Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thar she blows!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On this third day of traversing Icelandic waters, it’s about time for some excitement!

We spotted some visitors just about half a mile off the stern starboard side; yes, that’s right - huge whales flipping about! Apologies in advance for my poor identification of marine mammal species…they are huge and gray; they have fins and tails. They showed us their round heads as they occasionally spout into the air; other times they smacked their tails on the water's surface. They timed their appearance just right for the half-hour lunch-time show, which drew a happy crowd from all over the ship.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Like a Painted Ship Upon a Painted Ocean

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LAN (local apparent noon) weather report: air temperature 42 degrees Fahrenheit, water temperature 34 degrees Fahrenheit. By midnight, air temperature dropped to about 34 degrees as well. That’s when many cadets came out to watch the sunset, which was thus far on this cruise the most picturesque. Behind us were the rugged, glacier-draped mountains under the half moon; due northwest was the sun slowly sweeping towards north on its arctic ecliptic. Only reluctantly, after almost half an hour, did the sun dip fully below the horizon and vanish after a fleeting green flash.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day aboard

Monday, May 28, 2012

The flag flies half mast until noon today as we continue to steam past 63 degree north. The fog lifted and ice capped peaks came into view on the horizon to the west. Seagulls came flying by thinking that we are a fishing vessel. Sorry birds, no scraps here!

Sunday at Sea returns!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It’s Sunday at Sea! We barbecued from lunch through dinner, and I was quickly bombarded by a steady stream of officers and cadets to the library in the post-BBQ hours.  In addition to the Game of Thrones now, “Real Steel” and “Captain America” have been popular movies for officers to borrow – what a great way to end such a delicious day at sea!

Of movies and monographs

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Students appear to have expanded their reading selections from purely academic to popular as well within the last day.  Between the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games series, our holds list has been growing hourly.  One cadet was overheard proclaiming: “I love Hemingway! I am going to read all his novels – only two more to go!”

With a new system I have implemented, which gets more student feedback for selecting our nightly movies aboard, we broke the movie attendance record two nights in a row! Over 25 cadets came down to watch Austin Powers in “Goldmember,” and then over 50 last night for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” Tonight, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” brought a comparatively paltry 45 cadets down to the lounge. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Focus on Academics

From the Ship’s Librarian, Friday, May 25, 2012

It’s time for midterm exams. A librarian can tell how serious the students are studying by what they ask for. A sample of student requests in the past few days: the classic Bowditch American Practical Navigator, the Empire State VI Safety Manual, the 1979 Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety, a ruler with centimeters on it, a pencil sharpener, and the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. I’m not sure which exam the Poe was for, but we do have his complete works in a gold-stamped, leather-bound edition with gilt edges.

Last night, for the first time, the sky was not pitch black after closing the library at 2200. It is also getting colder outside, but the weather has been absolutely gorgeous today. Cadets are chipping, painting, sunbathing, and, I think I got this right, shooting apples and tomatoes into the sky with a potato gun.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Keeping up with the times

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One of the main challenges here in the ship’s library has been connecting students with the technologies their classes require.  At times, reverting to old technology can be a practical solution.  Lately, students have been working with a computer program to practice their Morse code for upcoming exams; others will use a similar practice station for signaling soon.  It is entertaining to consider how technology aboard ship has shifted over time.  Critical sailor’s skills like tying knots and checking valves, while still important to seafaring life, evolve with computers, programs, technology, and the like.  Funny to think how technologies have changed aboard ship over the years – and yet our students are preparing to tackle all of these challenges head on!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A little spring cleaning...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

General ship’s maintenance is underway and the chipping, painting, sanding, and welding have begun! We are making a lot of noise these days, but these are crucial activities for the wellbeing of the ship and avoiding rust, which could quickly deteriorate the condition of the vessel.

We also made a big splash: this morning we let out the orange fast rescue boat. It sped to Ponta Delgada and came back with a new faculty member. We will find out who the mystery professor is soon enough!

We are now leaving São Miguel for the third time. We will head westward past the Azorean archipelago, and, some time tonight, turn straight north towards Iceland.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All Quiet on the Front

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We continue to circle São Miguel very slowly. It was a brisk 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the library today because we are moving so slowly and the fuel does not have a chance to really heat up.  Cadets have been very quiet since their time ashore in the Azores. Many came to the library for the long haul — they are staying for hours at a time studying for upcoming exams.  More to come over the next few days, I'm sure, on our way to Iceland!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Photography Aboard and Ashore

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just a quick word about photos, since I know there have been several requests from shore.  There has been some technological miscommunication between equipment I am using, and the internet terminal in the public library ashore did not allow connection to external devices (like the camera). So, currently, the camera remains "unwired."  I will try again when we arrive in Iceland. Don’t worry, though…there are photos aplenty!

Shore to Ship

Monday, May 21, 2012

We pulled away from Ponta Delgada in the early hours of the morning. We anchored just a short distance off the island all day. There will be some anchor training and rescue boat drills. With exams looming, cadets quickly settled back into the routines. Back to work!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Azores, Day 3

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Around the island in the past few days I have been running into cadets exploring the natural beauty of the island in a variety of ways. A good number went on a bus tour of the island, organized by Regimental Affairs, which took them to the peaks of the volcano, swimming in a naturally heated spring, and eating food cooked in the bubbling hot springs. I also met cadets, accompanied by hired local guides, riding vehicles ranging from four-wheeled ATVs to two-wheeled motorbikes and bicycles, as well as segways. A handful of cadets took long hikes and went on long runs; some organized their own diving trips. Today was a warm, sunny day, so the beach was also a great draw. 

Oh, yes, cadets have been writing, too—letters and postcards were steadily collecting in the ship’s mailbox. By the way, mail sent to the Azores was not forwarded to Iceland after all and has been distributed to the cadets.

Azores, Day 2

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Just a brief update today: 

We received news from the Captain and discovered we will have an early departure at 0600 Monday morning to make way for a cruise ship. In the next two to three days, we will do some anchor training, special maneuvers, and man-over-board drills in the local area. Overnight, we will anchor just off São Miguel, weather permitting.

Azores, Day 1

Friday, May 18, 2012

After maneuvering with two tugs for a while, we finally docked at the marina in Ponta Delgada shortly before noon. We were greeted not only by the friendly local police, but also by an impressive statue of Gonçalo Velho Cabral, who “discovered” the Azores for the Portuguese in the mid-15th century (these islands already appeared in the Medici Atlas of 1351). Behind Cabral is a three-arch City Gate, which appears even more majestic at night when lit by purple lights. The City Gate leads to a grand plaza and the imposing Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião with a clock tower that can be seen from anywhere in the city. Many cadets could be seen attending mass here on Thursday (Ascension Day) and on Sunday. Cadets also explored the city in many ways: some reveled at the Festival of Saint Christopher, some looked for souvenirs in local shops, many discovered the nearest pay phone and called home, and many more simply lingered in sidewalk cafés enjoying the sun and a rare day off. 

For those of you, dear readers, interested in libraries, I spent some time in the Biblioteca Publica. It is a 4-story stone building with an interior courtyard. The library's café leads to outdoor seating amongst centuries-old stone walls and a roof deck overlooking the harbor; the inside is completely outfit with modern technologies and amenities, except, as part of the library's exhibit, several openings that reveal the original stonework and woodwork. The young adult, children, and adult rooms are on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors, respectively. The reading rooms have large windows that let in lots of natural light. It was mid-afternoon just after school, and I saw librarians reading to children, and, even though it was a Friday, serious high school students studying and doing homework in the extremely quiet reading rooms. The friendly library staff gave directions to a group of cadets, and very kindly allowed me, without a library card, to use one of the public terminals for internet access.

After leaving the library, I walked away from the harbor towards the hills. Vegetation is lush here and a pleasant scent of flowers shrouds the hills (azaleas are in full bloom). On the way down, I strolled by a local market where farmers sold local meat and produce, and the town's theater where a gymnastics competition was taking place. In fact, not a few minutes later, groups of gymnasts from Russia, Finland, and Germany emerged with a large group of cadets in the main shopping center in town. For all of us tourists, today shopping was the universal sport! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Staying the Course

Thursday, May 17, 2012

We circled the island of São Miguel all night and all day. During the day, we gradually moved closer to about two miles off the coast and were able to see the beautiful coastal houses, hillside farms, and volcanic peaks. This was as close as we’d get. At 1800, a pilot boat pulled up. We opened the cargo hatch and threw down a ladder. On came Captain Smith and three cadets, and we said farewell to Captain Ahlstrom, Colonel Stroud, and Mate Fiorenza. At 1830, we closed the hatch, turned southeast, and said goodbye to the Azores.

On the mess deck I picked a seat that looks out at the stern, already nostalgic about the land that was slowly receding into the horizon. Then I noticed the ship made a slow 270 degree turn, and a flurry of activities could be heard on the radio. At 1845, the Chief Mate came into the Officers’ Mess and gave the order: “All hands, all hands, prepare for docking.” We’re going to the Azores after all.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Port Changes, and Land Ho!

May 16, 2012

News as of 1330:

Much like the tides, our plans for the Azores have changed. 

We will anchor off Sao Miguel this evening to transfer some passengers, circle back around tomorrow afternoon to pick up other passengers, and off we go. That will be all for the Azores. Word around the foremast is that we're heading to Tenerife (Canary Islands) instead, but we will not know for sure until probably Friday afternoon.

The ETA is Sunday morning...IF we indeed go to the Canary Islands. It looks like the decision will be made tomorrow. 

News as of 2100:

Land ho!
Cadets on the flying bridge first spied the cone off Sete Cidades mid-afternoon, and the island of São Miguel came to full view during dinner time. A Portuguese pilot boat came up to greet us as we lowered the gangway to sea level. Four courageous passengers walked down, jumped, and hopped on to the pilot boat. We received a sack of mail in return.  However, we are expecting that any additional mail sent to the Azores will be forwarded to Iceland. 
In the mean time, we will steam for at least three more days while waiting for the Captain to announce the next port.
More updates as they come,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Sports" At Sea

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A new sport has taken over the cadets’ lounge: hacky sack. It is quite a social sport, as cadets gather around in a circle chatting away while kicking the small sack of beans to (and sometimes at) each other. In the meantime, students and instructors alike are busy checking out guidebooks to the Azores, ship structure, and leisure reading.

We are expecting to pass by the Azores some time on Wednesday and, depending on the weather, we will either anchor nearby overnight or continue to steam around until entering port on Thursday.

All for now,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Library Happenings and Routine Aboard

Monday, May 14, 2012

We skipped Sunday at Sea yesterday to make up for the late start from Fort Schuyler, but we anticipate a festive cookout next week.  Usually, Sundays at Sea would include a somewhat relaxed work schedule, social barbeque dinner, and recreational activities for students.  The cadets are really getting into their routines now. We had a fire drill at 1315, and all the cadets assembled at their stations in no time.

Some excitement arose in the library two nights ago when about 500 books escaped their bungee cord restraints (necessary due to the rolling of the ship) and fell to the deck.  Thanks to a team of six cadets to assist, we were able to get the books back into place in no time!  In the afternoons and evenings, cadets continue to come to the library and work on their homework assignments or read for entertainment.  They take occasional breaks for late night snacks and popcorn, which are provided daily on the mess deck from 2100 to 0000.

Speaking of food, the quality has been very good. One cadet who came up to the officers’ mess on business remarked how great officers’ food was.  We reminded him that cadets’ food was just as good. Everyone on the ship gets the same food; the only difference is that officers get tablecloths.

Everyone is looking forward to reaching the Azores in about two days.

All for now,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rolling Along

Friday, May 11, 2012

Today, drowsiness continues when I’m not in the library as a side effect of the anti-seasickness medication I am taking as a precaution. I see cadets having classes outside on the deck, standing watch, and doing their homework. The routine is becoming like clockwork.

Cadets also have the tendency to line up not just during the daily formation, but also queue for the meals, to the sick bay, to the barber, to do extra duty… all is very orderly.

The workout videos are proving to be a phenomenon. Every day, several cadets bring their laptop down here at different times, and groups of cadets – both male and female - dance and exercise to the energetic video personalities and rhythmic music.

The waves have picked up and the ship has been rolling quite a bit (yet the line out the sick bay is steadily decreasing, which is good news). Tomorrow we expect to hit a storm. We are all patiently waiting for the report from our NOAA weatherman, Tim.

As we steam along to the Azores, please note that mail can be forwarded to the following address and will be picked up once we reach port:

[Name], c/o T/S Empire State
 c/o Martin Lezaola
 C.M.J. Rieff & Sons, Ltd.
 Av. Infante D. Henrique 6-1
 9500-762 Ponta Delgada
 Sao Miguel, Azores

Your ship’s librarian,

Classes Underway

Thursday, May 10, 2012

After spending the night off the north shore of Montauk, we lifted anchor at 7:20am and sailed into the stormy sea. Cadets are having their first day of classes.  

Excitement is building! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Onward to the Azores!

(From Ship's Librarian, Kimmy Szeto) 
May 9, 2012

First of all, we aboard would like to extend a big thanks to the parents and supporters for sending us off in the rain yesterday morning! 

We found calm seas as we sailed into the foggy Long Island Sound. As I wrote this yesterday evening at 2130 (9:30 p.m. for you landlubbers), cadets were coming to the gymnasium and the library for recreation and relaxation. Cadets in the library enjoyed the magazines, while some hovered over the guide book for the Azores. One cadet even jumped rope for half an hour outside the library (where one gymnasium is located), and another group just came with a laptop to stretch out to a yoga instructional video.

We anchored at Montauk last night…onward in the morning!

Departure Day, May 9, 2012

Early morning rain did little to deter friends and family of those aboard the TS EMPIRE STATE VI from coming out to wish fair winds and following seas to their loved ones!

Departing promptly at 10:00 a.m., a hearty crew of over 500 mariners, cadets, faculty, and staff steamed off to Montauk, NY for fueling before the adventurous Atlantic crossing.  Not to be overlooked is one enthusiastic Ship's Librarian, Mr. Kimmy Szeto, who will be reporting from aboard the EMPIRE STATE VI on the daily activities and special events while underway and during ports-of-call in San Miguel (Azores), Reykjavik (Iceland), and finally returning to Norfolk, VA later in June.

The Stephen B. Luce Library wishes a bon voyage to all those aboard the EMPIRE STATE VI this summer.  Our Ship's Librarian will be reporting shortly on his first impressions at sea, so stay tuned!