Hawaii Teacher on Board
First Day on Board

By Naidah Gamurot

Oct. 16, 1998. What a beautiful morning - it started out to be. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea were both visible from Hilo Bay. The 4 of us hopped onto to Capt. Patterson's 39 foot fishing boat and headed out of the shelter of the bay. Once past the mile-long jetty (used to protect Hilo from the full destruction of future tsunami's) the swells rapidly gained height. The captain raced toward Cape Kumukahi where we would make our transfer onto the R/V Thompson.

Our journey wasn't without a few notable (fun) moments. Flying over swells was a rush! I was trying to take photos for my journal and during one of my attempts found myself crouching down trying to get the perfect picture when the boat went airborne. Soon, I too was airborne. I had but a split second to decide - save the camera (a digital) or grab the rail and save myself. Needless to say, the camera's in great shape, and all that extra padding I've put on as an Internet teacher has finally paid off. Had a soft, "tushy" landing. But, I think the captain was a bit concerned. I noticed he had slowed down. The ride got pretty nasty after that. We were being hit with swells from all sides

Finally spotted the Thompson way off in the distance. To the east we could see a squall approaching. We maintained our heading, but lost the ship in the rain. After it cleared, we found we were about a mile off her starboard side. She had been continuing on her course, but couldn't find us in the heavy rains. We turned around and chased her down.

Transferring from a 39 foot boat onto a 280 foot ship in open ocean is a thrilling experience. The Thompson came to a stop and lowered it's ladder. The ladder is made of nylon rope with plastic rungs.

Capt. Patterson reversed his boat toward the ladder. The objective of the person getting off is to wait on the back step of the boat until the boat is level with the one of the rungs of the ladder. I volunteered to go first. I couldn't have asked for more perfect positioning. The swell came up, my feet were level with one of the rungs and I simply stepped onto the ladder and climbed onboard. It wasn't going to be so easy for my other 3 shipmates. Each had a long wait for the ladder and step to meet. But, eventually, we were able to complete the human transfer, albeit soaking wet.

Now came our baggage and equipment. Smaller pieces simply got tossed from the boat to the deck of the ship. A couple people stood on deck to catch the pieces as they flew by. The larger pieces were tied to a long thick rope, the other end being held by some of the crew on the Thompson. The rope was then pulled taut. When the boat rose the top of a swell, the first mate on the boat heaved the pieces toward the ship. Those on the ship quickly hauled the bundle up. Not a single piece hit the water, though it did bang the side of the ship pretty hard.

The delicate equipment was put in a laundry bag and tied to the rope. But this time, the boat was pulled in closer to the ship and brought aboard more gently.

This, my first day on the Thompson, has been memorable. It's my first time living at sea. I've started my adventure cold, wet, exhausted, the swells were high, and - this ship won't stop swaying!