Stud Links

The last notable evolution we undertook on my latest hitch aboard the Hunter happened a week ago, when we swapped out the pigtail on one of our response barges. I was in charge on deck and things went smoothly, with exception of a bell shackle that was pretty well locked up with stinking marine growth. In Valdez they use a bell shackle instead of a fishplate to connect the bridle legs to the pigtail. We pulled off a half-shot and quarter-shot and replaced that will a full shot (90 feet or 15 fathoms) of 3-inch stud link chain. My fascination with towing gear continues: each link is 18 inches long and weighs about 94 pounds. A welded stud strengthens the link by preventing collapse and stretching; standard measurement is “length over five links” in inches (66″ or five and a half feet for three-inch chain). The weight of a full shot is about 7,650 lbs. An open link at the end is required since a shackle can’t be put through a link of chain containing a stud. Working with this gear reminds me that I do in fact miss towing barges sometimes.

On my way home, however, it became clear that I’m lucky not to have been on the ocean last week; I arrived in Anchorage Wednesday evening with a plan to stay in Alaska with friends for a couple days. By 9 pm I was stricken with horrible abdominal pain, but assumed it was food poisoning from lunch in Valdez and tried to sleep through the night. At noon on Thursday I decided I should probably go to the hospital, and after a long afternoon consisting of three liters of IV fluid, multiple doses of potent painkillers, and a CT scan, it was pronounced that I had an acute appendicitis and was going into surgery almost immediately. It was traumatic but I have to say that every person who took care of me at the Providence medical center in Anchorage was without exception sweet and kind and made the whole experience strangely pleasant, considering the circumstances. I’m also terrifically lucky it didn’t go down at work, because I doubt I’d want to get cut open in Valdez and transportation from an outport in Prince William Sound to emergency medical care is a scenario I don’t even want to think about. And to think that I didn’t know whether I was getting relieved until the night before crew change…

Aside from this unpleasant interruption, the last four weeks have been excellent; with a group of happy, optimistic people to work alongside it doesn’t feel like work at all. And getting back into life at home is an interesting study… at the end of each trip to Alaska, being back in the city feels like a new chapter. We are fully into the summer now, and walking around my neighborhood feels like walking through Europe: so vibrant, strange, and warm, the streets lined with charming houses and gorgeous flower gardens. So beautiful.

One thought on “Stud Links

  1. Holy crap Elizabeth. So glad your body cooperated and kept up until after crew change. Nothing worse than that kind of pain at sea. I did it once with a kidney stone. It was hell. Glad you're okay! Enjoy your time off.


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