February 08, 2001
At 0800 Atlantic Standard Time, the Training Ship Empire State was located at 22 degrees and 36 minutes N Latitude, 078 degrees and 00 minutes W Longitude. She was steering course 305 degrees true at a speed of 17 knots, enroute to New Orleans, Louisiana. Cuba's Cayo Coca Bay was 06 nautical miles to the southwest. The air temperature was 74 degrees and water 78 degrees Fahrenheit; skies were partly cloudy; winds were from the Northeast at 04 knots; barometric pressure was 1020 millibars. Seas were gently rolling at 2 to 4 feet. Depth of water beneath the keel was 536 meters.
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. Muhammad Ali
As I begin the Captain's Log, we are just exiting the Old Bahamas Channel - a relatively narrow cut of water between Cuba and the shallows of the Bahamas Bank. The Sailing Directions note that the channel is "the most dangerous 34 miles in the Bahamas". Yet, large vessels routinely use this "treacherous" route when sailing between the Greater Antilles Islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and Florida. Where is the peril, you ask? Well, first, there is nearly no land to the north with which to establish radar ranges and bearings. To the South the land is predominantly low-lying, mangrove swamp. Nothing to bounce radar signals off of, so no help there. That terrain or lack thereof, is disconcerting to navigators who must rely solely on visual position information to fix ship's position. Then, to make matters worse, there are significant currents and winds that cloud the nav picture.
In order to understand the risks, one must appreciate the fact that most nautical dangers are matters of both myth and record. Here, the inshore ocean floor is a Marine Archeologist's dream - strewn with wrecks and artifacts that tell dreadful tales of nautical disasters through the ages. Sea stories surrounding "treasure" abound. Consequently, the warnings so plainly written in the current Sailing Directions are an epitaph to real tragedies and a harsh reminder of present perils. The prudent take heed.
Actually, the channel is over eight miles wide and brilliantly lit navigation lights mark both sides. Empire State is equipped with reliable Global Positioning Systems (GPS) so our cadet navigators can fix our ship's position with incredible accuracy. We also have lookouts posted everywhere and qualified Master Mariners watching over the cadet's shoulders on every watch. Two different radars spin on our masts, peering into the darkness. At dawn and dusk, sextants point to the skies like expensive cameras at a Kodak Moment. Aboard Empire State, we practice age-old skills as hedge against up-to-the-minute disasters. We balance technologies and computer enhanced displays with basic headwork and old fashioned vigilance. Yet marine disasters can still happen. So, the ominous warning on the chart will stay. The Old Bahamas Channel will be labeled "the most dangerous 34 miles" until every vessel is equipped with radar; electronic navigation capable; and manned with the infallible. Will that time ever come?
When reviewing the morning weather observations, I noticed that the wind direction has shifted to the Northeast, a sign that we are moving into higher latitudes and out of the easterly trade winds that have dominated our weather for the last three weeks. As we move farther north, wind direction will become more variable and I expect to see winds from the southwest around to the North - Northeast. The barometric pressure will rise, sea temperature will drop, and cadets will become more anxious. These are sure signs that Sea Term is on the wane. As we approach New Orleans, talk is shifting to things of home and seniors are sweating the license exams. But the last port of call is a long way from home - there is much more to learn, and the cycle continues.
Well folks, Cuba is only six miles to the southwest and I am going to have a look see.
Ah yes, the stowaway inspection turned up no extra bodies, so everyone can stop worrying about dealing with new inlaws. Take care...See you tomorrow.
Third Class Cadet Deck Perspective, Cadet 3/C Adam Mara
Hello, My name is Adam Mara. I am from Harvard, MA, and I am the Sophomore Class President. I am sailing as a 3/C Deck Cadet on Sea Term 2001. This means I am a Marine Transportation Major involved with the duties of piloting and navigating the ship. For instance, during the first segment of sea term, I was involved in classroom work from 0800-1600, learning everything from basic seamanship (such as knot tying) to radar navigation, and firefighting. The next day I applied my freshly learned skills in real life situations while standing bridge watch. Watches are four hours long and we usually stand two watches per day. While on watch, a sophomore holds some responsibility as an assistant navigator, steering the ship at the helm, or as the assistant bosun's mate.
Each job is a key component to operating a safe ship. The assistant navigator helps the Cadet Watch Officer, a senior, by plotting courses and positions using the various navigation instruments. The quartermaster of the watch keeps the official logbook and records all course changes, lookout reports, weather data, and any incidents that might occur. (This is a key role, as the captain carefully reviews the log during every watch.) The helmsman steers the ship as specifically ordered by the Cadet Officer of the Watch or Staff Officer of the Deck. The assistant bosun's mate stands watch on the quarterdeck, in the house or living quarters of the ship. His or her job is to assist the cadet bosun in making sure that the ship is properly stowed for sea and to be alert for any safety problems - a little like a night watchman for the ship.
Now, we are in the Phase Two of the duty rotation and my division is assigned maintenance. While other divisions attend classes and stand watch we are responsible for the daily maintenance of the ship. Painting, needle gunning, swabbing, and sweeping are routine chores. We also provide scullery workers and operate the trash compactors.
During two of the three phases, 3/C Deckies must complete a voyage plan, which counts for approximately 1/3 of the sea term grade. The project consists of planning a real life voyage. Chart work, tides, currents, port information, and compass observations are some of the elements that make up the project. In order to complete the work on time, we must devote an average of 1-2 hours a day to it.
Being at sea, aboard ship, is really life in the simplest form; you eat, sleep, and work with your friends. Before becoming a cadet, I watched my older brother ship out with MMA but I did not understand, nor appreciate the meaning of being at sea or how impressive it is to see water in every direction... to the horizon. I enjoy it. There is no better way to learn the skills of our trade than real life application. In essence, the training cruise is an apprenticeship combined with academic work that prepares cadets to be the best in the field. Sea Term is more than learning seamanship, the experiences here relate to all aspects of life
Daily Life ,Cadet 2/C Angela Abbott
An average day aboard the T.S. Empire State is filled with activity. One can find cadets and crew on every inch of the ship. Today for example, cadets were on the bow painting, sun bathing, studying, and playing ball. Amidships, deck cadets were splicing line and tying knots on a hawser. In the house, cadets were cleaning and standing watch, and attending classes. On the bridge cadets, officers, and crewmembers were keeping lookout, navigating, steering, and watching the radar. The Captain is busily contacting the appropriate people in New Orleans, and ensuring that everything is going smoothly. Down in the engine room, people are very busy because equipment must be maintained every day! Cadets are standing watch, painting, cleaning, and making constant repairs. Back on the stern, cadets are studying, relaxing, and taking classes. The MSEP students have a lab on the fantail and have collected specimens of many interesting aquatic creatures. Many are microscopic in size and microscopes are available to watch them. No matter where you go, people are busy. Every job is important, whether it is sleeping before going on watch or cleaning before inspections and the cadets working to arrive to each port safely.
QUESTIONS FOR FRIDAY 09 FEBRUARY
The chef knows that a quart of milk and cream contain 28 ounces of milk. If she adds 8 ounces of cream, what percent of the new mixture is cream?
Which of the following are homoiothermic? A) Marine mammals. B) Sea Birds. C) Antarctic fish. D) All of the above.
Name the Capital of the US Virgin Islands.
The last Dinosaurs died out in what period? How long ago?
ANSWERS FOR THURSDAY 08 FEBRUARY
The ship turned 135 degrees.
The Hydrologic Cycle.
The only tropical rain forest is the EL YUNQUE, part of the Caribbean National Forest on Puerto Rico.
The Holocene is today and the last 11,000 years.