The point of no return…

So, it’s September 30th and much has evolved in the past few weeks…Our first week on the Gato Verde was a great mix of beautiful weather, new and unfamiliar anchorages to most of us, days on the water practicing and testing our methods and procedures, and enjoying the adventure of living on a boat. The Gato Verde is definitely more spacious and more ‘posh’ than I had imagined. We sleep in shared bunks with even a small closet, doormat and a wee bench…it’s no comparison to the salon couch where I slept on the last sailboat I was on! We cook our own food which is typically quite scrumptious, and sail daily thorough the San Juan Islands…rough life, eh? Our first week culminated with lunch on Shaw Island for the annual Friends of the San Juans meeting and a talk by Peter Ross on chemical contaminants in Puget Sound and its inhabitants. Shaw was lovely and we were accompanied by Leslie and Val back to Friday Harbor for a veggie burger dinner and a quick 24hr turn around to re-provision and start the second week with our relief captain, Mike.

During week two, Mike certainly got a bit more than he bargained for! Highlights include spotting Minke whales, two days worth of superpods, and a crippled boat…yes, that’s correct, the Gato Verde was unfortunately a bit ‘under the weather’ for a few days and more than once we found ourselves in the middle of Haro Strait without propulsion…thank goodness we were sailing! With a stroke of luck, though, one day we found ourselves trying to maneuver the boat without propulsion, not really moving anywhere, stuck within the fickle currents and winds of the Strait. “Lucky?” you might ask, but yes, because after spinning in circles for hours, L Pod decided to make its way up the west side of San Juan and passed within a few meters of our boat on their way north. Typically we might have been cited for “parking in the path” of the whales, but we’d been there for hours! Comical, but it unfortunately meant that we’d have to return to Roche Harbor for repairs and eventually we were forced to use the dingy as propulsion back to Friday Harbor where the Gato Verde still rests in need of a few tweaks here and there to restore propulsion, battery power and a sufficient generator.

While the Gato Verde rested, the six of us have been working quite hard this past week analyzing our data and assessing our methods from the preliminary two weeks at sea. On Wednesday we each presented a “Progress Report” of our work to our instructors, Scott, Val, and three researchers who were visiting. From their feedback and our own understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our projects, we completed the final draft of our proposals yesterday! Today, we have the spectacular fall day in the San Juans off to regroup for our final three weeks at sea starting tomorrow!

While this seems like a fair assessment of the past three weeks, much is lacking…in particular all the FUN FUN FUN we’ve been having on the boat, laughing, joking, playing and wholeheartedly enjoying the experience. In particular, we have adopted a team mascot, a ridiculously looking stuffed cat Emily’s mom sent…”Kitty” has appeared in numerous occasions to add a little comic relief and has been documented photographically mimicking the ‘goings-on’ of the Gato Verde…Jason has wowed us all with is culinary prowess-his sourdough ‘pet’ is loved by all, especially in the form of pancakes and fresh bread…Erin is the newly appointed ‘relief captain’ for her amazing work docking us under sail power…Emily is now known for her Ishmael obsession and stinky feet…we always know Peggy is around when a fantastic interpretation of the marine radio is broadcasted…Securite!Securite!…or “Git in my belll-ae!” Probably not as funny written as said, so ask her sometime…Rena is the new Connie Chung or Barbara Walters or Katie Couric, interviewing everyone for their play-by-play of the latest boat trial…Donna, well, Donna doesn’t really ‘do’ mornings without coffee but she makes a mean homemade pesto and is ALWAYS up for a laugh…yo yo yo…Juliette is best known for her mad sushi-making capabilities and the unfortunate fate of her camera, but she’s newly outfitted with a brand new one and ready to tackle the next three weeks with a vengeance…and nearly every morning I have to share my ridiculously crazy dreams, I relish fighting elbows with Peggy at the dinner table and sometimes people laugh at me for reasons unknown…I should look into that…

So, as we embark on a new sea session I’m getting ready for more whales, fewer technical difficulties, more laughs, more fantastic sounds from beneath the surface, and most importantly, more fun!


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