Carrot Top Thompson as the brilliant Chief Electronics Technician Eric Thompson; and
      6. Charlie Sheen as the multitalented David Fare

Also staring: Sean Connery at the evil Teacher At Sea Chuck Gregory

The plot: A mysterious Teacher At Sea boards the quiet NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON and turns it into a den of greed, passion, and corruption.

Stay tuned…….if you dare!!!

Chuck Gregory, August 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 23, 2007

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0614h Sunset = 1944h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0400h (3.7 ft.) & 1631h (4.7 ft.); Low @ 1018h (1.2 ft.) & 2320h (1.0 ft.); Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Flood: 0120h (1.0 kt.), 1344h (1.7 kts.); Ebb: 0744h (1.1 kts.), 2028h (1.4 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: SE winds 10 kts., seas 3-5 ft., PM: S winds 10-15 kts., seas 204 feet.

Today is my last full day on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  My goal today is to clean up any loose ends before I leave the ship tomorrow: laundry, catch up on my log, take a few extra photos, etc.

Chris Van Westendorp, the TJ’s FOO

Chris Van Westendorp, the TJ’s FOO

Like the previous three days the sky is gray.  I can’t even see Manhattan.  Fortunately, the seas have calmed and I am quite sure the launches will be deployed.  I am not scheduled to be on a launch, but Andy is going out. He switches between two full days of launch duty, and then two days of watch duty: 0330h to 0730h, and 1530h to 1930h.  They do keep him busy. For lunch I had chicken tacos and lasagna. A brief note on Chief Steward Dave – he sure must like to cook chicken. It was served to us often and in a variety of styles.  All in all, Dave and his crew do an excellent job of feeding us and deserve a commendation.  There was always something to eat, and no one left the Mess Deck hungry.

I also found time to go up to the bridge and chat with Megan Nadeau.  Megan is from Lewiston, Maine and gave me a good interview.  After two years at the University of New Hampshire, Megan graduated from the University of Maine with a B.S. degree in Marine Science. She seems to really enjoy her role on the THOMAS JEFFERSON, and has a nice career plan ahead of her. The Field Operations Officer – affectionately referred to as “The FOO” – Chris Van Westendorp, joined us on the bridge and I was able to interview him as well.  Chris has quite an experienced past that includes years on a Navy submarine and a degree in Marine Science. As I noted in a previous log entry, the interview is pretty straight forward, except the last question about who will play you in my Hollywood blockbuster. Those I interviewed almost always paused when I asked this question. Some of the answers I got were funny, others quite revealing.

At the end of the day I did a little more computer work, ate dinner, exercised, and began the packing process. I even washed and dried my sweaty exercise cloths.  After a little “White Fang” I was asleep by 2230h. 

Chuck Gregory, August 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 22, 2007

To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0613h Sunset = 1945h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey) and take first Dramamine
0800h Deploy Launches – I’ll be on the 3101 this time!
1145h Take second (and last!) Dramamine
TBD Commence underway check-off; Light off main engine, ship underway/anchor
TBD Mail pick-up (boat TBD)
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0259 (3.7 ft.), 1532 (4.6 ft.); Low @ 0911h (1.3 ft.) & 2225h (1.5 ft.); currents in Sandy Hook Channel Flood: 0018h (1.0 kt.), 1243h (1.7 kts.); Ebb: 0648h (1.1 kts.), 1937h (1.3 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NE winds 15-20 kts., seas 5-8 ft., PM: E winds 10-15 kts., seas 5-8 feet.

Cox'n Pooser driving a launch

Cox’n Pooser driving a launch

What a day! When I awoke it was apparent that the launches would be deployed on schedule (0800h). Once again the sky was gray, but the wind and sea was calm enough for us to get work done. After breakfast (oatmeal and Dramamine) we met in the Survey area for a safety brief.  I was assigned to be on launch 3101 with Cox’n Pooser, Cox’n-in-Training “House” and Survey Tech Scott. Launch 3101 is only equipped with a MultiBeam Echo Sounder.  We were the first to be deployed, and Bob Schwartz filmed the launch before joining the 3102 to continue his video work.

Our morning on the 3101 began simple enough.  Pooser was training House to drive the launch around the inner Sandy Hook harbor area. It was House’s first time on a NOAA launch, and, while he was quite eager to learn, the rough sea and his lack of experience showed. Pooser spent a long time instructing him on operating the launch and how to “drive lines” (that’s NOAA speak for keep the launch on the correct survey heading).  Scott was all set up to gather data, but stayed very patient while House would attempt to drive a line and have to repeat the track because he veered off course.  Scott and I joked that House was drawing a “double helix”.  But House persisted and his skills soon improved.  From the perspective of this novice, it was not a good sea for the first-timer.

Towing the Fast Response Boat (FRB)

Towing the Fast Response Boat (FRB)

After about an hour of “drawing double helixes”, Pooser grabbed the wheel and began knocking off the lines like a veteran. It was about then that we first saw the FRB (Fast Rescue Boat) leave the THOMAS JEFFERSON on a mail run to the Sandy Hook Coast Guard Station.  When the FRB got about half way to shore we noticed that it suddenly stopped in the water. We heard over the radio that their engine was smoking and she was dead in the water.  Bummer!  Since we were the nearest boat (about 300 yards away), we motored over and began the process of towing them back to the TJ.

FOO Chris, Ensign Megan G., and Chief Buck were on the FRB, and they hung on as we slowly motored back to the TJ.  We passed their lines to the crew on the ship and waited until we were told they were safe and secure.  Then we were back to doing lines. After lunch the TJ called and asked us to go to the Sandy Hook Coast Guard Station and retrieve mail.  The Sandy Hook Coast Guard Station is a nice facility with a great location. But the biggest thrill of all (for me at least) was setting foot on solid land!  Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed our brief sojourn on land (about 15 minutes).  (Now if only I could have a beer!!) We picked up two packages and, once again, went back to the 3101 and driving lines. 

We were surveying in shallow water close to the Coast Guard Station.  Pooser really showed his skill driving the launch in these close conditions.  This was a good learning experience for House. When in shallow water there is always a threat of running the expensive MBES into the seafloor. Pooser got as close as he could (only 7-8 feet deep!), but reached a point where he had to tell Scott that we couldn’t get any nearer to land even though the plan called for it. Pooser suggested we return at high-high tide.  There is no doubt about it, while the survey technician directs the data gathering, the Cox’n is in charge of the boat and everyone’s safety.

We stayed out driving lines in the Sandy Hook area until 1730h.  Most of the lines were short and taken as quality control (QC) checks for the existing data.  When I spoke to Pete last night, he explained to me how there were questionable sections of the data, and additional QC lines were needed.  Pete pointed out to me that these were usually areas on the grid where the Side Scan Sonar (SSS) and/or the MBES missed (e.g., the launch hit a wake and heaved a little too much).  And it was Pete’s job to look over all the data and determine where these “holidays” were located. Another important part of our survey work is getting 200% coverage of the area.  In short, the launches pass over the survey area twice, staggering their tracks to optimize the overlap. So, while it’s easy to see how well the launches contribute to the survey work, it is just as important (if not more so) to understand how all that data is checked and double-checked (and triple-checked!) before it is submitted as a report.

When 1730h arrived, and it was time to return to the ship, Pooser let me take the wheel one last time.  We went full throttle and reached 20 knots before arriving at the ‘TJ’.  Pooser turned the wheel over to House and let him bring the 3101 to the vessel for a smooth retrieval. We cleaned the launch of our stuff, and were soon in the Mess Deck enjoying another meatloaf dinner.  Once again, after a full day on the water, meatloaf never tasted so good!  After dinner I called Roxann, went to the exercise room for a good 30 minute ride on the stationary bike, and checking on some more emails.

As a final note, I’ve learned that there are two times of the day to optimize the ship’s dial-up internet connection: before 0900h and after 2000h.  So, at 2000h I got on line and corresponded with a few folks. I was tired and was in bed by 2130h.  All in all, a good day full of new experiences.

Chuck Gregory, August 21, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 21, 2007

“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0612h Sunset = 1947h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0730h Take first Dramamine
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1130h Take second Dramamine
TBD Commence underway checkoff; Light off Main Engine; Ship underway/anchor
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0205h (3.8 ft.) & 1438h (4.6 ft.); Low @ 0759h (1.3 ft.) & 2122h (1.4 ft.); Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0548h (1.1 kts.), 1840h (1.2 kts.); Flood: 1149h (1.7 kts.) & 0018h (1.0 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: E winds 10-15 kts., seas 4-6 ft., PM: NE winds 10-15 kts., seas 4-6 feet. AM/PM Showers & Drizzle.

One of the life rings on the TJ

One of the life rings on the TJ

As expected, we were greeted this morning with more wind and rain.  For now the launches are delayed two hours, but, from the looks of the sea, we’re assuming they will be canceled. While waiting for the final word I responded to a few e-mails.  My TAS log is up on the NOAA TAS website, and the pictures Eric and I sent look great thanks to Liz McMahon in the TAS office. At 0945h we heard that launch operations were canceled for the day.  So, I went down to exercise and found the room “crowded” – two others were using the equipment.  Since the stationary bike was in use I spent 20 minutes on the elliptical.

Since I have the time, I’d like to add a little note about life at sea and working on a NOAA ship. Many of the crew I spoke with love their jobs, but cite distance from home as the #1 downer of their NOAA job.  I can see why.  Phone calls and e-mails at the only real contact points with loved ones.  And if you think the dial up internet connection is slow, try sending a snail mail letter when the ship won’t be able to deliver your note to the post office for days. It takes the right attitude to stay on the ship for weeks, and you do need to keep your mind and body busy.  Like anything else, the work is hard but the rewards are great! Each night, when I go out on deck to phone Roxann, it’s common to see four or five crew members at some corner of the main deck phoning their families.  A sweet time to catch up with the folks at home, and informing the family that we are well and miss them.  I am on the THOMAS JEFFERSON for 12 days and really miss my beautiful wife.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to stay on the ship for three or four weeks!  Sometimes I wonder if even NOAA’s seasoned veterans get used to the time away?

While I’m at it, and on a lighter note, there is another item I sadly miss – a beer!  Roxann and I are so use to coming home after work and having a drink.  However, drinking aboard NOAA ships is forbidden (as it should be).  Maybe this is why some of the “boys” have a little toooo much when they go on leave. Feast or famine. So, when asked, “What is the first thing I will do when I get home?”  The answer is drink a beer. This rainy afternoon everyone on the ship went through two drills: fire & emergency (one long bell), and abandon ship (seven short bells followed by a long one). The CO and FOO coordinate these activities to keep us on our safety toes, and Bob Schwartz was filming both exercises.

For the fire & emergency drill my assignment is to muster (assemble) at the 02 Deck, port side. [That’s two floors above the main deck on the left side of the ship.] I was in my stateroom at the time and was able to grab my raincoat on my way out the door. It was a good thing as the 02 Deck was being lashed with wind and rain.  We stayed there about ten minutes – long enough for the fire team to put on their gear and respond to the mock fire. Immediately afterward, the abandon ship drill was held in the main deck hallway.  Most ship’s personal gathered with immersion (survival) suits and life jackets.  Those without suits acted as inspectors and waxed the zippers for ease of use. All in all, two good exercises.

When the drills were done we all assembled in the Mess for a debriefing – what went right and what could be improved.  Safety is paramount on a ship like the THOMAS JEFFERSON. As was stated during the debriefing, we are responsible for each other on the THOMAS JEFFERSON and we can’t rely on the local fire department to help us out.  The CO and FOO lead a brief discussion, and we soon returned to our task at hand. Dinner was ribs and duck. Good stuff. There are always potatoes or rice and a veggie to add to the meat.  And there is a salad bar for the “roughage”, plus dessert.  No one goes hungry on the THOMAS JEFFERSON.

After dinner Helen gave me a CD of four of NOAA’s sonar Power Point presentations.  While most of the sonar theory is over my head, I really wanted the cool pictures that make up most of the presentations.  I am sure to use these back at SMCC.  Thanks Helen! Another phone call to Roxann – all is well but cold at home – and I am ready to enjoy the evening. With only two plus days to go I need to be sure I have seen and experienced as much as possible. If only the weather would improve!

Tomorrow I am scheduled to be on launch 3101 – a first for me.  Good night!

Chuck Gregory, August 20, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 20, 2007

One man with courage is a majority.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0611h Sunset = 1948h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey) and take first Dramamine
0800h Deploy Launches
1145h Take second Dramamine
TBD Commence underway check-off; Light off main engine, ship underway/anchor
TBD Personnel transfer (boat TBD)
1545h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0116 (4.0 ft.), 1351 (4.6 ft.); Low @ 0705h (1.1 ft.) & 2014h (1.4 ft.); Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0447h (1.2 kts.), 1739h (1.2 kts.); Flood: 1059h (1.7 kts.) & 2324h (1.1 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: E winds 10-15 kts., seas 3-4 ft., PM: NE winds 15-20 kts., seas 4-7 feet; AM/PM Rain.

“Captain” Chuck at the wheel of the TJ

“Captain” Chuck at the wheel of the TJ

Today is the day I drive the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  I am also scheduled  to be on one of the launches. But once again the sky is gray and the sea choppy. Given what happened the previous bad weather days, I doubt if the launches will go out today.  At least the ship will head out on its housekeeping voyage – 12 miles offshore to dump the “wet” trash. For some unexplained reason, I rose early and went down to the stationary bike for 20 minutes.  Then I showered and ate. As expected, today’s launch schedule was canceled during breakfast. And tomorrow’s launch schedule doesn’t look good either.

At 0800h I could hear The CO and Ensign Guberski prepping the ship to get us underway.  Engines warming, anchor chain clanging, and hull shuddering. At 0900h I made my way to the bridge where CO Schattgen was the Deck Officer, Ensign Megan Guberski was at the “Conn”, Ensign Andrew Ostapenko was navigating, Anthony was Helmsman, Tom was changing the engine speed on command, and Electrical Engineer Eric was there just in case.

Our outgoing course to get to the shipping channel was a bit tricky, so the CO told me I would take the wheel once the ship began a straight (and safe) course.  I was very OK with that. In the mean time, I observed the dynamics of the bridge: the CO was obviously in charge, the Conn (or controlling officer) was shouting out driving orders, the helmsman would repeat the command to make sure he heard it correctly, the navigator was giving advice to the Conn and charting the course, and everyone kept their eyes open. It went something like this: CO: “We need to go a little right.” Conn: “Right five degrees rudder” Helmsman: “Right five degrees rudder, aye” And when the rudder had moved its five degrees the Helmsman would say: “Rudder five degrees right.” The Conn would reply in an acknowledging way. Then you’d hear the Conn say: “Increase to ten.” Helmsman: “Increase to ten, aye.” Followed by “Rudder at ten right.” And so on. It was another classic example of teamwork and coordination.

Ensign Megan Guberski assists in prepping the ship to get underway

Ensign Megan Guberski assists in prepping the ship to get underway

I was at the helm for about 90 minutes.  We went straight out Sandy Hook Channel, past the channel buoys, and out into the open ocean.  Anthony was watching over my shoulder the entire time, and he was a great teacher.  He let me make a few small mistakes and corrected me when my mistakes threatened to get larger.  All in all, I thought I did a pretty good job in a choppy sea with a good wind. I was relieved as helmsman at 1145h by Mark.  I quickly went down to my stateroom and took another Dramamine.  The ship was rockin’ and rollin’ and I needed a little preventative maintenance.  I am a firm believer in fixing things before they break. Lunch was great, and then I took a little nap. On our way back to New York Harbor we picked up Bob Schwartz who will be taking video footage for a new NOAA Corp recruitment video.  Never a dull moment!  He will also take a little footage of me as Teacher At Sea.

This evening I watched sunset (what little there was), called Roxann, and spent 20 minutes on the stationary bike.  I was in bed by 2130h reading a new book; “White Fang” by Jack London.

Chuck Gregory, August 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 19, 2007

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0610h Sunset = 1950h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0031h (4.2 ft.) & 1307h (4.7 ft.); Low @ 0627h (0.8 ft.) & 1913h (1.2 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0356h (1.3 kts.), 1638h (1.2 kts.); Flood: 1011h (1.8 kts.) & 2234h (1.3 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NW winds 5kts., seas 1-2 ft., PM: S winds 10 kts., seas 2-3 feet.

Today’s goal: Conduct a few of those interviews. I’m not going out on the launches so I should have time to interview, do a little exercise and continue typing. The skies are overcast, but the seas are calm. I hope the calmness lasts throughout the day.

Ensign Andrew (Andy) Ostapenko on the bridge of the TJ

Ensign Andrew (Andy) Ostapenko on the bridge of the TJ

The interviews went well.  I was able to talk with CO Schattgen, my roommate Ensign Ostapenko, Senior Hydrographic Survey Technician Peter Lewit, Assistant Hydrographic Survey Technician Melody Ovard, Chief Electronics Technician Eric Thompson, and Chief Steward Dave Fare.  I’d like to do two or three more before my cruise is done. I was pretty impressed with myself when, once again, I exercised!  The exercise room is packed with a stationary bike, treadmill, free weights, and a few other pieces.  It’s never packed with users, and I was able to get right on the stationary bike for 20 minutes.  A note to anyone interested in going on a TAS cruise: take the time to exercise.  You can’t continue to eat three-plus square meals a day and not gain some serious weight.

While interviewing the CO, he again stated that tomorrow I would be able to steer the ship when we go out to sea to dump the “wet” trash.  He reviewed the equipment I would use (wheel, compass, etc.) and commands I would hear from the “Con” (or controller). He also went over my responses to the commands.  I am looking forward to this experience. Today ended with a light rain, a good dinner (turkey), and a bad movie (“Vacancy”).

Chuck Gregory, August 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 18, 2007

It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0609h Sunset = 1951h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0554h (0.6 ft.) & 1825h (1.0 ft.); High @ 1225h (4.8 ft.) & 0031h (4.2 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0314h (1.4 kts.), 1546h (1.3 kts.); Flood: 0925h (1.8 kts.) & 2146h (1.4 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NW winds 15-20 kts., seas 3-5 ft., PM: NW winds 5-10 kts., seas 2 feet.

One of the jobs on the ship is coxswain, or “cox'n.”  Here, Cox’n Pooser drives a launch.

One of the jobs on the ship is coxswain, or “cox’n.” Here, Cox’n Pooser drives a launch.

Today is Saturday, but on the ship it’s difficult to tell the work week from the weekend.  Just like the previous five days, the launches are scheduled to go out, the data is scheduled to come in, and there is work to be done around the ship.  For now deploying the launches has been put on hold until the sea calms down.  It’s a windy morning, but crystal clear, cool and beautiful.

My one goal today is simple – do laundry!  The laundry and exercise rooms are at the bottom of the stairway I use to access my stateroom: laundry to the left and exercise to the right. The laundry room is well equipped with two washing machines and two dryers, soap, bleach and softener. And it is all free!  I was able to do two loads, read some side scan sonar material and use the stationary bike at the same time.  [A Teacher At Sea of many talents!].  Peter loaned me a good book on the basics of side scan sonar.  Its citation is: Fish, J.P. and H.A. Carr. 1990. “Sound Underwater Images: A guide to the generation and interpretation of side scan sonar data.”  Lower Cape Publishing, Orleans, MA. I am particularly interested in learning about the history and development of side scan sonar, its applications, and how to interpret the many images we are producing from the launches. In addition, I hope to use some of this information when I write up my lessons for my Teacher At Sea Internship.  So I read a few chapters of this book and took several pages of notes.

Chris, the FOO (Field Operations Officer) & Eric, the Chief Electronics Technician

Chris, the FOO (Field Operations Officer) & Eric, the Chief Electronics Technician

While I was eating lunch I learned that today’s launches will not be going out.  The wind is still strong and the seas to rough to risk deploying the launches.  And a choppy sea can result in poor data when the launches heave, pitch and roll.  [I won’t even get into the sea sickness issue.] Also, today the CO gave me a copy of one of NOAA’s latest publications: Stanitski, D.M., 2007.  “Teacher at Sea: Mrs. Armwood’s Hydrographic Adventure on the NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER.”  NOAA publication.  It’s a cute but accurate account of Linda Armwood’s trip to Alaska and her TAS internship work on the hydrographic survey.  At the time, Linda was a high school teacher from Richmond, Virginia. I can’t wait to read it!

As previously mentioned, one part of my internship assignment is coming up with 6-8 lessons that correspond with the science and research being done on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. I am having a little trouble with this assignment because I have never written “lessons”.  As a community college teacher I have written lectures, labs, assignments, etc., but not lessons.  After looking over a few examples in the “Teacher At Sea” book, and some sent me from TAS Deputy Program Manager Elizabeth McMahon, I am going to assume that a “lesson” is similar to an “assignment” and work from there.  Goodness knows I have been exposed to enough interesting information to produce 6-8 assignments.  And I have 90 days to submit them after my cruise.

Another part of my internship is to do a few interviews of the ship’s crew.  I thought I’d interview at least one representative from each working group of ship personnel: an Executive Officer, a Junior Officer, a Survey Technician, a Deck Hand, someone  working in the Mess Hall, an Engineer, and the Electronics Technician.  Here are the questions I have so far:

  1.  Name and rank (or job title).
  2.  How long have you been working for NOAA?
  3.  What did you do prior to working for NOAA?
  4.  Describe your college education.
  5.  How did you “find” your NOAA position?
  6.  Describe your job on board the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
  7.  What is the best part of your job?
  8.  What is the worse part of your job?
  9.  Immediately after my Teacher At Sea Internship I plan to turn my experience into a Hollywood blockbuster. What person do you want to act as you in this movie?

Well, I’ve got some side scan sonar notes to type, dinner to eat, and Roxann to call. Maybe I’ll even spend a little more time on the exercise bike and catch tonight’s movie “Disturbia”. Good night!