Gulf of Mexico

As of August 15th, the cargo ship Panthea is at Corpus Christi, Texas. After unloading cargo there, her next stop is Port Everglades, Florida, where the R/V David Folger finally will be offloaded.

Then the Folger’s journey north under its own power begins. Tentatively, the Folger will start up the east coast August 21 or 22, and at that time daily updates will begin.

Atlantic Ocean

The cargo ship Panthea went through the Panama Canal early this morning. So the R/V David Folger is now in the Atlantic Ocean!

The next stop will be Corpus Christi,Texas, and then the Folger will finally go to Port Everglades, Florida for off-loading. The date of its arrival in Florida has been pushed back again and is now scheduled for August 18th.

Panama Canal

The SE Panthea is awaiting its turn to go through the Panama Canal. On board this cargo ship is the R/V David Folger.

The Panthea is the smaller of the two green ships located just below and to the right of the canal.

Soon the Panthea will be in the Atlantic and headed to Florida. The scheduled arrival date is about August 17th at Port Everglades, FL. Once the Folger is off-loaded, a four-member team (Captain Richard Furbush, Captain Tom Manley, electronics specialist Chris Goodrich, and Mate Pat Manley) will start the journey up the east coast. During our journey, we will do a daily blog update (weather permitting) to let everyone know our position.

Threatened by invasion

The R/V David Folger’s route home takes it north along the Hudson River and then through the Champlain Canal to Lake Champlain. On July 30, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy asked the State of New York to close the Champlain Canal immediately, to prevent the spiny water flea from reaching Lake Champlain. However, the State of New York has declined to close it, and it remains open while alternatives are under discussion.

The spiny water flea is a serious threat to the lake’s ecosystem.

The La Chute River enters Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga, New York. Lake George is the body of water on the far left.

We have been working with New York officials to determine what we need to do before we can pass through the Canal. Thanks to its design, the Folger does not carry ballast water, which is a common way that the invasive pest is transmitted to new areas. Today we learned that we are required to wash the decks and bilges thoroughly before we can come through the lock system into Lake Champlain. Given the timing, it has taken more than a week for this issue to be resolved.

Sadly, the Canal is not the only conduit for invasive species. The presence of the spiny water flea in Lake George was recently confirmed. Although Lake George is not connected to the Champlain Canal, it drains north into Lake Champlain through the La Chute River, a short watercourse.

Even if the Canal is closed, or an effective barrier can be devised to prevent the pest from migrating through the Canal, the spiny water flea has other options for invading.

And again!

Yatchpath has pushed the load date back yet again. The new date is June 23rd. After about a week of trying to resolve the issue with numerous emails, calls, text messages, I heard back from the head of the company. They have 15 or 16 boats (4 to 6 in Victoria alone) that need to get to the east coast, and they are working as hard as they can to accommodate everyone. They estimate our probability of getting on this shipment as about 60%. Amazingly, the ship is the Ocean Titan!

We are now within two days of the “line drawn in the sand”– the last possible day we can load and still get the R/V David Folger up to Lake Champlain in time to get ready for classes (including Alumni College). These delays have already cost the College a tremendous amount of prescheduled research and personnel time. Many of the research programs have had to be postponed for a full year, and the time available for others has had to be severely restricted: one program has been cut from 12 days to three and most likely will have to be postponed for another year.

Becalmed again

The transport company has just informed us that they are delaying our load date again. Now it is scheduled for June 19th or 20th. If we don’t get loaded soon, we won’t get the vessel here in time for fall classes, and this is starting to be a real concern. If we do load on the 20th, then we will most likely have the R/V David Folger here around August 1st, which will give us just enough time to get the boat ready for the fall classes. We are currently trying to come up with alternative options.

In the doldrums

This week has featured some high peaks… and then abysmal deeps. First, on Monday May 22 Middlebury College took ownership of the R/V David Folger!

Since then, Tom and Richard have been getting it ready for transport. And transport is where we plunged into the deeps. The transport company, YachtPath, does not have a transport ship for us, although they had assured us that they could transport it on Thursday of this week. Venezuelan customs was the problem: the ship was scheduled to stop at a Venezuelan port, where no cargo can be offloaded unless customs has looked into the cargo holds. And of course with ships on top of the cargo holds, they wouldn’t be able to do this!

Numerous telephone calls to the president of the company resulted in this arrangement: the Folger is currently underway (under its own power) to Sidney, British Columbia, where YachtPath will pay for it to be held in a marina until the next transport ship is available. The schedule is still tentative; it could be picked up anytime between June 12 and 18. The transport ship, Ocean Titan, is in Seattle waiting for a multimillion-dollar yacht to arrive; then it will come up to Victoria to pick up the Folger and a few other vessels. So the Folger will be riding in style, with very nice neighbors.

Unfortunately, this delay affects all summer schedules. Once the Folger is loaded, it will take 20 days to get to Florida. The cruise up from Florida will take another 18 days. Given a June 18th pick-up, it will be July 8th before it arrives in Florida, and somewhere around August 1st when we finally get to Lake Champlain.

The Folger will still be here in time for Alumni College and classes in the fall, but this late arrival will severely handicap our research this summer.