Suiting up in an MSD-900 survival suit felt a little bit strange considering that there was no ice for as far as the eye could see. We were miles from the ice-edge as we pulled into Dutch Harbor but there I was pulling and squirming back through the many zippers and pull-ties. This time I would not be waiting to clunk down the brow in my bunny boots towards the ice though. This time... I was going in the "small boat"!The Healy 2, or the "small boat"; as it is affectionately referred to by its crew, usually hangs unobtrusively above the portside 03 deck. When sediment traps need to be retrieved, a buoy needs to be checked on or a small crew needs to go into port first, she is lowered from the top of the boat into the water. This is when the fun begins! As the Healy pulled slowly into Dutch Harbor on Monday, a crew of three boatswains was sent ahead to act as the land crew, manning the lines that tie the Healy in place at the dock. I was lucky enough to tag along!

    Getting dressed for the ride was no joke, as usual. First, there was the MSD-900, then the PDF (personal floatation device, aka life-preserver). Finally, the helmet as an accessory. Once we were dressed for the party, we squatted on the deck of Healy 2, and held onto the safety lines and she was lowered down into the water with a thud.

    Suiting up
    BM3 Jim Merten gets suited up to board the Healy 2. Closing up a life-preserver over an MSD-900 is more difficult than it looks! Now he's just missing his helmet

    Lowering in
    The deck crew lowered the Healy 2 (and us!) into the water from up above. We squatted until we had hit the water with a thud!

    And we're off!
    BM2 Andy Yeckley revved it up and steered us towards Dutch Harbor. This small crew of 4 would be the people on land ready to catch the mooring lines. I was just there for the fun!

    Boatswains Andy Yeckley and Jim Merten were behind the driver's console as we sped away from the Healy. Flying across the water was amazing enough until I realized that Andy was going to let ME drive!

    Me- Behind the Wheel!
    Right hand on the throttle (gas pedal) and left hand on the steering wheel. Once we took off everyone had to sit down. (Ms. Welch likes to go fast!:)

    Off the starboard
    We had a little fun as we brought the Healy 2 into port- dipping towards the starboard, then the port, then the starboard! Whee!

    Luckily there's no stop signs, traffic lights or speed limits when you are behind the wheel of the small boat but otherwise it is just like driving a car. I revved it up, turned the wheel and soon we were flying towards the port. The sun was shining, the mountains looked crisp still covered in snow and the Tufted-puffins that were feeding in the water around us seemed to be welcoming our arrival back to land! When Healy pulled in thirty minutes later, everyone was out on the deck celebrating the chance to call their families, go on a hike and just get off the boat! Take a look at the work that went in to keeping the Healy from floating away...

    Healy with Tug
    A Dutch Harbor tugboat helped to guide the Healy safely into port.

    Docking Healy 2
    BM3 Jim Merten pulls us close to the pier and ties us off so that we can climb the steep ladder up to the dock.

    As soon as the Healy was in place, the deck crew began tossing lines to the pier.

    Tying up
    The dockside crew caught the lines and set to work securing the Healy in place.

    Boatswain Welch?
    Hardly! But I did coil the rope up... and have a lot of fun!

    While I am happy to go for a run on a solid surface that isn't rocking in the waves, hike up snowy mountains in Dutch Harbor and eat fresh fruit, I am sad to be leaving the bustling science lab, the Healy crew and Bering Sea adventure behind! Tomorrow, I will start the trek home, armed with a bag of Bering Sea mud, a jar of brittle stars, and my pet copepods in tow. My favorite scientists at Oyster-Adams Elementary- I will see you soon!