by Dick Williams
Aviation Weather Center National Weather Service Kansas City MO
Between November 3rd and November 9th, 1995 I participated in the Fam Float program of the National Weather Service. I completed a round trip from Newark NJ to Hamilton, Bermuda onboard the MV Oleander taking oceanographic observations for the National Marine Fisheries Service or NMFS. Photos from the voyage are also available and may be linked at the end of this writeup. In the near future several charts of temperature, salinity and plankton data will be added. In the report below ET refers to Eastern Time and AT Atlantic Time (Bermuda Time). AT is one hour ahead of Eastern Time.
The MV Oleander is a RoRo (roll on roll off) container cargo vessel in regular weekly service between Newark NJ and Hamilton, Bermuda. The Oleander is a 6300 dwt (dead weight tons), diesel-powered ship approximately 5 years old. The overall length is 389 feet and the beam or width is 65 feet. It is registered in the Netherlands Antilles, owned by a group of Bermudians, managed by a Dutch company and manned by an international crew. On the voyage of November 3rd, the officers included Capt. Jan van de Westeringh from Holland, Chief Mate Simon Mercier, Quebec, Second Mate George from the Philippines, Third Mate Blair a native of Bermuda, Chief Engineer Jan also from Holland, Second Engineer Fred from British Columbia and Third Engineer Ronnie from the Philippines. This cruise was George's last on the Oleander, Simon was to leave the ship around the first of the year and the Captain rotated off in late January.
The Oleander is medium size container cargo vessel and serves only the Newark to Bermuda market. Approximately 60% of all goods that arrive in Bermuda are transported on the Oleander. It has capacity for 362 containers or "boxes". (the larger vessels operating on the trans-oceanic routes may carry 2000 or more containers) Most of the containers transported to Bermuda are the 20 foot shipping containers. The larger 40 and 48 foot boxes are more common in other areas. Because of Bermuda's narrow roadways the 20 foot boxes are most practical on the island. The ship follows the same schedule each week, leaving Port Elizabeth NJ every Friday afternoon around 5 pm, arriving in Hamilton approximately 48 hours later on Sunday evening. Cargo is offloaded Sunday night and Monday and the ship sails around 8 am for Newark with arrival back at Port Elizabeth around 10 am. The rated speed of the Oleander is 16 knots and the draft is 20 feet.
The Oleander typically sails with less than a full load of containers. On both the outbound and return journey we transported around 120 containers, around one-third of capacity. Fresh and frozen food is transported in refrigerated containers. The other containers, watertight to withstand the soaking they get at sea, contain all manner of consumer goods and supplies for the island's 60,000 residents.
One 7340 horse power marine diesel engine provides propulsion and electrical power for the ship. That engine is an 8 cylinder, turbo charged plant by MAK, a German manufacturer. Three auxiliary diesels provide power for hydraulics, compressors, refrigeration and other shipboard needs. The engineering section has to be adept at maintaining all equipment onboard the vessel. The ship is committed to a 51 week per year schedule, thus reliability of the equipment is a must. The engineering spaces of the ship were clean, well ventilated and orderly. The accommodations spaces were spotless and likewise orderly. On board ship all gear and equipment must be kept in a secure place during periods of heavy rolling and pitching motions.
The owners of the Oleander have had a longstanding agreement with NOAA to provide accommodations and space for a monthly data gathering trip by a member of the National Weather Service. The project is under the supervision of the NMFS group at Narragansett RI. They maintain the computer equipment onboard the ship, furnish the expendable supplies and train and debrief the NWS volunteers who actually make the voyage. The NWS participants take part on a "no cost to the government" basis; providing their own transportation to and from Newark and any other expenses connected with the voyage. Meals, cabin space and assistance with some of the observing work are all provided at no charge by Bermuda Container Lines. In addition to their cooperative arrangement with NOAA, the owners also provide space onboard for University of Rhode Island equipment. Those experiments take place automatically and obs are transmitted to U or RI by satellite.
There are three observing functions during the voyage: expendable bathythermographs or XBTs to obtain vertical temperature profiles, water samples for salinity and plankton gathering for analysis of the type and concentration of plankton. The observational program is directed toward the crossing of the continental shelf break, that portion of the trip that takes place as the ship crosses from the continental shelf to the deep ocean. The temperature, salinity and plankton concentrations in the area of the shelf break are important to the well being of the fisheries areas off the New England coast. Once each month the NMFS utilizes the Oleander observations in connection with their work on the fisheries.
Most of the observing work is done on the outbound leg of the trip. The program follows a schedule with XBT and salinity samples to be taken hourly from Ambrose light, just off the tip of Long Island out to the 340 nm mark. In addition the plankton gathering device, called the fish, is deployed at Ambrose and towed for about 250 miles. For a one hour period as the ship crosses the shelf break (depth of 70 fathoms or 420 feet) XBT and water samples are taken at 15 minute intervals. If all outbound obs are completed as scheduled the return trip calls for only 3 XBT and water samples at the 6, 12 and 18 hour mark. If for some reason obs are not completed outbound or if the "fish" fails to obtain a good plankton sample, the return trip provides a second chance.
Training takes place the morning of the departure. In my case Glenn Strout and Dan Smith from NMFS met me at the Newark NJ Amtrak station at 9 am Friday Nov 3rd and drove me to the Oleander. They demonstrated the XBT probe and launcher, the PC running the SEAS program and took me to the winch deck at the stern of the ship for checkout on taking water samples and deploying the plankton device. We went through one practice XBT launch there at the dock. A printed and fairly detailed copy of instructions was also provided to backup the in person instruction. This was most welcome since once at sea there would be no one to contact if questions arose.
Prior to the Oleander cruise I had been visiting at my mother-in- law's home in southern New Jersey. The morning of the departure I boarded Amtrak at the Wilmington DE station at 6 am for the 2 hour trip to Newark. I was met at the station by Glenn and Dan around 9 am and we drove to the Port Elizabeth docks where cargo loading was underway. I stowed my gear in the cabin I would occupy, two decks below the bridge and was then shown to the bridge and radio room just aft of the bridge where the supplies and computer for the XBT launches were kept. Check out on the equipment and one XBT dry run took about 2 hours.
I met all the ship's officers for the first time at a noon gathering on the bridge wing - an outside area just off the wheelhouse. The ship's officers gathered for conversation, roasted nuts, and Heineken before our 12 30 lunch of red snapper. Vic the Philippine cook kept us supplied with great food served family style throughout the week. Onboard, the NOAA scientist is considered more or less the 7th officer among the ship's compliment. There is a degree of "informal formality" concerning ship procedures and courtesies.
It was raining during the afternoon and my cabin provided a good view of the dockside activity. I learned that approximately 60% of the cost of transporting cargo to Bermuda derives from the stevedoring expenses.
My intention and the recommendation from previous Oleander participants was to get a few hours of sleep during the afternoon in preparation for the upcoming long night and day of observing duties. That proved difficult given the interesting things going on dockside and the new surroundings. But I did garner some sleep before the gangway was raised and our departure at 4 40 pm ET.
Our outbound trip took us around Bergen point and under the Verrazano Narrows bridge. A New York Harbor Pilot called instructions to the Chief Mate who was at the helm. We discharged the pilot near Ambrose light, making a running transfer at a speed of about 6 knots. My part of the trip began at 6 25 pm with the deployment of the "fish", launch of the first XBT, and gathering of the first water sample.
The ship's crew does the actual launch of the plankton recorder. The device is lowered by winch into the water, line played out till the fish is about 100 yards behind the ship. This device requires no attention (other than checking to see it's still there) until its hauled in at the 250 nm mile mark. Sea water enters via a small opening in the nose of the device, it filters through a silk fabric. The fabric feeds from one reel to another reel via a mechanism driven by a propeller and shaft. If all works correctly the 148 inches of fabric will contain the catch of plankton. If the mechanism fouls a spare fish is onboard for a second try on the inbound trip.
The outbound trip follows a heading of 137 degrees. On the night of November 3rd we had following seas and winds were from the southwest at 20 to 30 knots. An indicator on the bridge shows the wind direction with respect to the ship - a mental conversion must be made to provide a true or mag wind allowing for course and speed. The anemometer and readout functioned normally through the voyage. Our speed through the water benefited from the following wind I noticed speed of 16 to 17 knots much of the night.
The hourly XBT and water samples continued through the night. The XBT is a rocket shaped device, with a rounded heavy nose piece and tapering fins on the back. Sort of a mini torpedo about 8 inches long. The canister containing the XBT probe is clamped in a launcher which is connected by cable to the PC computer in the radio room.
Each XBT sample begins with the release of the probe from the canister. The probe is connected by very thin copper wire through the launcher and cable to the PC in the radio room. The probe is simply tossed over the lee side of the ship (this keeps the wire from contacting the side of the ship). It falls through the water at a known rate and a thermistor in the nose of the probe sends temperature information back to the computer. It takes up to three minutes for the probe to either reach the bottom or reach the end of the wire. On this trip probes of three types were used for the varying depths encountered. T-10 probes were launched on the continental shelf for depths to 70 fathoms. T-6 probes for the shelf break area and for deep ocean samples T-7s with sampling depths of 750 meters.
Once the XBT probe had broken its wire there was some final data entry via the computer to complete the ob. I could then view the temperature trace to see if the data appeared reasonable.
The temperature trace depicts a well-mixed layer within about the first 100 meters from the surface with temperatures in the 18 to 24 degree range. Below the well-mixed layer temperatures decrease to the deep water temperatures of around 6 degrees outside the Gulf Stream and much warmer, middle teens at 500 m, within the Gulf Stream. Dan Smith's working definition of the Gulf Stream is a temperature of greater than 15 deg C at a depth of 200 m. An accompanying chart shows the temperature data collected during this cruise. The west wall of the Gulf Stream is clearly depicted at between the 400 and 450 nm reference distances.
I encountered several cases where the computer indicated insufficient buffer space was available to store and transmit the ob via GOES satellite comms. This occurred during the 15 minute ob sequence and resulted from the once per hour data transmission schedule. The data was always preserved on diskette and the error messages ended once a transmission was completed to clear the buffer.
The water sample program was pretty straightforward. From the lowest deck at the stern of the ship a metal cylinder or bucket attached to a rope is dropped over the side of the ship till it goes under water and fills. It's then raised and emptied two or three times to rinse out previous samples or dried salt in the bucket. A box of small "medicine" bottles is onboard for storing the water samples. These too are rinsed several times and on the final filling capped and the etched bottle number recorded.
The trip from the bridge deck to the water sample station takes several minutes and 54 steps. The sampling work is much easier during the day when you can see the swells and better judge the right time to swing the bucket to catch a wave crest, fill and retrieve the bucket. With the ship moving at 16 knots and in heavy seas, tossing and retrieving the bucket several times can be somewhat of a challenge especially at night. The deck normally used can take quite a bit of water if seas are high and the option is to use a higher deck. On the outbound trip seas were in the 10 to 12 foot range probably and there was no problem using the lower, more convenient deck.
I made it a point to inform the officer on watch when I was going below for a water sample, especially at night. It took 12 to 15 minutes to complete the XBT and water samples. During the period of 15 minute obs over the shelf break there was a nearly continuous series of trips up and down either the interior stairways or the exterior ladders. I had been told that approximately 10% of the XBTs would be defective and I did have to repeat one XBT launch.
We reached the 70 fathom mark at 11 50 pm ET and that began the 15 minute probes and samples which continued for one hour. Later in the night around 5 am ET I noticed that the preformated entry of lat and lon in the onscreen worksheet did not agree with a separate GPS display of lat lon. I did a manual edit. On later obs the two sources of lat lon information came back into agreement. Dan advised during the debriefing that I could probably have resolved the conflicting readouts by referring to the ship's track maintained on the chart table.
The ship's log speed during the night was around 17 knots as we had winds from dead astern of 22 knots. George, the Second Mate, offered to wake me by signaling my cabin if I wanted to get some sleep between the hourly obs. That was a welcome offer and I was able to catch about 30 minutes of sleep between several sets of the nighttime obs. The naps provided some relief from a growing fatigue. Although the seas were only in the light to moderate range - the unfamiliar motion of the ship did produce a couple of bouts of sea sickness. I took Dramamine II and the queasy, clammy feeing for the most part did not affect my observing work. I found the best defensive position was to lie in my bunk, eyes closed with my long axis aligned with the ship's long axis. In that position the side to side rolls were least troublesome.
First light came around 6 30 am ET at XBT number 18. By now we were in the Gulf Stream, the fabled Blue God or the "river within the ocean" as described by early Gulf Stream researcher Lt. Matthew Maury, USN. The water intake temperature was a warm 24.7 degrees Celsius and the change in temperature could be easily felt when filling the sample bottles. By 7 15 am ET at ob 19 the depth of water under our keel was 2000 fathoms or about 12,000 feet. Our "make good" speed was 19 knots which would put us in Bermuda waters well ahead of schedule.
We reached the 250 nm point in the voyage at 9 30 am ET - time to retrieve the fish. The deck crew again assembled, winched the device back onboard and carried it inside the garage deck. I then had the suspenseful duty of removing the mechanism to determine whether we'd had a good tow. If all worked correctly the feed reel would be nearly empty and the take up reel filled with plankton embedded in the silk mesh. All looked good, the plankton showed up as discoloration on the take up reel. I poured half a bottle of the preservative formalin onto the reel and placed the reels and mechanism in its carrying box. The innards would go back to Narragansett for examination under microscope. The fish itself stays onboard for use on the next sampling trip in about a month.
I detailed the individual and relatively minor glitches that occurred when I debriefed upon returning to Newark. At ob 24, 11 20 am ET Saturday morning I noted the flag "transmission aborted - something wrong with the transmitter status". As with other anomalies benign neglect carried the day. At the next ob this too resolved itself. It seems that most systems are robust enough to reestablish themselves if left alone. I did reinitiate the SEAS program one time when the system appeared to have locked the computer.
The observing program called for XBTs and water samples to continue until the 350 nm mark. I took my last ob at 1 00 om ET Saturday and ended the XBT and sample obs in order to keep 3 T-7 probes on hand for the return trip. This ended my outbound duties. I did the noon social time and meal with the officers then got some needed sleep. The next 24 hours would provide some welcome free time for me. I spent much of that on the bridge or on the bridge wings since the view and fresh air were most enjoyable.
In addition to the 14 two-legged officers and crew onboad the Oleander, two other members helped maintain the watch. Boris and Meinchee, the ship's cats. Boris preferred the bridge and was usually in the helmsman's seat. Meinchee was more often below decks in the officer's lounge.
I wouldn't have expected that cats at sea would luck into fresh food - as in birds on the wing. But I was wrong. Indeed the Oleander was harborage for a wide variety of birds who had literally been blown out to sea and found refuge on the ship. These were not ocean going birds but rather sparrows, finches, cardinals and one hawk. They undoubtedly felt they'd been delivered from a cruel demise at sea when they found the Oleander and they searched the decks for food, flew around the ship and alighted again and again. Unfortunately for several of the bird visitors the resident cats were adept at stalking these gifts from above and Boris made at least two kills on Saturday. I was very surprised but it was old stuff to the crew. Happens often.
By Sunday morning it was evident that our favorable "make good" speed would put us at the rendezvous point for the Harbor pilot well ahead of schedule so we slowed to around 11 knots. The high ground on Bermuda was in sight by 12 35 pm AT, just before lunch. We met the pilot at 3 pm at a point off the west end of the island. The pilot boarded, accompanied by almost 200 pounds of fresh fish that Capt. van de Westeringh had ordered on a previous trip.
The approach to Bermuda took us around the east end of the island, back to the west through the narrow Dundonald channel and then eastward again into Hamilton Harbor. The Oleander crew is quite familiar with the channel and there was no other traffic, hence the Harbor Pilot's presence was more ceremonial (and monetarily rewarding) than functional.
The Captain assumed command via the outside starboard control station for the actual docking. By use of the rudder at the stern, the reversible pitch propeller and the bow thruster in the forward part of the keel of the ship the Capt. deftly brought us into position. We docked at 5 30 pm AT.
I had to wait for a list of the ship's crew to be taken to the Customs station before I could leave the ship. The Captain kept my Missouri Birth Certificate during the voyage. There was no formality upon entering Bermuda other than identifying myself as a crew member from the Oleander and I was able to come and go at any time of the day or night.
The refrigerated containers were offloaded Sunday evening so their perishable goods could be delivered to grocers Monday morning. The other boxes would await unloading on Monday during regular and less expensive duty hours. Most of the return cargo consists of empty containers - there is little to export from Bermuda. The ship is ballasted with seawater for the return trip to compensate for the empty boxes.
We arrived on Sunday evening and would depart Tuesday morning - giving me two nights and a day for visiting Bermuda. Bermuda is a 22 mile long island and remains a part of the British Commonwealth. Hamilton, where we were docked is the largest town on the island and the seat of government. In recent years financial industries such as banks, insurance companies and corporate or partnership headquarters have become the island's mainstays, somewhat eclipsing fine jewelry, woolen goods and other tourist oriented retail businesses. Hamilton is a 9 to 5 town with few shops open in the evening.
The English heritage and presence is noted everywhere. Monday I visited the Dockyard area on the west end of the island. The British Navy had maintained a coaling station and naval base at the Dockyard for nearly two centuries. They only recently closed this base and the buildings of the Royal Navy have been converted to museum, retail and entertainment spaces. A visit to the Maritime Museum should be allotted half a day. After a morning in the Dockyard I worked my way back to Hamilton by bus -- stopping at Horseshoe Bay for some swimming and snorkeling.
Tuesday the Captain advised we'd be departing Hamilton around 8
I made a final "newspaper run" and bid adieu to Bermuda early Monday morning. It's interesting to see the very proper and well dressed business people of Hamilton commuting to work aboard their 90 cc Hondas - a favored transport given the mild climate, lack of parking and restriction of one auto per household on Bermuda.
The food was so good onboard the ship - and free of charge - that I ate most meals with the crew, even when in port. The noon meal was usually the big meal of the day and Vic the cook fixed a tasty variety of things. We had a really delicious stir fried shrimp one day, roast beef another, red snapper still another. For entertainment it seems everyone had CD or cassette players. I asked Vic who some of his favorite singers were and he replied, "Frank Sinatra and Perry Como." Another surprise at sea- a Perry Como fan.
We left the Hamilton dock at 8 15 am. A Bermuda Harbor Pilot saw us out the channel and back to open water. Actually Simon the Chief Mate saw us out the channel. Again the Harbor pilot was more formality than participant in our departure. We followed closely behind the Oleander's competing container cargo ship, the Bermuda Islander which was headed slightly to left of our course.
The crew receives facsimile charts showing the surface analysis every three hours by HF radio. Also a worded forecast for the voyage was provided by a private vendor. The fax charts were from Environment Canada out of Halifax and the Oleander's obs are frequently seen on the chart. The ship's call sign is PJJU. I still occasionally call up the Oleander's obs to check it's progress. The weather obs were taken at 6 hourly intervals and entered on the same computer I used for the XBT obs.
My duties on the return trip were minimal, consisting of only 3 XBT and water sample obs at the 6, 12 and 18 hour mark from our departure time. While we had following winds and seas for the outbound trip, we were sailing into both seas and winds for the return voyage. A low pressure area was deepening off the mid Atlantic coast during our first day out of Bermuda. My three obs were to be taken at 2 15 pm, 8 15 pm and 2 15 am Bermuda time. At the first ob the Islander was still in view, the sea water temperature was 24.9, we were experiencing a 10 degree roll and our heading was 318 degrees, speed 15.1 knots. All fairly standard. I was pleased to note that the rolling motion of the ship wasn't affecting my well being at this point. The phenomena of gaining sea legs apparently was working in my favor.
By ob number 3 at 2 40 am AT time we were experiencing higher winds and seas. The roll of the ship was more pronounced. The Captain had reminded me to secure all gear in my cabin anticipating higher seas that night. After completing the obs, I double checked the sample bottles. Taking a tip from Tom Matheson's pre-trip email, I moved the storage box into the garage area of the lower deck, secured the bucket, and wedged the XBT boxes firmly in place. I went below and sacked out for the night. The ship's motion kept increasing, I was awakened by articles my desk drawers and closet moving back and forth. It took about 3 rounds of securing, wedging and tightening things down to quiet my cabin.
In the meantime I heard the sound of broken dishes and clanging utensils coming from the galley. It sounded like a whole carton of plates and cups must have broken but I later learned there was only one casualty, a cup left in the metal sink.
Daybreak Wednesday saw us still in heavy seas, at least heavy by my landlocked Kansas City standards. The ship had an interesting repetitive motion that I timed at 10 seconds. It was almost hypnotic. First the bow would yaw to port and pitch downward into the trough of a wave. It would rise and yaw to starboard on the crest of the wave, then halt in mid air for an instant before yawing back and pitching. Superimposed on that motion was the left to right roll along the ship's long axis. Each downward pitch produced a shuddering slam at the bottom of each trough only to be followed by a lift, roll, yaw, slam, and repeat.
I was impressed by the sudden jolting motions of this 389 foot long, 6300 ton ship. There was often a vibration that went through the ship possibly the propeller coming partially out of the water or as Blair explained simply nearing the surface so that water moved turbulently through the prop. Also the forward motion in heavy seas is not even, the ship seemed to surge forward, hesitate then surge again. This was old stuff to the crew but new to me. Moving around the ship was difficult and tiring, not only for me but I noted for everyone. When the deck is rolling 25 degrees in one direction then 5 seconds later 25 degrees in the opposite direction, no one has a lock on graceful movements. The best technique appeared to be timing movements so that you only attempt to move while headed "uphill" remaining stationary while the deck is headed "downhill" and wedging yourself into a safe place when you're not moving. To try to walk when the deck is rolling downward away from you invites a collision with something hard and stationary. Climbing the interior stairways was a hands-on endeavor, that is both hands on the railings since the whole stairway could become nearly vertical then switch to flattened angle. The exterior, open stairs were more than I even wanted to try.
For me the safest location for much of the day Wednesday proved to be in my bunk, arms and legs splayed to the four corners. In my cabin I wasn't a threat to the safety of the other crew members or myself. The view from my bunk out the starboard window was dramatic. With each roll sequence the scene would switch from nothing but waves and foam to blue sky. The horizon would simply rush past my view. The weather most of the day Wednesday was "fine" from a strictly clouds and precipitation standpoint. From a winds and seas standpoint it was a more interesting experience. I was delighted that the combination of Dramamine II and the 2 days prior experience had prepared me for this day's "moderate to heavy seas" as entered in the ship's log. The inclinometer indicated our roll to be a maximum of 30 degrees. Middlin' stuff for the crew I suppose but impressive motions for me. I somehow felt fine though it all, even enjoyed it - and was glad the observing work was behind me.
It was interesting to note the amount of water over the bow of the ship during this spell of high seas. The decks and containers were soaked and spray occasionally reached the bridge. During a tour of the ship on the calmer outbound trip Fred the Second Engineer took me to the forward compartment. The inward cupping of the bow plates was very evident from many prior encounters with the heavy seas. Fred indicated the design life for a ship such as the Oleander might be only ten years. With regular maintenance and good seamanship such a vessel would probably remain in service another 10 to 15 years.
The voyage to Bermuda can take on many forms, from a tranquil, effortless journey to one of constant high seas and winds. The famed nor'easter lows deepening as they move northward along the coast regularly subject the Oleander to a rough 2 day crossing in the winter and spring. Hurricanes and tropical storms in summer and fall can also play havoc on this route.
During the day Wednesday and Wednesday evening the ship was forced to accede somewhat to the seas. I noted that we had slowed our speed and altered course to the right of our nominal heading of 317 degrees. This was an accommodation for the ship itself, not for the comfort of the NOAA observer. On our intended heading of 317 we were meeting each wave head on and subjecting the ship to the maximum pounding as the bow fell off the wave crests and into the trough. Thus the Captain both slowed forward speed to around 9 knots and turned off course for a new heading of 344 degrees to take the waves more obliquely. This of course would doubly delay our intended arrival time.
One of the pleasant rituals of the voyage had to be suspended on Wednesday. Normally the off-duty officers gathered before lunch and again at mid afternoon for a friendly bottle or two of Heineken and a few handfuls of Planter's cocktail nuts. Wednesday, with the decks pitching and when even standing still took conscious effort, the Capt. informed me that we "..would not sit outside today." I did not question the Captain's authority or wisdom on that order. It was plainly out of the question.
Thursday morning showed the speed penalty we were paying. We were still slowed to around 10 knots. I did some double checking of my sample bottles and cleaned up some log entries. On a normal return voyage we would take on the New York Harbor pilot at Ambrose around 9 am NY time. On this trip however we were hours behind the normal schedule and our first sighting of NY was the World Trade Center on lower Manhattan. That was around 10 am ET. It was interesting to observe the NY skyline grow upward out of the sea. Things don't happen quickly at 10 knots but they do happen surely. After the WTC, next the Empire state building, then other buildings between the two giants became visible.
The Captain had radioed the ship's New York agent advising of our late arrival and ordered a 3 pm rendezvous with the pilot boat. We made that time exactly - I think one hallmark of good seamanship is meeting the pilot boat exactly on schedule. The approach to New York was a beautiful one. By this time the skies had cleared and we were sailing into the setting sun. We sailed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge and into New York harbor. As the harbor traffic became more congested the ship handling skills of each ship's Capt. from tug to ferry to container cargo vessel was better appreciated.
We docked around 5 pm, approximately 7 hours later than the "normal" arrival time. I had done laundry, cleaned my cabin, packed my bags and was ready to depart however there were several items of business to take care of. First, I had to wait for the Customs Officer to clear me. Next I spent about an hour with Dan Smith debriefing and going over the obs and equipment glitches I had encountered. Dan's day had been a long one as he was had not known of our delay. He had left Narragansett at 5 that morning. Fortunately he was able to tend to some other chores in the area so the wait time wasn't wasted. My late return would necessitate an overnight stay in Newark for Dan.
I bade farewell to the Capt, the crew and the Oleander. Dan and I loaded the water samples and empty XBT cartridges in the government van and left the ship around 7 pm. We found a KFC for a quick supper and then back to the Newark Amtrak station for my return to Wilmington.
The trip was quite a treat - possibly the best (and least publicized) perk available in the NWS. I spoke with Dan a few weeks after I returned to Kansas City and he faxed me some of the temperature and salinity gathered during the voyage. The plankton analysis is a longer term effort and I don't have any of that data yet. Attached figures depict my sample stations, a typical temperature trace, a vertical temperature profile and a cross section of temperatures for the entire sample run.
I appreciate the courtesy of Captain van de Westeringh, the Bermuda Container Line and all the crew members during my trip. Also Dan Smith's excellent instructions proved that any landlubber can become an oceanographic technician in just one easy lesson. I had a very enjoyable cruise and have already indicated that I'm available for a repeat voyage. Not sure about the months of Jan, Feb or March but willing to take my chances with any of the other nine months of the year.
Visit the CHART ROOM - for graphs derived from Oleander sampling data.
See the PHOTO GALLERY to view 12 images from the cruise, the sampling equipment used onboard and Bermuda.
Dick Williams Feb 21, 1996
Aviation Weather Center - National Weather Service - Kansas City MO
Dick Williams via webmaster email@example.com