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Adventure Documentary Footage
Fresh out of re-fit the M/V Holo Kai will play an important role as a research platform for use by universities and organizations that need access to ocean waters along its mission course.
Having already documented some of the final repairs and repainting we were given the opportunity to document the first leg of its mission from Galveston, Texas to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. After our arrival in Mexico we ventured out and located a school of whale sharks.
Between the video and these images we cover much of the action as we went from the drydock in Galveston to the yacht basin in Mexico.
The images (below) were captured from our video camera footage that will eventually be used to make a promotional documentary for the organizations world-wide education efforts. Take a pictorial ride as we chronicle the trip. Each thumbnail clicks to a larger image.

The Holo Kai sits "low and dry" in the Kennedy graving dock to receive repairs and an industrial grade paint job.

Repairs were made to various damaged areas on the hull before being repainted.

Much of the above deck repairs and repainting were done by the captain and crew of the Holo Kai while the Kennedy crew performed work on the exterior hull.

ISIS (Integrated Shipboard Information System) is just one of the many upgrades installed by the owner and showing the level of commitment to developing an efficient research platform.

Even with ISIS, engine room communications are a vital link for safe ship operations.

The engine room and below deck spaces are rugged and well organized with plenty of tools for the level of self sufficiency needed for long trips.

New chief engineer, Dennis Doyle, locates manuals and materials as a crewman emerges from one of the many storage areas below deck.

This alleyway runs centerline and nearly the full length of the Holo Kai. Below deck it accesses the crews quarters, dry storage, the engine room, freshwater makers, and several refrigeration and freezer compartments.

Below deck storage is plentiful. As we left the Holo Kai, Chief engineer Doyle was looking at ways to convert one of these spaces into a small laboratory space should any research project demand a more industrial setting.

Captain and chief engineer supervise the transfer of a new mini-lathe/mill that can be used to fabricate small components for engineering or research projects while the boat is underway.

The large entertainment system in the main salon provides excellent audio and visual training opportunities. While en route to Mexico we developed a "Fire fighting 101" presentation and introduced the new crew to elements of shipboard fire fighting based on our experience with Texas A&M Fire School, Lamar University Basic Fire fighting School, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Carrying over a richly defined "French look" interior from its former owners, the Holo Kai also has a "home-like" comfortable feeling that invites casual daily living as well as providing fare and feel for formal black-tie occasions. Members of the research community will find the ships accommodations quiet, comfortable, and focused on helping them achieve the goals established by their grant and funding programs.

As preparations near completion a truck arrives loaded with food. In spite of a heavy rain storm the crew eagerly throws itself to the task of loading groceries for the long trip.

Once the final repairs and numerous upgrades are made Captain Mike Janovsky makes final preparations for the Holo Kai's new mission as a research platform. Chief chef, Laurie Woodhead, checks tallies and the crew moves the fine furniture (which was finished by Captain Joe Woodhead) to a safe location inside.

Dusty and Vitor are all smiles as months of work finally bring the Holo Kai to a point where getting "underway" means moving on to new ports rather than just another engine trial out to the end of the Galveston jetties.

Captains Joe Woodhead and Chuck Barnes prepare the bridge for the first leg of the journey. The Holo Kai has a wide variety of modern communications equipment including satellite up links, VHF/UHF radios, and fax and e-mail. In addition to its redundant radar and digital graphic depth sounding devices it also has an active sonar system like that of the U.S. Navy.

The next morning we find ourselves approximately 80 miles off the Texas coast and well en route to Isla Mujeres. The horizon and weather are clear and the seas calm as the captain heads us due south.

Offshore oil rigs populate this region. With the industries efforts to control pollution and contain spills they offer a haven for offshore ocean life as well as provide a vital resource for national strength in a global economy.

Once you clear the "basin" of the Texas gulf coast backwash where the water is typically brown, the gulf waters turn a beautiful blue and are clear enough to see down to the edge of the hull.

The temperature rises during the day and this portal proves to be one of the most comfortable spots as the wind brings a cooling spray to Milton, Jr. the youngest of the new crew members.

Although we are now underway work is by no means finished. The crew undergoes training to drop anchor and handle forfeiting concerns (not shown). Later, Kyle makes minor repairs and prepare electrical service lines for use at the next port of call.

Since a lot of the materials for the trip were brought aboard at the last minute and under adverse weather conditions the crew now takes time to rearrange and store items below decks in the correct compartments.

With much of the work now out of the way crew members set the outriggers on the Holo-Ke (The 41' G&S) and begin trolling for fish. The rigging is set for table fare, not catch and release research projects.

After a few releases of barracuda and some near misses we finally snag a Wahoo and test the kitchen facilities to the delight of the crew.

Along the way we get a surprise visitor hundreds of miles from any shore. Either this bird got caught in a storm and swept out to sea, or it was a stowaway that just decided to show itself.

As part of our documentary we interview some of the crew to understand their feelings about traveling the globe on a mission such as what the Oceanic Conservation Organization plans. "Kyle Harpers later studies at UT Austin focused primarily on the cultures and land rights issues of traditional communities in the Brazilian Amazon."

Arriving off the Mexican coast the Holo Kai makes an impressive site as the shallow waters begin to lighten to a brilliant aqua color.

Slowed to nearly a crawl the massive vessel heads into the yacht basin at Isla Mujeres, Q. Roo, Mexico.

Captain Chuck keeps a lookout for vessel traffic such as the ferries above. Meanwhile the crew prepares lines for docking and gets ready to hoist the Port of Call and Quarantine flags.

The yacht basin at Isla Mujeres is the starting point of many fishing competitions such as the Extreme Billfishing Competition. At this time of the year the docks are quiet with resident boats sitting relatively idle.

Pierre Sanchez, Manager of the Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club stands by to tend lines and greet the Holo Kai.

Captain Mike Janovsky expertly maneuvers the ship into position for a starboard side docking. Captain Joe Woodhead keeps a lookout over the aft deck and feeds information back to the maneuvering station. Meanwhile, the crew hurries to locate fenders according to the layout of the mooring pilings.

Slowly and carefully, using steering and bow thruster, the Holo Kai sterns into position at the end of the main dock.

Captain Woodhead displays how to lasso a mooring with heavy lines.

With the boat docked and government officials satisfied the 41 foot G&S Sport Fisher is launched. The piggy backed vessel extends the reach for researchers by allowing that the Holo Kai can locate on station as a supply and support vessel for extended periods while the 41 is used to carry divers and equipment out to different locations within a radius of several hundred miles. Here, the 41 is shown being offloaded in Isla Mujeres.

Just up the dock one of may native iguana's suns itself on the sidewalk. At first it's quite a shock to see one scurry across your path in search of figs and insects. After a while you simply start stepping around them.

In addition to the Holo-Ke, the Holo Kai carries several other work capable boats such as two RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) and the jet ski which can be used as a fast messenger between the boats, or, to corral fish in a research project if needed.

The 41' G&S named the Holo-Ke is an extremely nice Sport Fisher that can deliver divers and small experiment collection tanks to research locations at a speed of about 30 knots. It also allows that visitors to the Holo Kai need not be hampered by the need for ferry services to and from departure and arrival points.

The Holo Kai has plenty of diving equipment to support just about any research dives down to 120 feet. If you choose to bring your own equipment you might want to let them know what kind of support you might need ahead of time.

Testing your equipment off the Holo Kai is no problem. The tanks can be refilled in the dive support room on board.

Not long after arriving we get word that whale sharks are congregating off the coast. Knowing that they follow the plankton and krill we take cameras and diving rigs and head out several times over the next week to study the behavior of these tremendous fish in hopes of having information relative to tagging them for research.

Captain Chuck cranks up the two diesels and points the bow of the 41' sport fisher seaward as he heads toward the GPS coordinates we were given. The Holo Ke also has radar, radios, and depth information equipment that is very useful for finding research locations.

Suddenly, we arrive on location to find ourselves directly in the middle of a school of the largest fish in the world.

The first one we lock our camera on is moving slowly away but doesn't seem bothered by our presence.

Within minutes another one comes directly alongside the Holo-Ke and gives us a great opportunity to focus on its graceful form.

Feeding is not hurried and the whale shark does open and close its mouth in rhythmic fashion as it scours the water for food.

Our dive team quickly gets ready.

J.H. hits the water first. Later, we discover that simple snorkeling equipment is actually better than the cumbersome tanks to observe these docile fish.

Gabriela Hijuelos (, an independent underwater videographer joins the team and provides us with some excellent underwater coverage.

On our video we see what happens when a remora leaves one side of the gill area to encroach on the other side. The resident remora suddenly launches itself to intercept the interloper and immediately sends it back to its own side.

In an effort to snorkle and watch the whalesharks from a distance the crew tosses a tow line to the swimmers. As they each attempt to find a position on the line one of the whale sharks suddenly comes upon us and circles behind the boat. It crashes into the swimmers nailing him dead center with enough force to knock the air out of him. Other swimmers scramble to get out of the way.

Another swimmer, not sure what to do instinctively pushes away only to grab the 25 ft. behemoths dorsal fin. He knew he should not touch them but for about a minute the swimmer does not know what to do with the huge upright tail working back and forth behind him. Finally he lets go using forward momentum and his body as a rudder and swings away without further touching the beautiful creature.

During times when we did not locate the whale sharks we did find rifts and slicks that would indicate up-currents but the fish were simply not there. It's not very clear in this picture but there was a presence of a particular seaweed each time we did locate the whale sharks. On several occasions there was also large manta rays breaking the surface.

As the whale shark passes we have a great shot of the gills and markings on this particular fish.

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