By Terry Connell, Web Coordinator - NOAA's National Ocean Service
October 1, 2012
The crew on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster is well trained and quite accommodating. This is their home, but they make you feel like it is yours, too. There's a spirit of cooperation and hospitality here that permeates everything.
I cannot speak for all of the NOAA fleet, but on this ship, life seems to revolve around the galley (kitchen) and mess deck (lunch room). Food service is like clockwork, and for many of the science and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) crew, shows the passing of time. Breakfast is from 7-8 AM, Lunch 11-12, and dinner from 4:30-5:30 PM. Dinner on Sunday is always special - just like home.
If you are on night crew or working on something that keeps you from a meal, Lito Llena, Chief Steward and Greg Gordon, Second Cook, will make you a plate, wrap it, and write your name on it. There are always a half dozen or more plates waiting at the end of dinner. Near the end of the trip, an emergency kept nearly all the crew from lunch. When I finally made it to the mess deck, the galley was clean and the food was gone. One of the tables, however, was filled with covered plates with the names of each of us who missed lunch.
Lito and Greg are retired Navy cooks who continue to serve our country, taking extremely good care of the NOAA crew and guests. Together, these men not only keep the crew very well fed, but they keep the mess deck well supplied. There is a cold salad bar that is always stocked. A toaster and microwave, coffee machine that never stops brewing, juice machine, and an ice and water dispenser complete the list of equipment.
Meals are accompanied by a variety of beverages - which are always available in the refrigerator under the salad bar along. Lunch and dinner always end with a homemade dessert. After meals, Lito and Greg leave these sweets out to be consumed as snacks. There's a cabinet with an assortment of cereals, mixed nuts, and snacks and breads; a potpourri of tea bags and hot chocolate mix; and a refrigerator that contains a variety of lunchmeats and condiments for sandwiches. There is also a small freezer that is stocked with frozen treats.
A couple of times after dinner I worked at a table in the mess deck where I could spread out a little (the labs were quite tight with scientists) and get some work done. Sitting there for hours, I noticed a steady stream of activity. Someone was always coming in and getting something from the mess deck – a chocolate milk, a sandwich and salad as they got ready for their night shift, a snack to help keep them going – it never ended.
The mess deck is never closed. Each individual crewman was taken care of. It occurred to me that the mess deck was like my grandmom's kitchen. If she knew we were coming, she always stocked up on everybody's favorite; whether it was lunch meats, hard-boiled eggs, a particular candy, or a type of ice cream. We were each accommodated and taken care of.