Thursday, November 28, 2013

All Hands on Deck

Seadragon prepares to leave port at Christmas Island. 
Photo: Chip Young
There is something familiar about the soft rocking of the plane as I curl up in my seat, on my way home for Thanksgiving. Then it hits me – Seadragon! Aboard, we slept in hammock bunks that rolled with the waves. This was one of my favorite things about being at sea – feeling the surge of the water lull me to sleep.

For three weeks this December, the 72’ sailing yacht Seadragon will once again be my home base as I journey with my Cohen lab mates through the Caribbean collecting coral cores. I was part of an expedition on this boat last year in the equatorial Pacific, and I know that we are in for a treat.

First mate Emily Penn peers out from the "bedroom"            
that slept all nine of us. Photo: Alice Alpert

Conducting scientific research from Seadragon is a unique experience for a number of reasons. Very few living oceanographers have done research from a sailing vessel. But for our work we only need a way to get from one island to another and a small dinghy to dive from. No complicated water sampling or profiling instruments for us. So Seadragon is perfect: energy efficient, able to travel to remote locations, and cost-effective. An added bonus is learning to sail – or at least to follow the captain’s directions.

On the previous expedition, when we were in transit we organized into three watches of three people each: 4 hours on, 8 hours off, all through the day and night. The watch members were responsible for navigating, cooking, keeping ropes tidy, and updating the ship’s log. After hours at the helm together we all knew each other very well.

Another feature of the boat is that it was originally built as a racing yacht, which means that it is very hydrodynamic, but not very spacious. We were each limited to a 20”x16”x10” plastic tub to hold all of our belongings, and we slept in hammocks stacked 3 tall. Packing our scientific gear was like a game of three-dimensional tetris.

The sun sinks into the Pacific, reflecting off of 
Seadragon's hull. Photo: Emily Penn
But the tight quarters were a small price to pay for diving in remote waters, collecting fabulous coral cores, and feeling the wind catch the sails. I’m ready for more!


Alice Alpert


1 comment:

  1. Alice! Looks like an amazing trip! Reminds me of the Cramer. I wish I needed to sail and to dive for my research! Have a great time.