When you’re out at sea, you have to think about where your gear is so it is easy to get to at a moment’s notice, and so it is in a logical place for everyone to find, on the day and night shift.  But you also have to tie it down so that your expensive gear doesn’t go flying if the boat hits rough weather. You have to think about your gear moving in multiple directions as the boat moves.  You don’t want things to shatter or spill because you tied things down worrying about things moving front-to-back and the boat starts lurching side-to-side.

We have been steaming along and hit some rough weather the last few days, so our skills at tying down our science equipment have been tested. Steven our Science Tech said on the first day that we won the award for the best tied-down labs he had seen, and two nights ago that definitely proved true. The boat hit one huge turn, and everyone felt it. The crew lounge lost a painting off the wall, and I was in a chair that may or may not have gone flying into a wall. (The bruises aren’t that bad Mom, I swear).  But the science gear stayed intact! The only things that were really moving around were the chairs.  We had a few things we needed to tighten down, but we had no disasters.

Here is a list of the most common tie-down techniques at sea:

  1. Ratchet straps. You can tighten down everything from big boxes of gear to CTDs and Bongo frames.  And they can get as tight as you need with easy release when the supplies are needed.
  2. Bungee cords. Perfect for shelves in lab and drawers you need to open often. They’ll hold things in rough weather, but are easy to move and you can get into the boxes they’re securing.
  3. Rope. If you’re good at knots, this is good for tying things that aren’t moving for the whole cruise, like microscopes and vacuum pumps.
  4. Wood. We screw little pieces of wood (called fering strips) in to wedge things in to tight spaces. We also screw eye bolts into the wood and then tie rope over things.
  5. Unistrut and Eyebolts. This really goes along with the other things, but the ships have unique strips on the wall (Unistrut) that allow us to put eyebolts at whatever height we need.  There are also bolt holes at set intervals in the floor of the deck and lab spaces, as well as the lab counters that can be filled with eyebolts.  The boat is designed with securing in mind!
  6. Latches. Every door and cabinet is built with extra latching in place so it doesn’t fly open.  There are also lips and metal bars on all the shelves to keep things secure.

We make life at sea as secure as possible, so things flying across the room doesn’t ruin the science!