Thursday, April 5, 2012

hard water

We're in the Doldrums here at HAWSEPIPER's afloat global HQ/freelance gynecology clinic.

The last week has been far too quiet. In an hour or so we'll be sailing to start another job, thank God, but there was some down time- too much down time, if such a thing can be said to exist. And, turns out, it can.

    April is a beautiful time to be on the water in the Northeast, but not at sea in the Northeast. At home, April is a time of hideously unstable weather and choppy, cold seas that seem to exert a disproportionate amount of force upon a boat hull- the warm days belie the cold water, and boats get knocked about in an unforgiving fashion by normally benign seas. Simply put, to a careful observer, the cold water hits harder, making a rougher ride in the same sea states that will feel comfortable in just a few more months.
      In the summer, thermoclines form- boundary layers in the water column, where the water temperature changes rapidly with depth- it's not unusual for water temperature to change 15 degrees as one moves, say, from 15 to 18 feet of depth while swimming. Water changes density with temperature, so the differing densities don't like to mix so much- rather, the bodies of water at differing temperatures slide across each other and resist mixing. This provides the lovely coolish water than makes ocean swimming so enjoyable in New England in the summertime- if you're like me, and like to swim in deeper water, it gets bloody cold awful fast when you drop down a few feet.
 At home, April is the time when the lobster boats start moving traps into the bays from their wintering spots further offshore, and, for many, it's also a time to move traps off the dock and back into the water. Running a boat with a 6-foot high pile of traps covering the deck is always an exiting time- deckhands disappear behind the stacks, so everyone's nervous as the traps are reset. Optimism reigns.
     For the earlybird pleasureboaters, people sometimes get a little surprise when the 2-foot chop they ignore in July rattles the fillings out of their heads in April. That cold, dense water packs a little punch. Even in a ship, the difference is visible- in my old union, there was a collier that regularly made winter runs around my home area, and the ship aged prematurely. Massachusetts Bay doesn't have the deep ocean swells common to waters south of Rhode Island, but it does have an almighty short chop that makes life miserable. In my head I often wonder if the late-season trips across the Great Lakes feel similar.
    I feel the usual April restlessness that used to make me quit my stable, career-oriented job and give it up for another season of Lobster Wishin' when I was younger. I just can't afford that lifestyle (or, don't want to, I guess), anymore, but the desire is still there, and on days like today, when I'm walking down the sterile length of my steel deck, looking at valves, holidays in the paint topcoat, coiled lengths of hawser and grease fittings EVERYWHERE, thinking thoughts like "hmm, I need at least 80 gallons of red paint to get started on recoating this deck," l feel the tidal pull for a teeny, unstable, wet slippery deck than can be paced in a half-dozen stuttering steps instead of a 5 minute walk.


HT said...

I never minded a day layed up here and there...but my moto was underway is the only way!At least if your stuck working in Philly for a while, painting season is here and that always fills the standby time in uglydelphia.

doubletrouble said...

Great pic, there.
Use should use that for your "shocked face".