Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 45- Living on Liquid

Noon Coordinates: 35°11'24.00"N 164°39'0.00"W
As we return to Honolulu and near the completion of our historic 6,000 mile voyage through the plastic soup to the International Dateline, I should tell you something about the extraordinary vessel that made all this scientific sampling of ocean plastic pollution possible. My “Little Kelp Plant” Alguita was not built on an assembly line. She was the product of a lifetime of sailing experience, years of research into vessel design, and collaboration among experts from the other side of the world. Her virtue is that she is the smallest, most economical vessel that can carry a crew of 6 in relative comfort while monitoring vast areas of the central North Pacific Ocean. You see, living on a liquid is different from living on solid ground. First off, you have to live in a container. Innumerable containers for this purpose have been designed over the years, but for sailing ability, interior space and providing a stable platform for research, I believe the catamaran tops the list.

Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita, Is 25 feet wide and 50 feet long, her two aluminum hulls set wide apart to provide stability. The underwing that attaches the two hulls together also serves as the floor or her ample bridge and galley. In a car, the noise of the tires rolling over the road can be made nearly inaudible to the occupants, but there is no way in a small boat, despite insulation throughout, to silence the whoosing of ocean waves being thrown out by the hulls. Additionally, the low slung underwing is only about 18” above the water surface, so that the whooshing is punctuated by waves confined between the hulls hitting it with a bang that feels like a car crashing over a tree stump. In moderate to heavy seas, we get frequent reminders that the particular liquid we are living on is not compressible. But what a sailor she is, with her main and genoa on a beam reach, she can easily do half the wind speed, and with her spinnaker set downwind, she sails along smartly.

We have gotten the winds we wanted for our sail back to Honolulu, with a gigantic cyclonic low smashing the high that creates the gyre, and are currently whooshing along on a beam reach at 9-11 knots in a blustery 25-35 knot gale. Free fuel (wind), free energy (a kilowatt of solar panels), and free water made from seawater by a solar powered reverse osmosis system. With conditions like this, our range, like that of the albatross, is truly unlimited. Our most recent voyage was a lot like that of the foraging mother albatross, Amelia, in Carl Safina’s lovely book, Eye of the Albatross - leaving the Northwest Hawaiian Islands we passed through the Musicians Seamounts, reached the International Dateline, headed due north to the subarctic frontal zone, grabbed the westerlies there and headed back down to the islands. Alguita has provided hot water for showers, cold water to drink, fresh food to eat (we still have squash, eggs, onions, cabbage, garlic, yams, leeks, and a small watermelon and a pineapple), frozen food to thaw, a propane stove to cook on and an oven to bake in. We have done day and night dives and refilled scuba tanks with our electric air compressor. We have accessed our extensive spare parts locker to replace a failed water pump, used our many tools for numerous repairs, including a tap and die set to reset a stripped bolt on the port engine, and repaired many lines and sails with our marlinspike seamanship skills. We even patched a leak in the underwing, which gets impacted by debris like heavy fishing floats smashing into it as they pass between the hulls. So our container is an amazingly versatile and functional one, not only for living safely and economically on liquid, but for studying its unknown, but important qualities. Thanks to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, we have been able to keep Alguita involved in research important to marine conservation for the past 15 years.

Whooosh - woops, there’s another treestump, bang thump, but hey, for 10 free knots of boat speed its worth it!

Captain Charles Moore
1000 miles north of Honolulu


srchief said...

Wow! What a 24 hour run. How many miles did you log from noon posit to noon posit? I am not sure what your record is but, that is the most ground in 24 hours I have ever tracked of your voyages since January 2008.

Herb said...


Saw you on PBS tonight. Hope you're having a successful voyage.