Third RCRV Operator Named: Welcome the Gulf – Caribbean Oceanographic Consortium

NSF has finally named the third RCRV operator. University of Southern Mississippi and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) have partnered (with others) to operate the third ship, they’ve announced today. I guess this makes LUMCON partners in a double imbedded consortium within a consortium which is kind of mind blowing. But either way, it’s going to be great working with our new partners to bring the third RCRV to life for work in and around the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding waters. There’s sure plenty for ships like these to do down there. As I understand it, their (to be named later) ship will likely be home ported right across the canal from Gulf Island Shipyard! So what will take 30 days for OSU will take our new partners more like 30 minutes to get home for the first time.

Let’s see. It’s been awhile since I’ve made a post, so what should I highlight? Lots has been happening so I hope you’ve been following us on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve been doing a couple of posts a week showing the construction progress of Taani. One thing I can announce today is that, as of last Friday, Gulf Island Shipyard has officially started construction of the second ship, Resolution. The ceremonial keel laying was last May, but now we can say that fabrication has started in earnest.

Though the operator for the third ship was named today, we (OSU) exercised the contract option for the third ship over a year ago. Lots of planning and prep have occurred in the ensuing months and construction on the third ship will start not too far in the future. Next year is going to be a busy year at Gulf Island with three ships under construction for OSU alone.

If you haven’t seen the live webcams in awhile, I encourage you to check in. Taani is really starting to look like a ship now, although it’s a little hard to tell from the webcams because the modules are not visually in order quite yet. Soon, they’ll start landing some of the major systems like the main engines (which have passed Factory Acceptance Testing), the thrusters (that are on hand ready to go), and the overboard handling systems (some of which are being factory tested this week).

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I’ll try to do better.

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@rcrv_program : Entering into the World of Facetagram !

I’ve been informed that perhaps BLOGS such as this are, to say, a bit of an antiquated form of outreach and that several new methods have emerged in recent decades that might be more appropriate for our project to get the word out on new and emerging developments.  Therefore, in my capacity as project manager, where my main job is basically to do what my team tells me to do and say what they tell me to say, I have appointed an official Social Media Czar–notably, I should add, of the millennial generation–to manage and update content using the Instagram and or the FaceBook.

This change is actually really good news for everyone for, as you’ve seen, I’v not been the absolute best at keeping my New Year’s resolution and posting more often.  But fear not, this is not the end of this blog. Nay. I will still keep at it and finally post some long-teased technical updates and this will continue to be my platform for certain other announcements and proclamations.  But for fun day-to-day updates, I encourage you to follow us:


Expect lots of #pictures showing all three of our #ships springing to life.  I think I might actually create my own accounts so I can see what’s going on myself with the #rcrvsarereallycool! But if you start getting some new, targeted ads from U.S. Shipyards and Central European winch manufacturers and marine-grade LED light fixture providers, don’t blame me!

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All the New News

I’m happy to announce that OSU inked the contract for a third RCRV!  That’s great news for the nations academic research fleet.  We don’t know yet who we will be working with to transition the third vessel to operations, but NSF has a solicitation on the street for prospective operators. Want to operate an RCRV? You have until July 01 to get a proposal in…

Meanwhile, work is progressing well on Taani and Resolution.  Here’s a recent picture of Taani’s centerboard being fitted in. The retractable centerboard was one of the first things that needed to be fabricated because, in a lot of ways, it serves as the vertical backbone of the ship.  Power Dynamics, LLC, a company out of Mississippi, built it for us. The workmanship is outstanding!

In preparation for Resolution’s keel laying on May 7th, GIS has also starting fabricating the skeg for the ceremony.

I’d also like to let you know that we have several cool (nearly) live webcams that you can watch construction of the ships as it happens.  When interesting things are scheduled, maybe I’ll be able to give a heads up here and you can tune in. For now, here are the links:


You can also always check the main OSU webcam site for these and more, including R/V Oceanus underway.

I should also add that DVT is taking a bit longer than originally planned.  We’re taking a bit of extra time to ensure that all of the engineering is done properly so that the modeling and, ultimately, construction happens in the most efficient manner possible. Here’s an update on our schedule:

Ok. That’s all the news that’s fit to print for the moment! Thanks again for your interest in the RCRV project. /d


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New Year’s Resolutions…

One of my personal historical heroes is Captain James Cook. He was not born into the typical English Naval Officer’s aristocratic family; he rose to his station through the hawsepipe purely on his merit and leadership.  In many ways he could be considered the first captain of an ocean-going research ship. The best book I’ve read on his life exploits is Further Than any Man by Martin Dugard. It’s a real nail biter. His first ship, the HMS Endeavour echos to this day as the eponymous inspiration in the vessel of our RCRV partner– University of Rhode Island– R/V Endeavor (though URI apparently does not like the letter “U”).

R/V Resolution served as Cook’s modern upgrade and took him and his crew many countless miles on his second and third voyages. Among many other “firsts” she was the first ship to sail below the antarctic circle. I’m burying the lead here, but guess what? URI has named the second RCRV.   And guess what name they chose for R/V Endeavor’s successor?

This, from Dr. Bruce Corliss, dean of URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography:

The naming of R/V Resolution follows the precedent by Dean John Knauss of choosing a historical name for the R/V Endeavor.  As the second vessel used by Captain Cook in his voyages of exploration, the HMS Resolution had a long and distinguished career and R/V Resolution continues the tradition within URI of a historical name following the R/V Endeavour, Cook’s first vessel of exploration.  There is a further linkage to Cook and the HMS Endeavour, as the remains of the HMS Endeavour are thought to be in the east passage of Narragansett Bay, some five miles from our campus.

Nicely done! I think this name is a great fit for what is going to be a great ship!

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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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