Guidelines for Scientists Aboard
Canadian Coast Guard Vessels

Last updated on
Prepared by Steve Romaine, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Sidney, BC

Table of Contents


This document was created to assist both new and experienced scientists with guidelines for participating in a scientific research mission or cruise aboard a Canadian Coast Guard Vessel. This document complements additional documents supplied by Treasury Board, Coast Guard, and DFO. Cruise participants should also ensure that they read over the existing Canadian Coast Guard Familiarization Manual for Supernumeraries Aboard CCG Vessels prior to boarding.

Cruise Plan Preparation

How Ship Time is Acquired and Costs
The Chief Scientist (CS) of your cruise will typically submit a ship time request in the fall of the previous year for a time slot on a particular vessel. This request goes through several approval steps before being presented at a regional vessel scheduling meeting in December or January.

Chief Scientists are in competition with each other for ship time as there are only so many science days allocated for each ship for each fiscal year (April to March). Typically for vessels, the requested number of days is about 20-50% more than what is available and most of the conflicts occur between May and September. At the scheduling meeting, many compromises are made between CS's for ship time to ensure that everyone is happy. Typical compromises include moving their preferred dates around, cutting back the number of days requested, or including another program on the vessel to occur at the same time.

Therefore, it is important to realize the effort that has been put into place for the time on board the vessel and hence is the reason why CS's typically try to maximize their efforts while at sea. Also, realize that ship time is paid for with taxpayer dollars and is very expensive. For example, a medium-sized offshore oceanographic vessel might cost $20,000 per day to operate or every minute on board is worth about $14. Please consider this when participating on a cruise.

Pre-Departure Paperwork
Prior to departure, the CS will ensure that the necessary Coast Guard paperwork is read and completed for each of the scientists that will be joining the ship during any part of the cruise. These documents will typically be sent to you at least six weeks prior to the scheduled start of your cruise. They include the following:

General Statement of Risks (included in the Familiarization Guide)
Statement of Medical Fitness (included in the Familiarization Guide)
Familiarization Guide
Next of Kin Information
Visiting Foreign Nationals Personal Information Form and Visiting Foreign Nationals Security Certificate Form

Both the General Statement of Risks and the Statement of Medical Fitness may be found within section 6.C.2 "Supernumerary Personnel Carried Aboard Ships" for the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet Safety Manual. All cruise participants must receive a copy of this section of the manual and sign off that they have read at least Annex A of the manual.

Annex B requires all scientists to complete a medical questionnaire to determine if they require a confidential assessment by a medical professional prior to sailing. This first part of this form is for their own personal use and is not to be included with any documentation submitted to the ship. The second part of the form is to be signed by all scientists prior to joining the ship.

Note that valid medical certification is required by all field personnel and federal government employees, including any volunteers, visiting scientists, students, term and casual employees that may be joining the ship. This policy does not, at present, apply to contractors or contract employees. If you are in doubt if you are covered or not, contact the CS to verify. Scientists have been left at the dock on sailing day if their certifications are not in order!

Next of Kin Information should also be completed prior to joining the vessel and given to the mate at the departure meeting. In addition, non-Canadian federal government scientists will need to provide proof of liability insurance to the CS and Coast Guard prior to joining the vessel. Full and part-time students at Canadian universities may be covered by their current university insurance policy. Contractors will need to obtain third party insurance to satisfy this requirement (this insurance must specify field work and possibly cover the use of controlled products while on board -- typical estimates for this insurance in Pacific region run about $750/year with no real discounts for shorter periods).

Upon boarding the vessel, the CS will submit all completed paperwork to one of the mates for review. Scientists that have not completed the paperwork and submitted it to the CS may not be allowed to board the ship. If you are a non-Canadian citizen, then additional security measures must be completed prior to you joining the ship. These typically include a criminal record check and other security clearances. These clearances may take months to obtain, so it is in your best interest to plan ahead.

See all the requirements for joining a Coast Guard ship.

Research on Board
Each cruise will be unique in what research is going on. The cruise may have one research focus or many. You may or may not know all the other participants and their research projects. Typically on the Neocaligus, Vector, and Ricker, one main research project occurs on one cruise. The Tully, due to its size, could have several different projects on the go during a cruise.

Because different projects will have different requirements, the CS should be made aware of these requirements prior to the start of the cruise to allow planning and discussion. These requirements might include dangerous goods, freezing, time-of-day, or station locations, small boat support, winches, or other items.

If you are carrying out a research project of your own on board, please remember that you are part of a team of researchers on a scientific mission. Teamwork and cooperation is very important on a cruise as you will be in very close quarters with others for the duration of the cruise. While conflicts cannot be avoided between scientists, the CS is there to ensure a fair sampling program to all within the limitations of time and space on board. If there are concerns during the trip, you are encouraged to work them out and/or discuss the issue with the CS as soon as possible.

Cabin Allocations
Each ship has a designated number of "science" cabins available for use during the voyage, each with 1-4 bunks (usually 2). Chief Scientists will consider cabin allocations prior to you joining the vessel. Some ships have designed "female" cabins with their own washroom (e.g., Ricker, Vector). Some cabins may be more "rough" than others, requiring those with better tolerances to sea-sickness to be placed in those cabins. When double-bunking (having two people share one cabin space) is required, there may also be watch or other considerations to be made. If there are some single cabins available then these are typically allocated to senior scientists, but these cabins may be smaller or more "rough". The difficult job of cabin allocation is ultimately left up to the CS and captain of the vessel, so please respect their decision, even though it might not appear to be completely fair.

If you are required to share, please respect other people's space as well. This includes closet space, floor space, and inside the washroom (if part of the cabin space). If your cabin mates are on a different watch than you then there might be times during the day that they will be sleeping, so please show respect when visiting the cabin during those hours.

Coast Guard will typically provide sheets, pillows, blankets, towels, wash cloths, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and hand soap in each of the cabins at the start of the cruise for your use. The linen is changed about once per week.

Depending on the ship, the stewards may make your bed daily and clean up your cabin (vacuum, wash the sink, etc). But this service is only available if your cabin is open during their rounds (typically after breakfast).

Make sure to bring along expendable clothing with you as ships tend to be dirty locations. Deck or laboratory work will expose you to grease, oil, paint chips, fish, and the possibly of abrasion on clothing. Regular sea-going scientists usually have a set of "sea going" clothing that is expected to become dirty or damaged at sea.

Also consider the work you will be doing outside during the cruise. Long periods of exposure on deck will leave you very cold and possibly wet, even during the summer months. Consider rain pants and jacket, long underwear, toque (beanie), warm gloves, sunglasses, and a scarf. If sun or wind exposure will be an issue, then bring along sunscreen and UV-proof clothing.

While working on deck you are required to wear steel-toed boots (they must bear CSA approval or equivalent). If lifting operations are occurring (small boats, A-frame, etc) then a hardhat is also required. Operations that occur near the edge of the ship or in small boats also require a PFD, lifejacket, or other approved floatation device (e.g., Mustang Floater Jacket, Cruiser Suit). While Coast Guard ships typically stock additional PFDs and hardhats for visitors, it is highly recommended that you bring your own. Some ships may also have additional requirements for clothing, such as the Ricker requiring suction sole rain boots to be worn in the fish laboratory. Any additional requirements should be asked to the CS prior to the voyage.

You may also wish to bring along some nicer clothing that may be worn inside the ship, away from work spaces. This could include clothing for going ashore during your trip or if the ship encourages people to "dress up" for Sunday dinners.

Many ships also have a gym or other space to exercise and work out. You may wish to bring along clothing suitable for exercise as well.

All of the larger ships have laundry facilities for you to wash and dry your clothes on board. These locations will be pointed out during the introduction by the mate or the CS. There might be restrictions on their use (certain hours or only in calm seas) and usually machines for greasy clothing will be separate from regular clothing to be washed. Laundry soap and dryer sheets are provided by the ship. Please consider doing only full loads (or sharing loads with others) as fresh water is very precious on board ships. If a machine is done, but there is clothing inside, then it is acceptable to remove the clothing and place it on top of the machine or a nearby table. Please do not dry someone else's clothing as there might be articles that cannot be machine dried. Laundry baskets are not provided on Coast Guard ships, so the best way to get your laundry to and from the facilities is by use of your pillow case. You do not need to worry about washing your linen or towels.

Other Essentials
Here are some other items you may wish to bring along on your cruise:

Alarm clock Flashlight or torch
Second pair of glasses, if applicable Sunglasses
Camera Laptop computer plus Ethernet cable
Toiletries Games
Books Portable coffee mug
MP3 Player Earplugs
Any medications (see below) Money (for canteen purchases)
Passport (required for almost all vessels)

Sports fishing license (occasionally there are opportunities to fish recreationally, it is mandatory to have a license if you wish to fish)

Loading Day

Loading day is a busy day on the ship. There might be a crew change occurring, fueling trucks alongside, food deliveries, and of course the loading and unloading of scientific gear. Repairs may also be occurring on board, further restricting access to the vessel. Described below are some items that will be happening on loading day so that you can better prepare yourself for the potential chaos.

Loading Procedures
Loading the vessel may occur at a dock or jetty, at a remote location, or even via a small boat transfer. If loading will be done by a small boat transfer, you should arrange the majority of your scientific equipment to be placed on board prior to your cruise start date.

If your plan includes loading the vessel while it is alongside, then make sure that the CS has been informed well before the cruise of the types and quantities of dangerous goods to be brought aboard as part of your research. This information is typically placed into the cruise plan, so a minimum of 6 weeks before your scheduled departure date is required to submit dangerous goods to the CS.

If you are loading on a crew change date (the CS will typically note this in the cruise plan), be aware that there is to be no loading of the ship between 11am and 2pm due to the noon change over. Also note that other loading procedures, such as fuel or food delivery, will have priority for crew assistance . Early morning loading (prior to 11am) on a crew-change day may be available, but is never guaranteed and should never be expected. You may be able to move your gear during non-loading times by manually carrying it on board the ship, but make sure to stay out of other operations occurring on board.

Loading of the ship may be done by use of a bonnet sling with a crane (e.g., Tully, Reid, Laurier), a loading palette (Vector), a ramp (Tully, Ricker), or just hand carry across. If any overhead equipment is used to move gear then hardhats and steel-toed boots are required by anyone involved in the loading procedures. For major cruises you may wish to selectively load bonnets so that you can designate where all the equipment from a particular bonnet should be placed. Delicate instrumentation may need to be loaded by hand.

Prior to any cruise, you should confirm the loading times with the CS, especially if you need to travel to meet the ship. As ship time is expensive, the CS will likely want all the gear loaded within a few hours. Also, if you are having goods couriered to the ship then you can give the courier company a delivery window. In most cases, the CS will also want to test the equipment prior to or immediately after departure.

Controlled and Hazardous Products
Note that all controlled and hazardous products (which includes "dangerous goods") must be accompanied by their current MSDSs and a spill kit capable of dealing with a complete spill of your dangerous good must be brought aboard at the same time (e.g., if you were to bring aboard 20L of formaldehyde, you must have enough spill control agents available on board to deal with a 20L spill). Spill agents should be loaded on the same bonnet as the chemicals for which they control. That way if a spill occurs, the control agent is readily available. The CS will require current copies of the MSDSs to be provided prior to loading.

If you are involved in any use of any controlled or hazardous products at any point during the cruise then you MUST have current WHMIS training and you may be asked to present proof of training. Note that no alternatives to WHMIS are acceptable, therefore please allow a couple of extra hours prior to sailing to take a self-directed WHMIS course.

Approvals for the use of radioisotopes on board the Tully, Laurier, or Vector (the only vessels approved for use of radioisotopes in Pacific Region) must be obtained at least two months prior to sailing. Use of radioisotopes is to be noted in the cruise plan, under 'use of radioisotopes' and a "Request to Use Radioisotopes" form will be sent to the local radiation safety officer by the CS. For all users, contact Michael Arychuk ( or Kyle Simpson ( Users of radioisotopes on vessels fall under the DFO license and must comply with DFO radiation safety policies and have the necessary certification. The policies are detailed in the DFO Radiation Safety Manual; contact the site Radiation Safety Officer for a copy.

Contamination surveys must be conducted at least twice during each cruise (once before the start of the experimental program and once at the end of the program) and at least weekly for the duration of the experimental program. Users are to provide appropriate radiation monitoring devices (e.g., Geiger counter, Liquid Scintillation Counter) to detect surface contamination. Wipe tests must be completed at specific intervals as stated above and verified to ensure the laboratory is free of contamination prior to releasing the location to other ship users. Results of wipe tests must be forwarded to the Captain, CCGS Operations Manager, CS, and Regional Radiation Safety Officer within 24 hours from return to port to verify the laboratory is free of contamination.

The designated marine radiation safety officer is the person responsible for radiation safety on board the ship, but any questions regarding radiation safety should first be addressed to the CS. A briefing on radiation safety, when in use on the ship, should be discussed at the departure meeting, either by the CS or the scientist using them.

General Reporting Structure
While you are on board the ship, it is good idea to familiarize yourself with the reporting structure. By knowing the structure then you will be able to minimize conflicts and misunderstandings while conducting scientific operations. Although the configuration will vary between vessels, officers and crew may include the following:

Captain or Master Fishing Master (only on fishing vessels)
Chief Mate | 2nd Mate | 3rd Mate Chief Engineer | 2nd Engineer | 3rd Engineer
Logistics Officer Electrician
Helicopter Pilot Ice Observer (only on ice breakers)
Doctor or Nurse Boatswain (or Bosun)
Chief Cook and Cooks Chief Steward and Stewards
Oilers Seamen
Other positions as needed

For science operations on board, the reporting structure will also vary and this will be discussed at the departure meeting. Here are a couple of different possibilities:

In cases where there are established science watches on board, usually for 24 hour operations:
Chief Scientist
Watch Leaders

Or when 24 hour science operations are not fully in effect:
Chief Scientist
Senior Scientists (generally in charge of a sampling program)

As a scientist on board, any problems that arise should be first discussed with the watch leader or senior scientist. If the problem cannot be resolved it should be brought to the attention of the CS. It is the job of the CS to resolve all science issues on board the ship. If there is an issue that includes ship operations, the CS will discuss the issue with the Officer of the Watch (OOW), which is one of the mates or possibly the captain that is currently on duty on the bridge. Scientists are generally not to discuss issues with the officers on board directly, but rather use the reporting structure discussed here. Deck operations will likely also involve the Boatswain and/or engineering department.

An example of correct protocol:

You are on board and are scheduled to conduct plankton tows. After completing your net tow at your first plankton station, you note that you would like to do a second (and unscheduled) tow since there is an abundance of zooplankton in the water related to your research. You discuss this with the watch leader and then they will pass this information to the CS who will decide if there is time to do the second net tow. If this is acceptable, the OOW or captain will be asked if we can stay on the station to do another tow.

Scientists, including Senior Scientists, that take it upon themselves to run additional and unscheduled sampling programs at stations can have serious impacts on the rest of the cruise as there may be other factors that you may not be aware of that will not permit additional sampling time on station.

Please respect the reporting structures in place vessels and if there are any questions then bring them up at the departure meeting.

On some cruises, the CS will post a "watch" schedule. A watch schedule is a method of assigning regular periods of work duty aboard ships. A watch system allows the ship to effectively operate the ship 24 hours a day for the duration of long voyages or operations.

Watch schedules will vary depending on the work to be done and the hours of operation, but on larger vessels, watches may typically be 4-12 hours long with one or more per day. For example:

Merchant Watch Watch 1: ("4-8") 04.00-08.00 and 16.00-20.00
Watch 2: ("8-12") 08.00-12.00 and 20.00-24.00
Watch 3: ("12-4") 12.00-16.00 and 00.00-04.00
A watch consists of two equal blocks of 4 hours and 8 hours of rest between, total 8 hours work per day

Day/Night Watch Watch 1: 12.00-24.00
Watch 2: 00.00-12.00
A watch consists of one 12 hour block with 12 hours of rest between, total 12 hours work per day

But there are many possibilities of watches on board. This will be discussed at the departure meeting. Also some scientists may stand a particular watch and others may stand a different, but partially overlapping watch.

If you are "on watch" your duties are as follows:

Assist with the deployment and recovery of any instrumentation
Assist with the preparation of any labels, bottles, etc for that sample
Stand on deck as an observer for the instrumentation
Collect and possibly process any samples as directed

Generally it is good practice and ensures good working relationships if you show up for your watch about 15 minutes before it is scheduled to start. This will allow you to be briefed on what is going on, get dressed to go outside or to work in the laboratory, or to read any notes that have been posted by the CS.

Also if you are on watch, there are always things to be done to prepare for the next station, even if it occurs after the end of your watch. The watch leader should be consulted if you find yourself without work for a portion of your watch.

If there is no work to be done while you are "on watch", then before disappearing you should check with the watch leader and let them know where you can be found should something need to be done on your watch.

If you are running your own scientific research on board the vessel that requires additional time on your behalf and you have been scheduled for a watch, then you still must complete your watch and do your own work while not on watch. While this might seem unfair, your watchmates will appreciate your assistance during operations that in most likelihood are benefiting of your research. They may cover off additional duties during the watch (e.g., sample preparations for the next station) if you have your own research to do during the watch. An example of this would be the launching and recovering of the CTD/Rosette unit, including drawing of all samples (not just your own) out of the rosette following the cast. Remember that you are part of a team effort while on board!

Scientists that do not respect the watch structure during their time on board may not be invited to participate on future cruises.

See the FAQ regarding standing a watch.

Departure Meeting
The CS will inform everyone of the time and location of the mandatory departure meeting on board. Regardless of the number of times you have sailed before or the set-up work that you need to get done, you must attend this meeting. Therefore please plan the rest of your day around the meeting time and expect the meeting to be at least one hour. Meeting subject matters will vary considerably between ships and CS's.

Here is what you should expect at the meeting:

Scheduled departure time
Scheduled fire and boat drill time
Introduction of all the other scientists on board
Introduction of the mate overseeing scientific operations on board
Who the medical personnel are on board
Signing of the ship's personnel log book
Discussion of the watches
Discussion of the cabin assignments
Discussion of the dangerous goods on board
Laboratory space allocations
Rules about smoking and alcohol consumption on board
A brief presentation from all scientists regarding why they are on board and what they plan to accomplish
Discussion of the data products to be available after the cruise
Discussion of the standard sampling procedures to be used on board
When meals are available

The mate will also discuss additional items:

Restricted areas of the ship
Operations on deck (requirement of safety gear, harasses, etc)
Your cabin and the requirements during emergency situations
Other concerns

You will be expected to turn over your paperwork to the mate at this time. If you have forgotten it, then additional copies will be available. This paperwork will include your Next of Kin and your medical fitness form. An additional form will be handed out that you will need to check off that you have understood the discussion at the meeting.

If you have never sailed on board the vessel before or it has been greater than 6 months since you last sailed on board then you will be required to do a walk-through the ship for a safety briefing. This briefing will include locations of various equipment and areas. You will likely be required to don a survival suit as part of this briefing or shortly thereafter.

Note that if controlled or hazardous chemicals are being used for science on board that the CS will conduct a chemical safety walk-though of the laboratory spaces and other locations where these chemicals will be in use. It is your responsibility to discuss the chemicals that you will be using during the trip to fellow scientists, including their dangers and what to do if there is a spill.

Laboratory Space Allocations
Laboratory space on board ships is quite often at a premium. If you are conducting research on board then discuss your needs with the CS prior to the cruise. Important things to consider might be:

Temperature control
Deck access
Fridge and freezer access
Dangerous Goods or Radioisotopes access
Amount of counter space needed
Power outlets
Network drops
Other serial data drops (e.g., NMEA strings)
Wet space
Fume hood

The CS will try their best to pre-allocate all laboratory spaces prior to loading date. Please check in with them prior to setting up any equipment to ensure the space is available. In a full lab there may be some spaces that are designed common, allowing several users to use them. If this is the case please move your equipment out of this space when you are done (an example might be a fume hood). Sometimes an option is to bring in additional workspace with tables. If you are given a table, make sure that it is secured and is not blocking an exit.

Regardless of where your equipment is set up, make absolutely sure that it is secure! Use tie-downs, bungy cords, duct tape, screws or bolts as needed to ensure that your equipment does not become damaged while at sea. While it might appear calm initially, a storm can suddenly appear and equipment can go flying, causing damage to itself, other people, and to the ship. Scientists have lost very expensive equipment during their cruises since they did not spend a couple of minutes at the beginning of the cruise ensuring that it was secure!

On Board Considerations

Emergency Situations
While on board you may be exposed to any number of emergency situations. At a minimum you will be required to participate in a fire or boat drill. For this drill, you should bring your lifejacket from your cabin and wear warm clothing (including gloves and a hat) and meet in the muster location identified at the departure meeting. For boat drills you will need to know your specific boat (ensure that you find and memorize this boat when you first enter your cabin -- it is usually found on a card on the wall) and to report wearing your lifejacket and to dress warmly. Attendance will be taken at both drills. If you have not recently donned an immersion suit (within 6 months) then you will be required to put one on during the boat drill or just following the departure meeting.

Other emergency situations may arise while on board and you may be required to assist as necessary as a member of the crew.

Coast guard ships carry a limited supply of medications available to officers, crew, and scientific personnel. But as a visitor to the ship, you should bring along your own supply (e.g., Aspirin, Gravol, etc) instead of relying on the ship to supply over-the-counter mediations for the duration of the trip.

During the departure meeting, the CS will discuss the use of prescription drugs. While the CS and Medic do not need to know what these drugs are being taken for, they do need to know if they will have a negative affect on the performance of the participant (e.g., excessive drowsiness). If the ship carries a nurse or doctor then you do have the option of discussing the drug you are taking in private with them. You also have the option of placing instructions in a sealed envelope and giving this envelope to the CS or Medic. In case of an emergency this envelope would be opened and if the instructions related to the problem, the necessary action could be taken. This way, you maintains confidentiality unless the issue comes up. An example of information within the envelope could be "Diabetic. If I pass out then administer a certain amount of the drug found within the vial that may be found in the top desk drawer of my cabin". Diabetics and Epileptics may wish to discuss their situation with the CS and/or Medic in private.

As ships are public locations, there is to be no smoking in any interior public spaces, including cabins. All ships will have designated smoking areas on board, which may include select interior rooms that have been designed as smoking areas. During the departure meeting, the CS or mate will inform you of the smoking policy on board. Note that during fuelling operations there is to be no smoking anywhere on the ship. This will be announced prior to the fuelling operation.

Science requirements may have additional rules concerning sampling and smoking. In particular will be the sampling of ammonia samples which must be done by non-smokers and taken at a time when there is no chance of contamination from smoking (cigarettes or incineration).

If you are a smoker then please do not litter the ocean with butts. Dispose of them properly!

Drug and Alcohol Policies
Canadian Coast Guard ships are multi-taskable platforms that can be engaged in escort, fisheries enforcement, damage control, or search and rescue activities with little or no warning. It is incompatible with these roles and responsibilities, for persons aboard the ship to be unable to perform their duties due to being impaired by psychoactive substances.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, everyone commits an offense who operates a ship, or who assists in the operation of the ship, or who has the care and control of a ship, whether the ship is in motion or not, while that person's ability is impaired by a psychoactive substance. Therefore:

It is the policy of the Canadian Coast Guard that all persons aboard Coast Guard ships are made aware of the rules of conduct and behavior expected of them.
No person shall be impaired by a psychoactive substance at any time while on board a Coast Guard ship.
No person shall perform, or attempt to perform, any duties while impaired by a psychoactive substance.
No person shall consume any mood-altering substance while on watch or duty. A person may consume a legal prescription or non-prescription drug, provided it does not cause the person to become impaired.
No person shall consume a beverage containing alcohol in the five-hour period immediately prior to their scheduled period of work.
No person shall turn over the conduct of a watch or duty to any other person who appears, on reasonable assumption, to be impaired.
Any person, over whom the captain has no line authority, who is found to be in contravention of this policy will be formally reported to the Regional Director, Coast Guard, who will report the incident, in detail, to the appropriate person having authority over the individual concerned.
The captain has the absolute authority to remove any person from the vessel or aircraft who is in violation of this policy.

This policy applies to all scientists as well as ship's personnel.

Some vessels are classed as strictly dry vessels. Alcohol, in any form, is prohibited at all times. The CS should consult with the captain of the vessel regarding the use of alcohol and will advise scientists on board the rules concerning consumption of alcohol while on board. Scientists are not to bring any psychoactive substances, including alcohol, to the vessel. If alcohol is allowed to be consumed on board then it will be available for purchase at a reasonable price from the ship's canteen during designed hours.

If an accident or injury occurs, the bridge should be informed immediately. If medical help is required, the bridge will send down the medic on duty. Most injuries, regardless of the severity should be documented by the ships' officers and crew and be supported by the CS. A small injury may later turn into a larger issue and if the appropriate paperwork was filled out at the time then you will have an easier time claiming the injury to Workers' Compensation. Regardless of how small or insignificant the injury is, take the time to deal with the paperwork following the injury as it will be to your benefit if it later turns out to be an issue.

Food and Drinks in Laboratory Spaces
At the departure meeting, the CS will discuss laboratory rules on board the ship. Specifically, if radioisotopes or other hazardous chemicals are being used in ship's laboratory spaces, than a strict no food or drink policy will be established and enforced for the duration of the cruise. There most likely will be additional rules established regarding the use of scientific refrigerators and freezers for the cooling and storage of beverages during the cruise. Scientists on board should realize that not all cruises will involve the use of radioisotopes or other hazardous chemicals within the laboratory spaces, but at some point during past cruises these chemicals were used in the laboratory, refrigerator, and freezer spaces. During non-radioisotope cruises, the CS may discuss the option of consumption of food and drink in the lab in select locations only.

Port Calls
Occasionally there might be the opportunity to stop in port during your trip. This might be to obtain supplies, refuel, or to do repairs. If approved by the captain, there may be the option of going ashore during the stop. The CS will inform all scientists of the plan once the ship has tied up or anchored.

If you are allowed to go ashore, please ensure that you have left your name, departure time, designation, and contact number with the OOW in the sign-out book located either on the bridge or near the gangway. If you do go ashore, you must carry either a cellular phone or VHF radio so that the ship can get a hold of you (typically for an early departure due to an emergency call). If you cannot carry a cellular phone or VHF radio, then ensure that you travel ashore with someone that does. If this is still not practical then giving your designation in the log book will allow the ship to send someone to come and get you if there is an early departure, but this is not preferred. Once you come back aboard, make sure to sign-in on the bridge or near the gangway so that the ship knows that you are on board. Otherwise the departure time may be delayed while a search party is sent out to find you!

Remember that the Drug and Alcohol Policies apply while you are off the vessel as well.

Data Standards

While on board you will be participating in the collection of various data. These data will be used in various reports and papers following your cruise for possibly decades to come. Therefore it is important that everyone understands the need to collect data using set protocols and to record any event that might be relevant during the cruise. Make sure to always reference your data with the cruise number assigned to your cruise (typically REGYYYY-###, e.g., PAC2008-016).

Sampling Protocols
Regardless if you are doing CTD casts, fish sampling, benthic grabs, or so on, there likely are established scientific sampling procedures in place. If you are going to be involved in sampling, please review these procedures prior to coming out on the cruise and therefore you will be prepared at the beginning of the cruise when they are explained again. For example, if you are collecting water samples then standard sampling procedures exist for:

CTD and Rosette casts

Pacific Region Standard Sampling Protocols:

Dissolved Oxygen
Plankton tows

Plus there are other procedures for less common sampling protocols as well. Make sure to ask the CS what the standard procedures are prior to sampling if they are not listed here. By following established procedures, the data collected will be of high quality and usable by all.

If you are unsure of the procedures on board, ask the watch leader or CS for more information. If a different sampling procedure is followed then please make sure that this is recorded in the science log book.

If you will have other scientists on board collect samples for your research project, it would be a good idea to make up a cheat sheet of the procedure to follow plus present the procedure at the departure meeting. That way you will know that others will collect your samples correctly if you are not there to supervise.

Data Considerations
While at sea, vast amounts of data are captured using a number of different sensors. The CS will consider the data types required by both their projects and the projects of other scientists on board. When possible, established standards of data collection and archiving should be followed.

On the daily log sheets, all events must be recorded. These include: CTD casts, plankton hauls, cores, benthic grabs, fishing sets, and so on. The daily log sheets should be considered as the master copy of all scientific events that took place on your cruise. If you are on watch, you should ensure that all events are recorded. Many log books will also require that you initial the recordings so that if questions later arise during data processing, you can be asked directly.

The importance of comments in the log book cannot be stressed enough. Log books have additional sheets between log pages to record any observations that occur during the cruise. The CS will ensure that the log book is completed in full and that any observations are clearly noted by people on watch. Here are some examples of oceanographic observations that would be valuable comments within the log book:

Observed failure or strange reading of a sensor during a CTD
A computer crash
Switching of a CTD or sensor unit
A software issue
A bottle that fails to trip shut
A syringe that is left on a cell
Cleaning of the transmissometer
Removal of a PAR sensor
A nutrient sample from the seawater loop
A failure of a NMEA string input into the deck unit
Failure of the CTD pump to turn on
Failure to turn on the CTD pump
The CTD or rosette is recovered with mud or jellyfish attached to it
A bottle is removed or switched
Weights are added or removed from the unit
Any unusual biological observations (e.g., large numbers of squid, jellyfish, birds, zooplankton swarms, thick waters due to phytoplankton)
Wind speed and direction

But any other observations are welcome as well and these observations may come into effect during the subsequent data processing and analysis and are valuable information.

Data Sharing
During the departure meeting, the CS will discuss the data products to be generated at the end of the cruise. What these products are will vary greatly between cruises, but it could be as simple as a photocopy of the science log book or more complicated as a few paragraphs of results for a paper. Regardless, do expect to share your data or at least where you collected data on the trip. Distribution of data will be an important consideration at the end of the cruise and you may be asked to provide "something" for inclusion in a report or for a take-home DVD for all scientists.


Communications on Board
All vessels offer various means of communication with the outside world. These include cellular phone, satellite phone, email, fax, etc. At present, any costs associated with use of these ship systems is incurred by Coast Guard and is not cost-recovered from science personnel; however, exceptions exist on some vessels that do collect fees for communication use, including email, fax, or telephone.

Some of the larger vessels offer "science" email accounts, such as as a generic "science1@" account. These accounts may be accessed by scientists, either through their own laptop computer or via a designated computer on the ship. Most ships do not offer email setup for scientists, so it is the responsibly of the CS to arrange for installation of email, if possible. Email at sea is not private and should not be used for confidential communications.

Some ships now offer Internet access, either full or part time. If Internet is available on board then inquire with the CS over its limitations and availability. Most likely a password, specific for science users, will be given out if requested.

You may also wish to bring along your cellular phones on the cruise to keep in contact with home. Most Coast Guard personnel carry Telus phones as they offer the best coverage on the Pacific coast, although there are still a lot of areas with no coverage at present. Bell phones have somewhat reduced coverage on the Pacific Coast and Rogers and Fido phones are very limited. When cellular phones cannot be used due to lack of reception, then if a business or emergency call needs to be made using the satellite phone, this should be requested from the OOW and a log of the call is to be recorded.

Laboratory, Deck, and Bridge Communications
Communications while on stations will vary between vessels, but generally VHF radios are used. The CS will discuss the standard communication procedures on the ship at the departure meeting. VHF radios are provided by the ship; however, some scientific programs may choose to bring their own.

Here are some general protocols to consider when you are required to use radios as part of the science program on board:

You will be informed which channel will be used for communications on board. Typically 82A is used, however other channels could be in use as well. On larger vessels there may be several different channels in use.
Use LOW power on the radio
LISTEN to make sure no one else is already talking on the radio before talking
PUSH and HOLD the PTT button, then TALK, then release the PTT button
To call a station, it is the LOCATION YOU ARE CALLING first, then YOUR LOCATION. For example: "Bridge, Lab"
Keep conversation brief and to the point
More information is better than less or none at all. If there is something that is going on, DON'T HESITATE TO USE THE RADIO
Don't forget the radio should be turned OFF when you are done using it

Some different words for clarity:
When giving numbers, anything over 9 is said by individual numbers. For example: "Winch, Lab, down to one-zero-zero metres"
If letters are required then give in phonetic form...
Alpha ¤ Bravo ¤ Charlie ¤ Delta ¤ Echo ¤ Foxtrot ¤ Golf ¤ Hotel ¤ India
Juliet ¤ Kilo ¤ Lima ¤ Mike ¤ November ¤ Oscar ¤ Papa ¤ Quebec ¤ Romeo
Sierra ¤ Tango ¤ Uniform ¤ Victor ¤ Whisky ¤ X-Ray ¤ Yankee ¤ Zulu

Deploying and Recovering Equipment
At station or even between stations, one simple rule that must be followed is that ANY sampling gear that goes over the side of the ship MUST have approval from the bridge. This includes obvious things like CTD's, nets, and bottles, but also XBT's, buckets, poles, and even fish or fish oils. The reasons for this are simple as there are many other things happening on board that you likely are not aware of and the OOW must ensure the safety of the ship and everyone on board. An example might be that you are throwing a little plankton net in the water to take a surface sample while underway and the ship is dumping their sewage tanks.

To ensure safety of the yourself, the ship, and your gear, always ensure that you have permission to deploy your equipment prior to launching it over the side. In most cases the bridge will be aware that you are ready to deploy and are "standing by" ready to go. Usually permission to deploy is given over the VHF radio and the scientist (not the deck crew) must ensure that permission is given.

Similarly for recovery, especially on longer casts, it is always a good idea to inform the bridge prior to bringing your equipment back on board. This will allow them to prepare the ship for recovery, including reducing the load on the engine to stationkeep. Again remember that more information is always better than less or none at all!


Meal Services
On most vessels, three meals are provided per day. Some vessels will provide an additional meal around midnight for those coming on watch; however this meal is usually pre-prepared and left in a designated location for self-service. On some vessels there may be multiple locations on the ship where you can eat a meal, as scientists are allowed to eat in the officer's mess if so desired. Meals and serving times will be discussed at the departure meeting.

Common courteously on ships states that you should never show up at the mess for a meal wearing dirty clothing, including coveralls, work boots, raingear, and so on. Hats should be removed while eating. Check with the CS if there are any locations within a mess where you should not sit as these are reserved for officers or other crew members. Do not show up near the end of meal service period and expect to be served as the stewards will be starting their cleaning up.

The food service may be either "cafeteria style" where you place food on a tray and then take it back to a table or "restaurant style" where a steward will give you a menu to choose from and bring the food to you.

Dietary Requests
Scientists that are joining the ship that have special dietary requests (vegetarian, diabetic, etc) or specific food allergies should inform the CS prior to the issue of a cruise plan. In addition, you, upon boarding the ship, should identify yourself to the chief cook and discuss the dietary request. Scientists should be aware that while galley personnel will try to accommodate any dietary requests, they should be prepared to supplement food provided on board if their request cannot be completely fulfilled (e.g., protein sources for vegetarians or those on Atkins-style diets). If an effort has been made on the cruise by the galley personnel to accommodate requests then you should ensure that this is acknowledged to the galley prior to departing the vessel.

If you have extreme allergies to certain common food types (e.g, peanuts), then please discuss this several weeks prior to the cruise date with the CS.

Storage of Personal Perishable Food
You may choose to bring their own perishable food supplies on board vessels. Prior to placing any personal food into a refrigerator or freezer space, this should be first discussed with the steward and/or chief cook. Refrigerator space is usually at a premium in mess areas and alternative arrangements may be made to store food in the cool stores. Any food stored should be clearly labelled with your name and preferably in either a small box or bag. All food must be removed when leaving the vessel. At no time may food be stored in laboratory refrigerators or freezers as these spaces may have accommodated dangerous goods or radioisotopes during previous cruises.

Missing Meals
On most vessels, if you are on a watch during a lunch or dinner meal time, the stewards will expect you there for the meal (especially if meals are served "restaurant" style). If a scientist does not expect to be there for a meal, you should mention this to the stewards and make a request for a meal to be put aside. On some vessels, a sign-up board is available to indicate that you do not plan to be there for a meal and you would like one put away for later.

Eating Outside of Meal Hours
Appitizers and put-away meals are available outside of meal hours. You should ensure that you clean-up after yourself and that dirty dishes are placed in the appropriate bins to be washed. On some vessels outside of meal hours, snacks and coffee are only available in the crew's area. Consider others that might also be eating these meals and snacks, especially after midnight when the crew watch change likely occurs.

End of the Cruise

Cabin Cleaning
At the departure meeting or during the cruise, the CS will discuss the departure date and time. An important part of your departure will be the vacancy of your cabin.

Regardless of the vessel you are on, all sheets, pillowcases, towels, and bath mats will need to be stripped from your cabin to make room for the next scientists to come on board. The job of stripping the linen will most likely be done by the stewards in the early morning on your day of departure. The stewards will likely also vacuum your cabin, wash down the walls, and ensure new soap is put out.

If a majority or all the scientists are getting off the boat then the stewards will have a very busy morning ahead of them following breakfast making sure that all the cabins are cleaned and restocked. Therefore as a courteously to the busy stewards, all scientists are requested to have packed all of their belongings from their cabins by breakfast time on the day of departure. Please consider packing your belongs up either the night before or prior to breakfast. The CS or stewards will wake you if you have not vacated your cabin by breakfast. Personal gear may either be left in the cabin (typically on top of a chair or desk) or taken to a place for offloading (could be a laboratory or hangar).

Laboratory Cleaning
The various laboratories on the ship will also need to be packed and cleaned prior to your departure. Do not plan to leave anything on board unless approved by the CS (typically only if the gear will be used for the next cruise). Make sure that you have:

Packed all of your equipment and have it ready for offloading
Removed all samples from the fridge or freezer
Removed all securing devices
Recovered all external devices (e.g., antennae)
Returned any borrowed items to other scientists or to the ship
Reset any equipment used to the defaults
Cleaned all laboratory spaces
If using radioisotopes then discuss with the CS regarding the required wipe test
Packed your sea-going gear, but remember that you will need your steel-toed boats and hardhat for offloading, and possibly your PFD if offloading onto a small launch

Don't Forget
Here's a few more things that you should do prior to departing the ship:

Pay your canteen bill
Pay your phone or communications bill
Personally thank crew members if they have assisted you during the voyage
Do a last walk-through to make sure you have everything, including any food that you brought with you
Obtain a copy of the data and log sheets
Obtain email address of those you would like to stay in contact with
Cleared your email account and reset the password

Emergencies at Home

Make sure that you pass along your contact information to those at home prior to joining the vessel. This could include ship-based email addresses or ship phone numbers. The CS should be contacted prior to your departure date if you need these contact numbers and addresses.

If an emergency does arise at home and someone needs to get a hold of you, they should either contact the vessel directly if you have given out the vessel's phone numbers. If the vessel is unreachable then your home contacts should contact the Pacific Region Operations Centre at 250.413.2800 so that a message can be sent to the ship.

If you are aware of any emergency issues at home that might come up while you are out at sea, please reconsider if you should head out to sea and if someone else could do your work for you. Cruises that are inshore can likely get you off the boat in 12-24 hours, plus travel time from your drop-off point to home. Offshore cruises could take days or even a week or longer to get you off the vessel plus travel time home. Helicoptering someone off is rare and usually for serious injuries on board and is limited to near shore only. If you do know of a potential problem that could occur while you are at sea, then please discuss it with the CS prior to departure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Here are a few of the more commonly-asked questions from those going out on their first cruise...

Can I Bring a Visitor aboard on Loading Day?
Many scientists like to show their partners or co-workers what life will be like on a ship. Visitors may come aboard if they sign-in with the OOW or other crew member immediately after boarding the ship. Visitors are allowed to tour the ship with yourself, provided that they are escorted during their stay. Visitors may not stay for meals and should stay out of locations where work is being done, unless they are wearing the necessary personal protection gear. No visitors are allowed to stay overnight as they will not have the required security clearance.

Can I Make Phone Calls from the Ship?
Most crew members carry cellular phones during the voyage to make phone calls when within a coverage area. There are phones available on the bridge for emergency calls only and if you need to use them then talk to the CS first and the CS will request permission from the OOW for use of the phone. There may be a charge for this service.

Some ships have pay phones available for use by scientists. Usually phone cards are sold by the canteen for use with these phones and rates may be $1-2/minute.

What Can I do When I'm Not Working?
There are many distractions on board to keep you busy when you are not working. Most ships have a supply of movies or DVD's or possibly satellite TV. Some ships will have gyms where you can keep in shape. There is usually a library on board with a selection of magazines and books. You might play a game with fellow scientists or crew members. Or you might find yourself sleeping since the motion of the sea and the hard work will likely make you feel more tired than usual.

Even if you are off duty, it is to the benefit of everyone on board to maintain and contribute towards a positive morale while on board the vessel. Long stretches of time, either between stations or over the entire cruise length can lead to depression, so suggesting board games, special events, and/or team activities for those not on duty will help the time pass quickly. Although it is understood that it is your time when you are not on duty, ensuring that your fellow scientists and ship's crew do not hide in their shells and get depressed on long and oftentimes remote missions should be encouraged.

Will I Get Sea-Sick?
There is a possibility that you might get sea-sick while on board, especially if you have never been in rough seas for extended periods of time. Everyone's reaction to sea-sickness will vary, so you may find out on your cruise what your tolerances are. Here are some recommendations:

If you anticipate rough conditions then take a dimenhydrinate tablet ("Gravol") beforehand (it doesn't work once you are already feeling seasick). Be aware that it will make you sleepy and you should not take it prior to a watch.
If you are feeling sick then one of the best ways to deal with it is to throw up. Just make sure that you are drinking plenty of water to replace the water that you will lose by doing this.
Continue to eat, even though it seems wrong. A full belly will not slosh around food whereas an empty one will. Many people eat bread or crackers when feeling sick. Avoid eating sugary or oily foods.
Find a stable spot on the ship. The more towards the centre of the ship you can get, the less motion there will be. Also moving to lower decks will help.
Go outside and get some fresh air. Make sure that there are no restrictions on going outside first (in rough seas deck access may be restricted). Make sure to tell someone that you are going outside.
Focus on the horizon. Don't try to read or watch TV as this will intensify the feeling. Look at things in the distance or close your eyes. Laying down may ease the problem as well.
If the problem persists then discuss it with the medic, nurse, or doctor on board.
Most people will acquire their "sea legs" within a couple of days of the cruise.
Some people take drugs or wear patches to deal with the problem, but the trade-off is that they are always tired and are less reliable during their watch. You will need to find the ideal compromise if you decide that drugs are required. Arm bands are another possibility, although these are less successful for long cruises.

Are There Snacks on Board?
Coast Guard ships generally do not provide snack food and drinks, such as potato chips, popcorn, chocolate bars, candy, gum, peanuts, and pop. These items may be available for purchase from the ship's canteen during the voyage. If there is something that you enjoy then consider bringing it along when you join the ship. The ship's canteen will usually stock clothing items and toiletries for purchase as well. Canteen purchases are cash only.

Do I Need to do a Watch?
If you have been assigned a watch, you must show up and be available for work during those hours. If you are doing, or even if you have completed your own research on board, you still must show up for your watch. The reasons behind this are simple: cabin space on ships are limited and a space was made available to you to participate on the cruise. The cruise does not end when your work is completed, but rather when you leave the ship. Scientists, regardless of their affiliation, must assist with all watch-related work on board for the duration that they are on board. Portions of your watch may be at terrible hours, but everyone on a watch system will have some good and some bad parts of the day.

There will be times when there is no work during a watch, such as when the ship is traveling to the next station. Use this time to catch up on your own work or catch up on sleep.

What are the Cabins Like?
Cabins vary significantly between ships and even one ship can have many different cabin styles. You should expect your own bunk and a locker or dresser at a minimum. Some cabins will have sinks and mirrors, others may have desks or even a chair or sitting space. Your cabin may have a washroom, with or without a shower, but most likely you will be using a washroom and shower down the hall. Cabins are generally small, so expect to leave a majority of your clothing in a bag.

How do I Find Out About Data Products?
Following a cruise, the CS is the main contact point for all data products from the cruise. When contacting the CS, make sure to give them the cruise number that you are looking for.