August 19-20: Learning the Knot Trade at Sea
And with a bang we once again steam out of Newport towards Slope Base at approximately 44° 31.6326′ of latitude and around -125° 22.8303′, only instead of a bang it was a very slow and rough crawl during transit as the weather over the bar was once again less than ideal.
I found myself frantically checking the weather reports from the Coast Guard during our extended downtime in Newport and although things seemed to quiet down towards our departure, rough winds of 20-30 knots and 8-11’ squalls are still nothing to scoff at, not at all.
Nevertheless, with our stores replenished, and a new set of sailors to go with them, we shoved off past the bar and into the open sea. As expected, things were rough, and I managed to amuse myself during the long transit by going back and forth between the main, analytical, and wet labs tying things down that I had noticed come loose in the squalls or that I had been alerted to. With that taken care of, I had some time to sit on the bow and ride the ship as it pitched and rolled wildly in the rough seas. It sounds cliché, but there truly is no other feeling like being a few hundred miles offshore with the howling winds and waves coming over the side with no land in sight. I personally find it weirdly therapeutic enough in a way, and maybe I’m just being overly dramatic, but its these kinds of moments that remind me just why I chose to study oceanography.
However, I can only spend so much time gazing off into the blue abyss before my short attention span takes over and so I headed back inside the Main Lab to continue what has become my latest passion in life, decorative knot craft. I find myself tying an alarming number of knots — everything from monkeys’ fists to Turk’s head bracelets, bowlines, square knots, trucker’s hitches, and everything in between. I worry for my own sanity as I become increasingly good at things, and I keep returning to the line locker, cutting myself another length of line, and wrapping yet another of the crew’s water bottles with an elaborate series of twists and braids. I have become a knot-tying machine that cannot be stopped and there is no end in sight as I turn the page to Staurt Grainger’s Creative ropecraft 4th edition to learn yet another type of five-strand French sennit. And despite the material cost of my new hobby, it has taught me a lot of useful skills that I can apply to operations on the ship. The ability to put whippings and eye splices both at the end and in the middle of lines makes tying trucker’s hitches and pulling tension to tie things down in the undervator has been invaluable as I learn about rigging for Jason dives.
Also, my new obsession with the more creative side of knot-tying has allowed me to explore making various types of mats and pleats such as the ocean plait or Celtic weave. These are the same types of knots that you’ll often find in furniture stores serving as doormats and things and I’ve found that not only do they look very appealing, but they also serve a functional purpose as you can use them as coasters and non-skid mats for equipment on your desk. I’ve made quite a few nice-looking mats now but my most recent project was learning how to weave netting that allowed me to turn the chief engineers hard hat into something akin to a pith helmet, (if you couldn’t tell already, I had a lot of time during transit).
But soon the line-locker was spared as we arrived on site at Slope Base, and after a few more weather delays we soon had Jason in the water and hunting for the deep-profiler mooring. This dive, (J2-1367), was short and simple although the high waves did make things increasingly stressful for everyone on board. As always however, the Jason and ships crew handled things calmly and professionally and soon the massive orange float made of syntactic was located and a beacon was attached so that it could be located later. A resident blue shark greeted us on the descent to 2900 m to find the deep profiler’s mooring which is always a welcome event and soon the cable was disconnected from the base, moved into recovery position, and Jason was back on deck as soon as it started.
Overall, I feel that things went well, and even if there are rough weather delays, I know I don’t mind a little more time at sea.