In which the Cadets witness what weather really is.
It is said, and proven by Plimsoll marks on ships everywhere, that the North Atlantic has the worst winter weather on the planet. I am here to say that the weather 50°N latitude in the Pacific is still pretty darn bad.
Most days at sea it was rough, with large ground swells causing the ship to roll and pitch a noticeable amount...enough to affect the quality of sleep achieved by an inexperienced sailor or cadet. Average winds were on the order of 25kn, and it was most often cloudy.
On occasion it was dead calm. The prevailing wind would die down, causing the seas to drop and only a slight residual swell would remain. These nights afforded the best sleep, sometimes calmer than the nights spent at anchor off Hawaii or Cape Hichinbrook.
Then there were rough days. The ship, due to her narrow PanaMax beam, rolls quickly and deeply. On our first trip north, we experienced winds of 45kn and seas of 35-40ft. During the two roughest days, we endured rolls approximately 10 seconds long that put us over by as much as 18°. Seas of this nature will knock TV's off of their stands in the Officer's Lounge, shear off poorly welded drain pipes under cold cargo pumps, and cause all aboard to become irritable. Few sleep soundly, nobody is able to enjoy the food presented them, and work is greatly affected - decks are secured (no-one outside the house) and the machinery space becomes a huge moving jungle-gym.
In the best cases, headed north under ballast with a southern wind, our 24,500 SHP carried the New York at 15.7 KN. Fully laden with 26,000,000 gallons of crude in the tanks, we managed just 15.1 KN. It is important to note the speed made good, or SMG, during these periods. When the weather was fine, we strayed just fractions of a mile from a straight-line course from port to port. Inclement weather, however, caused us to bear off by as much as 15°, causing our time of transit to increase greatly.
We experienced a 'Violent Storm' - as classified by NOAA - the highest non-hurricane weather available, on Super Bowl Sunday. For 24 hours we were at very low speeds (4 kn) to limit the amount of water crashing over the focsle head. Imagine running downwind in a seaway and have waves rolling down on the foredeck, some 25' above the waterline. Our most impressive show of force was a set of rogue waves which buried the focsle head in water and de-masted the ship's bell (35' above water) and foremast light (60' above water), as well as causing some broken railings and fixtures on deck. I was on the bridge as it happened, as was the Captain, who said he'd "never seen anything like it" when calling the damage in to the front office.
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