Vance Expedition
July 24 - August 6, 2006

July 27 update
Transit day

Mike Perfit writes: This is my fourth cruise to the Juan de Fuca Ridge on the Western Flyer in the past 6 years. In previous years the cruises have been very successful and the weather has been mild and cooperative. In fact, over the past nearly 20 years of sailing on various ships to the Juan de Fuca, the weather has been remarkably good – so much so that I began to doubt my colleagues complaints about the horrific seas and winds they have experienced out here. Was this another fabrication like “….. it rains all the time in Seattle” to keep us Eastcoasters from moving West? So with my shorts and sunscreen packed and new graduate student Rachel Wendt in tow, we headed to Monterey to join a very diverse crew of scientists and “first time” sailors. I assured Rachel that “I always have good weather on the Juan de Fuca.” and that the Western Flyer is a smooth sailing ship in any case.

We sailed around midnight on Monday morning in the cool fog, but calm seas. The scuttlebutt from the crew was that it could get rough. Not to worry I thought, I’ve seen it all before and in fact I had just returned from a three week long cruise in the equatorial Pacific- so I already had my sea legs. Well within about 24 hours I was debating my wisdom and cursing Neptune who had sent us some pretty nasty seas and high winds. Apparently even us seasoned sea-going scientists are not immune to the wrath of the sea. Not having brought any seasickness medications, and not feeling particularly well (to say the least) it seems like I spent about 28 hours of the first 24 rolled up in my bunk wondering what happened to my immunity? I also wondered what Rachel was thinking about my words of wisdom not to worry about bad weather or high seas. Would she ever want to come to sea again? Would she survive this cruise? For another day, the ship splashed and heaved its way through the rolling seas but making only a few miles an hour. At that rate we worried if we would make it to our dive sites before we would have to head back to port.

Location of our ship at 0100 GMT July 28 (6pm local time July 27). We passed NESCA, our first planned dive site, at noon but couldn't dive because the seas were too rough and winds too high. In the nine hours since then, we have only gone 55 nautical miles and the ride is still very sloppy. The weather is supposed to improve as we go north toward Vance. We hope.

Today the seas have calmed a bit. More of us have been seen at meals and wandering about the labs. I was able to do some work on the computer….until I began to watch a large cargo ship off our starboard. It was probably 400 feet long but every time it took a swell about 100 feet of it would come out of the water and then slowly dive back under the water. I was glad the Flyer was doing much better but it sent me back up to my bunk for a mid-day rest.

We made it to our first planned dive target on the southernmost portion of the Gorda Ridge this afternoon, but the seas were still too rough to put the ROV in the water. Consequently, we opted for continuing north where the weather appears to be better. By evening, more and more people were seen about the ship, reading, sending e-mail, and watching movies. This was probably the first evening that Derek was able to present one of his fine dinners (Beef Wellington!) to everyone. It was good to see Rachel at dinner and learn that she has apparently been doing better than I have.

So much for experience!


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