In the most recent field season (March 2014), I learned two main things: 1. Bring an extra prop; and 2. Wind is the most defining factor of a good vs. bad day in the field. Unfortunately, we learned these the hard way.
On our first day out in the water, it was a beautiful sunny day: no clouds, low wind, we have just made it past the long key bridge onto the ocean side and motor all of the sudden revs and dies. One of the scariest sounds I have ever heard is the sound of a dying motor in the middle of the ocean. We proceeded to take the cover off the motor only to realize that none of the four of us females on board know what a healthy motor looks like let alone a broken one. Naturally we call our local boat guy and proceed to motor in at about 7mph. An hour and a half of prime tanning boat time later, we take the prop in, get it re-spun, and have to wait 24 hours before taking the boat back out. So day 1 – maybe not a total success – but we learned what a spun hub was, decided it might be best to have an extra prop on board, and met a lovely mechanic in marathon who solved our very scary problems for about 90 bucks.
Next came the reality of facing high winds for the next 6 days – the only days we had to get research done. We were able to get 4 sites done the first day (not counting the prop incident). Only mild sea sickness and fear for capsizing due to rolling waves crashing over the boat, but a success nonetheless. Day 2 we made it out to our sites a little battered and bruised from the waves knocking our little 18 foot boat around, but we found the site, anchored, and had water pouring over the bow of the boat due to the four foot seas. At this point we decided that we may be safer and have less of a chance of losing the university boat if we were on the beach with a corona in hand. Luckily we were able to get four more sites done on this trip (just over half) but our 18’ parker was no match for the 20 knot winds and 4’ seas that the Keys had planned for us. The moral of this story was to either a. get a bigger boat or b. have a longer field season with more room for windy days.
Even with all of the obstacles fate threw at us, this was still a (somewhat) successful trip. We all learned what the inside of a Yamaha motor looked like, that 100 feet of anchor line is not enough for an 18’ boat in 4’ seas, and that Uno is a great way to pass time on windy days. We even made it safely to the Benthic Ecology meetings and had successful presentations there. Overall a pretty eventful, informative, at some points terrifying, and exciting spring break for senior year.