A Shutdown Update

Thanks to an observant reader, I was reminded that  I left the last post as sort of a cliff hanger. So here’s a quick update on where we stand as related to this seemingly unending shutdown (so hard to resist a “bulkhead” related joke here, but I will). Good news!  NSF has been able to lift the 30-day spending cap.  We are authorized to spend funds as long as we have them. And according to our calculations and with a bit of short-term belt tightening, we should be good for the foreseeable future.  No unnecessary  stop orders from OSU to GIS are expected.

Meanwhile, work continues apace.  We continue to have our weekly status meetings (although NSF is notably absent).  Construction at the shipyard continues unimpeded.  They’re on to their second module. And discussions and planning continues for our transition to operations phase within OSU and with our partners at URI. Importantly, and unlike our heroic service members at with the U.S. Coast Guard,  everyone continues to receive a paycheck. If we were actually government employees (in NSF or, say NOAA), our status would be much more complicated.

We’ve had our ups and downs along the way so far, this being one of them. But to hear some truly crazy government-induced project challenges, I recommend the book Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern (their Project Manager). This is the same spacecraft that did the fly by of Thule Ultima on New Year’s Day, so you know how the story ends.  But the self-induced headaches they had to overcome were truly monumental.

Thanks again for reading. More soon!

 

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What does the shutdown mean for RCRV?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a partial government shutdown. Unfortunately for us, the National Science Foundation is in the 25% of the government that hasn’t already been funded. However, one of the advantages of the “grant” model that NSF uses to manage its major construction projects is that its awardees (i.e. OSU) can keep on going even if they can’t.  So work continues, though it did naturally slow somewhat for the holidays.  But there’s a catch, we can’t continue work beyond a 30 day closure, even if funds are available. And if we do pass that 30 day mark, that will be new territory, so let’s hope we don’t get there.  We’d likely need to issue a stop order to the shipyard. This, of course, would be costly and an absolute waste of time and money. It would also, of course, be very disruptive to Gulf Island’s employee’s as well as our team at OSU.  Let’s hope cooler heads prevail and some agreement can be met by our leaders in Washington in the next two weeks.  Otherwise… well… otherwise it’s going to be a big fat mess.

On the good news front, here’s a link to a little video from Taani’s keel laying ceremony. I should add that it looks like, assuming the shutdown concludes, we’re on track for the keel laying of the second RCRV some time in early May. University of Rhode Island’s consortium is actively working to name a sponsor and pick a name for its ship.  We’re expecting exciting news on those fronts soon.

For 2019 I resolve to try to blog more.  How’s that for wishy washy. Yoda certainly would not approve.

I’ve got some interesting posts planned for the future that will lean more technical.  Also, the countdown to the installation of our live web-cams has started.  They should be up in a couple of weeks, though why it’s taken so long I don’t know.  I installed some security cameras at my house before Christmas and it took about 15 minutes. You’ve been warned 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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The future never just happened, it was created

According to Pulitzer Prize winning historians Will and Ariel Durant “The future never just happened, it was created.” It was with this quote that I began the Keel Laying ceremony for R/V Taani at Gulf Island Shipyard this week. After spending far too much time investigating possible quotes—most of which were wistful bromides about the sea, or about ships, or about ships on the sea, or about men on ships on the sea—I thought this pithy little line pretty much summed up what I excites me about this project. There’s a lot of talk about building the future, but in our own little way, we are actually doing it for real now!

Kirk Meche, CEO of Gulf Island Fabrication was back home from Corporate Headquarters to deliver the welcome and speak to the importance of the RCRV project to southern Louisiana. I appreciated his 4F’s life philosophy: Fun, Food, Friends, and Faith.  My boss, Dean Roberta Marinelli, spoke on behalf OSU and put the ship into scientific and historical context and brought some class to the proceedings with a poignant passage from Shakespeare. Deputy Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (for GEO), Dr. Scott Borg, spoke to the broad nation-wide impacts that NSF fosters through projects like this and pledged full continued support for the project, now and through the ships’ lifetimes. Dr. Rick Spinrad, the former, well, former lots of amazing things and current strategic advisor to OSU, kept the audience entertained with the history of keel laying ceremonies and pitch-perfect sea stories that conveyed broad messages.

John and Shirley Byrne, our ceremonial sponsors, spoke touchingly about their full lives together, helping to create the future we are in today. Dr. Byrne reminded us that since he was the first UNOLS Director, it will be an even 50 years from then to when Taani is ready to go in 2021. I was sitting behind him, but I could almost hear him give a couple of winks as if to mean that there better be a big party! He was winking at you, UNOLS secretary-elect Doug Russell !  Shirley brought tears to several eyes, bringing us back to what really matters, speaking with compassion and pride for Taani’s future crews.

After it was all over, I asked a couple of the team what part of all the speeches stood out. The best answer I got was from our Admin Manager. She said “the best speeches are the ones we can remember how they made us feel, but we can’t exactly explain what they said.”  I thought, you know, that’s it! By the end of that part of the ceremony, I think we were all feeling like we were part of something pretty important. We were feeling excited to create the future while feeling connected to the past.

With the speeches over, the Vandebilt Catholic High School band played a few songs while John and Shirley made their way to the ceremonial welding table where they were met by Master Welder Anibal Crespo to do the deed. After about 10 minutes of very careful work as witnessed by all in attendance and with the keel (or, remember from my last entry, the “skeg”) duly sanctified, I called out, “Would the Oregon State University Shipyard Representative please authentic the keel?!” John Comar replied, “Aye, aye, sir!” (we’re both retired military, so this was kind of fun).  John then proceeded to VERY carefully inspect the quality of the welds (which were absolutely perfect, by the way) then placed two RCRV Challenge Coins (one heads, one tails) into the future ship’s hull and proclaimed in a loud voice “the keel of Research Vessel Taani has been truly and fairly laid!”

And so it was.

At that point, the band burst out with the OSU Fight Song and the crowd erupted in applause, all of us relieved to have given Taani an auspicious beginning.

Everyone present then joined in the authentication process and signed with permanent marker on the inside of the skeg.  Some people wrote touching homilies.

 

Others said things like “I’m dam proud” or “Go Beaves!!”  I, too, left my mark, but I’m not telling you what I wrote.  To see that, you’ll need to work at the shipyard, someday in the distant future—say in 2050—when it’s time to inspect the quality of the (US-made) steel and look for wastage (which I doubt you’ll find).  You’ll have to peel back the hull and peer down deep into the skeg. You’ll need to then find your way through a maze of cold stiffeners and narrow openings. There, on the forward most stiffener, likely long after I’m gone, you’ll find it. The future, I helped create.

 

 

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First Weld

And so it begins… R/V Taani’s first weld was laid October 16, 2018 by Gabriel De Jesus of Gulf Island Fabrication, Inc., Shipyards Division.

The official keel laying date remains on track for 7 November 2018. In advance of the ceremony (and regulatory keel laying date for those who follow such arcania), some work has started on the skeg. The skeg, we figure, is a lot like a keel, which is lacking in the traditional sense from the Taani class.

So what is the skeg? Primarily, it helps provide directional stability; it keeps the vessel pointed straight and steady.  At least it helps.  Z-drive vessels are notorious for having low directional stability as compared to those with conventional shaft/propellor drives.  They sort of fight each other while they compensate for minor deviations from the set course.  As a result, Z-drive vessels’ bows can swing slightly from side to side as they move forward.  This can be problematic for such science missions such as bathymetric surveys. 

There are a few ways this can be mitigated. Operationally, operators can lock one drive strait ahead and use the other to steer.  On the design side, we’ve made sure that the skeg is as long as possible and we’ve added fairings to the z-drives themselves. These fairings also help improve the hydrodynamics associated with directional stability and propulsive efficiency by improving water flow through the propellers. Lastly, the designers at Glosten added what we call a “skeglett.” This is a non-technical term that refers to the little baby skeg that extends between the z-drives (see the following picture).  There is some disagreement about the efficacy of the “skeglett” but the thought was to do all we could to help keep the ship going the right way.

 

I should also add that a longer vessel is less susceptible to z-drive induced swings than a short vessel.  So the added 6 feet we added recently will also help keep the ship on the straight and true course.

Here is a portion of the plan that the shipbuilders used to weld together Taani’s skeg.

Here’s the skeg coming to life.

All in all, this is very exciting!  We’ve been planning and talking for years. Now, there’s some actual progress to building these great ships! Stay tuned. Once GIS turns the switch in a month, we’re really going to start seeing progress fast.

Thanks again for reading. As always, feel free to subscribe using the link above.  //d

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What do you think of the possible Logos?

Two posts this week! This one is quick.  I thought I’d present a couple of possible logo’s we’re considering for R/V Taani.  What do you think? Preference? Feel free to drop in a comment below.

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Weekly Report

Each week, the RCRV team in Houma assembles an extensive report that provides updates on administrative and technical issues related to the ships’ construction. This report serves as but one of several methods we use to make sure we’re all on the same page in a rapidly changing landscape! We also have regular scheduled teleconferences, video conferences, monthly reports, quarterly and annual reviews, and of course daily comms.

Some people on the team are particularly adept at that last technique.The RCRV project is lucky to have a few of what I affectionately like to call “pollinators.”  These folks are VERY good at making sure everyone knows what’s happening.  Like bees on flowers, they go from person to person and let them know what’s going on. I find communication within the team to be the single most critical component to a successful project, and these pollinators really help with that.

But back to the report. The following bullets are lifted strait out of this week’s submission that I JUST received from the RCRV Shipyard Office.  I found it informative and interesting and thought you might as well.

________________________________

Rapp/OHS: OHS Meetings are being held weekly to facilitate progress. This week we met on Thursday with GIS and Triplex. Rapp has not provided a progress update this week. The meeting with Triplex was very informative and productive. We discussed several items in detail:

  1. Triplex has started ordering components and parts for control systems for the A-frames and LARS. We discussed chest pack layouts and functions.
  2. LARS docking head – Triplex has strongly recommended an alternate design for the docking head which allows the docking “basket” to swing up out of the way during lowering and towing. This eliminates the problem of the wire running on undersized rollers when the wire angle changes. This design is already standard for Triplex newbuilds. Triplex provided information which we are evaluating.
  3. LARS Overboarding Sheave– “Snatchable”: Triplex asked if we wanted the overboarding sheave on the LARS to be “snatchable.” They have an existing design which is snatchable, however, this would involve an increase in LARS weight of approximately 500kg. This is under evaluation, but the weight increase is a concern, since the LARS is already heavier than budgeted.
  4. Package Movement: We are considering wireless vs. wired control. Triplex has offered to add safety interlocks so that the PMC will not operate if the door is not open. Triplex is now selecting materials and components for the PMC.
  5. Main A-frame: The trunnion crossbar will be quite heavy and will have a tendency to rotate on its own in a seaway when not under load. Triplex will be providing a brake to secure the trunnion, and they have offered two options: 1) a “fail safe” brake which is set whenever the HPU is off, and releases when the HPU is turned on; or 2) a “manual” brake, which is set or released by the operator. This would be a function on the chest pack. This is currently under evaluation.
  6. Computer Simulator (of deck equipment that will work with a training chest pack):Triplex has been working on the simulator, which will be demonstrated at INMARTECH in October.

Working Deck Scale Model: GIS has issued the PO to the vendor to begin work on the Scale Models. At this point, the anchor model has higher priority.

__________________________________

Also in this week’s report is photo of a mock up we had constructed of the booths we’ll have on our mess deck.  Getting these built didn’t cost that much and, as it turned out, saved us a lot of money in the future because they’re too small! They seemed big enough in the computer model, but when you really sit down at the table, we found that they just didn’t work.  We’re also going to change how these booths act for storage. The original idea  was to be able to lift the seat cushion up on hinge in order to access the space underneath for storage. It turns out, the cushion hits the table and access is severely limited. So the new idea we’re considering is to have a pull out drawer (pulling from the aisle side so as to have access even when the booth is in use) using a Vidmar-style latching.  I’ve not seen this type of storage on a ship before and think it’s a great idea.

Well, that’s the latest from the shipyard office. You’re as up-to-date as I am 🙂  Thanks again for tuning in.

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Welcome R/V Taani!

OSU’s RCRV finally has a name! Check out this article to get a little background on how Taani was chosen as the name for OSU’s next ship.  Here’s a little graphic that gives a bit of history on OSU’s ship names going back to about 1960.  See a pattern?

By the way, editorial tip:  ship names should always be italicized and not preceded by the word “the” as they should be treated like a person’s name.  However, the name of a class of ships (The Oceanus class, for example) is not italicized. So I guess the RCRV class will now be known as the Taani class. There it is.

Also, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the latest addition to RCRV, um, Taani team.  Dash360 is now on board helping with Project Controls. They’re already doing great work for us and I’m excited to see what they can do. I should add that they produce a podcast on project management, so you know they mean business.  I actually encourage you to check out their latest episode in which they interview for Navy Seal Lawrence Yatch.  He was the keynote speaker at NSF’s Large Facilities Workshop this year and provides exceptional wisdom. Check it out!

I’ve been getting some good feedback on this blog.  People apparently appreciate the transparency (thanks, I’m trying) and also the technical tidbits.  So with the latter in mind, I’m going to more regularly highlight some of the ships’ more interesting features. Here’s one.

Perhaps the single most important instrument on any research vessel is the CTD. I’ve personal conducted literally hundreds of CTD casts (thousands?)… they’re the bread and butter of any cruise, pretty much.  So how the CTD is handled really matters.  Say it takes one ship 5 minutes faster to deploy or recover a CTD than another ship. Over the course of a 2-week cruise that can equate to many hours of lost productivity. The design of the system will make a huge difference over the life of the vessel. That’s why we’ve put a lot of thought into this, and so have our partners at Rapp/Triplex and we think we have a workable solution, though it’s not ideal due to constraints we have from other equipment and the layout and size of the ship.   For an example of very solid approach, check out the following shots from Sikuliaq (and this video). They have an deployable boom that can daintily set the CTD at the water’s edge and bring it inboard for processing with just a touch of a button.

This is the overhead crane type used on Sikuliaq to deploy/recover CTDs.

This is an empty CTD frame being brought on board Sikuliaq into its Baltic Room using the overhead crane.  The docking head provides a bit of a cushion for recoveries. Ours will look very similar.

Here is an animated video of the whole thing in action.  Investigator, the ship in the video, is Australia’s new research flagship has a lot great features like this (and cool videos, too).

On a smaller ships like those in the Taani class, we don’t have the luxury of a Baltic Room from which to deploy and recover CTDs and work the samples. (The term Baltic coming from their prevalence in that region to keep their folks out of the bad weather.) So we had to come up with another solution.

Enter the deck skidder.  Workboats in the oil and gas industry have been using rails on decks to move equipment around for a long time.  Here’s a cartoon example of a big one:

You can see the rail in this photo going fore/aft into the vessel’s large hangar. Note that the rail is recessed into the deck.

This approach is not all that common on research ships, though Roger Revelle does employ an elevated rail system and a little trolley.

You can see the orange rails leading into the vessel’s lab spaces. This is a similar approach to what we’re going with. Taani’s track will be bolted to the deck so it can be removed if necessary. To avoid tripping hazard, however, it will be surrounded with lightweight fiberglass grating which will be tapered down to the deck level. We expect the CTD to be moved by an electric chain drive, which eliminates the danger of an oil leak.  Somewhat similar systems have been added to other ships, but they are rarely as integrated as this, and usually involve tuggers and cables and are awful tripping hazards.

So basically the CTD will be brought on board and set on a trolley using a Triplex LARS (Launch and recovery system). Then, should the scientists wish to process the samples out of the weather, the trolley/CTD will be translated forward on the rail into the wet-lab. The wetlab will have a roll-up door to allow easy and complete access for the system. Once in the wetlab, it can be secured in place and worked on.  Here’s a little picture of it.  I’ll ask my animators if they can make a better version of it actually on the ship rendering that I can post later.

You’ll notice, by the way, that there’s a second position. That right hand bend in the rail is so that the CTD can be moved out of the way (all the way outboard in the wetlab) to provide easy access into the main lab for mob/demobing purposes.

One more graphic to sum it all up:

If you have any questions about this system, drop them in the comments below. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll ask the right people.  Thanks again for reading. And have a nice long weekend, if you’re so lucky.

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A quick post, “unfortunately”…

Well, we made it through our first Annual Review. One down, five to go! The OSU team did a great job preparing and organizing (I’m talking about you Hannah!) and it went pretty well. There were no real surprises anyway.  And the warts we knew about were the warts we presented. On the technical side, the warts included the delay caused by the lengthening change and the challenges GIS has faced with some of its Functional Design subcontractors.  What challenges? Well let’s just say that GIS has hired quite a few engineers of their own recently and moved most of the Functional Design work in house. On the project side, it means that our Earned Value Management system has not yet been accepted, unfortunately,  due to some issues with the schedule format. But like I said, none of this was a surprise and we’ve got a solid plan moving forward. We’re still on track to starting construction in November.

It was great to bring to entire team together in Corvallis. It’s been quite a while since we’ve done that and I’m not sure when, and even if, we’ll do it again, unfortunately.  Future annual reviews will be at the shipyard. I’m always really impressed with the talent we have on our team–all around.  I mean the Shipyard managers from GIS, the NSF officers, OSU’s financial support, and our team at the shipyard. Lot’s of talent. Here’s a picture we took with some of the team.  Unfortunately, we were having such a great time, we forgot to take a picture with everyone while we were still all together.

On the technical side, if you’ve been following our progress at all, you know that we’ve made a lot of effort to ensure that the RCRVs are going to be efficient to operate and that overall the “triple bottom line” is solid. Though laudable, this approach can create challenges, unfortunately. For example, one small way we’re increasing efficiency is by specifying LED lighting throughout the ship. This includes our external navigational lights that have very particular requirements dictated by the Coast Guard to ensure that they’re reliable and visible from predictable distances.  However,  LED lights, if unshielded, have been found to interfere with VHF communications, as announced this last week. Fortunately, we’ve known about this issue having looked into upgrading our Nav lights on Oceanus several years ago, and have required shielding in our RCRV specifications.  I mention it here as an on going example of the type of “gotchas” that can sneak up on you and why we monitor the industry for the latest and greatest to ensure we’re ahead of the game. One of these days, don’t be surprised if I come on here and write about how one of these “gotchas” actually “gottus.”

One more quick announcement. I’m very pleased to announce that the project’s very own Shipyard Representative, John Comar, has been selected as OSU’s “Exemplary Employee of the Year” for 2017. CEOAS Dean Roberta Marinelli presented him with this honor during the Annual Review this past week.  Well done, John! Very well deserved!

Ok. Until next time, thanks again for reading.  Enjoy your last week of summer. And, as always, feel free to subscribe using the link above.    /d

 

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Things are heating up…

Corvallis has been shrouded in a smokey haze this week as we feel the effects of the giant fires raging to the south as the temps have been well up into the 90s.  On the project side, things are heating up as well (how’s that for a segue ?).  Our largest change so far (and hopeful largest of the project) has been approved.  We’re adding 6′ and solving our foreseeable weight and volume problems.

Here’s a graphic of our new General Arrangement Drawings that incorporate the added length.  Lots of positive to see if you know where to look.  For example, we’ve consolidated all the ship’s officer staterooms together on the O2 level. The 2nd and 3rd engineers are next to each other which will be nice as these rooms will have special alarms that signal when there are problems with the machinery spaces.  One other big change we’ve made is to move the Datapresence Center down to the first platform below the main deck.  We’ve had it on the O1 level since the very beginning. It took someone from the outside of the project who was new to say “why not move it down.” We had seen it up there so long, it just wasn’t something we’d considered doing, but it solved a lot of problems and opened up several good opportunities for staterooms, air handling systems, and the relocation of the hospital that now has access directly from the weather deck and rescue boat.

We’re set to begin actually building these things in November. I think we’ll all be very glad to see some physical progress after all these years of planning and designing.

We’ve also settled our schedule summary, for now, that includes the revised delivery date for the first ship and sets the baseline delivery for University of Rhode Island’s ship.  Here’s a link to the updated schedule.  You’ll notice that it actually shows three ships.  I should be very clear to say that the third ship has NOT been funded by Congress yet. The third ship is on here (and all the dates associated with it) are just our best guesses.  So don’t get excited.  But if we do get funded, and the funding comes in not too late in the year, this is kind of how the third ship would play out.

We’ve added a key new member to our team in the last few weeks.  Daryl Swensen has joined as the “Transition to Operations Coordinator.”  Daryl was with OSU a few years back leading OSU’s Marine Technician group. He brings a wealth of sea-going and science planning experience to the team which is good, because it’s his job to get the new ships outfitted, all the science gear and systems tested, and the ships ready for service in the academic fleet. Welcome aboard Daryl!

Ok. That will do it for now.  Next week is that Annual Review I mentioned so we have lots to do to make sure we’re squared away for that.  Enjoy what’s left of the summer! If you’re in the west, watch out for the fires! And, as always, thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe using the link above.

 

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A little of this, a little of that.

Greetings. No major news since my last post, but I thought I’d just provide a few short updates on a number of topics. For starters, we’re making good progress in wrapping up the change I referenced in my last post. Though not quite finalized, it looks very good that we’ll be moving forward with the added 6′ in the next week or so.  When we get that finalized, we’ll be sure to update our General Arrangement Drawing (GA’s) on our website. The new GAs look great, by the way, and I’m looking forward to sharing them.

We had our first meeting with our friends from University of Rhode Island today. We discussed how they’ll be involved during the construction process and how things might go during the transition of their ship. We had a few different ideas on what that might look like, and, if you know me at all, you know I like different ideas! I find that the best plans and ideas are usually not the first ones thought of, but, rather, the ones that grow from the original idea into something smarter and better.  I looking forward to working with URI– they’re going to bring a lot to the table.

In a few weeks, OSU will be hosting the National Science Foundation review panel for our first “Annual Review.” In advance of that, we’ve provided the reviewers all of our project documents so that they can really look under the hood and see if we’re doing our jobs like we said we would.  This kind of oversight, though somewhat of a pain from time to time, is very important to ensure that we’re all being good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. In conjunction with our annual review, we’ll also be hosting a few representatives from Gulf Island for our normal Quarterly Review.

On the technical side, we’re making steady progress.  Rapp is making headway on the main crane selection, for example. This has been a challenge since the design phase of the project.  In our specifications, we require a telescoping crane that covers the entirety of the back deck and has the ability to tow light packages over the side.  And we need that to be light and preferably not use a crutch to support it during towing operations.  Thus far, the crane selection has been either complicated or facilitated by the recent merger of Rapp and MacGregor, I sometimes can’t tell which.  Larger ships often employ two cranes on the back deck.  In many ways, this is actually easier to design and build as neither crane needs to do everything. But smaller ships can’t fit two cranes.  One of the drivers is that the crane needs to be able to load cargo (such as portable laboratory vans) from the pier. Two smaller cranes wouldn’t give that capacity.

We’re also to the point in the process where we’re starting to pick colors for lounge furniture and the booths in the mess.  We’re going with brick red booths, a choice you often see in old 50s diners.

Lastly, we’ve chosen a name for the ship! And, we have a sponsor line up for the keel laying.  Stay tuned for more info on that in an upcoming post.

As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments, gripes, or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment tool above.  Until next time, have a great summer!

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