Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oscillation Rules as the Pacific Cools

Oscillation Rules as the Pacific Cools

PASADENA, Calif. -- The latest image of sea-surface height measurements from the U.S./French Jason-1 oceanography satellite shows the Pacific Ocean remains locked in a strong, cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a large, long-lived pattern of climate variability in the Pacific associated with a general cooling of Pacific waters. The image also confirms that El Niño and La Niña remain absent from the tropical Pacific.

The new image is available online at:

The image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Nov. 15, 2008, compared to the long-term average of observations from 1993 through 2008. In the image, places where the Pacific sea-surface height is higher (warmer) than normal are yellow and red, and places where the sea surface is lower (cooler) than normal are blue and purple. Green shows where conditions are near normal. Sea-surface height is an indicator of the heat content of the upper ocean.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a long-term fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean that waxes and wanes between cool and warm phases approximately every five to 20 years. In the present cool phase, higher-than-normal sea-surface heights caused by warm water form a horseshoe pattern that connects the north, west and southern Pacific. This is in contrast to a cool wedge of lower-than-normal sea-surface heights spreading from the Americas into the eastern equatorial Pacific. During most of the 1980s and 1990s, the Pacific was locked in the oscillation's warm phase, during which these warm and cool regions are reversed. For an explanation of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and its present state, see: and .

Sea-surface temperature satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mirror Jason sea-surface height measurements, clearly showing a cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation pattern, as seen at:

"This multi-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation 'cool' trend can cause La Niña-like impacts around the Pacific basin," said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “The present cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation will have significant implications for shifts in marine ecosystems, and for land temperature and rainfall patterns around the Pacific basin.”

According to Nathan Mantua of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, Seattle, whose research contributed to the early understanding of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, "Even with the strong La Niña event fading in the tropics last spring, the North Pacific's sea surface temperature anomaly pattern has remained strongly negative since last fall. This cool phase will likely persist this winter and, perhaps, beyond. Historically, this situation has been associated with favorable ocean conditions for the return of U.S. west coast Coho and Chinook salmon, but it translates to low odds for abundant winter/spring precipitation in the southwest (including Southern California)."

Jason's follow-on mission, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2, was successfully launched this past June and will extend to two decades the continuous data record of sea surface heights begun by Topex/Poseidon in 1992. The new mission has produced excellent data, which have recently been certified for operational use. Fully calibrated and validated data for science use will be released next spring.

JPL manages the U.S. portion of the Jason-1 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information on NASA's ocean surface topography missions, visit . To view the latest Jason-1 data, visit .


Wave surge hits PNG

A huge wave has hit a Papua New Guinea island, submerging buildings and causing widespread damage but no casualties.

The giant wave hit Kavieng, on the New Ireland province, late on Tuesday and there were reports of a similar surge hitting PNG’s north-eastern coast province of East Sepik.

Details remain sketchy but one witness told AAP the water surge hit late this afternoon and disaster teams are now working through the damage.

“The wave took out the hospital and the east coast road of New Island,” local resident Nessie Amos said.

“The hospital’s equipment was washed out but patients were saved and taken to another hospital,” she said.

“There were no casualties but major damage was caused to the hospital and everything was washed out.”

Amos said one small island off Kavieng, Tents, is mostly under water and villagers have been moved to the neighbouring island of Emirau.

Government officials held a press conference in Wewak earlier this evening.


Report on Collision Death off Pt. Reyes

On Dec. 10, the U.S. Coast Guard released the results of two investigations. One report outlines the causes of the July 13, 2007 fatal collision between a cargo ship and a small fishing boat which occurred in heavy fog off Pt. Reyes, and the other is an internal review of the service's handling of the incident.

The incident involved the 291 ft motor vessel Eva Danielsen, a Bahamian-flagged cargo ship, and a 28 ft wooden fishing vessel, the Buona Madre, home ported in Santa Cruz, California. A collision between the two vessels resulted in the destruction of the fishing boat and the death of Mr. Paul Wade.

A Coast Guard Marine Casualty Investigation, which was conducted by San Francisco-based investigators and reviewed and released from Coast Guard headquarters in Washington D.C., found numerous factors contributing to the cause of the collision including: failure to ensure proper manning of the respective vessels in light of the prevailing weather conditions (heavy fog); and the freighter proceeding at an unsafe speed based upon the weather conditions, failing to follow applicable Navigational Rules of the Road (i.e., fog signals), and negligence with respect to the operation of the vessel.

An internal administrative investigation was also conducted by the 11th Coast Guard District to evaluate how Coast Guard policies and procedures were followed. The internal investigation found that some internal briefing requirements and communications processes were not followed. Several recommendations of the report have been adopted to improve management of communications among Coast Guard units including: Revision of Command Center Standard Operating Procedures to include recent CG policy changes; review and revision of all Quick Response Sheets (QRS) to ensure proper notifications are made in a timely fashion; Introduction of Search and Rescue fundamentals in the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) training program; and cross training among various watch positions in the Coast Guard Sector Command Center and VTS.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Sub to make deep Caribbean dive

Sub to make deep Caribbean dive

Scientists are set to explore the world's deepest undersea volcanoes, which lie 6km down in the Caribbean.

Delving into uncharted waters to hunt for volcanic vents will be Autosub6000, Britain's new autonomously controlled, robot submarine.

Once found, the life, gas and sediment around the vents - the world's hottest - will be sampled and catalogued.

The research will be carried out by a British team aboard the UK's latest research ship, the James Cook.

"We are heading out on two expeditions, each close to a month long, to map the full length of the Cayman Trough," said team leader, Dr Jon Copley of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton (NOCS).

Dr Copley explained that the Cayman Trough, which lies between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, is a product of the Caribbean tectonic plate pulling away from the American plate.

"It is the world's deepest volcanic ridge and totally unexplored," the Southampton-based researcher told BBC News.

Along with Autosub6000, the researchers will also rely on Isis, the UK's deepest-diving, remotely operated vehicle to scan the deep.

Double Sub

First overboard will be Autosub6000, an unmanned undersea vehicle that can go down to 6,000m and carry out a dive without being controlled from the surface.

It will be tasked with finding the volcanic vents on the ocean floor.

The second submarine to take the plunge will be the Isis.

Isis will sample fluids and sediments from around the lip of the vents to test their geochemistry, and also collect animal specimens.

Britain's new robot sub will map the entire length of the Cayman Trough

"We are hoping to find several different types of vents along the ridge," said Dr Copley.

"Some of the vents will be very similar in depth to the vents we already know about, and because the conditions will be alike, we might expect very similar animals," he explained.

The researchers will look to compare the animals around the Cayman vents with those in the Atlantic and Pacific, in the hope of better understanding the processes that affect how deep-sea creatures "get about".

If the organisms in the Cayman Trough look like those from other deep volcanic trenches, it will suggest that ocean currents must play a role in shaping the patterns of deep-sea life by transporting the animals' larvae around.

However, if the Cayman Trough animals are very different from those existing in other parts of the Earth's oceans then isolation will be considered more important.

"The deep ocean is our planet's largest ecosystem. If we are going to use its resources responsibly then we need understand what determines its patterns of life," the Southampton-based researcher said.

New vents

Dr Copley told BBC News that there was also another kind of venting that was driven by a very different geological process in which the Earth's mantle is directly exposed to the water.

The researchers will explore vents looking for deep-sea animals

This type of volcanism has only ever been seen once before, in the mid-Atlantic.

The temperatures around these hydrothermal vents were so hot because they were so deep, Dr Copley said.

"They could be hotter than 500C (930F), and if they are that hot, they will probably have quite different chemistry and life forms - we expect to find new species."

The researchers expect that, at depths greater than 3,000m, one in every two animals they come across will be a species new to science.


Ocean observations reap climate science rewards
Long-term observations of the oceans around Australia are providing the nation’s climate scientists with significant benchmarks for seasonal forecasts and monitoring future climate change.
15 December 2008

Initiated near the end of a two-year El Niño event in May 1983, the program involves the deployment of simple ‘expendable instruments’ (XBTs) from commercial shipping that measure temperature and currents to a depth of 800m along routes in the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans.

“There is so much ocean around Australia influencing our daily weather and longer term climate that it made sense to begin a record from which we could connect ocean change to shifts in rainfall patterns across southern Australia,” says Dr Gary Meyers who, with colleagues at CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in the US, established the ocean monitoring system.

“The 1982/83 El Niño came as a big surprise when we saw all kinds of changes around Australia but didn’t understand them. Now these ocean temperature data contribute to the BoM’s routine seasonal climate forecast.”

At 25 years the system stands as one of the longest sustained ocean observing networks in the world, and is a rare long-term record of ocean change in the huge and poorly monitored Southern Hemisphere ocean domain.

Based on the records, CSIRO’s Dr Susan Wijffels and co-authors will publish a landmark paper on the mean currents flowing between Australia and Indonesia in the Journal of Physical Oceanography. These currents form a critical ocean interconnection – the so-called Indonesian Throughflow – in the distribution of heat in the global climate system.

“Today, we have over 60,000 measurements of temperature around Australia that scientists regularly use to assess past long-term trends – test models used to predict future climate or forecast ocean behaviour,” says Dr Meyers, who leads Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). “More than 50 scientific publications and books have been published using the Australian data.”


USCG – Marine Safety Performance

The US Coast Guard released its Marine Safety Performance Plan for FY 2009-2014.

The plan addresses the goals of: (1) reducing the risk of marine casualties; (2) facilitating commerce; (3) improving program processes and management; and (4) improving human resource capabilities. The Marine Safety Program pursues these goals through a multi-faceted approach that includes standards development; mariner credentialing; compliance enforcement; investigations and casualty analysis; industry and public outreach; and international engagement.

The Plan is a living document and may be changed in the future to reflect the results of a currently-ongoing independent evaluation of the Marine Safety mission, scheduled for completion in March 2009. Comments on the Plan are also solicited from the regulated community and other stakeholders.

(Source: Holland & Knight)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas - Captain Jack Sparrow Style!

Merry Christmas - Captain Jack Sparrow Style!

Avast, me hearties!

We at Robin Storm have been blogging daily since our entrance to blogger on 11 May 2007.

Blogging daily and trying to bring our readers quality news, weather, marine and science articles and links as we found out, was not easy and many times very difficult.

We hope with brought you some of the best and most interesting weather related articles this past year and we promise to continue to provide the best service we can in 2009.

We would like to thank our visitors. This year we have to date some 149, 859 hits to our blog. While in the realm of web-blogs on the net that might be chump change. We at Robin Storm are just elated and really appreciate our readers and of course for its really fine service.

We are taking the next few days off to visit with family and friends... In the meantime, we leave you with some Pirates of the Caribbean Christmas Joy!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Robin Storm, to all of you! Ye scurvy Lot!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ship-in-a-bottle Kit On A Microchip

Ship-in-a-bottle Kit On A Microchip

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2008) Sometimes physicists resort to tried and trusted model-making tricks. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, the University of Stuttgart and the Colorado School of Mines have constructed micromachines using the same trick that model makers use to get ships into a bottle where the masts and rigging of the sailing ship are not erected until it is in the bottle.

In the same way, the scientists link the valves, pumps and stirrers of a microlaboratory to create a micro device on a chip. To do this, they introduce colloidal particles - tiny magnetizable plastic spheres - as components into the channels on the chip. A rotating magnetic field is used to link the components into larger aggregates and set them into motion as micromachines.

In the future, biologists and chemists want to avoid using bulky glass flasks, Bunsen burners and magnetic stirrers as far as possible in their experiments. Similarly to microelectronics, where electrons are steered through tiny conducting paths, they intend to perform chemical reactions in microfluidic systems, that is, chambers and channels just a few micrometers in diameter. These "labs on a chip" will then allow DNA sequences or blood samples to be analyzed much more quickly and more efficiently. As they only require tiny amounts of liquids, this approach costs much less than traditional methods, which require larger quantities of materials. These micro analytical systems would also be transportable, because their core parts take up very little space. Paramedics, for example, could analyze blood samples at the site of an accident.

Researchers working with Clemens Bechinger who is a Professor at the University of Stuttgart and a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, and David Marr, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, have now found a new way to equip these miniaturized laboratories with moving parts and how to drive the tiny machines. They introduce colloidal particles, tiny plastic spheres with a diameter of just about five micrometers, into the channels and cavities on the chip.

As the particles contain iron oxide, they group together when they are magnetized by an external magnetic field. The scientists construct the magnetic field with four coils so that the microparticles are literally remote controlled and form diamond shapes or cog wheels. "The shape they assemble into depends crucially on the geometry of the channels," explains Tobias Sawetzki, who a doctoral student is working on the project. The microparticles then remain in this shape as long as the magnetic field is switched on.

The geometry also determines the function of the aggregates. By tipping backwards and forwards, a rhombus creates openings and acts like a valve. On the other hand, if it rotates in a chamber with two inflows, it mixes the incoming liquids. The micro stirrer is also driven by a magnetic field that rotates clockwise or anticlockwise parallel to the chip. In the same way, the researchers in Stuttgart roll a cog wheel through a channel with a serrated wall. The cog wheel, which completely shuts the channel off, agitates liquid back and forth and only in combination with two valves, acts like a pump.

"Compared to other approaches to equipping microlaboratories with moving parts, our ship-in-a-bottle technique has several advantages," says David Marr. Some scientists use pneumatic systems to pump liquids through microchannels, for example. However, this requires each component to be connected with a separate hose to the outside so that it can be supplied with compressed air. This is very complex and limits the integration density on microfluidic devices considerably, i.e. the total number of components on the chip.

With the new method, it is possible to accommodate up to 5,000 pumps on one square centimetre. Moreover, the new approach does not rely on elastic materials as are required for pneumatic pumps. "It is much easier to produce suitable chips for applications if they only consist of a single material, silicon, if at all possible," says Clemens Bechinger. As the electrical control components like the mini-coils can be fabricated based on silicon, it would be ideal to make the microchannels from the same material. This would allow for integration of all the components on one chip, as in microelectronics," says Bechinger.

Currently the researchers are still using large coils, so that all the components are driven by a single magnetic field and they all move in time with each other. However, this need not be a disadvantage as processes in many applications run in parallel; for example when the pharmaceutical industry searches for a new active ingredient amongst many thousands of substances. Furthermore, the researchers can choose the geometry of the channels so skilfully that different aggregates fulfil completely different functions in the same magnetic field. This means that the Stuttgart physicists’ method offers the option of driving a complex network of individual, standalone components with only one magnetic field.


National Weather Service recommends making preparations before the storm

Wausau Daily Herald

Now that winter is in full swing, the National Weather Service is reminding people to take precautions before a storm hits.

Items that should be kept at home and work:
• Flashlight and extra batteries.
• Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and commercial radio.
• Extra food and water. High energy food or food that requires no cooking is best.
• First-aid supplies.
• Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace or space heater -- make sure you have proper ventilation.

If possible, avoid driving during the storm. If you do:
• Check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
• Carry a winter storm survival kit that includes: blankets/sleeping bags, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, knife, high-calorie non-perishable food, extra clothing to keep dry, sand or cat litter, shovel, windshield scraper and brush, tool kit, and booster cables,
• Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
• Try not to travel alone.
• Let others know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

Where will NOAA go under the Obama Administration? OSU scientist could play a big role.

Andrew Freeman of the Washington Post blog “Capital Weather Gang” discussed potential changes at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in his Monday, December 8th post. Why is this relevant to readers of H2ONCoast? Well, I am a Sea Grant Extension Specialist. Oregon Sea Grant’s federal mothership is NOAA, providing funds and guidance to how we do our jobs in Oregon. NOAA is not only important to the 30 Sea Grant programs around the country, but it guides research and applications to the study of climate, ocean science, fisheries, and weather among many other areas important to people living on the coast. Anyone who follows H2ONC should see that these topics are important ones to my own work and the work of many others in Oregon Sea Grant and OSU in general. Anywhere you hear words like Sea Grant, oceanography, drought, coastal zone management, coastal hazards, storms, marine fisheries, earth observation, weather or climate in the same sentence as government or research, you can bet that NOAA has something significant to do with it.

NOAA, however, is not a very “sexy” agency. It has few high-profile perks for the directors at the helm–other than rides in a hurricane hunting aircraft or first views of a new weather satellite’s output. Yet as I’ve said before, it is is immensely important to many. Here’s what Andrew Freeman had to say about the agency: Similar to the EPA and Interior Department, NOAA sits at the intersection of science and policy when it comes to numerous environmental issues — particularly climate change and oceans management.

Freeman noted that the past eight years have not been kind to NOAA or its programs: Following a turbulent eight years under President Bush, which featured allegations of political interference with NOAA scientific research, as well as cost overruns on a major environmental satellite program, the next few years are slated to be a rebuilding phase for NOAA; similar to a sports franchise that has hit a rough patch and needs an infusion of new talent and a morale boost. The question is whether the agency will come out a winner next season, or if it will struggle under new management. Much of that depends on who is selected to run the agency.

In a telephone interview on Friday, former NOAA Administrator D. James Baker, who led the agency for eight years under President Clinton, said NOAA is growing in importance due to the increasingly serious nature of environmental problems such as climate change.

Baker continued, “NOAA is the agency that monitors the pulse of the Earth and that told us that we are in danger because of climate change,” Baker said. According to him, the ideal candidate for administrator must possess a combination of scientific and political acumen, which is relatively rare. For example, both he and Conrad Lautenbacher, the most recent NOAA administrator who recently left that position, had backgrounds in oceanography among other scientific fields, as well as Washington experience.”

Baker dropped some names in play for that top slot. I’ve noted one that is a prominent OSU scientist.

  • Leon Panetta, former Democratic congressman from California, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and chair of the Pew Oceans Commission.
  • Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
  • Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Marsha McNutt, CEO, Monterey Aquarium Research Institute
  • Jane Lubchenco, marine biologist and zoologist at Oregon State University
  • Rosina Bierbaum, Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and co-director of a forthcoming World Bank report on climate change and development
  • Warren Washington, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Michael S. Bruno, dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering
  • Richard Anthes, the director of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  • Eileen Shea, currently the director of a NOAA center in Hawaii.

So, we will keep our eyes open on this one selection. While there are lots of important appointments and changes going on in Washington that make big news headlines, the “small ones” may count as very significant for communities as far away from the D.C. Beltway as the North Coast of Oregon. Let’s hope that this new administration’s choice of a new NOAA administrator means a new page for NOAA and its myriad locally-significant programs.


New maritime safety measures

New measures have been drawn up which will improve safety measures for passengers travelling on Cyprus boats.

Minister of Communications and Works Nikos Nikolaides has welcomed the adoption of a new package of measures on maritime safety by the European Union Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council.

Speaking after the meeting, the minister said that the package strengthens the levels of vessel safety, as well as the protection of maritime environment and enhances the passengers’ rights regarding maritime transport.

“Being a country of important maritime infrastructure and know-how, [Cyprus] plays a leading role in shaping European maritime policy," he said.

"Cyprus, with its know-how and experience in the field of maritime transport, participated actively in drafting the third package of measures on maritime safety, since some of our positions, which aim at reinforcing the international maritime legislative framework and the international conventions, have been adopted."

A resolution on the European Data Center for the identification of vessels was also taken up.

Nikolaides called on the EU Commission, the European Maritime Safety Agency and EU member states to intensify their efforts for the conclusion of the European Data Center within the next six months.

Ship firm calls jail term for tanker crew a 'disgrace'

SEOUL (AFP) — Managers of a Hong Kong supertanker whose crew chiefs were jailed over South Korea's worst oil spill have blasted the decision as a "disgrace and insult" to the world shipping community.

A South Korean appeal court, reversing a lower court decision, on Wednesday jailed the Indian captain Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan after ruling they were negligent in minimising the spillage.

The accident happened in December 2007 when a barge carrying a construction crane broke free after a cable to one of two tugs snapped in rough seas.

The barge rammed the anchored 147,000-ton tanker Hebei Spirit, holing it in three places and spilling 10,900 tons of crude oil.

V.Ships, which says it is the world's largest ship manager, said in a statement Thursday the court's decision "will surely go down as one of the most disgraceful examples of a miscarriage of justice in a 'supposedly' advanced nation state.

"For Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan to be sentenced to prison terms and led from the court in handcuffs is a disgrace and insult to the whole shipping industry," it added.

The case has sparked anger among shipping operators and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), who insist the tanker crew were blameless.

The lower court in June had found them not guilty but prosecutors appealed the decision.

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners has expressed "extreme dismay and disappointment" at Wednesday's ruling.

V.Ships said the ITF and its international membership are now "questioning whether it is safe for its members to travel on ships to Korea."

The lower court blamed barge operator Samsung Heavy Industries, part of the country's biggest business group, and the Korean tugboat skippers for the spill which fouled scores of marine farms and miles of beaches southwest of Seoul.

The appeal court in the central city of Daejeon agreed the Korean operators were mainly at fault and confirmed jail sentences on the tugboat skippers. But it said the tanker crew failed to take prompt action to abate the spillage.

Chawla was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined 20 million won (14,000 dollars) while chief officer Syam Chetan was sentenced to eight months and fined 10 million won.

Their lawyers said they would appeal to the supreme court.

The ship's owner, Hong Kong-registered Hebei Ocean Shipping, was fined 30 million won.

V.Ships said the appeal court had relied on findings by the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST ) which meant that "technically flawed, unreliable and unjust evidence" had been submitted to judges.

"In submitting their report, the KMST has demonstrated both its incompetence and an obvious desire to find fault with the officers of the Hebei Spirit," the management firm said.

"This blatant and totally unjustifiable case of criminalisation of a profession that we all rely upon for our international trade must not go unanswered by the international community and all those in the shipping industry.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94).

he sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

2 More days til Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008



PASADENA, Calif. —
The latest image of sea-surface height measurements from the U.S./French Jason-1 oceanography satellite shows the Pacific Ocean remains locked in a strong, cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a large, long-lived pattern of climate variability in the Pacific associated with a general cooling of Pacific waters. The image also confirms that El Niño and La Niña remain absent from the tropical Pacific.
he image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Nov. 15, 2008, compared to the long-term average of observations from 1993 through 2008. In the image, places where the Pacific sea-surface height is higher (warmer) than normal are yellow and red, and places where the sea surface is lower (cooler) than normal are blue and purple. Green shows where conditions are near normal. Sea-surface height is an indicator of the heat content of the upper ocean.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a long-term fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean that waxes and wanes between cool and warm phases approximately every five to 20 years. In the present cool phase, higher-than-normal sea-surface heights caused by warm water form a horseshoe pattern that connects the north, west and southern Pacific. This is in contrast to a cool wedge of lower-than-normal sea-surface heights spreading from the Americas into the eastern equatorial Pacific. During most of the 1980s and 1990s, the Pacific was locked in the oscillation’s warm phase, during which these warm and cool regions are reversed. For an explanation of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and its present state, see: and

Sea-surface temperature satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mirror Jason sea-surface height measurements, clearly showing a cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation pattern, as seen at:

“This multi-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation ‘cool’ trend can cause La Niña-like impacts around the Pacific basin,” said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “The present cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation will have significant implications for shifts in marine ecosystems, and for land temperature and rainfall patterns around the Pacific basin.”

According to Nathan Mantua of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, Seattle, whose research contributed to the early understanding of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, “Even with the strong La Niña event fading in the tropics last spring, the North Pacific’s sea surface temperature anomaly pattern has remained strongly negative since last fall. This cool phase will likely persist this winter and, perhaps, beyond. Historically, this situation has been associated with favorable ocean conditions for the return of U.S. west coast Coho and Chinook salmon, but it translates to low odds for abundant winter/spring precipitation in the southwest (including Southern California).”

Jason’s follow-on mission, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2, was successfully launched this past June and will extend to two decades the continuous data record of sea surface heights begun by Topex/Poseidon in 1992. The new mission has produced excellent data, which have recently been certified for operational use. Fully calibrated and validated data for science use will be released next spring.

JPL manages the U.S. portion of the Jason-1 mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.


New hurricane chief restores the calm after in-house storm

Bill Read didn't ride into town with both guns blazing. But in his own quiet way, he did restore order.

For much of last year, the National Hurricane Center was in turmoil, following a staff revolt against then-director Bill Proenza. Congress feared the discord might hurt forecasts, and the normally staid institution was thrust into controversy.

Today, that episode has all but subsided, and the center has refocused on tracking tropical systems. Insiders credit Read, the new director, with soothing frayed nerves and rebuilding chemistry.

"Bill knows it's not all about one man, it's not all about the director," said Max Mayfield, the popular former director of the center. "In that way, he's very much like me."

Senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila described the atmosphere inside the hurricane center these days as "very nice."

"The most important thing is that every time we make a decision, we make it together as a team," Avila said. "He listens to the specialists, and we listen to him."

Intimidation and warning

Read, 59, a National Weather Service veteran forecaster and manager, was recruited to be the center's acting deputy director in August 2007.

That was after Proenza alienated the staff, both by intimidating employees and warning that the demise of a weather satellite would hurt storm predictions, according to an independent report.

Top management at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the hurricane center, removed him as director in July 2007. Proenza was returned to his former job as director of the Southern Region of the National Weather Service.

NOAA officials named Read as the hurricane center's director in January.

As a result of the Proenza ordeal, the center still is making adjustments, Read said. The management structure is being organized and consultants are working with employees to address lingering morale problems.

"That was a pretty traumatic event for the folks who worked here," Read said. "I don't think everyone's totally moved on from that event."

For the most part, he added, operations have returned to normal and forecasts were never compromised. That was evident over the course of the 2008 season, when specialists generated several on-target storm predictions, for instance with Hurricane Gustav, which hit near New Orleans.

"I'm happy with where we're at," Read said of his forecasting team's performance. "I'm very satisfied with the work ethic and the attention to detail."

Noting that his management style is rather low key, Read said he doesn't intend to make any major changes in the way the hurricane center does business. Rather, he is trying to restore a sense of calm at the center in southwest Miami-Dade County.

"More and more I'm going to be working on inputting my management style, which tends to be a calming influence," he said.

Boosting morale

In the past season, whenever storms emerged, Read made a point of watching over the shoulders of his forecasters as they worked up tropical predictions. He did so to learn the intricacies of hurricane forecasting as well as to boost the morale of his specialists.

"That way I know what's going on," he said. "They know I'm interested in what they're doing."

The ultimate goal, he said, is to improve forecast accuracy, particularly with intensity predictions, an area where the center has struggled. Considering no hurricanes pulled any major surprises, he said his first season as the hurricane center's director was a good one.

"We didn't have one of those Mother Nature gotcha moments, where the storm threw a curve at us in close," he said. "I got a good break-in year."


Back in 2005, the Norwegian Dawn was cruising off the coast of Georgia when it was hit with a shock. A 70-foot wave crashed into the bow of the ship, flooding about 60 cabins and injuring about four passengers. The damage "was not extensive and the ship was quickly repaired," according to Wikipedia. Five years earlier, a 70-foot wave slammed into the cruise ship Oriana, destroying windows.

Dangerous waves like those aren't common, thankfully. A study of radar data from oil platforms estimated that merely 10 waves more than 75-feet-high appeared around the globe during one recent three-week period.

The bad news is that there's almost nothing that a cruise ship captain can do to either predict or avoid these waves, which rise up to five times as high as the waves around them. These rogue, or freak, waves appear to come from an angle that's out of sync with the wind and other sea waves. You'll occasionally find these waves out in the sea but also in near-beach areas, both in sandy and rocky shores. Lots of tragedies occur yearly all around the world.

To learn more about these waves, I did an e-mail interview with Paul C. Liu, who retired last year from his post as research physical oceanographer for NOAA and who blogs at Freaque Waves.

What should cruise passengers know about the frequency of dangerous waves, and exactly what type of waves are likely on the open seas?
I guess all kinds of waves are likely on the open seas, including freaque waves. They are not always happening. Most of the time they are not! But we just cannot rule out the fact that freaque waves can happen at any time and at any place. Cruise passengers should just be mindful that the possibility is there and continue to enjoy the cruise. Even if an encounter does happen, the damage will likely to be not extensive. The kind of fiction as shown in the movie Poseidon will not ever happen in real life!

What is a "freaque wave", what is its most typical origin or cause, and why do you use that nomenclature of "freaque" instead of using the term "rogue" or something more scientific sounding?
Freaque is a portmanteau word formed by the two frequently and synonymously used words of rogue and freak in describing the kind of unexpected and unpredictable waves. Many people in the scientific literature are fond of using the expression "freak or rogue waves." I choose to use "freaque waves" instead.

Are there any particular waters in particular regions that are known to be prone to freaque waves?
The short answer is no. Because of the conjecture that when ocean waves propagating into oncoming strong ocean current field might lead to the forming of large waves, regions along the Gulf stream in the North Atlantic, along the Agulhas currents in South Indian Ocean, and along the Kuroshio in Northwest Pacific, are thought to be prone of freaque waves. But areas that don't have strong ocean currents, such as the North Sea, can also have frequent freaque waves. So the talk of regional proneness is at most covering a part of the story.

What's the essential dispute about freaque waves in the scientific community? And is there something that makes scientists groan when they read accounts of waves striking cruise ships because the statements are misleading or hyperbolic or inaccurate?
Because the study of freaque waves is still relatively new, I don't think there is as yet any "essential dispute" per se in the scientific community. Lack of general consensus, maybe! Different scientists may have different concept of what "rare" or "frequent" means or using relatively different definitions for freaque waves. And there are may be different approaches to the problem. Some treats freaque waves as a part of the study of extreme waves whereas some others do not. (Freaque waves are always extreme waves, but not all the extreme waves are freaque waves!)

What's the most typical misunderstanding of the freaque wave issue, as you've encountered it when reading media reports or talking with others?
Oh yes, the media! I don't have much respect for the present day, so called, "main-stream" media. Here's an example—a paragraph from a New York Times article about freaque waves a couple of years ago:

Enormous waves that sweep the ocean are traditionally called rogue waves, implying that they have a kind of freakish rarity. Over the decades, skeptical oceanographers have doubted their existence and tended to lump them together with sightings of mermaids and sea monsters.

Rogue waves are known to happen momentarily. They appear out of nowhere. A wave takes place, and then disappears like nothing has happened. Waves like that never, yes, never, "sweep" the ocean. There is no such thing as "traditionally called rogue waves." Rogue wave is a fairly recent term. The use of the term "freak wave" was started by U.K. scientist Laurence Draper in 1964. There was no firmly established term before 1964. The existence of unusually large, great waves was nevertheless very much on the minds of every seagoing oceanographer. I don't think anyone in their right mind would "lump them together with sightings of mermaids and sea monsters." I just hope your readers beware of this kind of irresponsibility.

3 More days til Christmas!


Friday, December 19, 2008

NOAA Mission Discovers Historic Shipwreck Off Turks And Caicos Islands; ‘The Story Was Lost To History’

NOAA Mission Discovers Historic Shipwreck Off Turks And Caicos Islands; ‘The Story Was Lost To History’

Maritime archaeologists today announced they have recently identified the wreck of the historic slave ship Trouvadore off the coast of East Caicos in the Turks and Caicos Islands. NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research significantly funded several years of archaeological research leading to the discovery by Don Keith and Toni Carrell, from Ships of Discovery, an underwater archaeology research institute.

The Spanish vessel Trouvadore was participating in the slave trade, outlawed in the British Indies, including the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 1841, after the vessel was grounded on a reef, Caicos authorities arrested the crew, and most of the 192 African survivors settled on Grand Turk Island.

Keith and Carrell believe the African survivors of the Trouvadore are the ancestors of a large portion of current residents in the Turks and Caicos Islands. For example, traditions on the Islands have a recognizable African origin. The Turks and Caicos National Museum is recording these traditions through oral histories and is educating the community about their ancestral history.

“What makes a people different and distinct is their unique history,” said Keith, who has worked in the islands for 30 years. “The people of the Turks and Caicos have a direct line to this dramatic, historic event – it’s how so many of them ended up being there. We hope this discovery will encourage the people of the Turks and Caicos to protect and research their local history, especially the history that remains underwater.”

“Although the sinking of the Trouvadore was a major event on the Island, the story was lost to history over the following century and a half,” said Carrell. “After we uncovered records of the shipwreck several years ago, we were stunned to realize that Turks and Caicos residents had never heard of the shipwreck that brought their ancestors to the Island.”

In 2004, using historical accounts of where the Trouvadore went down, along with remote sensing and visual searches, archaeologists focused on a ship near a local landmark known as the Black Rock. Records showed the vessel had sunk at Breezy Point, approximately two miles from the Black Rock Wreck location.

“But with the wind blowing constantly from the east, and a current running from that direction, the ship would have drifted,” Keith said. “That could have happened after it was lightened by salvage, as well.” Keith and his team used careful measurements of the hull and after years of research to amass compelling circumstantial evidence, concluded in August that the Black Rock Wreck could only be the Trouvadore.

Keith and Carrell knew from the start it would be difficult to find artifacts to identify the ship. “People of these islands traditionally have used resources from sunken ships. There are houses built on Grand Turk from ship remains,” said Keith. “We knew the ship had been salvaged upon sinking, and we weren’t going to find a bell with ‘Trouvadore 1841’ on it.”

The archaeologists learned about the Trouvadore while tracing the current locations of artifacts from the Islands that were sold to museums in the U.S. and Europe over a hundred years ago. Examining records about “African idols” that were sold, they found the account of the Trouvadore wreck.

“It’s rare and exciting to find a wreck of such importance that has been forgotten for so many years,” said Frank Cantelas, marine archaeologist for NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “By identifying the Trouvadore, Don and Toni have really made a contribution to history and given the Islands’ people a better sense of place.”

Keith and his colleagues also discovered the wreck of the U.S. naval vessel Chippewa, lost in 1816. The researchers discovered a line of carronades, a unique type of cannon carried by the Chippewa, near the reef off Providenciales, which the vessel reportedly struck. The Chippewa and the Onkahye, sunk in 1848, were part of America’s efforts to stop the African slave trade and piracy by patrolling the Caribbean. Keith plans to continue work on the Chippewa wreck site and hopes to discover the Onkahye nearby.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.


Nenana, Alaska, Receives Nation’s 1,000th NOAA Weather Radio Transmitter

Central interior Alaskan residents, visitors, barge captains and railroad operators now have access to weather information anytime, thanks to a new NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards transmitter recently installed on Toghotthele Hill in Nenana, the 1,000th of these transmitters installed by NOAA.

Nenana, Alaska

Residents of the Nenana area can tune to 162.4 MHz on NOAA Weather Radio for the broadcasts from NOAA’s Weather Forecast Office in Fairbanks. NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards, known as "The Voice of the National Weather Service," is a continuous 24-hour source of the latest weather forecasts and warnings.

"Citizens can now have weather information available at their fingertips any time in the Nenana area," said John Dragomir, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Fairbanks. "The Nenana transmitter significantly increases the weather service’s ability to reach Alaska’s central interior directly with weather warnings and forecasts. A NOAA Weather Radio in the home, car, truck, boat and other vehicles helps protect families, individuals and property."

This radio broadcast has been made possible through a partnership between NOAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the city of Nenana. USDA Rural Development provided $39,438 to the City of Nenana for this project. Matching funds and in kind contributions came from the City of Nenana. USDA Rural Development has awarded 97 Weather Radio Transmitter grants for installations in 27 states and Puerto Rico since 2001.

USDA Rural Development acting Alaska state director Chad Padgett said "USDA Rural Development is pleased to partner with the National Weather Service, Nenana mayor Jason Mayrand and our great community supporters of this Program. We are pleased to administer this grant program because NOAA Weather Radio promotes public safety and awareness, and most importantly, saves lives."

"Prior to this opportunity, we had to call the weather service directly in order to receive weather warnings," said Mayrand. "Often we would hear of hazardous weather conditions through the grape vine. With the new transmitter in place not only do Nenana residents have access but also a large population of people that live in more remote regions of Interior Alaska."

"Now that the NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards network has one thousand transmitters, we have the capability to send critical warnings and environmental information to 95 percent of the U.S. population," said Dr. John L. "Jack" Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards alerts the public to natural or man-made disasters, and keeps them informed until the danger has passed."


Safety at Sea

If properly prepared, sailing off-shore can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience. Conversely, if not prepared, it can be miserable and dangerous. Because we prefer 'exhilarating and rewarding', we do everything in our power to be properly prepared. This section is meant to give the reader insight into emergency procedures aboard Vision Quest. The overall plan is to avoid emergencies, but as we all know, 'stuff' happens and you need to be ready!

Of course, the safety and well being of the crew is the highest priority. However, for emergency procedures we must put the boat first. The reason for this can be understood when you think about what would happen to the crew if there was no boat. I am primarily talking about fire and sinking.

Please keep in mind as you read this that these are general guidelines. Every situation is different and requires that the captain and crew adapt the procedures to the given situation. Also note that when a true emergency occurs, an incorrect response often leads to making a manageable situation worse.

Generally speaking, if there is a fire, or the boat is taking on water, the crew must tend to the boat first. This is a higher priority than even aiding a crew member in need. The crew must be disciplined to keep their priorities in order and think before taking action.

an example...

Lets say that you are having a nice sail with your young son or daughter (just the two of you) on a nice summer day a couple of miles offshore. Then the unthinkable happens, your child falls overboard right in front of your eyes! In the first few seconds, your instincts may tell you to jump in to save them. This is where training comes in. You take some time to think about what you need to do and realize that if you jump in after them, chances are you both will drown. You realize that the proper response is to throw floatation and execute your man over board (MOB) procedures. Because you have practiced this a number of times, you are able to bring the boat to your child and save them.

The above example demonstrates that having emergency procedures and practicing them before they are needed saves lives. This is good, but what if you were able avoid the situation altogether? These are some of the things that should have been thought about before ever leaving the dock:

  • Should I bring another experienced sailor with me in case something happens?
  • Do I have adequate lifelines?
  • Should my child be tethered to the boat?
  • Can they swim?
  • Do they have a life jacket? Are they required to where it?
  • What is the weather like? Is it going to change?
  • Do I have emergency procedures and know how to execute them?

As you can infer from this example, seamanship starts before you leave the dock. You could even say that seamanship starts before you launch your boat; even before you buy your boat!


Priorities need to be kept very simple. The reason for this is that when the weather is rough and the crew is hungry and exhausted, complicated things are harder to remember. So, here's the top three:

  1. Don't sink
  2. Don't catch on fire
  3. Don't fall overboard

Also (not in any order):

  • Avoid bad weather
  • Know what to do if you can't avoid heavy weather
  • Watch for gear failure
  • Minimize passage time
  • Collision Avoidance
  • Keep the crew well fed and rested
  • Crew Training
  • Avoid injury
  • Avoiding Seasickness
  • Abandon Ship!

Of course there are many more things to pay attention to, in fact whole books can and have been written on all of these subjects. In the next few sections I will outline some of the things we have done aboard Vision Quest to address these concerns. This is by no means a comprehensive discussion and I will try to keep it to the points that I think people will be most interested in.


Vision Quest is equipped with many features to prevent taking on water. We also have specialized tools and procedures to use if we end up starting to sink.

  • Rugged companionway door with positive latch
  • Positive latches for the cockpit lockers
  • Pre-cut window repair boards that can be used to patch a blown out window. These will be mountable from inside the boat.
  • High capacity hand operated bilge pump that can be operated from the cockpit.
  • High capacity hand bilge pump that can be operated from inside the cabin with all hatches and windows shut.
  • Electric Bilge pump
  • Buckets!
  • Hull breach toolbox with materials that can be used to repair cracks in the hull.
  • Procedures for determining the source of the leak - quickly.
  • If it is obvious that the boat is going to sink and our attempts to stem the flow of water are not successful then we can begin our abandon ship procedures and take to the life raft.


Fire prevention is the key here. All of our diesel fuel is stored in proper fuel tanks and we do not carry any fuel on deck in jerry cans. We will have a small amount of gasoline (1 gallon) for our outboard motor that we will store in a safe place (probably on one of our transom steps). Propane is properly stored in a locker designed for the purpose which vents overboard. The decks and cabin will be kept clean and orderly.

If a fire does break out, we have 4 fire extinguishers located in strategic places to fight it. The extinguisher in the galley is a fairly large one of the ABC type that can also be emptied into the engine compartment via a fire port if we have an engine fire. Procedures will be in place for the various scenarios and we will practice them.

Man Overboard!

Man overboard is more likely than fire or sinking and is an absolutely critical issue. The prevailing wisdom is that if you fall overboard you are going to die. The reason for this is that it is usually dark and stormy when this happens and it is extremely difficult to find someone in the water, let alone get the boat back to them and retrieve them. This is the case even in mild conditions and can be compounded greatly if the victim is unconscious.

Again, the best way to handle this is prevention. The crew will always be tethered to the boat when working on deck and at night. Even sitting in the cockpit during the day, crew members will have to be tied to the boat unless it is very calm and there is more than one person in the cockpit.

If someone does fall over, they will presumably have their inflatable harness on. These harnesses' inflate automatically when they hit the water and have a manual backup should the auto-inflate mechanism fail. These harnesses are also equipped with a strobe light and whistle to help the boat find them. Each crew member will practice retrieving a man overboard using the most accepted techniques in the racing community. So far, I have never seen anyone fall overboard except in sailing videos. I want to keep it that way!!

Weather Routing

It is important to pick your 'weather window' before you leave. The general consensus is that June is the best time to cross because the winter storms are over and percentage of hurricanes is very low.

Weather routing is critical. You want to avoid extreme weather situations while at the same time avoiding areas of little to no wind. These calms are good for ocean going trawlers, but not so for sailboats with a limited fuel supply. Vision Quest likes to have 15-20 knots of wind just aft of her beam and these are the conditions we will be seeking.

We use sophisticated route planning software (Max Sea) and weather chart software (Ocens Weathernet). These tools allow us to get up to date high seas analysis and forecasts for our area. We will also be using a professional weather router whom we will remain in contact with via email. This person will recommend the proper course to steer to get us into favorable weather patterns. If we lose our satellite phone and SSB radio, we will have to watch the barometric pressure, clouds, and seas to try to figure out our best course (just like the old days!). If we can raise a ship on the VHF radio, we can ask them for a forecast as well.

Heavy Weather

As discussed above, we will do everything we can to avoid heavy weather. Regardless, since we are crossing the North Atlantic and we will be out there for over 3 weeks, we will probably encounter at least a gale or two and some squalls. I would rather not get caught in a storm, but we will be prepared for that as well. Rather than get into a long discussion about tactics, I'll just summarize some of the tools and techniques at our disposal.

  • Storm Sails made of very heavy orange sail cloth
  • Inner Forestay for keeping the storm head sail closer to the center of the boat.
  • Drogue and associated tackle for keeping the boat under control while surfing down large waves ('running off').
  • Sea Anchor for riding the storm out 'bow to'.
  • 'Heave to' techniques
  • 'Crew preservation' as mentioned in the crew sections below
  • Secure, solid, and simple boat with redundant systems
  • Plenty of tools and spare parts for repairs

Gear Failure

Vision Quest has been outfitted in such a way that she can continue on her way when she loses a main system like the engine, rudder, or electrical power. We have spare sails and the ability to patch and mend them should they be damaged. We carry spare rope of all lengths and sizes and all kinds of other tools and materials to repair and patch things as they fail.

There is one thing that has no backup though and that is the standing rigging ...commonly known as the mast and boom for you land lubbers! Losing the mast would put us into a critical situation. Again, this would probably happen when it is rough out. Prevailing wisdom is that when the mast comes down, you need to cut it away and let it sink as soon as possible so that it doesn't ram into the boat and make a hole. This would be an example of one emergency causing another!

In the event that we lose the mast, we would try to build a jury rig with our spinnaker pole and anything else that we are able to salvage. This would hopefully be enough to get us to the nearest point of land. We have enough fuel to motor for 600-800 miles which will help allot but we may be more than 1000 miles away from land. Also, the nearest landfall may be unattainable due to wind and wave conditions. Depending on how much luck we have with the jury rig, amount of fuel we have, and weather conditions, we may very well have to call for help. If this is the case, we would probably be picked up by a ship and have to leave the boat behind.

The good news is that if your rig (mast) is meticulously maintained and inspected by professional riggers and constantly inspected for signs of stress, losing the rig is very unlikely. It is also important not to stress the rig too much in rough and windy conditions; this is done by reducing sail area and not 'beating' the hull too badly in head seas.

Passage Time

The chances for bad weather, gear failure, crew injury, etc go up the longer you are at sea. For this reason, one of our prime objectives is to keep the boat moving toward her destination as fast as safely possible. This is good for moral and keeps the crew busy. Basically we 'pretend' that we are in a race but we temper it with avoiding bad weather and not pushing the boat so hard that something may break. I guess what I'm saying here is that we won't be 'dilly-dallying' around!

Collision Avoidance

It is a big ocean out there, but you would be surprised how closely ships and other yachts pass by you. On Vision Quest, we consider a ship at ten miles range to be a threat and we often track them from twenty or more miles away using our radar.

We carry a radar reflector on our mast which increases the chances of the ship seeing us on their radar. We also have navigation lights on top of our mast which improves visibility at night. This is nice, but we can't depend on a busy ships crew seeing us; we need to be on the lookout for them! When we do spot a ship (or yacht) either by eye, or on the radar, we immediately begin the tracking process.

Basically what you do is watch for a changing bearing. If the bearing to the ship is gradually changing, then you will generally pass well clear of each other. If the bearing is not changing, then you are on a collision course and the ship needs to be contacted on the VHF radio while they are still a fair distance away (miles). This usually works and you mutually decide who will change course and all is well. Sometimes you can't raise them and must change course yourself.

Quick and decisive action is necessary while the ship is miles away is amazing how fast they are going! If we can't get out of their way, and can't contact them, we will begin firing flares and sounding horns, which will hopefully 'snap them out of it' and get them on the radio!

Taking Care of the Crew

The goal is to have a well rested and fed crew that are happy and performing their best. The following list outlines the main things that prevent mutiny!

  • Pick well balanced, experienced people that you can get along with. Preferably people that have sailed together before.
  • Maximize sleep and relaxation time
  • Provide good food that is healthy and satisfying
  • Keep the boat clean, dry, and orderly
  • Always have dry comfortable clothing
  • Dry comfortable pillows, sheets, and blankets
  • Regular crew meetings, especially if there is any controversy or 'drama'.

Crew Training

In the case of this voyage, the selected crew all know each other and have sailed together on at least one significant passage. Before leaving and periodically during the voyage each crew member will practice many things including:

  • Man overboard recovery
  • Sinking drills (a marker is placed where the leak is and they have to find it)
  • Abandon Ship / life raft deployment drills
  • Fire fighting drills
  • Medical emergency training (at least two certified crew)
  • Sail reefing and changing drills
  • Sea anchor and drogue deployment and retrieval
  • Emergency steering
  • Emergency hull, sail, engine, and systems repair

Injury & Sickness

The best way to avoid injury is to stay well fed and rested. This way, crew members will remember to move slowly and deliberately and always have one hand available to hang onto the boat. A well fed and rested crew will also make better decisions, thus potentially avoiding an injurious situation. The other thing to keep in mind is to try and avoid severe weather and keep the boat under control. A quick story is in order.

A story: On our way to Bermuda during a celestial navigation course, we spent several days in a strong gale. There were several incidents involving losing balance and items flying across the cabin. The worst one I witnessed was a 'twofold snafu'. One night while the captain was preparing dinner, the boat lurched and a huge bottle of olive oil flew across the cabin. Luckily no one was hit, but is spilled all over the place. After a long time trying to wipe this stuff up (bad for moral) we still had an olive oil 'sheen' on the floor that we just couldn't seem to remove. The next day, one of the crew was making coffee and another lurch entire can of Maxwell House all over the cabin! Now we had coffee grounds mixed into the olive oil that was left over from the night before on the floor ...a wicked mess (bad for moral).

Items in the cabin, like big bottles of olive oil, need to be secured at all times! The mess on the floor made the cabin slippery and 'icky'. Although, no one got hurt, they very well could have from the flying olive oil or slippery floor. Another less tangible result was that instead of sleeping or doing worthwhile chores, the off-watch crew had to deal with this mess for hours. Lost sleep and bad attitudes could cause a bad decision later. Again, a manageable incident being compounded into one that was less manageable. We now laugh about this and every time the olive oil comes out, so do the jokes!

Now, back to injury. We carry lots of over the counter medications and first aid supplies. We also carry prescription medications like antibiotics, seasickness medication, epi-pens, etc. We use a land based remote physician service that we can contact through email or satellite telephone. The remote doctors can guide us through the treatment and already knows what medications we have on board (they prescribed them).


Seasickness is a critical safety concern. Many people do recover after a day or two, but some do not. They can become dehydrated and incoherent within a matter of a few days. They are so sick that they can barely move and will definitely make poor decisions if they do decide to do something. If someone get's this sick, medical attention is often required and the remaining crew have to pick up the slack. If two crew get this sick, your ability to handle the boat will be severely compromised. When you are over 500 miles from the nearest land and out of helicopter range, the situation can become critical. You get the idea!

Like most emergencies, prevention is the key. Each crew member needs to have their own plan for dealing with seasickness. If medication is involved, they must have tried it beforehand to make sure that it doesn't cause any adverse effects. These types of medicine are designed to prevent seasickness, not cure it. Therefore, it's good practice to take it before rough weather hits.

If a crew member becomes incapacitated, we will have medications on board and access to a remote doctor over the satellite phone. This will hopefully be enough to get them recovering before the situation worsens.

Abandon Ship

I put this topic last because it is the absolutely last thing we do. In fact, the only time the boat is to be left for the liferaft is if it is almost completely underwater or engulfed in flames.

The key to abandoning ship is to have procedures in place where you simultaneously have someone making 'mayday' calls while others are launching the life raft and retrieving the abandon ship bag (grab bag).

The grab bag is critical. It contains everything needed for short term survival and rescue signaling. Without it, chances of survival are very low. With it, chances of quick rescue are very high. Therefore, the crew must know that our lives depend on that bag don't forget it, don't lose it, and risk your life if you have to making sure you get it!

The links below have the procedures and grab bag contents so I won't go into that here except to say that it contains a device called a GPIRB. This device, when turned on will tell the authorities who we are and where we are and a rescue mission will begin in short order. The GPIRB is the all important key to survival (other than the raft itself of course).

As you can see, the grab bag is an all or nothing proposition. The good news is that in a dire situation where there could be panic, despair, and injury; you only have to remember one thing ...get the bag and don't lose it when getting into the liferaft!

Open Letter From INTERTANKO

Thursday, December 11th, 2008


To President Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea,


We, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, have noted with considerable dismay the Second (Appeal) Decision of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) and its findings of fault on the part of the two ship’s officers of the “Hebei Spirit”; Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer, Syam Chetan.

As a responsible and accountable international shipping association, which represents over 80% of independent tanker owner interests worldwide, we first wish to offer all our sympathy to the people of Korea who were so badly affected by the spill of oil which resulted when the runaway Samsung crane barge struck the legitimately anchored tanker “Hebei Spirit”.

We are aware that both Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan were acquitted in the Daesan Court of the First Instance in June this year of all charges of criminal negligence. We are also aware that this Court Judgment is presently under appeal and understand that the Daesan Court of Appeal will be giving judgment as early as Wednesday 10 December.

We are further aware that the First (Inchon) KMST Decision has already been submitted in evidence in the Daesan Court of Appeal proceedings, and that it is likely that the Second (Appeal) KMST Decision will also be submitted in evidence in these proceedings. We are advised that Courts in Korea attach great weight to KMST Decisions. Noting this, and having considered in some detail the Second (Appeal) Decision of the KMST that is now before us as well as the First (Inchon) KMST Decision, we believe them both to be technically flawed and therefore that they draw unjust conclusions.

We wish also to express our concern that the KMST reports have not been produced in accordance with the internationally recognised IMO Interim Guidelines (MSC/Circ 1058) and IMO Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents. One of the cornerstones of this Code is the requirement to co-operate and consult with all interested parties before a final report is made.

We therefore urge the Daesan Court of Appeal to carefully consider all of the evidence, and in particular the judgment of the Daesan Court of First Instance, and not to rely solely on these KMST Decisions when reaching its decision. We also appeal to the Court to pay full respect to all its international treaty obligations to seafarers in rendering its decision. After it has made a careful and balanced review of all the evidence, we hope that the Court will reach a fair and just decision, not just in the interests of Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan, but also as a demonstration to seafarers trading to the Republic of Korea that they can expect the highest standards of fair treatment and justice.

It would be highly regrettable if the outcome of these proceedings were to prove detrimental to Korea’s international reputation and to its status as a tanker shipping nation, to its shipyards which rely on business from international tanker owners and to its refining and chemicals industry whose oil is delivered by the international tanker fleet.

With the greatest of respect,

8th December 2008.

Messing About In Ships Podcast

5 more days til Christmas!
Have one really great weekend!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

It Could be Possible to Stop Hurricanes with Supersonic Jets

It Could be Possible to Stop Hurricanes with Supersonic Jets

Hurricanes, as we've seen, can wreak serious havoc when they strike populated areas. We've never had control over them before, but one researcher thinks they could be broken up with F-4 fighter jets.

In theory, sending in a pair of the jets to do loops around the eye of the hurricane while it's still out over the ocean, creating sonic booms, would break it up before it hits the shore.

Jet fighters flying at supersonic speeds along special trajectories with a hurricane/typhoon at various altitudes would create supersonic booms. In one such embodiment, the trajectories for the supersonic booms of the present invention are counter to the rotational component of the hurricane and/or typhoon being targeted. As such, supersonic booms can be tailored and/or designed to partially and/or fully -negate the basic rotational contribution in a hurricane by slowing down a hurricane's/typhoon's rotation. Additionally, when supersonic booms propagate downward to the surface of the ocean they also destabilize a hurricane's/typhoon's structure by increasing the pressure in the central part of a hurricane's/typhoon's eye.


Storm planners reflect on hurricane season

Lessons learned after Katrina and Rita may have saved lives in 2008

NEW ORLEANS - In New Orleans, a dire warning to flee emptied the city before Hurricane Gustav in early September. In Houston less than two weeks later, a plea to "hunker down" might have kept evacuation routes from clogging before Hurricane Ike struck.

The strategies were different but the results largely the same: Both cities avoided repeating disastrous evacuations that cost lives during the deadly 2005 hurricane season.

Many Gulf Coast cities overhauled their disaster plans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago. With another destructive storm season ending Sunday, emergency planners are reflecting on lessons learned from Gustav and Ike to get ready for next year.

Retired Lt. Col. Jerry Sneed, New Orleans' emergency preparedness director, said residents deserve much of the credit for a successful Gustav evacuation.

"The number-one reason we succeeded for Gustav is that our citizens listened to us," he said.

Following catastrophic failures in evacuating people before and after Katrina, Louisiana emergency planners developed a model system using public transportation. It paid off for Gustav, the first time it was used.

'Mother of all storms'
Two days before Gustav made landfall, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation for what he called the "mother of all storms" and warned residents they wouldn't get emergency services if they stayed.

In a mass migration orchestrated by state officials, an estimated 2 million residents of coastal Louisiana evacuated before Gustav crashed ashore 90 miles southwest of the city Sept. 1.

The number of people left behind was minimal compared to Katrina, when thousands sought shelter at the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans convention center and were stranded for days without food and water.

Gustav was blamed for 46 deaths in Louisiana and caused $1.9 billion in insured losses, numbers dwarfed by Katrina's death toll of more than 1,600 and $41.1 billion in property damage.

"To our knowledge," Sneed said, "no city has ever evacuated their entire population, and we feel 97 percent of the city's population did evacuate."

There were some flaws: Evacuees were taken to shelters without showers or adequate medical care; a state contractor who was supposed to provide 700 buses for the evacuation only delivered 311; and victims endured long lines for disaster food stamps.

Thomas Sanchez, a University of Utah professor who studies evacuation planning, said cities can't plan for disasters in a vacuum.

"This kind of planning really has to happen on a regional basis, and that's not what we're finding," Sanchez said. "It's more than about a city figuring out how to take care of itself."

‘Hunker down’
Texas learned that the hard way. In 2005, before Hurricane Rita struck, its evacuation plan required Houston to wait until 2 million people on the Gulf Coast had moved past the city, which sits 50 miles inland. But city leaders ordered Houston to evacuate early anyway.

Hundreds of thousands jammed the freeways in sweltering late September, stalled for days. Some 110 people died in accidents or from exposure or heart attacks. Only a handful died in the storm itself, which missed the Houston area and hit mostly rural southeast Texas.

By the time Hurricane Ike's path was apparent — a direct hit on Galveston Island and Houston — mandatory evacuations were ordered for coastal counties and a few Houston ZIP codes along waterways sure to flood. Everyone else was ordered to stay put.

"We are still saying: Please shelter in place, or to use the Texas expression, hunker down," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the county's chief administrator, said at the time.

This time, the freeway was jammed leading away from Galveston immediately after the order, but by late afternoon on Sept. 12, the day before Ike arrived, many evacuees had made it north of Houston.

"'Hunker down' definitely got the message across," said Francisco Sanchez, a spokesman for the Harris County emergency management office.

Still, in part because of the direct hit on Galveston and Houston, Ike was blamed for at least 72 deaths, including 37 in Texas, and caused $8.1 billion in insured losses, eclipsing the $5.6 billion in damage attributed to Rita.

The 2008 hurricane season was one of the most active on record, with 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, forming in the Atlantic. Five of the eight hurricanes were at least Category 3 strength.


When the Great Lakes Aren't So Great Anymore

Rise in Pollution, Carp Could Signal Trouble for Freshwater Lakes


Dec. 6, 2008—

On a starry night, the 730-foot Canadian Leader, the last bulk-carrying steamship built on the Great Lakes, slips silently past illuminated buoys near Montreal on a five-day voyage up to Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Lake Superior.

After unloading titanium ore at the St. Lawrence River port of Sorel, the ship is proceeding empty toward the upper lakes. With the recent economic downturn, there is less demand for her typical upbound cargo of iron ore pellets. Capt. George Wheeler, a 40-year veteran of the sea originally from Northern Ireland, has taken on freshwater ballast from the river, to maintain the ship's stability and maneuverability.

Taken together, the Great Lakes are a vast inland sea representing over one-fifth of all surface fresh water on the planet. More than 40 million Canadians and Americans draw their drinking water from the lakes, which play a vital role in public health, the environment, industry, commerce, and leisure.

But there are causes for concern: invasive species, declining water levels, uncertain quality of drinking water, and pressures to divert water from and into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin. Signed into law by President George W. Bush Oct. 3, the Great Lakes Compact takes effect Dec. 8. The binational agreement, the fruit of regional initiatives, obliges eight American states and two Canadian provinces to work together to protect the lakes system.

"The Great Lakes Compact is an awesome victory," says Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for Healing Our Waters  Great Lakes Coalition. "No one predicted it could have happened so quickly. We can't protect the Great Lakes if there's no water in them. The cocktail of assaults may be pushing the Great Lakes toward a tipping point, an irreversible change in the food web."

Part of this assault is the introduction of 182 invasive species such as the zebra mussel, which began disrupting the food web on Lake St. Clair in 1988 and has clogged many water intake pipes since, at an annual cost running in the billions of dollars.

Typically, "salties" (oceangoing ships) reaching the Great Lakes from overseas via the St. Lawrence River have discharged invasive species along with their saltwater ballast once they reached lake ports. Lakers have unwittingly transported these invasive species in their freshwater ballast, from one point on the lakes to the next.

Zebra mussels have made lake water look cleaner than before. But for Mr. Skelding, the clarity of water is a problem. "Sure, zebra mussels filter water," he says, "but when the water is clearer, sunlight penetrates deeper, and organic material proliferates and absorbs much-needed oxygen in the water that is needed by fish and microorganisms." The result: "Dead zones."

Now a new pest is closing in on the lakes: Asian carp from the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have nearly found their way through the Chicago River to Lake Michigan.

"What gets into the Great Lakes can work through the country like a computer virus and dismantle the biology of systems," says Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes (AGL), a citizens' group of 6,000 professionals and volunteers working for clean water in the Great Lakes. The choke point is a 10-mile stretch of the Chicago River, the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal. "The bad news is," Mr. Davis continues, "even if we know where the choke point is, we are having a hard time taking action."

The Great Lakes Compact is expected to give federal, state, and provincial governments more muscle to take preventative action against invasive species.

Storms and Surges a Danger

Venturing "light ship" (without cargo) across the stormy lakes of autumn can be unsettling. When 50-knot northerly winds lash the surface of Lake Erie, sending some lakers into sheltered anchorages, Captain Wheeler decides to maintain course. Lake Erie is shallower than the other great lakes and more likely to be whipped up by storms. Ships at anchor off Toledo, Ohio, may suddenly find themselves aground when a short-term natural effect called "seiching" (pronounced "SAY-shing") drives surface water towards Buffalo, N.Y., at the eastern end of Lake Erie.

Despite a few seasonal blips, a 30-year trend shows that water levels are declining. This is one of the main reasons the Great Lakes Compact was rushed into law. Canadian and American entrepreneurs alike had been seeking ways to commercialize the freshwater resources of the Great Lakes, hoping to send it by pipe or ship to thirsty markets in the US Southwest and overseas.

Still, the Healing Our Waters  Great Lakes Coalition predicts that lake levels could drop this century by one foot on Lake Superior, three feet on Lakes Michigan and Huron, 2.7 feet on Lake Erie, and 1.7 feet on Lake Ontario.

Water levels are also a challenge for American ship operators, the largest of whose vessels are "1,000 footers" designed to carry 70,000 tons. The largest Canadian bulk carriers, like the Canadian Leader of the Upper Lakes Group, carry only half that much.

"Water levels are very important to us," says Glen Neksavil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, a trade association based in Rocky River, Ohio, which represents 16 American companies operating 63 vessels exclusively on the lakes. "When water levels were high back in 1997, some of our ships were carrying 70,000 tons of cargo per trip. This year, they are carrying 66,500 tons&. Our largest ships lose 270 tons of cargo for each inch in draft caused by lower water," he says.

"The US Army Corps of Engineers estimate they have a backlog of 17 million cubic yards of sediment in virtually every US port on the Great Lakes," says Mr. Neksavil. "That would cost $230 million to dredge. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is funded by a tax on cargoes, and currently has a surplus of $4.8 billion, which I think the government is using to balance its books."

Drinking-Water Safety an Issue

The Canadian Leader slows at Ambassador Bridge, on the Detroit River between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, long enough to pick up mail for the crew. Tundra swans and snow geese laze on the sparkling water.

Detroit draws its drinking water from the river, and the concentration of ships, steel mills, and car plants here reminds one how dependent Great Lakes communities are on freshwater resources.

"Drinking water from the Great Lakes is the envy of the world," Davis says.

But a series of scientific reports has raised concerns about drinking water in Detroit and other communities. Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals flushed down toilets have found their way into river water. Byproducts of chlorine treatment and disinfection, coliform bacteria, and lead also pose health risks. Canadian petrochemical plants at Sarnia on the St. Clair River are also a concern.

Sewage overflows are a major problem. "During heavy rainstorms," Davis says, "it's easy for treatment plants to risk being overwhelmed. There are two things we can do to help: conserve water, so that we're not using as much, and use 'green infrastructure,' like rooftop gardens, to cut the amount of stormwater that needs to be treated."

On to Thunder Bay, Ontario

Under cover of night, the Canadian Leader transits the Soo lock on the St. Mary's River between Michigan and Ontario, passing a huge windfarm on the Canadian side. Then it's 18 hours of steaming out of sight of land, across glittering Lake Superior, before docking at a grain elevator in Thunder Bay to pick up a 28,000-ton load of durum wheat.

Lake Superior's temperature is rising, says Jay Austin, an oceanographer at the Large Lakes Observatory of the University of Minnesota at Duluth. "Temperature is the most important environmental variable" in a lake, he says. It determines "the chemical reaction rates, the metabolism rates of fish, phytoplankton, and zooplankton, and the spawning rates of fish."

Mr. Austin and his colleague Steve Colman are deploying an array of moorings at different depths in Lake Superior, from just below the surface to some 1,300 feet down, just above the lake bottom. "Surface water in Lake Superior is warming faster than the air temperature," he says. "Lakes Michigan and Huron also seem to be experiencing the accelerated warming phenomenon, although not Lake Erie."

Less ice cover in winter means more evaporation, which in turn lowers water levels, stressing ecosystems. Austin says change on this scale is hard to ima¬gine, much less control. The warming of the Great Lakes is its latest challenge, he says  perhaps its most serious one.

U.S. Coast Guard Responds To Healy Tragedy, Opens Regional Dive Facilities; 'We Will Not Accept Preventable Loss Or Injury' News Service

December 11, 2008 16:22 EST

San Diego, California -- On Aug. 17, 2006, two active duty military members' lives were cut short during a cold water familiarization diving accident in the Arctic aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy.

The Coast Guard initiated an immediate administrative and safety investigation into the circumstances which contributed and ultimately led up to the regrettable deaths.

In a statement included in the investigation report, Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said, "We cannot prevent every Coast Guard casualty. Despite the professionalism, bravery and dedication of our workforce, in rare cases we suffer serious injury or death in the line of duty. As Coast Guard men and women we accept this risk, but we will not accept preventable loss or injury.

The investigation into this accident revealed failures in oversight at every level aboard Healy, as well as numerous departures from standard Coast Guard policy. This mishap further highlighted the need to improve diving expertise at units with dive capabilities and missions, address shortfalls in training and experience, and elevate program managements and oversight on par with other high-risk, training-intensive Coast Guard operations such as aviation."

Another goal of the Coast Guard's study was to initiate several new policies and procedures to prevent future diving mishaps while finding a cost-effective method for increasing the safe execution and reducing the risks of such a dangerous operation.

Consequently, the Coast Guard established regional dive lockers on the East and West coasts of the USA, staffed with highly-trained, professional divers capable of responding to apportioned or emergent operations.

"After tragically losing two of our shipmates and fellow divers, it was important to set up the regional dive lockers to provide the management, oversight and inspection process needed to meet all Coast Guard diving missions in the safest manner possible," said Lt.j.g. Andrew Younkle, deployable operations group(DOG) diving force manager in Arlington, Va.

Not only will the regional dive lockers help the Coast Guard execute vital diving missions more safely, but the missions are also expected to assist in the war on terrorism.

"The dive lockers are going to make America safer by deterring terrorists and smugglers who look at sub-surface operations as a means to hurt our country," emphasized Younkle.

Younkle also said the dive lockers and teams will be supporting the Coast Guard's Polar Class Icebreaker missions, District 14 buoy tender missions, maritime security missions and provide needed services to the captains of the ports in all major U.S. cities.

"During ice breaking missions, divers can provide pitch calibrations and emergency services to assist in keeping the polar class icebreakers at peak performance. When the cutter is performing well, it opens key shipping lanes thus improving our economy. Also, when requested by Coast Guard Buoy Tenders, the dive lockers can augment the collateral-duty divers currently serving aboard the buoy tenders. The Dive Locker personnel can help with in-water inspections and maintenance of aids to navigation in District 14," he said referring to the Coast Guard's operational area in Hawaii and surrounding Pacific Islands.

The dive lockers, which became fully operational Oct. 1, 2008, are staffed with a dive officer supervisor who is responsible for three primary-duty, six-person dive teams that focus solely on dive operations.

"Prior to the dive lockers, we were running minimally manned dive teams," said Lt. Trevor Hare, command diving officer stationed at regional dive locker west in San Diego.

Hare said the old diving units had the collateral-duty divers doing so many things at different times that when it was time to execute a dive the divers were too tired from other missions and not focused on the dive.

"Another safety concern was that the collateral duty divers weren't staying current on their qualifications, and even if they did, they weren't really used to diving. Now, with the lockers, we have enough personnel to man the dive site optimally instead of minimally," said Hare, who has been diving for three years.

Aside from the safety aspect the dive lockers bring to the Coast Guard, dive teams will be able to focus on the mission and complete a dive in a timelier manner.

"Having more personnel on site is going to enable us to knock out a mission much quicker than before. These are guys who dive all the time - the focus on diving every day - and that's all they do for the Coast Guard, so you know they do it professionally, efficiently and safely," Hare said.

The dive teams are comprised of Coast Guard members from all rates whose minimum qualification is the 88-day Second Class Diver Course at the Naval Diving Salvage Training Center (NDSTC).

"We have about every rate you can imagine, and they are coming from every single unit via maritime safety and security units, polar divers and buoy tender divers. It gives us such a wide range of experience, and it's good diversity for our unit," said Hare, referring to the dive team in San Diego.

Hare also said divers must maintain diver currency by completing 13 annual and 13 semi-annual training tasks, complete at least four re-qualification dives and pass two physical fitness tests annually.

"The training tasks and re-qualification dives were determined by the Coast Guard to be the minimum necessary items to maintain proficiency and certification in the Coast Guard diving community. We dive to serve America, and we train and PT to serve as safely and effectively as possible," he said.

Hare said the training is crucial because the classroom, dive side and physical training tasks keep divers sharp with respect to dive side protocol, diving medicine, diving physics, practical diving performance, in-water proficiency and physical conditioning pertinent to military diving.

The Coast Guard is creating a process for selecting potential candidates for the regional dive lockers. Until that process is established, a Coast Guard member can compete for diver selection by sending his or her dive package to NDSTC after obtaining command approval.

"The dive billets are typically three years," said Younkle. "However, many of our divers seek follow-on assignments to buoy tenders, NDSTC or the DOG to continue diving for the Coast Guard."

According to the final action memo from the Coast Guard cutter Healy's mishap investigation, Allen identified areas of the dive program management that needed improvement and reevaluation.

The establishment of the regional dive lockers improves the Coast Guard dive program and enables the mission to be accomplished.