Scientists aboard the tall ship Kaisei are charged with tracking debris from last year's Japanese tsunami and investigating the North Pacific gyre choked with trash. And it's steward Jocelyne Turner's job to feed them.
For centuries, sailors subsisted on saltpork, hardtack and grog, since few other foods were fit for long months at sea in the pre-canning, pre-refrigeration era. Scientists traveling aboard the Kaisei are treated to far more elaborate meals, including frittatas with bacon for breakfast, but Turner says she confronts many of the same problems faced by yesterday's galley cooks.
"On a 30-day voyage, the first two weeks you're going to have lots of fruits and vegetables, and the third week you're trying to salvage cabbage," Turner says.
In addition to spoilage threats, Turner is constantly attending to spatial concerns: Feeding dozens of hungry workers for a month requires supplies that tend to overflow the pantry. Turner says there's only so much she can cram into the storage bins beneath the ship's galley benches.
"The first three days, I slept with four watermelons in my bunk," she says of a recent trip.
Turner draws up detailed meal plans since the ship's freezer can only be opened once a day, but she can't plan for weather conditions that often conflict with her cooking or baking schedule.
"If it's flat, you can make a cake," she says. But in a storm, "it becomes really not easy. Pasta is a nightmare. If you're boiling water and we suddenly go flying, it's a super dangerous place. We're fanatics that there's only one knife in here."
To keep the galley safer, the knife is worn on a belt and boiling pots are bungee corded together.
Meal plans are also adjusted based on the demographics of the crew. When the BBC sends reporters on a voyage, "we go through hoards of tea," Turner says.
"Everyone eats pretty good," she adds. "We manage to do it."
The Kaisei is currently docked at Richmond, B.C.'s Britannia Heritage Shipyard for the city's maritime festival this coming weekend. The event, now in its ninth year, features a flotilla of boats for boarding; musicians; dancers and other performers. Festival goers will also have the opportunity to tour the museum, which houses exhibits on cannery workers' and fishermen's living quarters and a 1929 yacht which was briefly the fastest boat on the west coast. Known as the Skeezix (the name was chosen to confuse the Coast Guard), the rum runner equipped with 12-cyclinder aircraft engines likely made whiskey-hauling trips to Seattle.
"Nobody wanted to write in a logbook, 'I carried 500 cases of whiskey to Seattle,'" site supervisor Bryan Klassen says.
The boat is now being restored. Referring to its reported top speed of 40 knots, Klassen jokingly says "we're going to go to Victoria for coffee and come back in a half-hour."