Life at sea
There is a palpable pulse to the floating community that must exist to live and work together on a ship at sea. The quarters are close with minimal space to roam. The ongoing work lies amidst the everyday tasks of living causing leisure time to mix with work time. The functions of the ship go on 24 hours a day. On the ship Rainier, distinct, but united groups work side by side: NOAA Corps officers, survey technicians, the maritime crew, stewards, the ship’s engineers, and the occasional Teacher at Sea. To successfully collect the terabytes of data going into the making of new and revised nautical charts, all members of the ship’s personnel must work as a cohesive whole.
I have been blessed with a warm reception from each of these groups. The ship’s Commander welcomed me at the airport ferry and escorted me to the ship. An Ensign helped begin to unravel the labyrinth of passageways that eventually brought me to my state room. A conversation with my roommate gave me a glimpse into the role of the NOAA Corps. A crewman caught me in my roaming and offered a guided tour of the bridge and small boats used for surveying. I was given an introduction to the personal side of life at sea by another crewman over coffee. Yet another provided an extensive introduction to the complexities of modern navigation found on the bridge. An engineer provided a close up tour into the bowels of the engine room. These expressions of welcome were all offered freely. It was evident that each of these people are proud members of the Rainier community, living and working side-by-side on a daily basis. Life at sea isn’t for the partially committed. Each of these people give up extended months at a time away from their loved ones in their commitment to this task. I was struck by a conversation with the engineer shared over breakfast. After a break from sea life, he found he had to return to sea to satisfy the salt water coursing in his blood.
I made it. I am officially a teacher at sea. Life is good.