On Board the OSV BOLD: Change in Weather

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.

About the author: About the author: Charles LoBue serves as the chief scientist and diver for the US Virgin Island leg of the OSV BOLD voyage. He is an environmental scientist in EPA Region 2 in New York City.

March 6, 2009 (Day 26)

For most of our trip so far, the weather has been very good to us, and we’ve been able to keep to our itinerary. But when the weather doesn’t cooperate, all of our plans are thrown off. Unfortunately, that’s the current situation that we’ve found ourselves in as a strong, low pressure front is upon us and the weather is quickly becoming a problem. Rain is now pelting down, and winds are howling out of the northwest with gusts up to 39 knots (about 45 mph).

iimage of scuba flag in windThis will prevent us from working at our remaining stations on the northwest of St. Thomas. It’s not the rain that concerns us, but the sustained high winds that are creating rough sea conditions and will make it virtually impossible to be able to put our small diving boats out into the water. It is what it is, and we all have to keep in mind that this is beyond our control. We go back to the drawing board to figure out what is in our control. We decide to cast off from our dockage in Charlotte Amalie, cruise east, and anchor in Coral Bay in St. John. We’re hoping that the stations in this embayment on southwest St. John, are protected enough to allow diving.

We are so grateful for the assistance of The Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resource in helping us transport some of our divers, using their fast monitoring boat, the Vigilant. She’s been docked in St. Thomas, so crossing Pillsbury Sound to rendezvous with us could be a difficult task if the seas are rough. But as the BOLD bounds into 4 to 6-foot seas before turning into Coral Bay, we anchor and it seems calmer, and we’re delighted to see the Vigilant anchored at our meeting point. It’s time to get to work.

We’re able to safely load the Vigilant and two BOLD rigid-hulled, inflatable boats on the leeside of the massive BOLD hull. Although stiff winds prevail, the sea surface tucked behind these mountains seems to be staying down enough to allow diving. We’ll find out as divers return and have a chance to report back to us.

image of inflatable boat with people

As the boats return, the sun is now shining and we learn of success; the waters are workable. Being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’m confident that we’ll have success in our next two days here on the south side, and we’ll ultimately get the weather to allow us to return to complete our stations on the north sides of St. Thomas and St. John.