Archive for April 17th, 2010

Anticipating departure

There was not much that went on during this week, despite the lectures, advisory meetings, and work time.  It was a week of work, to prepare for the following week which would be our first week in this program out at sea!

We refined majority of our methods this week and figured out any group data that we would be able to collect to ease the process.  We had talks about food consumption and how we can manage what we eat.  I learned that being a meat eater that does not eat responsibly makes a huge impact, such as global warming, to our atmosphere.  Localization of killer whales: now that lecture completely boggled my mind.  Technology is so advanced these days that computers can estimate where a whale is located from a call produced.  Vessel regulations were also gone over in our group discussion, regarding the conservation of southern resident killer whales.  Logistically, this week has been a less stressful one, but there was a lot more information to take in compared to last week’s Steller sea lion incident.

But, I cannot contain my excitement about sailing out of the labs.  It will be a memorable experience to be able to go on a boat to conduct research.  This first week, since the southern resident killer whales will not come up quite yet, we will be learning how to sail.  We did hear some transient killer whales off of the Port Townsend hydrophone network however, so I am anticipating on catching some with my eyes out there.  Sailing has so many components that I have barely touched, since I come from living in a large city.  Boat terms, ocean currents, knots, and other materials will be taught to us.  I feel as though this sailing week will be a good one though, since it is a chance for us to bond in a smaller environment as a group.  We get to work together, socialize, cook and clean together.  That way, we all get to know each other better on a personal level and help each other when needed.

From what I have heard, the Gato Verde, the boat we will be boarding and sailing on, is a 42 foot long catamaran equipped with loads of bunkbeds, bathrooms, a galley, and decks for us to go out and observe nature.  With such a large boat and so few of us, I will find all the upcoming sailing weeks a pleasure!  Similar to what we did on Wednesday cooking granola together at S1, I feel we’ll have so much fun!

Lastly, before I end this blog, I just wanted to mention our Cold Plunge tradition of Beam Reach.  Every year, Beam Reach will require all students to jump into the waters by the dock to experience how cold the water actually is in the Pacific Northwest.  Instructors follow along as well, and other students not in Beam Reach are always welcome to join.  We had some students from the 3 Seas program join us this year and it was really fun.  I finally got to experience the cold waters myself and I have got to say, when people say its cold, IT IS COLD.

Nonetheless, I was awake for the rest of the day.  You should definitely try it out.

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Ready to Set Sail

Hello, everyone!

I am finally sitting down after a long stint of packing — I had no idea I could be so inefficient at packing a single bag!  We’ve all been busy buying groceries, doing laundry, and tidying up in preparation for our afternoon departure tomorrow.  I am unbelievably excited to re-immerse myself in boat life (time to re-learn how to tie a bowline and start thinking about what someone means when they say “pass the jib!”).  There have been reports of several large groups of transients in the area, so it is possible that we will have some orca sightings during our first leg on the Gato Verde.  Other than scrambling with last-minute logistical preparations, we have not done much besides refining our research methods (and having a much-needed impromptu dance party in our spacious duplex).  On Friday, we took a dip in the ocean as part of Beam Reach’s “cold plunge” experience.  I had been dreading this initiation process, but it turned out to be much more enjoyable than I expected — I might even do it again!  To see pictures of us freezing our buns off, click here.

Not much else to report — more to come once we’ve gotten settled into our new home.  I can’t wait to brush my teeth under the stars…


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Cold Much?


This week was pretty much a study week. We worked hard and learned a lot but also had a few adventures.

On Wednesday we made granola. I’ve never made granola before and thought that it would be rather complex and messy. It turns out it’s very simple. We decided to use most of the leftover dried fruit and nuts from my stash as well as all the stuff Jason brought over for the non-oatmeal ingredients. Amazingly during the entire process we only managed to spill a little, and no one burned or cut themselves or anything else! It was very fun.

Thursday was good. The person who was supposed to come couldn’t, which was disappointing, but we got to spend the day working on our proposals and finding the papers we needed for our projects. It was a somewhat relaxing day, though study intensive, and we all needed it.

On Friday afternoon, about two o’clock, we jumped off of the Friday Harbor Lab’s dock. It was excruciatingly cold. It is tradition for the Beam Reach students and faculty to jump off of the dock before the first sail, so there we were looking with great trepidation into the freezing water hoping desperately that something would intervene. We had told the rest of the FHL population that we would be doing this during the first week and amazingly enough a few students from the other programs joined us in our cold plunge. Of course Jason and Val jumped first since they weren’t as scared of the water as the rest of us. But we soon followed. On my first jump, after getting over the sudden “oh my god so cold!!” feeling, I swam over and climbed up the ladder that leads up to the tall dock. On my second jump Horace and I, with a 3..2..1.. countdown/encouragement from Val, jumped from the tall dock. I have to say, the stomach dropping feeling of jumping from high places does nothing to distract from the cold shock. On his first dive off of the tall dock, Val did an amazing swan dive. It turns out he used to dive competitively. Cool hunh!

Although the water was cold it was exhilarating especially once you got out. Because plunging yourself into cold water causes reduced circulation on your skin, you feel downright warm after getting out! It was kind of weird seeing all of us walking around I our swimsuits dripping wet in 60 degree weather not cold at all.

All in all it was an interesting week.

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“Tails” from the Dock

Hello cyber sailors,

All packed and ready to leave tomorrow for 2 weeks. I am pretty sure my internet will be lacking from the sailboat, but hopefully I will return with tales to fill your webspace.

This past week went really quickly, beginning with a visit from a few good friends! It was great to see and explore San Juan Island with them, go for a hike up Mount Young, visit English camp, and eat some fried food in town. I took a ton of flower/plant pictures.

Roche Harbor

Sunrise. Waiting for the ferry

Flower on the hike up Mount Young

Remember when I said I would love to help do a necropsy on the sea lion from last week? Well, it happened. I got to be knee deep in the intestines of a marine mammal and let my inner child and scientist run free! I am not attaching any photos because they are bloody, but if you would like to see some, let me know.

Schoolwork and proposals filled the rest of the week, but my stories come from a late  night walk.

I like to sit at the dock after the sun goes down and look at the stars, see the lights reflecting off the water from Friday Harbor, and listen to the quiet. I have started remembering to bring my headlamp lately for fear of sneaking up on some raccoons and deer that hang out in the area. They must hear me coming, but each time I come around a corner, they scare me worse than I scare them. So, I have become cautious with peaking around corners and checking each building parameter for creatures.

Last night I went for such a walk and was admiring the water critters that glow with a reflective light. I was playing around with seeing if they still glow with a red light – and they do! How cool is that? Just then, I thought that my imagination was running wild because it was like I was in a sci-fi film. Two large, beady red eyes with a small red line between them were flying toward me from about ten feet off the dock in the water. It was moving to quickly. By the I fumbled my headlamp into the white light position, it was almost at my feet. To my surprise, it was not my imagination at all but a sea otter who ducked under the dock just as I to the white light stable enough to spot him. From that point on, I decided to step back a bit, just in case he decided to jump onto the dock. I didn’t want to surprise him by being the landing pad.

I was slowly lulled back into my comfort zone by the stars above and talking to Loretta on the phone. Each little squeak and creak registered in my ears, but my logic told me to calm down, the adventures were probably over for the night. After all, the otter knew I was there, so it would logically leave me alone.

I sat for a long time in the dark, but the dock is pretty uncomfortable, so I laid down to get a better view of the stars. The squeaks of the fender against the boat, the dock shifting, and something else kept registering in my brain. Then, I couldn’t identify the noise. There were a number of squeaks that seemed too close to be the boat (mind you, my head is on the ground), so I turned my face to the right to help identify the noise.

Not three feet from my cheekbone was a large rodent! I screamed bloody murder and jumped to my feet just in time to see a rat butt scamper across the adjoining dock and disappear into the darkness. I picked up my wits and pretty much jogged the 50 or so feet to safe ground. There is something about the body’s reaction to fright that is impressive. You really can move quickly, be completely aware of your surroundings, and see better, even in the dark. Don’t get me wrong, I am pissed that I keep getting lulled into this sense of security, then proven a fool. It’s like the animals here are as upset that I’m in their space as I am with them in mine. I actually enjoy periodically running into beautiful wild creatures…but on the dock….at night….3 feet from my face…? That’s a little much for me.

I went to the safety of the indoors to finish my conversation and had almost forgotten about the whole thing by the time I started walking home. By almost I mean that my heart might never forget and my light was on top alert. I checked all the normal raccoon spots with no sightings and was getting relieved as I got close to home. I was distracted by something in one of the buildings just enough that I momentarily forgot about my frightening encounters until I glanced over to the right to see three raccoons, frozen and five feet from me, waiting for me to pass…hoping they would go unnoticed. Geez. Talk about topping off an evening. It’s hard to rest easy when your body has been startled into alert three times in one evening stroll.

I don’t know if I am brave enough to venture to the dock alone again tonight. It is so pretty…I just can’t help myself.

Yesterday was the “cold plunge” where everyone in our program invites the community to join us in jumping over the dock into the Salish Sea water. I grew up in cold water and used to love swimming in the pool while it was filling up with water from the hose (brrr), but this is slightly different. The air was warm enough for Washington, but when you look around at dinner, there are a few winter jackets in sight. We stripped to our bathing suits and jumped into the breath-taking water. Even I came up for a breath with a start. Not to be outdone by our instructor, I jumped in a few more times from the top of the dock, which is about 20 feet from the surface of the water. Surprisingly, my body felt quite warm in the air compared to the water temp. It was not as bad as I might have thought, and we decided that in order to live a little, we might do it again just for fun. (

The sailboat leaves tomorrow so I am packing my life into one bag once again, this time in search of orca whales.

I hope that all is well!


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