Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Notes on the Man at Sea

Just got a phone call from Ian—in the way of spousal intuition I had left him a message a scant 20 minutes before, just as he was coming into cell phone range. He's currently off the coast of San Diego (there's a dim gray line along the eastern horizon that is claimed to be land), and the sea is glassy calm. This was not true on Thursday, his first day out, when he felt, unfortunately, a little vomity. He wondered a bit why, in fact, he came on one of these boats again, but then the fun part of sorting a plethora of dead fish returned and he remembered. I guess it's about 80 degrees today, and the people on the boat are talking of throwing a ladder over the edge and going for a swim. Presumably no sharks have been sighted.

There are two boats participating in the survey at the moment, and each lost a sailor (as opposed to a biologist, as Ian is) in their last port, Morro Bay. In the salty, tarry, rummy tradition of seafarers, these sailors got very drunk and disorderly. One maybe just failed to return to ship the morning they were supposed to sail (and was replaced by an extra crew member already on board for some reason); the other spent the night defacing businesses in Morro Bay, then somehow broke into the Coast Guard station and tried to steal a dinghy. He was replaced by a random sailor down on the docks, unaffiliated with the boat, who had participated in one of these surveys about 8 years ago, for the same reason.

The survey has had a couple problems—on one of their net settings, they evidently caught something too large for the boat to pull in (giant squid? Gray whale? Russian submarine?), and spent quite a while hoping it would dislodge, because a net large enough to go down 1500 fathoms (9000 feet) is expensive to replace. Eventually the thing fell out and they brought in the net, but it set them back a little. There may not be, after all, time for an afternoon on Catalina.

And that's all I know!

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