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Ship Logs

R/V Rapture, Tender One
Posted by Suzanne S. Finney, Anthropology Ph.D. student, UHM
October 22, 2002

Tender 1 with Ice at the helm.  Photo by Jim Watt.We are nearing the end of our voyage through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and it's been a month filled with fascinating discoveries and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for both scientists and crew on board the R/V Rapture. A lot has been written in the journal entries about what we've found and where but not much has been said about how we get to our dive sites. Enter the tenders. There are six tenders, all Zodiacs, on board to take us out every day; two Hurricanes, two Mark Vs and two Mark VIs. Each tender has a tender driver or coxswain. This story is about the zodiac I've been riding on throughout this trip, the Zodiac Hurricane known as Tender One.

Tender One is used by the maritime archaeology team, which consists of team leader Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Marc Hughes, an undergraduate at UH Hilo studying algae on shipwrecks during this trip, and me. Our driver is one Tony "Ice" Grey, 21, from California. With four people and dive gear for between two and three dives the tender can feel a bit cramped but we have occasionally taken on guests during these trips. The Hurricane, unlike the other tenders, has a center console, which makes space even tighter. You can tell we're Tender One because the number one is painted or glued to the boat in about five places. You could tell we were Tender One anyway because we are the only Hurricane Zodiac going out every day. Tender Two, the other Hurricane, is the emergency zodiac, in case one of the other ones breaks down.

You can also tell Tender One by the high speed we reach when we take the boat up on a plane. Suddenly the engine changes pitch and the boat races forward. The view the other zodiacs get is from behind us as we pick up speed and race away to our destination. No one else can match our speed. Ice says Tender One has only two speeds, 6 knots or 20 knots and after the days spent on board I tend to agree.

Tender 1 with Ice at the helm.  Photo by Jim Watt.On many of these survey days our sites are way out of view of the Rapture. We watch as the Rapture grows smaller and smaller, finally disappearing below the horizon. Our radio always works though and every hour we hear "Top of the hour check" from the mother ship. Tender One is always the first to respond. "Rapture, Tender One," Ice says over the radio to let them know we are still alive somewhere in the Pacific. We give our GPS coordinates so the ship can track us as we move from dive site to dive site. At the end of the day a map of the atoll appears on the bulletin board, courtesy of Marjo Vierros our data manager, that shows where all the teams have been surveying. Our symbol on these maps is an anchor and you can often see us on the fringe away from the rest of the teams.

Our team has developed an attachment to Tender One. This is all the more surprising when you realize what a strain these rides are on the body. Three weeks into the trip we loaded up and took off only to hit a few introductory bumps. My back suddenly decided it didn't like being tossed around on the pontoon anymore so I moved to what I call the "cushy seat," not that anything on Tender One could be called cushy. The cushy seat is the back portion of the bench Ice uses while steering. I sat facing backwards and held on for dear life. The movement of the boat is not as noticeable in the cushy seat and my back had a chance to regroup for the remainder of the trip.

What makes Tender One so special is the ride. Picture this; you're sitting on the pontoon holding on to a rope that runs the length of the boat, and the handle bar on the center console. The boat begins to surge forward and everyone on board leans toward the bow. This puts weight on the front of the boat, causing the boat to straighten and giving the hard bottom the chance to rise and skip along the water instead of burrowing through it. This increases the efficiency of the engine and makes for a much faster ride. It also means that if you're not holding on you could find yourself bounced right out of the boat. We all hold on.

Our most eventful ride was at Kure. There is a passage into the reef that can be difficult to negotiate if the waves are breaking and to go through takes some skill at knowing when there may be a lull in the wave action. Ice turned the boat into the waves and we took off, going our typical planing speed. The waves were higher than I had seen them before and without warning we hit one head on that left our boat high and dry and out of the water. Two waves later it happened again, our boat lifted completely out of the water, the prop whirled madly in the air and then dropped, smash, right back onto the water. I think that may have been when my back started wondering if these trips were such a good idea.

Tender 1 with Ice at the helm.  Photo by Jim Watt.There has been talk on board about a t-shirt design that embodies the spirit of the NOWRAMP trip. The maritime archaeology team decided that our t-shirt should show the Hurricane Zodiac Tender One. Nothing describes our experiences on this trip like the vision of Tender One heading out to one more wreck site going at top speed while we hang on and smile.

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Suzanne Finney
Suzanne S. Finney


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