Operation Drifters

Operation Drifters

by David Bill and James Manning

Deployed drifters track north of Penikese Island

Deployed drifters track north of Penikese Island

 

Oceanographic drifters are simple free-floating instruments, which transmit their own positions via satellite. The transmitter, mounted on the top of the floating drifter is logged over time indicating surface currents. The tracks are updated on the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) website minutes after each transmitted position. The drifters are used to observe ocean circulation patterns and in our case what is occurring for our home waters in Buzzards Bay. Jim Manning an oceanographer at NOAA/NEFSC started using drifters about a decade ago to study ocean current circulation patterns in the Gulf of Maine. Jim suggested to us that real time drifter observations for validating ocean circulation models for Buzzards Bay is valuable scientific data adding to our understanding of ocean currents.

 

Pre drifter deployment @ Mattapoisett, MA town landing

Pre drifter deployment @ Mattapoisett, MA town landing

This morning at the Mattapoisett Town Landing Tabor Boy Captain Zane Randall and new student summer orientation Chaperone Mackenzie Chaput picked up Tim Anderson a NOAA Hollings Fellow and his two NOAA oceanographic drifter units (one is a surface drifter and the other is a drogue drifter). Today Tim is overseeing the deployment of the two NOAA drifters and our Tabor drifter onboard Tabor Boy while the schooner is enroute to Cuttyhunk with voyage #4 Tabor Boy new students.

 

This collaborative project between Tabor Academy and NOAA/NEFSC was inspired a year ago last summer when Marine Science faculty members Jenny Albright and Kimberly Ulmer met up with Jim Manning at the Woods Hole NOAA office during their summer study research visits. Albright and Ulmer brought back the idea of Tabor students building and deploying oceanographic drifters and then studying and contributing the data.

Preparing to deploy at  Buzzard's Bay entrance

Preparing to deploy at Buzzard’s Bay entrance

 

Tabor’s drifter was designed and constructed by Captain Geil’s Theoretical Ship and Boat Design class last fall. From the student designs, a prototype was built and tested, and then implemented in the Tabor Boy new student orientation program starting with voyage one. Jim Manning took an interest in our data and suggested that we deploy all three drifters to make a comparative study.

 

Like us, Jim Manning and his team at NOAA, you can track the progress of the three drifters (updated by satellite every few hours) on the following Google map link http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_tabor_2015_1.html

 

You can view the actual data that the three drifters:

 

Tabor drifter ID #157410702

NOAA surface drifter ID #157410701

NOAA drogue drifter ID #157410703

 

are transmitting on the following link:

http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_tabor_2015_1.dat

Watch with us what information the three drifters transmit about actual surface currents in our home waters.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Welcome to Boats and Life.com | Leave a comment

Seabattical Log #5- The Merry Oyster Company, an Interview with Don Merry

Seabattical Log #5- The Merry Oyster Company, an Interview with Don Merry

July 14, 2015

 IMG_4910

Oyster entrepreneur Donald Merry took an interest in the Tabor Oyster Farm and came to visit our site at Tabor this past June. I recently took advantage of Don’s invitation to come visit the Merry Oyster Company in Duxbury, Massachusetts. He and I had the chance to spend an afternoon on his farm and here are some excerpts of our conversations.

Profession: Oyster Farmer

Favorite quotes: “A rising tide floats all boats.” and “A lazy man works twice as hard.”

Dog’s name: Tashmoo

Location: Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts

Tabor relationships:

Robert K Merry ‘61- Don ’s Father

Donald S. Merry ’63 - Don’s Uncle

Todd K. Merry ’84 - Don’s Brother

Don Merry inspects the oyster seed in the upweller

Don Merry inspects the oyster seed in the upweller

DB: What was it about the Tabor Oyster Farm that got your attention?

DM: My father, my uncle, my brother and I all attended Tabor so we get Tabor Today. I read the article about the Tabor Oyster Farm and I thought, what a perfect place to do that. I can’t think of another high school that has a Marine Science facility and program like Tabor.

 

 

DB: What are the similarities with the Tabor Oyster Farm and your commercial oyster growing business?

DM: After 15 years of growing oysters, I am always still trying out new things just like you do at Tabor. I have to explore and document new things so you can keep track of the results. You can learn a lot through experimentation. This is a new industry, if you figure things out, it helps the next guy and the industry as a whole.”

DB: Why do you think it is valuable to grow oysters at a school?

DM: Oyster farming teaches all aspects of academic disciplines and life skills, which are real and educational, like engineering, manufacturing, art, math, marketing, business, and science. Any of these skills help to inform professional aspirations. The methods and applications for growing oysters can be used for producing food anywhere in the world.

Working the farm on Duxbury Bay

Working the farm on Duxbury Bay

DB: How did you get into the oyster aquaculture business?

DM: I grew up in family of cranberry growers. As a kid Duxbury bay was my playground. Everyday now I pinch myself when I think that am able to make a living from a place that love to be. I started off my professional career as a salesman for Northstar loran marine navigation. I then started and ran my own retail seafood market in Duxbury for a number of years. I was burning out of the demands of a retail business so I sold my fish market and launched my oyster growing operation. I am personally motivated every day with the continuous effort to build a better mousetrap.

DB: Traditionally, fishermen are known to be secretive and possessive. How is oyster farming a different way of harvesting seafood?

DM: Wild harvesting is every man for himself. Farming is different (than wild harvesting) because the growers are part of a community that shares ideas, successes and failures. It is a much nicer way to live than every man for himself.

DB: How do you approach the challenges of long-term commercial oyster farming?

DM: Lots of dirt farm principals apply to oyster farming except you really have to prepare for 2 bad years because it takes 2 years to grow oysters for market. I learned a lot from my family’s cranberry business. You really need to get ready for winter in July. From experience you learn things you can do in the short term to safeguard yourself from long-term catastrophe. Like dirt farming a lot is in the hands of Mother Nature so some of what happens is out of your hands.

Bottom cages exposed at low tide

Bottom cages exposed at low tide

DB: How long do you plan to grow oysters?

DM: I believe that there is a huge future in growing seafood. The demand for oysters is an exploding phenom. What challenges me is to develop mechanism and process to make oyster growing easier. My yields continue to improve from year to year and the market demand is increasing. I can’t see myself not doing it. I love reaping what you sow.

-Captain Dave Bill

Posted in Welcome to Boats and Life.com | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Seabattical Log #4- Washburn Island Oysters and the TA Oyster Farm

Seabattical Log #4

Washburn Island Oysters and the Tabor Oyster Farm

July 8, 2015

 

Washburn Island Oysters

Washburn Island Oysters

Visiting and working with the crew for a day at Washburn Island Oysters was one of the “to do” things on my list for my Seabattical. I wanted to experience first hand a commercial oyster aquaculture operation. Most of my experience at growing oysters comes from managing a relatively small-scale operation at the Tabor Oyster farm. Annually at Tabor, each June (this year included), we begin with approximately 10,000 seed. I quickly learned that Tabor’s oyster farm is a small town operation in comparison to Washburn Island Oysters.

 

Floating oyster cages

Floating oyster cages

At Washburn Island, I started off in the boat by helping retrieve oyster bags from their floating cages and returning them to the dock where the oyster-sorting machine was stationed. Next I helped load the sorting machine, which is essentially a slow spinning wire mesh cylinder with downward spraying salt-water jets. I fed oysters in one end and the machine sorted the oysters out into separate small and larger sizes. The small oysters dropped straight down thru the wire mesh into fish totes and the larger oysters tumbled down the inside of the cylinder and exited into different fish totes.

Sorting machine

Sorting machine

Even with machine, which added considerable efficiencies for the volume of oysters that were sorted, the operation lasted about 3 hours. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of oysters. At Tabor, where our numbers are significantly less, and we have lots of “volunteer” labor, we sort the oysters by hand.

 

I was given a brief tour of the float where the small oyster seed (the size of a grain of sand) was organized by size and growing in upwellers. Upwellers are nursery-holding units for the oyster seed. Seawater is continuously pumped through the containers, which hold the oyster seed. This increased water flow serves to increase the food available to the juvenile oysters.

Upweller float

Upweller float

If you increase the available food, the oysters grow faster. Like people, oysters grow at different rates. Essentially, if an oyster eats more than the next guy, he grows bigger. The nursery staff had a cool machine that sorts the seed by size.

Oyster seed sorter

Oyster seed sorter

At Tabor we sort the seed by hand. We pour the seed thru a metal grate with holes in it (a cooking grate for an outdoor grill). If the oyster seed doesn’t pass thru the grate holes in the pan, it is then big enough to transfer into a larger mesh grow out bag. When the smaller seed passes thru the holes they return to smaller mesh bags to grow bigger.

 

I found that the crew at Washburn Island were incredibly hard workers, took a great deal of pride in what they did, and knew their oysters much like a parent knows their own child. Like growing any crop, growing oysters successfully requires a great deal of care and attention. In addition to the labor oyster growers face an assortment of other challenges including predation, disease, government regulation and marketing the product. After my short apprenticeship, I concluded that I’d stick to operating our small-scale school oyster farm and leave the commercial oyster growing in the capable hands of the professionals!

 

Posted in Welcome to Boats and Life.com | Leave a comment