A lesson in AIS

PRIDE is sailing!!! We have no engine noises! Most all of the sail is set.

0900 hours
Position: 31D 11/6 North X 72D 20.3 West
Course and Speed: 100 Magnetic and 7.6 to 8 knots
Wind:  15 knots SSW
Barometer: 1018.0 rising from 1017.0 at 0400 EDT
Sky: a few scattered cumulus clouds
Sea: 3-4 ft swell
Air Temp: 79 F

Yesterday there was a lot of rain cloud scattered about…not as much this morning and nearly none since midnight. We have had 6 ships pass by since midday yesterday. We have only actually seen two of them. We know that the other four were in our area of the ocean due to the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that is mandatory on all commercial vessels, including PRIDE. Each vessel transmits via VHF Marine Radio Frequencies their position, course & speed. That information is crunched by the calculators in the AIS machine to provide bearings between the ships receiving the AIS signals as well as distances. Aboard PRIDE we have the AIS information sent to the electronic charts on the main computer and we can see an icon of a ship based on their AIS information. Quite often we can “see” ships in our area as far out as 25 miles…sometimes more…but we cannot actually see them as they are “hull down” over the horizon after about 10 miles. This morning we actually saw the BRITISH MERCHANT pass astern of PRIDE at a distance of 3 nautical miles. According to her AIS information regarding ship particulars she is headed to Cove Point. I do not know any Cove Point but the one near the Potuxant River in Maryland. I guess she is bringing cooking gas to the United States and will unload her cargo at the gas piers at Cove Point, Maryland.

Our distance from Bermuda is 385 nautical miles and our distance to get into harbor is 417 nautical miles. At the speed we are sailing now we will be ahead of schedule. Maybe we will go past Bermuda a little and see if we can find some of the European Sail Training vessels racing in a regatta to Bermuda from the Canary Islands.

~Captain Miles

A day in life aboard…without wind

This morning I wrote in the position report to the office that we are motoring along in hot stable conditions with the only wind available coming from where the ship is pointed. The difference today from yesterday is that instead of motoring with two engines we are motoring with one…the windward side engine because it helps with the way PRIDE steers when we also have some sail up to capture any usable wind.

During occasions such as this life aboard is mundane to the max. One sleeps, wakes to go on watch, eats at meal time and goes to sleep again…as much to escape the heat by being unconscious as to gain some rest. There may be some reading available to some when they are not on watch and not sleeping or eating. Life is not uncomfortable because there is little to no motion…the sea is pretty flat. Those that are on watch stand around waiting to do the next thing…more idle time exists than usual when PRIDE is not actually sailing. Instead of constantly doing something about checking the condition of the ship and writing records down about what is going on, .i.e. the condition of electrical energy stored in batteries, steering and checking the trim of sails, or cleaning the ship. While motoring there is no reason to check the batteries because they are constantly being charged. Still records of their condition as full are recorded because there is also the need to make sure they do not get overly hot. There are no sails to adjust. Steering is a most benign experience in smooth seas. Overall there is a lot of idle time that is not displaced by the phenomenon of sailing. As benign as things are out here motoring along on a flat sea, there is the heat and the humidity. If PRIDE were sailing the heat would have a different quality…one that would almost be cool. One of the fortunate things with motoring to windward is we have twice the breeze speed coming over the deck. Were we receiving this wind from behind…it would not be enough to sail PRIDE along fast enough to make her obliged date in Bermuda, so we would still be motoring. But with that motoring we would be going nearly as fast as the light wind and that would really make things hot and muggy aboard.

The one person that has no change to their work load no matter what the wind is doing is the cook. Three or more meals a day must still be made, served and cleaned up after. While the crew take turns helping with clean up after supper (and crew also take turns cleaning the toilets…landlubber speak for heads…and the down below in general) our cook Rob must still clean up from breakfast and lunch. I guess it would be true that lively sailing would make his job more challenging…but the overall temperament of everyone aboard would be more vital as they responded to the needs of the ship during such a sail. This would probably make Rob’s job a little more interesting as he heard about, maybe even joined in during slack times between meals. Overall, I guess what is going on now is kind of like driving a car down a long straight highway verses a constantly winding road. For one experience one might have trouble staying awake. For the other experience one would be concentrating so much that time might pass rather quickly.

Jan C. Miles, Captain