Massachusetts Maritime Academy: ...Riding the T.S. KENNEDY ...Sea Term 2016!

By Paula Rychtar
Voluntary Observing Ship Program,
Deputy Program Manager / Operations


Photo courtesy Massachusetts Maritime Academy

The Voluntary Observing Ship Program is an international program in which our global mission is pretty straight forward; we focus on collecting and disseminating critical real-time marine weather conditions. We do this by the recruitment of ships, so that we can fulfill our national needs and international agreements supporting commerce, forecasts and warning programs and the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) worldwide. Marine observations are essential to help define the global climate and help in the assessment of extreme weather events, climate variability and long term climate changes. I just recapped our mission statement.

This would not be possible without the dedicated men and women across the globe who are hard wired to the task of gathering quality environmental data, the Port Meteorological Officers (PMOs). PMOs are the weather services representatives. Without the dedication and enthusiasm of the PMO to maintain an active VOS Ship Fleet, the quality and quantity of recorded and reported environmental data from ships would be adversely affected. Duties of the PMO are overreaching to say the least. PMOs must maintain a strong allegiance to our mission and be a selfstarter in efforts to maintain a level of expertise and skill sets necessary for supporting our participants. This is absolutely essential for the success to our mission. To describe the work ethics of the PMO in one word, dedication, and that is the focus of this article. Highlighting the dedicated PMO's who provide instruction to sea-going cadets at the (https://www.maritime.edu/) and the dedication of the Academy for keeping a strong working relationship with the VOS program (http://www.vos.noaa.gov/) providing the opportunity for our PMOs to sail upon their ship; giving cadets classroom instruction and hands-on VOS training, instilling a sense of global stewardship in the cadets during their formative years of seamanship.

The Massachusetts Sea Term ( https://www.maritime.edu/sea-term) is conducted between two Academic Semesters, January and February and is considered to be one of the highlights of the academy year. Cadets who have accomplished all prerequisites will be accepted on this voyage which averages 52 days. In addition to the offered accredited curriculum, the cadets are given opportunity to gain instruction and handson training by Rob Niemeyer, Jacksonville PMO, covering meteorology, oceanography and environmental data collection. He designs and teaches the cadets marine weather observing, proper coding and dissemination practices and the importance of data quality and timeliness. In addition, cadets are afforded classroom instruction such as "introduction to the VOS program" as well as "introduction to weather" (giving basic sun earth relationship and forecasting fundamentals).


Rob has created quite the reputation, developing classroom instruction and power points geared to increasing the students understanding and productivity. Yearly, Rob creates innovative training methods and strives towards standardized methods of training for VOS. Seasoned cadets will be given a more challenging portfolio such as introduction to tropical weather, marine products, pilot chart climatological data, forecasting techniques and interpretation. The amount of preparation and effort that goes into this yearly training at sea is notable.

The 2016 cruise introduced another exceptional opportunity for the cadets. In cooperation with the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) Physical Oceanography Division, the Global Drifter Program (http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dac/index.php) (which is another program which falls under NOAA), the cadets were provided a drifting buoy to deploy during their cruise. These are satellite tracked surface drifting buoys which observe currents, sea surface temperatures, atmospheric pressure, winds and salinity. (http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dac/gdp_drifter.php) How exciting for the cadets to be a part of such and effort in environmental data collection.

This was a particular busy cruise; VOS had several activities in which were only able to be accomplished because of a very accommodating Captain Bushy. VOS has had a longtime professional working relationship with Captain Thomas Bushy and his willingness to be flexible on this cruise to accommodate VOS was and is so appreciated. Not only did Rob get his yearly training session with the cadets, but he mentored our newly hired PMO Rusty Albaral (Area of Responsibility, New Orleans) who joined the ship in Key West Florida. Rusty accompanied Rob for the remainder of the training cruise into Buzzards Bay so that he could gain experience, training and guidance from Rob to insure our commitment to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy for future support. We now have two capable PMO's available to continue the training of their cadets on seaterm.


Captain Thomas Bushy


Rusty Albaral and Rob Niemeyer (center kneeling)

Except where noted, photographs by VOS PMO Rob Niemeyer

But wait, there's more! So...training, training a new trainer, educating cadets on drifting buoys and then getting to deploy one...what else???? A video. Yup... A long waited well overdue and much needed video which would be used for the VOS programs education / outreach and program promotional purposes. So once again, I contacted Captain Bushy to ask if he would be able to accommodate yet another person on his ship with a load of video equipment. With approval and full blessings to this project by Captain Bushy, our NOAA Videographer Bob Schwartz met up with the ship in Key West Florida (along with Rusty) and sailed off on February 15th to Buzzards Bay...arriving on Sunday the 21st of February. In this video, we wanted to show hands on training, comments from the Captain on how important weather is to any ship sailing anywhere. VOS wanted to show clips of actual sea state and conditions at sea with personal commentary from our PMO's providing the training.

The final video is still being fine-tuned and will be available in the very near future. I have seen portions and I just love it. We even have professional voices to narrate the script.it was a difficult decision choosing the perfect voice.they were all great. So not many opportunities come along like this to accomplish so many things at one time. The planets just lined up perfectly for this trip, we accomplished all our projects. As I mentioned earlier in this article, flexibility is important and a seasoned Captain such as Thomas Bushy knows this and recognized this rare opportunity. I would like to thank Rob Neimeyer for such a great job on his support of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. I would like to thank Rusty for taking time to join this ship in Key West to prepare himself for future voyages with Mass Maritime. I would like to thank Rob and Rusty for taking the time and extra effort assisting in the production of our new VOS video. Bob Schwartz could not have done this without you two.

To all the cadets, Bravo Zulu!!!

Click here for more photos of sea-term 2016

Writing this article was yin and yang for me. I need to acknowledge, give a fond farewell, and many wishes for a happy retirement to Captain Thomas Bushy. I have known Captain Bushy for quite some time and have such a respect for this man; he is funny, kindhearted and such a good person. I value our friendship and his willingness to collaborate with VOS management to continue our training efforts. He will be missed. It is with such heartfelt thanks to Captain Thomas Bushy for all the years of support he has given to VOS and our PMO's. So without further ado, here is a video which was made while on seaterm 2016 in honor of Captain Thomas L. Bushy.

Fair Winds and Following Seas to you Tom!


A tribute for Massachusetts Maritime and Captain Thomas L. Bushy.

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