The Loudness of a Dull Thud (Dec 17)

The Loudness of a Dull Thud

I can hear the hull smashing against the waves outside, the bow cuts through the swells with a dull thud. A thumping noise that you might think doesn’t sound too bad, but then I remember that I am literally the furthest person away from the bow and if I can hear that dull thud all the ay back here in my room than it means that we’re knocking our way though the ocean in a fist fight between the bow of our ship and the swells ahead of us.

The entire room has been rolling and twisting all night and into the morning, I think to myself that it is a good thing I don’t get motion sickness because I can feel and almost see the entire room moving around me. That would mess with someone’s gut I think. A quick step out the door onto the upper deck reveals it drenched in a mix of rainwater and ocean spray. The dull thud is louder now as we buck against another wave and I watch as a shower of salt spray and water spills through the air and across everything on the back deck.

Just a few days ago it was totally clear blue skies and hot out. I take back every curse I grumbled against that heat and ask for it back, the blue skies, the sun on my skin, and the heat. It beats this storm riding we’re doing and makes it a whole lot easier to catch, let alone see, tuna. I grumble and pull my hood up over my head, thankful that it was winter when I left the US and that I had this zip up sweatshirt on when I flew out of the icy northwest, and make my way through the rain and splashing sea water to the ladder and climb down to the lower deck so I can grab some rice for breakfast and coffee.

For some reason I’m even more aware of my watch on my left wrist than usual, probably because I don’t have much else to focus on given the storm weather. It’s like a shackle, I think to myself, noting that in the US –and indeed around the world- that I don’t normally eve wear a watch, always relying on my phone in my pocket to give me the time. But here, flying demands I keep a close watch on my time and there is no clock in the Hughes 500 like I’d become so accustomed to in my relatively brand new sporty R44 back in the states that had a nice digital clock in it. I take my watch off at night before bed and always feel like a little bit of freedom has been regained, and then in the morning when my alarms start going off I put it back on – becoming immediately aware of it.

It’s weird the things you notice or think about when you’re stuck waiting out a storm. But I’m excited this morning, after I eat my scoop of rice I’m headed back up to my room where I’ve cued up the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera and I’m going to turn the volume up and just let the dull thud of hull against the ocean slip away.

Of course it isn’t really that easy, your body remains aware of the rocking and pitching of the deck, and you can feel the dull thud of the ocean slamming against the ship in your bones. As the day went on the weather got worse, this storm that had been following us for two days and had finally caught up yesterday was showing us what she had left in her billowing dark clouds. Claps of thunder roared in the sky, like an avalanche of snow careening down a mountain canyon it echoes, and rain came down in a seemingly unending torrent of water. As the ship pitched one way or another the water that had pooled up on the heli-deck would spill over the side and drench the upper deck in a spray of water.

And then the crew emerged in a frantic rush of moving body parts and rain coats from below decks. Storm rigging was the order of the day and they had to be fast about it since we were already in the storm. First they pulled the large skiff that we somewhat tow behind the boat even higher up onto the nets and used one additional crane arm to latch a metal cable to the boat, doubling the metal cable already attached to it. Next the speed boat was attached to a crane and lifted onto the upper deck and the crew tied it to the walls and to the rails. All the loose bales of net and rope were tied down to each other and to the deck. The waves had grown so large now that the dull thud had turned into a hard knock, and each one sent a wave of ocean over the fish deck, it momentarily vanishing beneath the water.

The engineer and his men had rigged up hoses to a bilge pump and were going to be pumping water out of the holds of the ship as the ocean and storm threw it in. Each wave threw water into the air, and soaked everything that wasn’t inside, including me. The crew then began their watch duties, donning a life vest and a rain jacket they took turns staying up through the night to watch the equipment and monitor the riggings. The main point of concern seemed to be the heavy and large skiff boat on top of the net stack – something that big and heavy could easily cause us a great deal of harm if it were to break loose and capsize while still attached to the Caribe’ so they stood ready at the cable controls and made that their guard station – in the event they had to let the skiff go.

For two days this storm followed us, spitting rain at us in passing sheets. Yesterday it had caught up and the rain barely relented but the seas were still calm. We even flew, when the rain slowed and stopped for an hour or so, one search flight that revealed nothing but turbulent sea. Now, for almost 36 hours she will force her wind and rain and waves upon us. It’s the first large storm I’ve been in on a boat, it’s unsettling to be honest, a bit exhilarating, but the immensity of it and the danger temper that excitement with caution and you push any negative thoughts back to the far reaches of your mind for they might keep you up all night.

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