On Board the OSV BOLD: A BOLD Beginning

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea.

March 3, 2009 – 7:30 p.m. (Day 23)

About the author: John Senn is a press officer in Region 2, New York City.  He covers water issues, including water permits, wetlands, coastal water and beaches, oceans and lakes, as well as RCRA, and Voluntary Programs.  John’s been with EPA for 2.5 years.

I’ve spent plenty of time on sailboats and in canoes and kayaks, but just boarding and getting acclimated to the OSV BOLD in St. Thomas was an experience unlike any I’ve ever had on a watercraft.

The ship is like a living organism. Even the smallest pieces of equipment and supplies have their proper place. And no matter where you may be on the ship, if She’s moving, so are you (your stomach included). That means newcomers like myself had better find or re-discover their sea legs pretty quickly or endure seasickness.

In the case of choppy seas most everything is attached to the floor or secured in some other way. All the drawers on my dresser and desk have locks, for example, so they won’t slide out if we hit an unexpected patch of rough water. Safety always comes first regardless of what type of boat you’re on, but on the BOLD, it comes first and second, partly because the ship is so big–224 feet long and 45 feet wide–and partly because of the complexity of what She’s expected to do on a daily basis.

image of ship at dock

After Her days as a Navy ship, the BOLD was transformed into a state-of-the-art research lab, complete with side scan sonar, biological sampling and analysis tools, and powerful computers to help process all the data that’s collected.

But the BOLD would just be a fancy boat without all the people who make Her work. The 18-person crew knows the ship inside and out, and there’s a chef on board who makes sure we all get three square meals each day.

The team of EPA scientists, who hail from every corner of the country, is nothing short of world class. The coral reefs they’re mapping right now have never been surveyed in such a comprehensive way. People often think that we’ve studied every inch of the planet, but this effort is showing that there are things we still don’t know, especially when the land and water are changing beneath our feet.

Well, we’re cruising back to port at a pretty good clip and the ship’s starting to rock a bit, so I think I’ll go catch up on sleep.

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