For our first official run, we chose a date in March. It sounded springlike and warm, but as the date drew near, I realized that March would come in like a lion. In February, David and I began watching the weather. Lows were marching down the coast, highs were fighting back from the south, and the lows were winning. In late winter, we saw snow, hail, severe wind, pelting rain, bitter cold, and lightning. A full moon in the clear skies above us meant that our passage would be extra-cold. Then we were told that the March trip is traditionally the year's roughest. It was also a change-of-season trip: When the scientists switch from elephant-seal research to seabird research, there has to be a complete change of staff. After three months on Southeast Farallon Island, the crew was ready to come home. We'd deliver three people, plus their food and supplies for two weeks, and we'd return with six people, their gear, and their garbage. With a full boat, inexperienced passengers, and rough conditions, we knew that safety would be our main concern. We unpacked and checked life jackets, harnesses, tethers, jacklines, foul-weather gear, and the MOB pole.