Hove-to in the SPGC

April 22, 2024

Author: Charlie Wiebe, B Watch, Willamette University


Keya, Charlie, and Willa atop the roof of the lab, photo: Elaina.

Ship's Log

Sunday 21 April 2024

Noon Position (Lat and Long): 32°26.716’S x 145°58.727’W

Ship Heading (degrees): 357

Ship Speed (knots): 6

Taffrail Log (nm): 2701

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan: At 1300: Winds NE at a force 4, reduced
visibility due to rain, motorsailing on a port tack under the stays’ls and
the jib.

Description of location: In the core of the South Pacific Gyre, currently hove-to in an
attempt to wait out gale-force winds.

I thought that a good way of providing my family with a better understanding
of my daily boat life would be to take you all on a virtual tour of the
Bobby C., highlighting some of my favorite spots.

Our tour begins in the forward-most portion of the accommodation deck, or
“Boy Corner,” where my bunk is located. I feel extremely blessed in my bunk
placement. It’s relatively spacious (emphasis on the “relatively”), and
cozied-up with various maps, images of fish, and oceanography-relevant
posters that I’ve accumulated along my journey from Woods Hole to the
Pacific. A porthole allows me to gaze out across the rolling waves, and
occasionally, when the swells are violent enough to submerge my window, into
the deep blue. It also makes waking up for morning watch bearable by
providing a glimpse of the usually jaw-dropping sunrise awaiting me on deck.

After carefully jumping down from my bunk onto a slanted sole, we walk down
a narrow, unlit hallway until reaching a sealed metal door. From this
vantage point, no sound gives away the chaos that lurks behind. As soon as
the seal is broken, however, light permeates into the previously dark
hallway, along with the sounds of fiddle players, guitar players, and
singers. We’ve entered the salon. Being the main hub of at-sea
socialization, people fill the comfy seats lining the outboard bulkheads,
either listening/singing along to the music, chatting with each other, or
playing cards (“Star Realms” is a ship favorite).

We make our way through the salon and up two ladders, where we’re met by the
blinding light of the sea’s surface and a blast of fresh, salty air. We ask
the standing Watch Officer if we can climb atop the lab’s roof. Assuming a
positive response, we clamber up. Isolated from the bustle of the
quarterdeck and covered in makeshift lounge chairs (bags filled with sails),
the lab’s roof has become my favorite spot for reading, viewing the sunset
in it’s 360 degree entirety, and hanging out with my lovely fellow
B-watchers (plus Dewey).

We hop down and begin to enter the lab we’ve been sitting atop. Although
I’ve grown to love the responsibilities associated with deck watch,
including striking/setting sails and manning the helm, I can’t help but be
thrilled whenever I check the daily schedule and see that my next watch will
be spent in the lab. Before entering the dry lab, we check in on our
“aquarium,” which has been home to various critters of interest caught in
our Neuston and meter net tows. My personal favorite pet was a mysterious
unidentified siphonophore (maybe) that was nearly entirely transparent and
could stretch out to over a foot long, or contract into a tight ball. We
nicknamed him “Siphonobeeps.” May he rest in peace. The lab itself is dimly
illuminated by three computer screens that help orient us in space: one that
maps the depth of the ocean floor below us as we pass over sea mounts,
trenches, and plateaus (it’s still difficult to wrap my head around the
<tel:5000-6000> 5000-6000 meters of water that lie below us most of the
time), another that records various measurements of the water we’re sailing
through (temperature, salinity, chlorophyll-a concentration, etc.), and one
more that maps the path of our ship in longitude and latitude, along with
the magnitude and direction of currents pushing us around. Another fourth
computer screen shows the live view of a microscope, usually containing
samples taken from our tows. Exploring these samples and the vast diversity
of organisms swimming around us has become my favorite lab activity.

The final stop on our tour is the ship’s bow, where one student stands
lookout at all times. I feel lucky whenever it’s my turn. When the sea is
calm it’s easy to let my mind wander and become lost in thought, and when
it’s violent, standing lookout provides the exact same sensation as riding
on a roller coaster. I oftentimes find myself hooting and hollering as the
waves lift me high into the air, then plummet me back down towards the
water’s surface. Although his worries were understandable, I was extremely
disappointed earlier this week when my watch officer, Rocky, forced me to
forfeit my duties at the ship’s bow due to winds that were bordering on

If it isn’t yet clear from the way I’ve described my life at sea, I’ve
thoroughly loved the three weeks I’ve spent in the Pacific. I still
oftentimes find myself longing for information from the terrestrial world. I
hope my family and friends back home are doing well; I miss you all very
much and can’t wait to receive updates as soon as I can.

Postscript: Now that we’re officially heading North to Tahiti, I’m sure
everyone is desperately wondering who won the contest of predicting when our
left turn would take place- previously mentioned by JD. Amanda won with a
prediction that varied from our actual turn time by a mere five minutes, but
Nick (3rd Scientist) was the only person on board who accurately predicted
that our left turn would actually be a right turn. He is very proud and says
hi to his parents.

Charlie Wiebe, B Watch, Willamette University

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  1. Mary OBrien Torres April 23, 2024 at 16:55 - Reply

    Can’t wait to hear why it was a right turn!

  2. Franck Wiebe April 26, 2024 at 09:43 - Reply

    Thanks for the update, Charlie! We’ve been reading the other posts and were beginning to worry that you might have left the boat! My guess is that the right turn was necessary due to the cloverleaf at the intersection! You can’t turn left directly into oncoming traffic — everybody knows that!

    Back in the terrestrial world, your mom crushed the Inca Trail, I crushed an Inka Cola, and your brother in Peru already has plans for your visit later this year. The rest of us are eager to have you back home for the summer and fire up some Strato!

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