Fresh air, wind, motion, oh my god how will I land in this if this is a “nice” day? (Update: It’s actually not as bad now that I’m doing it.)
Getting my Sea Legs
Today we left Suva, and began to sail to the fishing grounds. Whatever that means, I really have no idea where we are going – I’m on a boat with only a handful of English speaking crewmembers steaming into the open ocean in the Pacific – talk about taking life on at full bore. It has been an interesting day so far, a lot of unique experiences and we’re barely out to sea. In fact just leaving port was a curious adventure, for me. First I discovered that my prized KCCO water bottle was missing, oh god I’d forgot it at the hotel. Fortunately it was only a few moments away from the port. I asked the first officer for permission to fetch it and hailed a taxi. My water bottle is now worth about 5 Fijian dollars more than it was before.
The rest of the crew are seasoned and know what the deal is with departing a port. You see, I’d spent the last day and a half in a mild panic because the port agent had taken my passport when he brought me to the Caribe – but he had not returned it. In fact, he had vanished entirely. Here I am, the lone American on this tub, with no passport to be seen. Today the agent showed back up with a plastic baggie full of the entire crews passports. That was a relief for me, because he showed up at half past a moment before we let the ropes out and I was in a growing state of worry that my Korean captain wouldn’t give a damn if we left without my passport. The entire crew was called to the fish deck and the Fijian customs people went through our passports and cleared us out of the country. Promptly handing my passport to…….the first officer, who placed it into another bag with the rest of the crew passports. Well, I guess I’m part of the team now officially. And won’t see that for another year. Great. I’m not too worried, I don’t see them getting very far – we’re on the open ocean. [As I typed that last sentence the them to Pirates of the Caribbean came on – love coincidence]
First, I must say that if you are like me and “don’t get motion sickness” just plan on getting sea sick at first. It’s weird, it’s like having your eyes closed while flying the helicopter in instrument training, unusual attitudes at all times as the deck pitches left and right and the bow breaks up and down. Your senses are treated to a barrage of motions that your brain can’t make head or tails of, especially if you’re in your cabin because you no longer have a visual reference for what is going on with your body. The way this boat rolls makes me think of a sudden drop in the collective, followed by a quick aft cyclic input. Suddenly you feel heavy and pulled toward the port side hull, then you feel light and floating toward the right. I don’t get motion sick, air sick, or car sick. I was starting to feel woozy after a few hours.
The solution, get my ass outside and breath in some fresh ocean air, take in some sun, and get my eyes on the damned horizon. Problem solved. The air swirls around me as I step out of the hatch, and climb the ladder up to the helicopter deck. For only doing around 12 knots – I feel like I’m in a good 20 knot wind. The pilot brain in me starts computing how I would make approaches or take off in this wind. The brooding pessimist part of my helicopter ego has me thinking about everything that could go wrong trying to land on a ship with a deck pitching this much. It’s going to take a lot of skill.
One thing I should mention now is that if you don’t like Asian food than do not apply. A lot of the people I spoke to often cautioned against coming out here simply because the food is so nasty. I don’t think they really got it. It’s some of the better Korean food I’ve eaten. The one downside I can see to this arrangement is that in a few months I’m going to be really damn fed up with Korean food. It’s a novelty item for us at home, right? We all (those of us who like Korean food) have that one restaurant that we love to eat at every now and then. And we feel funny while we are there eating all those sides out of little dishes, and sipping broth soups. It’s special. Well now imagine that you have to eat at your favorite Korean restaurant every meal, of every day, for the next year. See what I’m getting at? It’s gonna get old. I’m eager to see what we have for breakfast, and to see how the menu changes when we have fresh tuna on board. I predict – more fish smells in the galley.
Now, liking Korean food or not, just finding my sea legs and dealing with the nausea of being on the open ocean in a boat displacing less than 10,000 tons that is empty of fish is not the time to indulge in all the Kim chi my belly can hold. It tasted great going down, but tasted terrible in the form of cautionary burps as the deck rolled. Fortunately I was spared the terrible fate of reliving my lunch. Note to self, while getting used to the pitch and roll of the deck – mostly rice. Which won’t be hard given the amount of rice I saw the boat stock up on before we left port.
We pointed ourselves south southwest and began to steam away from Fiji. I’m not sure if we are still pointing that way but I’ll check later when I do my nightly GPS check-in. Cruise speed seems to be about 15 miles per hour for the Caribe, and as the day drug on I realized this job came shackled to a lot of downtime. We asked the Captain permission to do a test flight as soon as we were clear of Fiji but he said no, he wanted us to be well clear of Fijian airspace and waters before we began flight ops. Ok, no flying on day #1 at sea, I get that. Probably better anyways that I figure out the way this place works. Oh, and get my sea legs.
I’ll admit I long for the air, as much as possible. There is something unsettling about the way the boat moves all the time. I am looking forward to straight and level, smooth air, no rocking and rolling. But I can’t help but thing that flying after spending any length of time on a pitching boat is going to call on a lot of attitude flying in opposition to my senses. You know how you feel like you’re still swaying and rolling after you get off of a boat on the lake for a day. It takes a few hours for that sensation to wear off. The flights here are supposedly fairly short, not nearly long enough to level out. I’ll let you know if I fly with a wobble tomorrow.