Re: We can only have one captain here. . . Amidships there is a line that I would presume is the PLISMO mark, and then the freeboard depth scale just behind the bow. The stern is clearly marked with "Corps of Engineers, US ARMY." Probably what looked so precarious about the earlier photo was the ship's distance from shore and being in the trough of a ground swell. Interestingly, when backlit, you can see that the boat's superstructure is a good 8" above the deck of the ship sitting on a multitude of bolts, and you can see full light below it, so it's evidently not a problem for water to typically wash over the bow and sides.
What I like in this particular angle is the proximity to the 4' swell in the foreground and the shoals offshore in the background. At the extreme right is a wave breaking on the point of the jetty. My reason for identifying the various depths in the first shot of this sequence was the fact that inlet waves are coming right out of deep water and jumping up in short order. For those who want to read more on waveology, I highly recommend Willard Bascom's book, "Waves and Beaches." http://www.amazon.com/Waves-Beaches-.../dp/0385148445 As one reviewer noted, "Every Surfer should own a copy of this Book." While sometimes very scientific and a tad technical, if you love surfing and the ocean, it's well worthwhile.
It not only thoroughly covers wave formation fundamentals, but it also includes photos and formulas for determining wave velocity in the water. And all of this from a deceased professor of physics from Montana, go figure. Even the landlocked can appreciate a beautiful waveform that is indeed a living thing with a definite lifespan.
More interesting still is http://vst.cape.com/~harharb/news/currituck.html, where you can find out some other interesting stuff about this ship. Originally written in 1998, the article says operating costs run $8,000 per day (remember this boat has been going in and out of the inlet since mid summer) and it's not actually a ship, but a pair of pontoons that open at the keel to dump the contents they've already pumped aboard. That and the fact that this is the same craft that took out a span of the Oregon Inlet, NC bridge sometime back.