Rinse in Cold Water on High
by Maureen Bonner
September 23, 2005
After three full days of training, I had mastered driving our rigid inflatable boats. Nicolette (boat trainee) and I spoke to the captain and first mate of the Arctic Sunrise and suggested that we take over driving the ship as well. I mean, how different could it be? They quickly agreed that we were ready, and began making plans for an early retirement.
At 9:00 on Thursday, we lifted anchor and set out for Provincetown, Massachusetts. Nicolette and I thought it best that Frank join us in the bridge for our first time at the wheel, and he reluctantly obliged. Everything went smoothly, as we knew it would. Despite Frank’s repeated protests, Nicolette and I decided to leave the Arctic Sunrise in his hands for one more day, so we could participate in our last day of boat training. Bad idea.
We spent a beautiful, calm morning at sea learning some high-speed maneuvers, and practiced the other exercises from the week like launching and recovering the boats. We took a break for lunch and after we stuffed ourselves with carbohydrates, we prepared to once again board the boats. Our agenda for the afternoon session included loading and unloading passengers between the ship and the boats. We were all pretty comfortable with that drill and kept any water coming into the boats at a minimum. So it seemed odd when the first mate suggested we put on rain gear before boarding the RIBs, since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. A murmur rippled through the crowd of the more experienced participants and the only discernible words were “fire hoses.”
Sure enough, as the first driver approached to unload the rest of the crew from the RIB to the Arctic Sunrise, the first mate radioed the captain and said, “You may now push the button.”
“The button,” as it turned out, made water spray directly into our boat at an incredible force (six bars, for those of you who know what that means). The crew was simulating the conditions our activists commonly face when boarding and disembarking a hostile vessel. The water comes at you from every direction and it knocks you around like you are going through the spin cycle of a washing machine. Visibility is next to nothing and it’s hard to communicate over the sound of the gushing water. The crew was acting out their role as environmental foe by spraying us with the hoses, but I don’t think they were faking the sparkle in their eyes or the ear-to-ear grins we noticed as they did it.
I don’t know how we managed to complete the exercise and depart in one piece. It was physically one of the greatest challenges I have ever experienced. I’ve seen classic Greenpeace images of activists being sprayed by hoses and I’ve always thought “cool!” Now that I know what it actually feels like, I have an entirely different level of respect for them.
I wish I had some pictures to show you from this afternoon, but I know that a camera would never have survived the “attack.” In fact, a pair of sunglasses didn’t make it out. They are lost at sea forever.
It was a great exercise to end the training. I learned a lot about boats this week and would like to thank all the instructors and advanced trainees for their patience with me. We arrived in Provincetown at 16:00 and here we will say goodbye to the activists and welcome back onboard Chris (campaigner) and Eric (deckhand/explorer). They have spent the week in Cape Cod, laying the groundwork for our campaign activities surrounding the proposed wind farm. Personally, I think they were tipped off about the fire hoses and jumped ship the first chance they got.