Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 Sea Voyage Part 2: Korea to California via Japan

DAY 20: Back in Pusan

The circle is now complete. This actually ended up being a pretty decent day all the way around.

We pulled in around 1000 in the morning. The wind was blowing gently, the sky was clear, and the sea was calm. I stood a fairly uneventful watch on deck, splitting my time between observing cargo operations and smoothing out the voyage plan for the next leg on our route.

While all that was going on, I snapped this winning self-portrait in the Cargo Control Room:
Cargo Control Room
I also spent some time watching this crane barge lift and drop this giant wedge into the water:
Odd Barge
I still don't know what that was about.

Then in the afternoon I went ashore to the Seaman’s Club to use the internet for a few minutes and post here in the blog.

I was in bed by about 2100, this gave me almost three hours of sleep before I had to be back on watch.

DAY 21: Kanmon Kaikyo Again

Today I took the watch just as we were waiting for the pilot to take us through the Kanmon Kaikyo again. The entire thing is a six-hour transit, so I spent my whole watch in a narrow passage with lots of traffic and the captain stressed out to no end. I’d really like this to stop happening on my watch.

Either way, it’s still a neat looking place:
Kanmon Ko
Despite all of the stress, the passage did go relatively smoothly, and when my watch was over at 1600 I was definitely due for some well-earned rest.

DAY 22: Back in Yokohama

This was a five-hour port call. We arrived at the pier at 1900, I rushed through setting up the charts for the next leg of our voyage (from Yokohama to San Pedro, CA) and then went out with Rich, BaBarbara, and one of Rich’s old shipmates for dinner and whatnot in downtown Yokohama.

When we ditched the car in Yokohama, we wandered our way into Chinatown. It looked like so:
Yokohama Chinatown
Then we found ourselves one of those Brazilian steak restaurants where the waitstaff makes regular rounds of the tables, slicing off bits of meat from huge hunks of flesh they carry around on skewers. There was also a salad bar with “mysterious vagetables:”
mysterious vagetable
We sat around gorging ourselves on every manner of meat that was offered to us and told old stories for a couple of hours. It was a good time and we even snapped a few pictures:
Dinner Out
Then it was time to rush me back to the ship so I could make a few more last-minute preparations before it was time to get underway.

DAY 23: The Long Road to Long Beach

After all of the constant strain of the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking forward to a long, monotonous ocean crossing. After a few moments of poking around in the computer, I put together the fastest route to Southern California. It will look about like so:
Great Circle Route
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why are you curving almost all the way up to the Bering Sea on the way from Japan to Southern California? Isn’t the shortest distance between two points supposed to be a straight line?” Well it is, yes, but you also have to remember that the Earth is not flat. So, since we can’t just sail down a tunnel from Yokohama to San Pedro, the shortest distance available to us is no longer a straight line. Instead, the shortest distance is actually a path along a circle that splits the Earth into two even halves.

When you draw that circle on a globe and then stretch the surface of the globe out flat*, you end up with what looks like a curved line from one place to another. This is partly why the map in the back of the in-flight magazine on airliners has those flight paths that seem to loop all over the place.** This type of route is called a Great Circle.

There are, of course, other ways to sail across the ocean. The simplest one to draw out and calculate distances for is called a “Parallel Sailing.” This basically involves picking a line of Latitude and sailing East or West along it. This is how Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. While it makes the math easy, the problem with this route is that it will take you a little bit out of your way, costing time and (more expensively) fuel.

There is also a “Plane Sailing,” which assumes that the Earth is flat and works fairly well over short distances. But as long as you’re making the flat Earth assumption, you may as well not bother with any of that crap and stick to what’s called a “Rhumb Line.” This is the route that appears as a straight line on a Mercator projection. It gives accurate enough measurements of distance travelled over short runs and has the advantage of a constant direction of travel according to the ship’s compass.

Thus endeth the lesson.

*There’s more than one way to skin a cat and there is more than one way to flatten a globe. To find out more about how they do the one you’re used to seeing, google “Mercator projection.” It’s fascinating stuff if you’re the kind of person who’s ever had a cartography fetish or a soft spot for Amerigo Vespucci.

**That, and some hard-drinking pilots in the pioneering days of aviation.

DAYS 24-31: Tedium

The week spent bound from Yokohama to San Pedro was pretty uneventful. The only thing that was even remotely interesting was the occasional minor change in our voyage plan to keep clear of rough weather that showed up on the satellite picture. Other than that, I had a lot of watches on the bridge where the hardest thing to do was stay awake. Somewhere in there we crossed the International Date Line again.

The only other thing that was entertaining was the birds that hitched a ride with us when we left Japan. At first there were many of them, but by the time we were nearing California, there was only one left:
Hitchhiking Seahawk
In fact, in that picture she can be seen eating one of the lesser birds.

DAY 32: Last Slow Day for a Bit

Today was the last day of open ocean transit time before we start the constant scramble that will be our time on the west coast. All I ended up doing was going over the last few little admin details and trying to catch up on sleep. I needed the sleep:
Crazy Shawn

Stay tuned for the story of a few busy days in and around California...

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