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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oregon Coast Aquarium

Although the weather here in Newport has been amazingly nice of late,
I know full well that it won't be that long before we'll be hunkered
down in the boat with the wind and the rain whipping the marina into a
frenzy outside. After a couple weeks of that it would be nice to have
a little diversion. So, with that in mind, I decided to volunteer at
the Oregon Coast Aquarium (OCAq) until our planned departure next
summer. This decision came at a really opportune time since it just
happened to coincide with the OCAq's scheduled classes for new
volunteers. And, the Aquarium is a whole 5 minute walk from the boat.

Now I figured that volunteers would be put to work greeting visitors
(some are) and helping clean up (some are) and maybe helping out with
setting up exhibits (some are). However, the vast majority of the
volunteers fill the Aquarium's greatest need: on-floor interpreters.
I had no idea what that was but, heck I'm game so I decided to train
to be an interpreter. The classes are all day (9-5) every Saturday
for 6 weeks. That's a lot of classwork. We also get 2-3 hours of
homework each week. But since the interpreters are generally the
public's main contact with the Aquarium, it's important to have some
vague idea of what we're doing. The job of interpreters is to work
out on the floor at the exhibits helping visitors to not only
understand what they are seeing, but possibly to enable them to tie it
in to the bigger picture and to learn a little bit more about the
critters than what is printed on the reader boards. I've been
learning a LOT and I've only just completed week 3. I'm completely
overwhelmed but have been assured that it will all fall into place as
time goes on and I gain experience on the floor. For my own benefit,
I think the stuff I learn is going to make re-reading John Steinbeck's
"The Log From The Sea Of Cortez" way more interesting and even more so
since I plan t read it when we're actually in the Sea of Cortez.
Plus, I get to come and go at the Aquarium as I please which is pretty

After our 6 weeks of training we'll shadow another volunteer for a bit
and then we'll be turned loose. We're expected to work one 5-hour
shift per week although I've signed up to work two. It's all a bit
intimidating right now, but I'm anxious to get started. If the
schedule works out I'm also going to volunteer to help tear down the
rotating exhibit (currently"Oddwater") in November and help build the
new exhibit ("Swamplands") which is scheduled to open in May.

A few interesting factoids I've learned so far:

- Fish have pectoral fins, eels don't, Therefore the Wolf Eel isn't
really an eel.
- Sea stars can extrude their stomachs into or onto their prey. Ochre
stars, which dine primarily on mussels, can get their stomachs through
such a small opening that they only have to open a mussel the width of
a human hair. As they digest the mussel, they consume the tissue that
holds the shell closed so they can get their stomachs back out again.
- Sunflower stars, with up to 24 arms, can move at speeds up to 4 feet
per minute.
- When threatened, the California Sea Cucumber ejects his sticky
internal organs out his anus, distracting the predator. He'll grow
new organs in 6-8 weeks.
- Some scientists believe that anemones may live up to 100 years.
-Some species of Rockfish are believed to live over 200 years. That
means that a rockfish alive today could have been alive during the War
of 1812!
- An octopus can get its entire body through an opening that's only
big enough to accommodate its beak.
At least 75% of all animal species known to date are of the phylum
Arthropoda (meaning "jointed appendage"). This includes invertebrates
like crabs, shrimp, barnacles, spiders, etc.

And we've only studied through the Sandy Shores exhibit so far. Still
to come: Rocky Shores, Coastal Waters, Orford Reef, Halibut Flats,
Open Seas and Passages of the Deep. Not to mention the mammals
(seals, sea lions and otters) and the aviary, including the newest
acquisition, a pair of turkey vultures.

This is all pretty cool.

Oh, and if you want a gross-out, check YouTube for videos of the
Pacific Hagfish. We got to see and handle one of these creepy little
guys which are often referred to as "slime eels" for good reason.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Let's try that new view from aloft again

Since I was way up there installing one end of my single sideband (SSB) radio antenna anyway...

Oh, and the reason the foredeck looks different than it did in the last view from aloft is that the 10' Porta-Bote dinghy is now unfolded and sitting upside down on the foredeck protecting the forward hatch, jerry jugs, and windlass from the ravages of winter soon to come. In the previous picture the dinghy was not seen as it was folded up and sitting on the starboard sidedeck.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good to be home

October 1 and the marina is clearing out. Most, if not all of the
summer folks who live on their boats have headed home for the winter.
I think there is only one other year-rounder on E dock with us. The
parking lot is practically empty. It's a beautiful morning although
they're predicting a 50% chance of rain this afternoon. Of course,
50% chance pretty much means "it might rain and it might not". Got up
bright and early (9:30), made some coffee and read an old issue of
Cruising World that I found in the laundry room. Lulu got up about 15
minutes later and had her usual breakfast of granola and banana. I
opted instead to fix myself a plate of fried potatoes and eggs.

Right now, Lulu is off to town to check into a 3-day-a-week job
cooking for Meals On Wheels. She's trying to find some sort of part
time cooking job to keep her busy and bring in a few extra bucks
through the dark months. I, on the other hand, am not quite so
anxious to jump back into the workaday world. I like getting up at
9:15. Not to be labelled a complete layabout or slugabed, I am
volunteering at the Newport Aquarium. My first all-day training
session is this Saturday at the ungodly hour of 9:00 AM. Oh well,
I'll soldier through somehow. I have 3 training sessions and then
commit to 100 hours of service over the course of the next 9 months
(ordinarily it would be over a year but we won't be here for a full
year). Should be pretty interesting to see what goes on behind the
scenes at the Aquarium. The free passes will be nice, too.

Yesterday I went up the mast to install the final mast step that I had
somehow neglected to install when we were in the yard. This step is
the last climbing step. It's just below the two steps at the very top
that are used to stand on while working on the lights and such at the
very top of the mast. The big deal about yesterday's trip aloft was
that I did it by myself. No one on deck belaying my safety line.
"Waddya, stooopid?" you ask. No, no. There are safe ways to do
this. And, the time may come when I have to go aloft at sea when Lulu
is needed for other things, like steering the boat. So, best to learn
it dockside. The trick is to be able to be tied off to a safety line
in such a way that you can still climb but, if you should lose your
grip, you're held in place by a safety tether. There are mechanical
devices for this called ascenders or Jumars. Rock climbers use them.
However, there is a much cheaper way. By tying a couple of safety
tether loops to the safety line using a prussik knot (http://www.indoorclimbing.com/Prusik_Knot.html
). You can then slide the safety tether ahead of you going either
direction and, if you fall, you'll only fall as far as the amount of
slack in the tether. I use two safety tethers for insurance. It
worked like a charm and was by far the easiest setup I've used for
going aloft yet.

note: Some of you have chided me for my use of nautical terms that you
find completely unintelligible. So, the following section has the
lubber's translation in parentheses. I'll use this method in future
blogs when I remember to.

Today's job is to plug up a rain leak. Found water on the ceiling
(outboard wall or hull liner) next to my side of the bunk yesterday
morning. This seemed weird because, although it had rained the night
before, it hadn't rained very hard. We've been through lots rainier
nights with nary a leak. Well, on investigation, I found what I think
is the source of the leak. On the inside of the starboard (right hand
side when facing forward) bulwark (outermost part of the hull that
rises above the deck 6-8 inches and keeps whatever you just dropped
from sliding immediately into the ocean) there is a spring-mounted
block (pulley) through-bolted. This block was used as a fairlead (a
device for ensuring that a line runs "fair" or in a nice straight line
where you want it to go) for the staysail sheet (the staysail is the
triangular sail aft of the jib which is the furthest forward sail.
the "sheet" is the line that is used to control the sails). With the
boomless staysail, the sheets run differently and the block was not
being used. However, I decided to use it to run the furling line from
the jib furler (c'mon, we talked about this in an earlier entry. The
furler is the device that allows me to wrap a sail up like a window
shade instead of removing it when not i use). The base of this block
appears to be the source of the leak. Why hasn't it shown up before?
Well, when there is pressure on the block, it is pulled away from the
bulwark. We have never had the block in use in the rain before. But,
with the furling gear installed, I want to keep the furled sails
wrapped tightly so the wind won't pull them open. This means that
both the furling line and the sheets have considerable tension on them
all the time. This apparently was enough to pull the base of the
block out from the bulwark enough to let some rain water in. I'm
dragging my feet a little because in order to rebed (put fresh
caulking under the base) the block I have to remove part of the
overhead (ceiling) and ceiling (wall) from my side of the v-berth (our
bedroom). This of course requires that I remove 2 bookshelves and
possibly a light fixture. And all this is just so that I can (I hope)
get my hand up into the bulwark enough to get a wrench on the nuts
holding the block in place. But, such is life on a boat.

OK, enough procrastinating. Time to get to work. Happy October 1 to
you all.