First Cruise on the Gato Verde

My first reaction to the Gato Verde was, “Wow. It’s roomy!” We have it really nice on this French vessel. It was built in 1998 and Captain Todd said the model type hadn’t changed much since it was built, and it felt clean and new. I first looked around the boat, and there are 4 double cabins, and 2 single cabins up in front. The four of us have two double cabins on one of the catamaran’s hulls. The doors are made out of a type of red wood, and the accommodations feel almost hotel-like compared to what I was expecting! My roommate and I share a bed, and again I was amazed at the amount of space we had. I initially imagined being smashed together in a twin size cot. I guess my imagination goes a bit far when they said we’d have tight accommodations! In the middle of the two hulls is the actual cabin, where the kitchen/living room is which consists of a round table with booth-like chairs that also act as storage for our food (that we got the luxury of picking out ourselves instead of going through NOLS). This was our spot during the evenings of entering data that we had gotten throughout the day, or paying catch-up from previous days! After hauling stuff onto the boat, we were off! As we were going to our port, we just explored the boat, and went outside on the “trampoline” which was a mesh that you could sit on and really feel like you were as close to the ocean as you could possibly be without jumping in!


The very first full day on the boat we got to encounter the whales by salmon bank! So we headed out straight away to go catch them We learned on the fly as we set in the hydrophones and scrambled for data sheets that we’d printed off for our specific projects. It was so amazing: I heard their calls as I heard them come up breathing all around us. Sound travels so brilliantly across the water, you can hear them breathe from pretty far away and still feel like they’re so close. My job was to sit with headphones on until they made calls or clicked and note when it happened, and what type of call it was. The sun was WARM on my back; another luxury I hadn’t planned on having while I was on the boat. We collected data for over three hours! And it felt like 30 minutes. We turned in to Snug Harbor and started looking at the photos at the end of the day. Both Charla and I made the same conclusion: we saw J16 (Slick) and J27 (Blackberry)!


We saw whales every day for the first three days of our trip, still learning how to do things on the go. Our first non-whale day was Charla’s birthday, the 23rd, and as close as the trampoline gets you to the water, we decided it wasn’t enough. After a CTD cast, Charla announced, “Okay, we’re jumpin in!” What peer pressure! I can’t say no to such a simple birthday wish, despite my horror to the cold rush that was about to come. But it was such a beautiful warm day! We threw our suits on and it was actually really comfortable out in the sun. And we jumped in! Into 700 feet of water. I felt so small. We swam underneath the Gato, and it was actually quite refreshing after not showering for 5 days.

We were locked into Snug Harbor for the majority of the next day due to fog, but when we finally got out, the most incredible thing happened: for the first time of the trip, we got to experience dall’s porpoises riding our bow! We all laid on our bellies at the end of the trampoline and looked over the bow; if I wanted to, I felt like I could reach down and run my hand across one. You could tell that they were just as curious about us as we were about them, because every so often they’d lean far over on their sides and take a look at us. It was a pleasant end to a relatively uneventful day.

The next couple of days, instead of being trapped by fog, we were trapped by 40 knot winds. We had sailing lessons during this time from Captain Todd (just white-board stuff of course). In the afternoon, we heard the whales were right outside the harbor, and we declared that the wind died down well enough for us to go out and take a peak! For the first time of the trip, all of my rain gear went on and we got to enjoy the whales for about a half hour. I couldn’t deploy the hydrophones unfortunately, because the waves were too high. We went to Garrison Bay for a while because it’s more sheltered than Snug for the winds that weren’t predicted to let up any time soon.

The next day, as predicted, we had 40-knot winds again, and we experienced it right in the harbor! Whales were right in Haro Straight next to us, but we were stuck. By the evening we all went to land and walked for a while at English Camp for some much needed exercise! We also watched Robin’s favorite movie in the world: Life Aquatic.

The next couple of days were data days! We ended up being able to catch the whales right away in the morning! It was great getting back into the groove after a few storm days of storm. I guess we’re really lucky, EVERY day that we’ve had good weather we’ve been able to be with the whales for a while! I think I got some amazing recordings from L pod today, and we’ve been seeing mostly J’s and K’s throughout the week, so this was really exciting for me! I felt like it was like a one-time deal, and the adrenaline kicked in. Such precious data! It was a perfect closing to our first cruise. The final day I went on Soundwatch with Sharon before going back to the labs. Seven Days out of the eleven we got to be with our black and white friends, and I never felt so lucky. 

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