I'm on a boat!

Last year at this time I was at Walt Disney World for Spring Break. A ton of fun, but a little pricey (though, that being said, doing Disney for five/six days for only $250 is kind of unheard of...). I had to scramble to get the funds, and really save up. I had to sacrifice diving and snacks and all sorts of other things because I was spending money on this trip.

This year, I had planned on staying in Miami. Yes, I would have to spend money on food, but at least I had a kitchen to work with (even if it was a few floors up), unlike last year, where I had to live out of a microwave for four days post-Disney. I was going to get a ton of work done, do some extra shifts at the Info desk, and the rest of the time either work at Dr. Fieber's lab or Aplysia. Cool. Then, I got this email from Dr. Fieber:
"Dr. Larry Brand’s RV Walton Smith cruise is in need of student volunteers. He can take 4 to 5 with no problem. The dates are March 14 – 19 /20 (Spring Break) and March 19/20 – March 25. The ship will leave RSMAS and change scientific crew in Ft. Myers and then return to RSMAS. Transportation is provided. This is a great opportunity for UM Undergraduate or Graduate students."
Since I really didn't have any plans, and had never been on a research cruise, I jumped at the chance. I emailed Dr. Brand immediately, and got a spot on the boat. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.Last night, I arrived at the RSMAS dock at around 10PM (thank you Jen for the ride!). I was one of two people, aside from crew, sleeping on the boat overnight (everyone else would arrive in the morning, half an hour before departure). I found out my bunk assignment from Dave (the second mate), and proceeded to move into the lovely Stateroom 7:

That's about it. The bunks are to the left, and there's a cabinet next to the desk. The door leads to the head (bathroom), complete with shower. Yes, the Walt Smith has WiFi (through which I am typing to you now), hence the laptop (and, you know, move-in music). I quickly unpacked my duffel and my backpack, and everything easily fit into what seems like a small space. There are drawers under the bunk that easily fit a ton of clothes, and the closet has three shelves. I decided that one would be shared with my roommate for toiletries, and we would each have our own shelf for our other stuff. It's quite cozy and homey.The door to our stateroom opens up to the dry lab:

This is where all the data-collecting and experimenting happens. We're filtering water from our samples to collect algae (Dr. Brand studies Karenia brevis, which causes red tides in Florida), and when the samples get back to the lab at RSMAS, they'll be measuring chlorophyll and something else (sorry, it was a technical term) that indicates the presence of cyanobacteria. Today we're collecting surface water samples along the keys, and tomorrow we'll start with the CTD. Samples are collected every hour, on the hour, so we've (as in, all the student volunteers), have decided to break up the day into four hour shifts, so each person collects four water samples. Tonight I have the 11:30-3:30 shift, which sounds ouchy, but I actually enjoy being up that late (it's quiet and peaceful). I'm just grateful I don't have the following, early morning shift).
The rest of the boat is quite awesome (I have other pictures, but I don't want to suck up the limited bandwidth, so you can see them in either a Facebook or Picasa album when I get back to shore on Sunday). In addition to the staterooms and the dry lab, there's the wetlab (completely different from The Wetlab) where you get all the surface water samples via the sink (it's connected to the water below the bow). There's the back deck, with all the big scientific machinery (such as the CTDs), the bow (which is just awesome, especially in rough seas, because it's like a roller coaster), the upper deck, and, my favorite, the mess hall and galley. But really, the galley has to be my favorite. It has one of those intense professional fridges (you know, those massive stainless steel ones that are huge with three different doors), a huge pantry, a pantry basement, random assorted spices and cabinets all over the place, and a basil plant in a pot.
In addition, Chef Matt has to be the best person on the face of the planet. First, he made "MattMuffins" (a bad pun off of McMuffins...) from English muffins, poached eggs, American cheese, and Canadian bacon (in a cast iron pan!) this morning for breakfast, and just kept giving them to people. Then, for lunch, there's smoked turkey breast, baked beans, a lovely salad with hard boiled eggs, tons of greens, tomatoes, and carrots, and avocado slices, and a noodle and beef soup he whipped up! It was AMAZING! (Jen, you were totally right) Then, I'm sitting in the galley, knitting with a cup of tea between samples, while some other people are playing some random card game. They struck up a conversation with Matt about whatever snack food they were eating. It was some sort of peanut butter stuffed pretzel bit, so I went over and tried some. They were really good, so I went back to my spot to prevent myself from eating more. What does Chef Matt do? He gets me my own bowl of the things, and takes my teabag and bowl that I was storing it in and throws away the teabag (and takes care of the bowl) for me! Super nice and an amazing cook! Did I mention that he said something about salmon with a teriyaki glaze for dinner?

Anyway... on our way out of Biscayne Bay, we passed through Stiltsville. What is Stiltsville? It's a collection of houses off of Key Biscayne that look like this:
Yep, they're houses. In the ocean. On stilts. Hence the name. There's a whole bunch of them! I've only seen Stiltsville from a distance before, never actually gone through it, so this was pretty cool.

Apparently tonight we're watching some really hilarious movie with Bill Murray about a group of marine scientists and a research cruise. According to the crew, it's just generally funny, but especially funny if you are a marine scientist who's gone on a research cruise, because a lot of the details are actually accurate. So, it seems that it's some sort of sacrilege to go on a research cruise and not have seen this movie. Whatever, should be entertaining.

I'll end with a gratuitous shot of the ocean:

Oh, and Happy Pi Day everyone!