Oh my Gato, what a week it has been! Monday began with an early wake up call and a hurried morning bustle in preparation for our first voyage on the Gato Verde! The six of us, Dana, Phinn, Taya, Breanna, Jamey and I stuffed ourselves into the Washington State Ford Explorer, only to drive five minutes to wait in line to board the ferry. While we waited, we decided to get coffee in a little cafe nearby. I really don’t like coffee, but I thought I would try a mocha milkshake considering that most milkshakes, regardless of the flavor, are delicious. It turned out to be a little too strong for my liking, but I drank most of it anyway. On the ferry, Phinn, Taya and I found a fruit themed jigsaw puzzle and started in on it right away. I’m not sure that I have ever felt so concentrated and determined in my life and I think it was the caffeine. We worked diligently on the jigsaw throughout our ride and we even had people betting on whether or not we would finish before we had to get off. We worked until the very last second we could, only to miss finishing it by about ten pieces. Do you have any idea how unsatisfying it is to miss finishing a puzzle by ten pieces? Needless to say, it was a very long ride to Bellingham as I stewed over the unfinished puzzle.
When we arrived in Bellingham, we were welcomed aboard our new home on the water, the Gato Verde, by Captain Todd and had a brief orientation of the catamaran. The next couple of hours were spent loading the Gato with the plethora of science gear we brought with us and the many wonderful food ingredients we needed to make gourmet meals out at sea, including, but not limited to, milk chocolate, asparagus, white chocolate, eggplant, dark chocolate, loads of cheese, chocolate covered pretzles, tea, and chocolate brownie mix. By the end of our voyage, there was a pretty big dent in our food supply and not a hint of chocolate left. A short time later, last minute, final preparations were made and our four day journey began!
I had never spent an extended period of time on the water until this week and I loved every minute of it! The weather was decent and we spent the first afternoon on the front of the Gato, basking in the sun, being showered with waves on the trampolines. We docked for the night at Fossil Bay, on Sucia Island, and were welcomed by the most gorgeous sunset I have ever seen. I live in Tucson, Arizona, and nothing can compare to an Arizona sunset, but this was spectacular! Night fell fast and before I knew it, I was rocked to sleep by the gentle arms of the ocean, in my tiny little berth on the forward, starboard side of the Gato.
The next few days out on the water, we learned how to deploy our scientific instruments, such as the CTD, to measure the conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water, a niskin bottle to collect water samples, a secchi disk to measure the water’s visibility and of course a hydrophone to get a feel for listening to the aquatic world beneath us. We traveled all over the Northern Inland waters and even floated into Canadian waters for about 20 seconds. It was my first time being in Canada and I was stoked! We also learned some of the fundamentals of sailing, like tacking, which was my favorite part of the trip! Sailing is so much fun! We had a good amount of down time during our adventure to relax on the Gato and explore the islands after we had docked for the night.
Our time sailing was full of great learning experiences. In the mornings after breakfast, our responsibilities included things like washing the decks and cleaning the heads (bathrooms) to rid the catamaran of mung, and fulfilling a systems report to monitor how much fuel, fresh water, and sewage storage we were using. We also had a navigator who listened for the weather report, observed tides and currents, and determined our course for the day. For this trip, I had a chance to clean the heads, do the systems report, and navigate. Each job was very different, but equally as important as the next.
Not only did I learn about science and my upcoming research on this voyage, but I also learned a great deal about the people with whom I am to share the Gato for our upcoming trips. I have gotten to know my new friends pretty well in the time that we have spent on land at the Friday Harbor labs, but being confined to a catamaran with them has allowed me to get to know them even better, especially when a common sailor theme song continuously resonates through our heads. As has been the theme of my time here on the island, things just keep getting better and I can’t wait for our next grand adventure!