Friday, April 22, 2011

Prince William Sound Spill Drill: That'll do 'er

NOFI Current Buster, f/v Morning Thunder with a skimmer and a mini barge along side.  We tow the orange boom around scooping up oil.  The Morning Thunder skims it out of the water and pumps in into the mini barge. 
The state of Alaska mandated a law that oil companies  put on regular oil spill response training after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.  Several times a year there are on water drills in addition to training, which consists of classroom lectures, hands on equipment trials, and on water drills.

This past week was a surprise drill.   A surprise that even I knew about 3 weeks ago.  Anywho, about 100 or so boats of all shapes and sizes came from all over the sound from Cordova, Valdez, Tatitlik, and Whittier.  We all enjoyed the beautiful weather, total blue birds (and a few icebergs) as we convened at Naked and Story Island for a 3 day on water drill.

What, one might ask, are the qualifications needed to participate in such drills.  I was told that a crewman is qualified if s/he can fog a mirror.  I said sign me up.  I have done these in the past, it's good money but mind-numbingly boring.  This time, I tried to be prepared.

Required gear list: PPE (personal protection equipment) life jackets,  safety glasses, and hard hats are to be worn on deck at all times.  Period.  This means, if you go outside to take a leak, you have to wear a hard hat. Even to ride a bucket. (That reminds me a a poem I recently heard "Those rodeo cowboys got nothin' on me.  I can ride a 5 gallon bucket in 40 foot seas"!)  I find that none of this stuff usually fits me and I keep getting caught up  in it.  I walked to the stern to tie up a line, my jacket got hung up on something on the way back there.  Then I bent over to reach for the cleat and almost fell in trying to keep my hard hat on.  Finally, I squatted down towards the cleat in an effort to keep my hat on, then my jacket road up in front of my face so I had to work blind and one handed to tie a line on the cleat.  All in the name of safety.

The other gear lists consists of magazines to read, music to listen to, cribbage board, noise reduction headphones (with ipod attachment) and my new favorite toy, a kindle.  Skipper and I got into a serious match of scrabble.  I totally got my ass kicked the first few times (clearly, he is not a novice at scrabble like I am) but our last match ended as we were pulling back into the slip in the harbor.  I had one letter left, a V and was down by 5 points.  Wanting to take a shower after 3 days on the water superseded the need to win at scrabble and I took the loss.  But, secretly congratulated myself for having come so far in just three days.

All in all these drills are almost comical.  SERVS (not sure what that stands for) is the company that puts it all on.  They cross all their T's and dot all the I's.  They are all PC and say "over and out".  Then they work with us fishermen who only cross T's when we feel like it and say things like "I'll snuggle up to your apex and hang tough".  Yes, honestly, I did actually hear that on the radio.  I even just ran out in my PJ to my truck in the wind and rain (its blowing about 20 here today, forecast is for 40) just to get that quote out of my truck.)

Here are some pics:

f/v Controller Bay, the boat I was on

Towing just the Current Buster which we towed about 12 hours going .5 knots

The state ferry as is cruised by

That's the haps this week.  Catch ya on the flip side.  Eat fish!!


Tele said...

LOVE the bucket poem line! Did that gem come from Astoria?

Jen Pickett said...

Thanks! Yes, it did! Wish I could remember who said it!!

Anonymous said...

Man proposes, God disposes.