Drifter Buoy

01:06.9N 085:27.8W
22 Feb 2015
 
After motoring through the night, we set the sails again in the morning and made good progress over 6 knots in light winds and calm seas.  Sun shining and altogether very comfortable.  At about 9am what appeared to be an ocean-going fishing vessel was coming towards us on an approximately reciprocal course and was on our beam at about 0.75 miles when they launched a helicopter that proceeded straight towards us at a little over 100 feet.  The chopper circled us and we waved.  He then went back to his ship.  We made contact by radio and asked what was this all about?  A surly voice answered in a strong accent “Security”, or that’s how it sounded, but he would not utter another word.  Strange indeed and led us into fantastical speculations as to the true identity and activity of this ship.
 
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Later in the day it was time to deploy the drifter buoy that we had taken on board in Panama.  It had been sitting under the cockpit table looking like some alien from Dr. Who but now we needed to get it out, unwrap it and get ready to cast into the water.
 
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The purpose of the buoy is to collect data on temperature, salinity, drift, etc. which is then transmitted to NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency of the USA) by satellite for use in research and it weather forecasting.  Several of the rally yachts are carrying such buoys with instructions to deploy them at specific locations through the Pacific.  Our was the first one to go.  Normally these buoys are set adrift by research vessels or commercial ships.  The problem for NOAA is that they have lots of data from some locations in the World (eg on major shipping routes) but very little from other less visited areas.  Recruiting the yachting community to assist in the program is a new initiative and one which we support and we hope will grow in the future.  We yachties are heavily reliant on good weather forecasts so it’s in our own interests to contribute to that result and it’s thanks to Cornell Sailing that we were able to do so.