There are advantages and disadvantages to using a sailboat as a research vessel and floating classroom. If there’s any wind, then sailboats tend to be more stable than motorboats with less rolling and yawing, and that makes for less nausea. Sailboats provide a lot more to do when moving between sampling sites, what with all of the tacking, jibing, and sail adjustments. From the academic perspective, sailboats certainly increase awareness of wind direction and intensity, which everyone quickly connects to wave conditions.
On the downside, sailboats usually take much longer to get from point A to point B, especially when point B is to windward of point A. And with uncanny frequency, even if you decided to go from B to A, rather than A to B, the wind would shift to make sure you have to sail upwind! In addition, sailboats heel when sailing toward the wind, commonly from 10 to 25 degrees, and that’s a challenge for most people new to the sea.
Our particular boat is the 52′ schooner Bagheera, built in 1924 here in Maine and operated by Portland Schooner Company. That’s the clincher. It’s hard to get more exciting than an gaff-rigged, locally built, 90-year-old schooner that’s sailed to Europe and back, raced (and won) in the Great Lakes, and spent years working on the West Coast.
Good weather and downwind sailing make everyone happy; even academic work seems to come naturally.
Big swells with wind is exciting and hard on productivity, but there’s lots to observe in terms of wave dynamics (plus nice scenery). However, big swells without wind is the worst combination because we don’t make good progress and queaziness sets in (except for the skipper, of course!). We hope for blue skies and fair seas!
It’s going to be a great two weeks!
– Johan E