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The obligatory ‘Bon voyage!’

Ben Chichester

We’re off! Commence the #JC149 April-June 2017 cruise.

Easter Weekend Prep

Rather than gorging ourselves on Easter eggs this year, the science party have spent Easter weekend docked in the Bahamas preparing to set sail across the Caribbean aboard the RRS James Cook.

The RRS James Cook, eager to sail

While Jenny (principal scientist), Andreas and Tim (technical coordinators) carried out tense preparations and planning, the six student watch-keepers (Ben (me!), Chris, Mel, Rob, Sian and Tania) had time to explore the ship and familiarise ourselves with our duties before departure. Saturday evening even involved an excursion to a local bar named Rooster’s – an ostensibly odd construction almost within the port, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Entering, however, you are presented with a lovely little terraced bar, stage and a couple of pool tables (and of course some bangin’ tunes). Merry schmoozing was inevitable, providing us an opportunity to become acquainted with the other crewmembers. Fully acquainted you may say, as one chap introduced himself by performing The Snail – a dance move that I will leave to your imagination. Overall, having not been at sea before, or at least upon the JC, us new fish are particularly grateful for the slower transition into ship life.

Chris and Ben checking the airguns

Ship Shape

First impression: The RRS James Cook is plush. It holds a gym and A SAUNA. The food is abundant and delicious. There’s a bar, table football, darts (strange under the rolling and pitching of a ship…), a cinema and surround sound. Not to take away from the technical prowess of the ship of course – expect ample ‘Ooh!’s and ‘Aah!’s.

Exiting port. Slowly does it…

After two days of prep. and familiarisation, on Monday we smoothly left port, dwarfed by container ships, and sailed out into the wide, blue, wet Caribbean sea. Our shifts then promptly began. Thankfully Mel and I didn’t have to start our daily 4am watch until the next day, so we had slightly longer to adjust!

Safety First

TO MUSTER STATIONS! Within a few hours of setting sail, it was time for the muster drill. The science party’s muster station in the event of the general alarm is on the aft deck, at the back of the ship. All gathered – hard hats, steel-toed boots and life jackets donned – a crewmember that goes by the name of Armchair called our names to ensure we were all there. Then, off to our individually assigned lifeboat – a small, bright orange boat able to hold the entire crew! Cosy. The helpful third mate assured us that if it was just us scientists left to release and operate the lifeboat, we would most likely be done for… Wilson!!

Mel on a boat, next to a boat

With all the safety procedures out of the way, it’s pretty smooth sailing as we head towards international waters to test out our airguns and streamer. As the saying goes, sun’s out guns out!

Rob and the sunset, pensively awaiting the streamer and airguns