December 28, 2001
Perspectives - From Ranchhand to Deckhand
This is Kim Gruetzmacher speaking to you from the Odyssey. I have
been on board now for the past two months working as the deckhand.
Coming from Germany and still trying to improve my English, it was quite a
challenge to learn just the basic boat terms, especially considering our
international crew. When I first got on the boat I had to learn a completely new language. Everybody has a slightly different accent so, at first, it was difficult to
understand boating terms. But it didn't take me very long
before I became used to the different types of English, whereas I'm still
sometimes struggling with some of the terminology related to being a deckhand and sailing.
In school, I had learned that a "floor" is what you walk on and "ceiling" is
overhead. However, I had to relearn that on the Odyssey, floors are important transverse
structural members tying together the keel and the lower ends of the frames of the boat, while the ceiling is light planking on the inside of the frames. Also, a Lazarett on a ship is a storage room however in German it is a war hospital.
But with a lot of help from our Captain and First Mate and reading Chapman's
"Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling", I figured out the basics of my
job as a deckhand.
It is now two months later, I feel quite confident with many everyday
procedures, such as putting up or taking down the awnings, scrubbing the
deck, working on the rust, painting, pulling up or letting down the anchor
and so on. While we're out at sea, my duties change quite a bit. They mostly
consist of navigation or observation watches which take up about eight hours
within a 24 hour time span.
When we're with whales, it is the deckhand's job to jump into the water after a whale flukes and dives to collect scat (feces) samples with a small net in order to collect sqiud beaks. This might sound a little weird but it tells us what the whales are eating and I'm really looking forward to it.
Kim was a ranchhand in Wyoming before joining the Odyssey.
Working on the Odyssey is very different from anything I have ever
done. Before volunteering for the Ocean Alliance, I worked at a
cattle/guest ranch in Wyoming, USA. I was a ranchhand (rangler) and my
duties consisted of taking care of the horses, organizing the riding
program, moving cattle, riding fence, doctoring horses and cows,
general maintenance and repairs. Working so closely with animals, I
realized that this is what I want to dedicate my life to, animal health, science and conservation.
That's when I decided to study veterinary medicine. Also, I decided, that before I
went to university to study, I would like to gain some practical experience in this
field to see if my expectations were anywhere close to reality.
From my previous job, I'm used to physical work and being outside as well as
living closely with other people and working as a team. I also have a very good insight into the science and conservation programs onboard. I find it
very exciting to learn about the acoustic array, biopsy techniques and
whales in general.
It is fantastic to be surrounded by people that all work passionately for
the same goal. I am also very impressed by how conscientiously the crew handle their everyday tasks on the boat like saving water and electricity, separating trash and using biodegradable products.
If I had of tried any of this on the ranch I would most likely have been laughed at.
It is hard enough to prove yourself as a young, European woman in America's
"wild west" especially if you are not into shooting coyotes and prairie
dogs as an evening entertainment.
I sometimes miss riding horses, but having the chance to study
a large group of dolphins around the boat fully makes up for it.
Log by Kim Gruetzmacher