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Voyages

SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

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Jun

16

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

16

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Anchored in Tarpaulin Cove
Weather: Calm. Great for anchoring and sleeping
Photo Caption: An aloft view of the Shenandoah sailing in to anchor beside mother Cramer.

Our journey on mother Cramer is nearing its end with just one last night aboard. We are anchored in Tarpaulin Cove for a night full of gorgeous scenery, and with only an hour of watch per person tonight, everyone is bound to get in some good zzzz’s before heading into Woods Hole early in the morning.

We had an eventful last day with much mung being discarded as SSV Corwith Cramer received her final loving scrub by C-235. All three watches got together for an all hands lunch before field day, and we ended with an all hands barbeque. Yes, a real barbeque. sailor style of course! Not done there. one last swizzle party needed to be had and it was by far the best swizzle party yet with B(est) Watch serenading the crew.

The last chance for aloft was fully taken advantage of by those who had not yet made the journey upward. We were also joined by the Shenandoah at anchor in the cove; two of her mates came aboard to be part of out final swizzle. Once swizzle come to an end the real treat was brought out by our wonderful galley girls. ICE CREAM as our final midnight snack.

Tomorrow we will be headed into Woods Hole to finish up our last week, tying up all lose ends and knocking out some final papers. So see you in the morning, Woods Hole!

Meryssa Downer,
Student

Jun

15

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

15

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday, June 14 2011
Position: 41deg 37’N x 070deg 41’W
Heading:  215
Speed: 7 knots
Weather: Wind WxN Beaufort Force 1, Seas Calm, Partly Cloudy with an AWESOME MOON!
Photo caption: Last chance at some sweet sailing.  From right to left: Cramer.

Mother Cramer is currently motoring under a bright moonlit sky toward our anchorage tonight tucked under the Weepecket Islands.  We are only about 3nm from home in Woods Hole but we aren’t ready to go just yet. This morning (as if someone had predicted it in advance) we saw our first WHALES off the northern tip of Cape Cod!  This area is at the southern edge of an underwater sanctuary known as Stellwagen Bank.  The steep edges of the underwater bank allow for nutrients to be brought up to the surface with the current, and all of this life stirs up a good chance for seeing some humpback whales that have just arrived at this feeding ground from down south near the Dominican Republic.  Our first call for whales was followed by an upward stampede to deck where a lucky few witnessed some breaching. We did some fancy sailing and did another drive-by to see a group of 6-10 whales bubble feeding.  We were surrounded all morning by the breath and spouts of many more.

After a warm class down below, and still all hopped up on whales, we set all the squares for the last time and blasted through Cape Cod Bay with the wind at our backs en route to the Cape Cod Canal.  We were greeted there as the sun set by many friends and random locals who were whipping out their cell phone cameras as we went by.  Tonight’s goal is some intense power napping after a blustery New England day in order to attack the big clean tomorrow in preparation for the arrival in port on Thursday morning.  For some reason it feels the days are shortest when you want them to pass the least.  (But we sill miss y’all at home!)

See ya soon!
Jessie Kehr
Deckhand

Jun

14

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday 13 June 2011
42°01.5’N x 069°58.9’W
Heading:  320 degrees psc
Speed: 3.9 Knots
Wind NE Beaufort Force 2-3, gray skies & cold (classic New England
weather!), 12.1°C
Photo Caption: Jellyfish are big eaters too

Galley folk don’t get much time on deck. While the crew is either managing the sails, doing science, or napping in their bunks, us galley girls are seemingly chained to a 12 by 12 foot sauna, cooking up dinner, or snack or something of the sort.  Ok, chained might be an exaggeration but it is very much a sauna. With three hot meals a day plus three snacks a day there is little time for much else.  Cook fast or else!!!  Not to mention the big eaters we have.  My observations suggest that at least 45% of the crew have hollow legs, useful for storing large potions of puff pastries which are quickly washed down with what we like to call “drink”.

The cool thing about the galley is that in a lot of ways it’s the heart of the action.  We are always in the know of every meal and every fire drill and other such shenanigans that rouse public interest. It also seems a passing through way for boat checks allowing us to check in with just about everyone on board. My personal favorite part of the hourly boat checks is watching the various crew members descend to dry stores and more importantly, make their way out.  What many of them don’t know is that I watch their maneuver, and then try it out for Jen and evaluate said technique to see it’s better than our own. The jury is still out on this one. Stay tuned….

As for the experience in general, I have to go back to food and more specifically recipes.  A good recipe is all about the parts and the pieces that make for a good flavor profile and helps to bring together a delicious meal. The same can be said about this crew. It’s the students and the mates, the deckhands the scientists, the engineering department and the Captain that pull this ship together and make this experience fun. Granted, things might not be so jolly if folks weren’t getting dinner, or worse, a healthy dose of purple drink! Yum…

Ashley Look
Assistant Steward

Jun

13

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday 12 June 2011
41°19.1’N x 069°14.9’W
Heading:  015 degrees psc
Speed: 6.7 Knots
Wind NW Beaufort Force 3 , heavy fog, 12.6°C
Photo Caption: B Watch donned matching red hats and mustaches today (slightly worn off after 6 hours of watch) on our honorary Watch de Jacques Cousteau (Shout out to John Jensen - Thanks for the matching hats!)

Life on board the mother ship has turned upside down. After leaving the horse latitudes 36 hours ago we underwent a long anticipated weather change. Our temperature dropped from 29°C to 12.6°C as long days of sunshine were replaced with heavy fog, thunderstorms and cold nor’westerlies. The days of seeking solace in the saloon, fans blazing and the lights turned low to avoid the heat, and waking up damp, sticky, and less dressed than when you went to sleep are now over. We’ve traded in our grungy tanks and smelly Teva’s for winter hats, wool socks, cups of hot cocoa and our stylish neoprene foulies!

The fog rolled in thick and unrelenting yesterday morning, bringing along an electrical storm to liven things up while B watch had the deck. As rain pounded our quarterdeck we sheeted in sails and struck the JT as the bow of the Cramer dunked those on the bowsprit furling sailings under the surf.  Working in weather brings a new sense of urgency to the ship. Lookouts are posted throughout the day to battle low visibility, our fog horn blows loud and clear to warn oncoming ships of our presence, and Captain Sean Bercaw continuously checks in on deck to feel the weather for himself and anticipate what Neptune has next in store. 

While no true sailor would wish for a storm, watching Captain Sean interpret the seas and skies around us is worth the weather.  He reads the world around him intuitively, with the eyes of an experienced sailor and someone who has seen what the sea is capable of.  Deep in our JWO phase, gybing, tacking, and handling all sorts of sail plans are becoming second nature to us, yet working side by side Captain Sean has allowed me to simultaneously see how much we’ve grown collectively as sailors, and how far we have yet to go.  Captain Sean has taught us that there are many ways to get from point A to point B, but that the important thing is to trust what you see around you, and not be afraid to change course.

Sending love to everyone on land, and happy birthday to our salty deckhand/film crew extraordinaire, James Roth! He donned a tiara and ran deck as JWO this evening.  Thanks for not running us aground, James, another good day’s work.

Cyrina King

Jun

13

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

11

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday 10 June 2011
38°02.2’N x 073°18.8’W
Heading:  049 degrees true
Speed: 6.7 Knots
Wind 4 Knots , skies hazy, 25.2°C (high of 29°C today!)

Photo caption: Chief Mate Rachel Greenough steering at sunset.

Sailing along, with the occasional assistance of the motor, Corwith Cramer and her crew are making the journey north to Woods Hole. In the past week, we’ve passed several states - Florida taking the longest with its extensive coastline, then Georgia briefly, the Carolinas, Virginia, to where we’re currently off-shore of Maryland and closing in on Delaware. I know I check the chart all of the time to orient myself, as on the ship, this movement is not always immediately evident. This morning, though, we were definitely feeling the difference in latitude, as many woke up under sheets and blankets seeing their first use in quiet some time. After sailing for the past weeks in the Gulf of Mexico and Straits of Florida, cooler temperatures are a comfort to all.

A Watch had the deck this afternoon watch, the duration of which included a good bit of sail handling as we tried to adjust our sail plan to diminishing winds. The students had the opportunity to join in on the sail party, striking and later resetting the mainstays’l like champs - very quickly and efficiently. The afternoon was quite warm, and so our whole watch helped with a typical deckwash. We had all mysteriously been told to don bathing suits prior to the deckwash, and so the fact that the hose seemed to have a mind of its own, soaking everyone, was something we thoroughly enjoyed. The cool, temperate sea water was a refreshing break from the heat of the day, as well as from the warmer waters we’d been used to in the Gulf of Mexico.

Not too long ago, Carla, our second assistant scientist, and I turned over the lab to B Watch, the student watch. I remember early on in the trip, where turnover was mostly conducted by the assistant scientists, and the difference now is quite clear. Amanda, the JLO for evening watch tonight, was very much on top of turnover, asking about our activities in the lab and getting a feel for what was to come for her watch. The progression of the students has been rapid, and their growing ownership of and responsibility about the Cramer has definitely impressed the rest of the crew (as well as helping us sleep soundly through the night)!

Well wishes to all of the family and friends keeping up with this blog! And a reminder to my fellow C234-alums: I better see y’all at alumni weekend later this month!

Cara Murray, Lab/Deckhand

Jun

11

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

10

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday 09 June 2011
GPS Position: 3706.8N x 07456.9W
Heading:  339
Speed: 7.9 Knots
Weather: Winds SWxW BF2, seas SW 2ft, hazy skies
Photo caption: The crew of the Corwith Cramer can rest easy, knowing that B watch has the helm.

Ahoy there!

Today was my first day as JWO, and man oh man, was I nervous.  I spent all night fretting about the responsibilities I would be assuming as Junior Watch Officer. What if I couldn’t remember how to strike the Fisherman? What if I forgot how to gybe and we couldn’t deploy the neuston net on time? I woke up this morning anxious, yet resigned to my fate.  When 1245 rolled around, I nervously took my walk around deck and then stepped up for watch turnover. 

It turned out to be an eventful morning.  Upon assuming our watch, I was informed that we needed to change course in order to avoid a suddenly dangerous area in which a navy ship was conducting live fire exercises.  We changed course, only to find ourselves passing only two miles from a large navy supply ship.  We were discussing how best to handle the situation when the ship suddenly turned right around and headed the other direction. The Corwith Cramer was obviously too formidable an opponent to mess with.

We took a quick break for classes and afternoon snack and then it was the time I had dreaded most; time to strike the JT and Fisherman and conduct a double gybe in order to reduce our speed to two knots, the ideal neuston towing speed.  I talked the plan over with B watch, and as we made ready to strike the JT and the Fisherman, I found myself reassured by my shipmates; if I had a question about what needed to be done I knew that someone in the group could talk me through it.  We successfully made it through the sail-striking and gybing with minimal help from our watch officers, so Id call that a great success!  The neuston tow went off without a hitch and our science crew found some neat stuff, including gooseneck barnacles and an odd assortment of land bugs such as mosquito larvae and ladybugs.  You never know what you’ll find out here in the wide open ocean!

Our watch ended with a surprise appearance from a submarine of all things. The sub briefly made contact with us on the radio, before suddenly surfacing about a mile and a half off the starboard side of the ship. Captain Sean sent Elana down below to tell the crew and everyone was treated to the rare view of a submarine right off of the ship.  It was an eventful end to an eventful watch. 

Lesson of the day: Have confidence in yourself and your shipmates! If youre feeling unsure, rest assured that they’re here to support you through thick and thin. A shipmate is a friend you can count on.

To our friends and family ashore, know that we miss you and cant wait to share some stories when we next speak. Have a good night!
Brianna Walsh

Jun

09

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

09

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Position: 35° 02.2’N x 074° 28.4’W
Heading: 045° PSC
Speed: 7.7 kts.
Weather: Winds WxS BF3, Seas SWxW, 3 ft
Caption: Group Green throwing m&m off the boat to determine which color wavelengths are absorbed at different depths

Firstly, woohoo we are finally sailing! I woke up from my pre-dinner cat nap to discover that the winds have filled in during the afternoon and we are now fully under sail. Having my bunk at the aft of the ship means that tonight instead of the roaring engine humming me to sleep, the pitching of the Cramer will be rocking me softly (knock on wood!) from side to side.

Today has been an incredible day of learning for me as I had my first experience of being JWO (Junior Watch Officer). I came on watch at 0700 and was thrown right into the midst of things. My first task was to coordinate turning the boat 360° under motor to let us to set the Jib Topsail (JT), as it always needs to be set on the same tack as it was struck. We then proceeded to strike the JT and Jibe before tacking to make the ship hove to. It was a flurry on deck to get the sails up and down then abacked, but my hesitant commands at first became more assertive by each move and we managed to skillfully maneuver the boat to a standstill for the science deployments to begin.

The science deck was extremely busy all morning deploying a secchi disk, CTD carousel, and a neuston net. I love deploying the neuston as there always opportunity for catching some really interesting critters during the tow. Today we caught a cryptic camouflaged sagassum fish and lots of vivid blue copepods. The rest of the watch consisted of more sail handling, keeping on top of boat checks, plotting our position on the chart using sun lines, and transmitting weather data to NOAA. As much as it initially seemed daunting to be responsible for running all these operations, it is amazing to see how much I have absorbed over the last four weeks onboard and how lucky we have been to have awesome guidance from the crew. I am also so thankful for the support and enthusiasm from all the students in our watch group - you guys rock!

After lunch the ship’s company convened on the quarterdeck for a thoroughly interesting lecture about the fate of light wavelengths in the ocean given by Chief Scientist Heather Schrum. We then gathered in groups depending on our favorite color to test out our hypothesis of which color would disappear the fastest through the water column. 1st Scientist Mia Theophanis had us all fooled that this experiment would be done using tiny disposable transmisometers given to us by NASA.  In actual fact, these transmisometers turned out to be chocolate m&m instead! Our groups threw ten different colored m&ms overboard and timed how long it took for them to sink beyond a visible depth. As expected, red and orange disappeared the quickest with green and blue taking longer. A few groups had to extrapolate their data as their m&ms managed to disappear down people’s tummies instead of into the water. During the end of the afternoon the US Air Forced graced us by doing a flyby in their fighter jets and performed a firework show by letting off some flares.

It’s now time to off sign and prepare for my favorite part of the day onboard, watching the sunset and star frenzy. It has been such a beautiful clear day today, and I expect that the night sky will be stunning during our mid-watch tonight.

Let the winds keep a blowin’,
Elana Hawke

Jun

08

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Position: 32° 40’N x 77° 44’W
Heading: 085° PSC
Speed: 8.4 kts.
Weather: Winds SE BF1, Seas ESE, 1 ft
Caption: Elana and Jen show off the cupcakes for Kate’s birthday.

Today you get a glimpse into a day in the life of a ship’s steward. And what a day it was! My day started, very unusually, at 0300, when the watches changed and Kate took over the deck. Why? Because it is her birthday today and her roommate, Will, got off watch then. So, naturally, Will and I were decorating the cabin with birthday bling (a banner, some leis, some sparkly ribbon.. you get the idea) while she was otherwise occupied, and before he was going to sleep.

Normally when I am on breakfast duty, I’ll get up at 0430 so that I can enjoy a cup of tea on deck and get my brain running before I have to really talk to anyone. But today I had Elana in the galley and she wanted to make bagels. I love making bagels, but they are a serious time commitment. We had some extra help from Nicole, who was assistant steward for the first leg of the trip (and who also loves making bagels). Nicole had been on midwatch, but still got up with Elana and myself at 0400 to start the process. Thankfully, after making the initial dough, we could still go to the quarterdeck and down some coffee to help keep us awake for the rest of the process. The result? Plain, poppy, sesame, cinnamon sugar and salt bagels, with veggie, herb, and cinnamon raisin cream cheeses, tomatoes, onions, capers, and, yes, lox. Best. Breakfast. Ever.

After breakfast, Nicole went for some much-needed rest and Ashley, our current assistant steward, came in to help keep us moving. And was I ever on a mission to get production done! It being Kate’s birthday, cupcakes were definitely on the menu, so we got those in the oven first. As afternoon snack, you’d think we’d have some time, but they need to cool before you can frost them, so it’s important to plan ahead.

While Ashley was working on cupcake-baking, Elana and myself put together some 7-layer bars for midnight snack, which may or may not have been accompanied by a mini dance party while we crushed the graham crackers for the base of the bars. Morning snack was smoothies, so once those got blended and put back in the freezer, we had time for a nap! Yes! We were having leftovers for lunch, fondly termed the “week in review,” so Ashley worked on re-heating our meals while Elana frosted the cupcakes. She kindly let me decorate some with sprinkles - definitely the most fun part of the process.

The wind died down during the day, so class in the afternoon was muggy & still. We did get to shut the motor off so that we could all hear each other, and the post-class “Happy Birthday” serenade and presentation of brightly colored cupcakes was a cheerful break in our routine. Elana is so on top of dinner that she just kicked me out of the galley so I could write this - she seems pretty comfortable here! Don’t tell anyone, but we’re serving Moroccan - a chicken tangine with sweet potatoes, carrots and chick peas over couscous. After all, as anyone who’s sailed with me knows, if you ask me what’s for dinner… the answer? Food.

Jen Webber, Steward

Jun

07

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday, June 06, 2011
Position: 30° 15.6’N x 079° 25.6’W
Heading: 030° PSC
Speed: 8.0 kts.
Weather: Winds ESE BF3, Seas ENE 1-3 ft.
Caption: Tyson, Jesse, and Will shooting sunlines as Tom steers us along.

I feel slightly delirious writing this. It’s 2330 and I just got off watch with my fellow deckhands. They’re sleeping soundly and I’m holed up in this library typing, typing, typing. I’ve been up since 0300 and, with the exception of a few well-timed catnaps, going strong until now. I promise you I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight. No joke, I swear. If it weren’t so hot in this room, I’d fall asleep right here, right on the ppppppppppppppppppp key. The heat in here brings back sweaty memories from today - when there was enough heat content in the air to make even a Russian sauna seem cold and dry.

No sailor will ever admit to liking a storm but the calm winds we faced in these horse latitudes today made me silently hope for some stronger weather. Never would I have mentioned any of this out loud. In fact I knocked on the teak deck today when Jesse, James and Jing gave a great weather forecast explaining tropical cyclones and how there might be something developing just south of Cuba. Although there’s a heavy dosage of science that happens onboard, the superstition runs just as deep when tomorrow’s winds are called into question. Don-t you dare touch the vinderschtalker. Don’t even look at it.

And just like I asked - a mid-afternoon front of some sort came our way and gave us a gentle shower on deck. When the deck is wet, the air is cooler - and if the deck is wet, then there’s a brief solace of relief. Our ambient temperature drops. Comfort appears, but it’s illusory.  As soon as the hot sun beats down and evaporates the water, the heat returns.

Fortunately, it didn’t and the rest of our afternoon was pleasant. On evening watch, the winds veered and as of now we’re sailing full and by under the mains’l, stays’ls, jib and jib tops’l. Life is good.

Tyson Bottenus, deckhand

Jun

06

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

06

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday, June 5
28 58.9 N x 079 52.8 W
Heading: 055 degrees
Speed: 8.0 knots
Weather: Wind E, force 2, temperature 29.0 C (in the lab)
Photo caption: Fish-eye view of the Corwith Cramer

Hello from the Corwith Cramer!  Tonight, our ship is shiny and clean thanks to the efforts of the whole crew during today’s field day.  In the galley, A watch rocked out to tunes (provided by Karin) and cleaned the remnants of this week’s rough weather.  Even though we clean every week, it is always surprising what you find.  Throughout the ship, students and crew dove into their jobs and transferred the ship’s dirt to our own bodies. After two hours elbow deep in ship grime, we had our fastest man-overboard drill yet and promptly followed it with a swim call to clean off and freshen up.

On a different note, today was the first full day of JWO/JLO (Junior Watch Officer/ Junior Lab Officer) phase, and all three watches took the added responsibility in aplomb. In the third and final phase of the cruise the students will be asked to take on the responsibility of the deck and lab officer of the watch, requiring them to put all of their newly learned skill to use.  For us mates and scientists, it is fun to watch our students and deckhands step up to the new challenge.  We are sure they will do well!

We are currently motoring north in light NE’ly winds, looking to get back in the conveyer belt of the Gulf Stream.  Hopefully the wind will fill in soon, and we can continue making miles under sail!  Until then, hi to everyone at home… Woods Hole, here we come!

-Tom Neilson and Rachel Greenough

Jun

05

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday 4 June 2011 16:00
Position: 26deg 23’N x 080deg 00’W
Heading:  005 deg per ships compass
Speed: 8.5 kts
Weather: North Easterly winds - force 5, seas from ENE - 6 ft, partly cloudy

C watch took the deck this morning as we made our final gybe onto our course north headed up the East coast of Florida.  We began the watch with an early hydrocast to 650 meters which was cut short when the carousel reached 350 meters entering into differing current conditions causing the hydrowire to contact the hull.  The vessel was maneuvered on to the opposite tack and the carousel was successfully retrieved.  This was a good lesson on the effects of the gulf stream current on our vessel and science operations.  Once the hydrocast was complete we got underway for a Neuston Tow under the reefed mains’l and main stays’l.  After a successful net retrieval Tyson, our junior watch officer for the day, had a lot of sail handling to under take with the rest of the crew.  The fore stays’l, Jib, and fisherman stays’l were quickly set, and we gybed around on the the starboard tack to our northerly track.  We were moving along at a great pace with the help from the gulf stream and with the final addition of the Jib tops’l we reached our top speed over ground of 11.5 knots. 

Good sailing the rest of the watch brought us abeam of Miami as we navigated through shipping traffic as the south beach high rises appeared out of the haze just in time to be relieved by the oncoming watch to enjoy a great lunch prepared by our excellent galley team.  Today also marks the end of phase 2 where the students move into positions as Junior Watch Officers and take over command of the vessel.  This final stage will test the knowledge and skills that they have learned over the past 21 days as they navigate and command Corwith Cramer to her home in Woods Hole.

Good Luck JWO’s keep her between the anchors!

Will McLean
2nd Mate

Jun

04

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday 3 June 2011 16:30
Position: 24deg 51’N x 80deg 23’W
Heading:  135 deg magnetic
Speed: 7.5 kts
Weather: easterly winds - force 5, seas from ENE - 6 ft, partly cloudy
Photo caption: Egret comes for a ride

Our world has turned sideways.  The boundaries between soles and bulkheads have blurred and crossing the deck from starboard to port feels like climbing a mountain. Our movement below decks frequently involves the help of arms and hips to stabilize ourselves as we navigate through the companionways. If we’re not careful we may fall into the galley as we pass by. Here we’ll find that cookie sheets in the oven must be supported on one side with a rolled up bit of aluminum foil so that our circular midnight snacks don’t turn into slopes of dough. The dishwashing sinks must not be filled too high or the water might slosh out onto an unsuspecting salad.

We are sailing! We have entered the famed Gulf Stream, and while the speedy current is helping us along, the wind is blowing from precisely the direction we want to travel. To make our way east, we periodically jybe or tack, zigzagging our way forward. As a result, we are heeled over with our sails filled and our bow splashing into the oncoming swell.  It is quite the ride.

Yesterday in Key West, we welcomed two new shipmates: Brittany joined A-watch and Captain Sean came aboard to lead our final leg north to Woods Hole. The captain’s enthusiasm for sailing is infectious and he is quick with analogies to explain sailing maneuvers. In a short lecture during class this afternoon, our anchor, at various times, took the form of a garden hose, a hammer and nail, and a child stubbing his toe.

Soon enough we’ll round the coast of Florida and make our way north. The easterly winds will then be in our favor and the world should level out again. But for now, I’m enjoying this new perspective. Hugs to everyone ashore and a happy birthday to Tyler - I love you, bro.

- Nicole Couto, Deckhand

Jun

03

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

03

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday June 2, 2011
Key West

Ahoy land lubbers! Greetings from the Corwith Cramer!

The day started with gray skies and short-lived rain that fell like buckets onto the students on morning watch. We skillfully traversed the the array of steadily increasing traffic and buoys that marked our proximity to Key West. No sooner did the clouds dissipate did we see the glimmering white sand beaches of the lovely island we saw glowing so brightly the night before.

Like expert sailors, the students worked side-by-side with the crew to dock the ship. Throwing dock lines like pros and “making fast” the lines like it was second-nature. Our day seemed like an endless of stream of treats and good news. We enjoyed a much appreciated swim call and bathed in the warm water to cool ourselves from the unforgiving sun. We enjoyed time on land, where we all immediately found ice cream and perhaps some ice cold soda, and enjoyed perusing the shops and catching up with relatives back home. I personally spent 45 minutes in Walgreens just to feel the air conditioning.

While we welcomed the sight of land and the prospect of ice cream and air conditioning, our arrival to Key West was speckled with mixed feelings. Today we said goodbye to our Captain Chris McGuire. We are so greatful for his unwavering patience (especially when it came to celestial navigation of which, for some unknown reason, seems to be a concept that eludes me), his strong leadership, his willingness to sing for us, and his persistently kind and friendly disposition even when he had only a couple hours of sleep. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors, Chris! And while we are sad you cannot finish this journey with us, we are excited about your future career and happy that you chose to spend the last couple of weeks with us. It was truly an honor to sail with you, Captain.

Today marks a new beginning. We are sailing under the leadership of Captain Sean whose lifetime of sailing experience offers a wealth of knowledge that we are yearning to get a taste of. We are leaving the Gulf of Mexico and the waters that have become so familiar to us, and are journeying north to Atlantic waters rich in sailing history. We are eager to test our skills and knowledge as we will soon enter the JWO (Junior Watch Officer) phase.

We have embarked on an incredible journey, and there is still much adventure that lies ahead.

Much love to all yee ashore!!

Erica Aguilera, Student

Jun

02

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

Jun

02

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday June 1, 2011
Position: 24° 25’ N x 082° 25’ W
Heading:  105 degrees true
Speed: 2.8 Knots
Weather: winds NE F3, clouds 2/8 Cu and 27.5°C
Photo caption: Amanda, Jen, and Ashley releasing the weevils

Time is really flying by on the Cramer, I can’t believe that it is already June and we are almost back to where we started in Key West and in just a few days we’ll be heading up the Gulf Stream. Everyone has learned a lot in these past two weeks and it is exciting now that everything is coming together on how the ship works. Of course there is still a lot for us to learn. Today I got a lot of new experiences being assistant steward. I was pretty nervous to have to be down below most of the day, but luckily the seasickness meds kicked in and I was able to make it through. Jen and I started breakfast at 430 this morning and I learned how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. The real excitement began when we had to refill the flour bin. As soon as Jen unwrapped the 50lb bag of flour, she found weevils (little beetle like critters) crawling out of the bag. So, Jen, Ashley and I made our way up to the quarter deck and tossed the whole bag overboard to prevent further infestation of weevils, but don’t worry, we still have plenty of flour to continue baking for the rest of our trip. I also got the experience of crawling to the back of the reefer to find peaches for our morning snack. There are a number of birthdays on our ship for the month of June, but we also discovered that numerous shipmates are missing celebrating family member’s birthdays. Today I want to wish my mom a happy birthday and Jessie wishes happy birthday to Rox!  In honor to celebrate everyone’s family June birthdays, we made brightly colored frosted sugar cookies! I also learned how to make naan to accompany a curry for dinner. Working in the galley was a lot of work but Jen and Ashley made it a lot of fun and I was able to learn a lot!

It was an eventful day for science up on deck as their neuston tow brought in an eel and a small puffer fish!  I am excited to see the changes in what we find as we continue to leave the Gulf and head up the Gulf Stream. 

We’re all thinking of all of you back on shore and will get to tell you about all our adventures in person in just a couple weeks!

Amanda Dwyer

Jun

01

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Position: 25°40’ N, 083°40’ W
Heading: 125 True
Speed: 6.0 knots
Weather: 28 C, winds NExN F4, seas NE 2 ft, 3/8 cloud cover,
cumulus/cumulonimbus
Photo: Celestial enthusiasts Jing and Tristan at twilight

The past few days have seen a noticeable increase in stargazing for a cause: we’re slowly finding our place in the universe with celestial navigation. Since we safely cleared the last of the offshore oil platforms and nosed back out into clear water we’ve been navigating the old fashioned way, with a taffrail log and compass courses.  The taffrail log tells us our speed through the water, and the course we steer by the compass gives us our direction.  Putting the two together is called dead reckoning.  A DR plot doesn’t account for currents, leeway, or people learning to steer, so getting an occasional accurate position is essential.  This is where celestial navigation comes in.  We have all the tools and knowledge on board to figure out where we are using only a sextant, some impressively dense books, and the knowledge of how to use them.  Seriously, what would you do if GPS stopped working?  Electronics always work, right?  How long has it been since you read a map?  Or a chart?

Classes on celestial navigation theory every few days, combined with growing competition for a sextant at twilight and impatient desire to get a really accurate position, have lit the collective determination to figure out this fascinating, and sometimes headache-inducing, navigation method.  The abolishment of the GPS read-out probably helps too.  (Don’t worry, Mom, the captain peeks.  The rest of us are stubbornly sticking to c-nav, though.) In such a thoughtful environment it’s almost impossible not to wonder where you are, and where you’re going.

Students and crew alike have been lining the rail, cradling sextants and eyeballing the horizon like old salts while whispering the exotic names of their quarry: Antares, Nunki, Procyon, Deneb.  Every flat surface on the boat is regularly strewn with books, plotting sheets, and pencils.  Perhaps we’ve simply found a hidden joy in spherical geometry, reading trig tables, and using the Nautical Almanac, but I suspect the pleasure of plotting a position on the chart, derived from sun and stars, is the real motivation. Like much of life on a boat, our navigation is human-scale and has the weight of centuries of experience and fascination. It also brings us together (the jubilant call of a person who just got a good fix: “we’re here!”) and orients us in this amazing world around us.

Next time you watch a sunset take a minute to notice the other stars in the big sky. We’ll be watching them too—finding our way, enjoying the view, and thinking of our friends and families who will hear all the stories soon!

Kate Tanski
3rd Mate

May

31

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

May

31

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday, May 30, 2011
Position: 26° 28.9’N x 084° 15.2’W
Heading: 135° PSC
Speed: 4 kts and sailing under all fore and aft sails
Winds: NE’ly, Force 3, sun shining!
Photo: C watch in their nicest outfits, left to right: Jing, James, Carla,
Willbo, and Jessie (Tyson was there in spirit, looking classy in the galley)

It sure is an interesting world we live in out here at sea. Much different than any land lubber could ever begin to imagine. One of my favorite things about going to sea is the power we have to create our own fun. In a world so removed from what we typically look to for “fun” on shore, the Cramer community is a crazy cool thing to be a part of when you’re sailing in the middle of the ocean. Today, there were a few great examples of what we do for fun out here. I started my day with a wonderful wake up from my fellow assistant scientist, Tom, who wanted to let me know his watch was about to deploy a Secchi Disk (which is not only a fine piece of oceanographic equipment, but also happens to be my nickname here at SEA). Instead of treating this as just another routine deployment, we decided to spice it up a little with some gambling on the science deck. Guesses were placed for how deep we might be able to see the Secchi, and the games begun. Brianna ended up winning the prize with a guess of 25 meters, and a secchi depth of 26.5!

Later that morning, C watch gathered for our watch meeting on top of the elephant table, and shared some funny fantasies we have been dreaming about aboard Mother Cramer …for example: installing a soft serve ice cream machine in the focs’le, jumping the statue of liberty with the rescue boat, and deploying the neuston net with trained dolphins. We then came up with a theme for our 1300-1900 afternoon watch: to dress up in our “Sunday Best ” - our nicest outfits and speak in only our most proper British accents. As you can see from the photo caption, we clean up nicely.

After a silly, fun, and productive watch, we were visited by about 10 sychronized swimming dolphins off our port beam. Mother nature knows how to make her own fun as well, and the entire deck burst out laughing when the baby dolphins proceed to jump ~4 feet out of the water and belly flop - hard - right back down into the water.

It is a rarity to become immersed in an environment where there are so few external distractions, and the community as a whole can completely focus on the mission at hand. With no text messages, facebook, extracurricular activities or financial obligations, imaginations are free to run wild and that is when the real, genuine, belly-laughing fun can be had…which is what I love most about being at sea.

Here’s to hoping our loved ones ashore are appreciating the fun in their lives as well!

Cheery-o,
Carla “Secchi Disk” Scocchi
2nd Asst. Scientist

May

29

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday May 29, 2011
Position: 26° 32’ N x 085° 00’ W
Heading: 025° PSC
Speed: 4 kts.
Winds: E F3, 29°C clear skies
Photo: Long exposure: sailing at night, stars as swirls of light

This morning we completed our final deep hydrocast in the Gulf of Mexico. Soon we will sail up onto the continental shelf where the ocean depth will rapidly decrease from 3,300 meters to 200 meters over only about 12miles. The shelf is broad on the West Coast of Florida, as we are still over 150nm from the coast.

The clear skies have been a boon for celestial navigation and the time of twilight has become a busy time on the quarterdeck with many students and crew shooting stars to try to fix our position on the chart.

In their idle time the students have been studying for tomorrow’s lab practical exam where they will be asked questions about equipment deployments, chemical analysis methods and general lab procedures. There was also quite a bit of sailorly craftiness today on display today, with people making items out of scraps of leather, small pieces of hardwood, and old sail cloth. Some were brushing up on splicing line while others learned some new knots. Overall a very pleasant Sunday aboard.

May

29

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday May 28, 2011
Position: 26° 34’ N x 085° 18’ W
Heading: 110° PSC
Speed: 6 kts.
Winds: ESE F2, 29°C clear skies
Photo: Cyrina, Elana and Carla aloft on the foremast

The soundtrack of the last 24hours has been the steady humm of the Cramer’s diesel engine as an area of High pressure sat on top of the central Gulf of Mexico and the winds have been calm.  We have steamed a good distance to the East in anticipation of the wind filling in from the East later tonight, or at least that is the forecast.

A lack of wind does not correlate to a lack of activity however.  This morning we completed our deepest water sampling yet and collected water from 1900 meters down where the water temperature was only 3 degrees C!  Many have also taken advantage of the steady state of the ship to go aloft and check out the view of our ocean world from 60 or 100ft above the surface of the water.

We have left the oil production rigs in our wake and spent several hours riding the favorable Loop Current to the East this morning before it turned South.  We will rejoin the current when it meets up with the Gulf Stream as we enter the Straits of Florida late next week. 

This afternoon the ship’s company spent a couple hours scrubbing the remnants of land off our fine ship.  Tomorrow is Sunday so we will have no class in the afternoon, which is as close as sailors can come to a day off-really it is a free afternoon for 2/3rds of the ship’s company while one of the three watches is continuing the work of the ship. 

Here’s hoping everyone out there is having the same splendid weather we have for your holiday weekend plans and BBQs.

Captain Chris McGuire

May

28

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday May 27, 2011
Position: 26° 53.8’ N x 086° 09.6’ W
Heading: 135° PSC
Speed: 5 kts.
Winds: SE F2, 29°C clear skies
Photo: An evening of star frenzy on the quarterdeck

“that star, on starry nights
The seaman singles from the sky,
To steer his bark forever by.”
- Sir Thomas Moore

Since we left Key West, it’s been hard to ignore the stars and other celestial bodies in the sky.  Most nights they glimmer and shine but some nights they seem to illuminate the deck in radiance.  Today marks a new phase for those of us navigating on deck.  We will hide the Global Positioning System (GPS) and begin plotting our position using celestial navigation.  Using only a sextant, timepiece and nautical almanac, we will shoot the stars at sunrise and sunset.  During the day, we will use these same tools to take fixes of the mother star - the sun - and plot our position that way.

For thousands of years humans have used the stars for great benefit and utility.  The first farmers, we can infer, planted their crop as soon as certain constellations became apparent in the sky.  Early navigators found there was one star that never moved in the night sky.  This star, Polaris, is a star we might sail by soon as we make our way north up to Woods Hole. During my student trip, where we sailed west across the Pacific to Tahiti in the southern latitudes, I have fond memories of covering up the compass and steering a straight course using only the Southern Cross.

Many believe that the advent of electronic and satellite navigation systems have replaced so called “traditional” forms of navigation, such as celestial.  But celestial navigation, by no means, is an obsolete technology.  While having a GPS onboard is quite handy, a successful navigator should know several techniques and have the confidence to employ these techniques at the appropriate times.  As I write this, I recall several road trips I have taken where a friend’s GPS has told me to turn down roads that didn’t exist anymore.  Or when my friend’s GPS just flat out ran out of battery.

So then what?  Blue water sailing, at its core, comes down to self-reliance, constant vigilance and a keen intuition of one’s surroundings.  Celestial navigation requires no computers - only an adept knowledge of the stars around our ship and the patience to accurately reduce their location in the sky.  As C235 makes its way past the oil rigs of the Gulf and soon north up to New England, you can expect our heads to move outside the boat as we pay even more attention to our environment.

Tyson Bottenus, deckhand

May

28

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

May

27

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday May 26, 2011
Position: 28 deg 52’N x 088 deg 30’W
Heading Hove to
Speed <1 Knot
Winds SxE F4, rain showers in area 28C
Photo: Chief Scientist Heather helps Elana analyze SHIPEK sample

Our Assistant Scientists and Mates continue to push us to take more and more responsibility as we continue into the “shadow phase” of the SEA program. They encourage us and lend a hand as we nervously call in the raising and lowering of sails, and take responsibility for ‘dancing’ (calling the science deployments) with the carousal.

Today another SHIPEK was deployed during the afternoon watch, this time to a depth of 900 meters! For those landlubbers to whom “SHIPEK” is a foreign term, let me explain: The SHIPEK is a tool we use to gather a sample of the sediment beneath the vessel. It has a large scoop and a weight that hangs on the wire above it. The scoop is spring-loaded open before deployment, and then carefully maneuvered over the side of Cramer, and into the briny depths. This is where a little bit of finesse comes in; the SHIPEK needs to hit the bottom at such an angle and with enough force to jump the weight, releasing the spring and trapping a sample of the sediment for analysis aboard Cramer. A successful trap gets harder to accomplish as the depth gets deeper, but I am happy to report a successful sample for our 900 meter deployment! The samples (mud packed into jars) have yet to be fully analyzed, but I can report seeing a fine grain mud, a few brittle stars, and even some very tiny clams!

This deployment took some time, but the deck department was far from bored during the deployments. We continue to get more effective in our sail-handling, and got some practice using the sextant, calculating sun-lines, using the AIS system to track vessel traffic, and tracking passing weather on the radar.

All and all a very successful day aboard the Corwith Cramer, and I crawl into my bunk confident in my fellow deckhands, students, lab hands, scientists and Captain that we will sail safe through the night.

Karin Knudson, Deckhand

May

26

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday May 25, 2011
Position: 28 deg 34’N x 089 deg 23’W
Heading 100
Speed 5 Knots
Winds SxE F4, scattered clouds 29C
Photo: Karin and Maia deploy the rosette in search of hypoxic water.

The Cramer departed Grand Isle this morning and immediately began sampling for student projects.  Just outside the channel we deployed a shipek grab to take a small sediment sample from the bottom-which at the time was only 7 meters down.

Since then we have made out way back through the gauntlet of shrimp boats, oil platforms, and supply boats and now we are sailing East with all fore and aft sails set (mains’l, main&fore stays’ls, jib, jib tops’l and fisherman stays’l) towards our next shipek station just North of the Deepwater Horizon site. 

We again sampled in the area often known as the ‘dead zone’ and collected water samples from several depths to measure for nutrients and oxygen concentrations.  Just as the sun was setting we sailed across the boundary between the green fresh waters of the Mississippi River outflow and the blue salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  We could see the curved line stretching for miles, and right at the edge there was a wide row of sargassum.  As we crossed the line the surface water salinity shot up from 13psu to 31psu. 

We are happy to again be at sea.

May

25

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday May 24, 2011
Position: 29 deg 15’N x 089 deg 58’W
Heading Alongside
Speed 0 Knots
Winds SE F4, scattered clouds 29C
Photo: Well wishers watching the Cramer arrive in Grand Isle


Ahoy from the Corwith Cramer! It’s the crack of dawn on Wednesday the 25th, today we are scheduled to cast our dock lines and return to navigating the waters of the Gulf.  The students and crew of the Cramer will surely miss this unique place over the next week as we make way back toward the Florida Keys.  Eating onshore has been a great treat, there are bacon cheeseburgers cooked to order, piled high with toppings, and cheap enough to be able to eat like bayou royalty for the past few nights.  Another staple choice has been Louisiana’s fried shrimp po’boys, which comes with the usual choice between two sauces, red or white.  The locals of Grand Isle have been some great hosts, as there are more islanders who stop and offer rides than those that pass us on highway one, the only road here. 

Restaurants and marinas are abuzz with the news that a ship as beautiful as the Corwith Cramer has tied up over near the nautical point side, which was formerly known as pirate’s cove.  At the supermarket and ice cream stand (note the singularity) we get spotted by curious folks who want to know more about our ship and SEA semester’s programs by calling out, “y’all are from dat big sailboat, ain’tcha?”  It seemed we’ve met the entire population within these three days, or as one new friend of mine said, “the island is only nine miles long and a quarter mile wide, I’m sure we’ll see one another again!” It is incredible that these Cajuns are as warm as the Gulf breezes, since in the last five years; there have been five major hurricanes.  The backbone of Grand Isle is shrimp fisheries, which supply most of the country. This traditional source of revenue has been deeply crippled by both the oil spill fishing restrictions last summer, and brutal international competition.  As we learned at the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife department, this year fishermen have landed record amounts of shrimp, but since southeast Asian stocks are un-regulated and are pay their employees pennies, their product is sold at very low prices. 

Not too far from Grand Isle, back on what is considered the mainland is the industrial haven of Port Fourchon.  We drove to the Edison Chouest Offshore supply company to tour their state of the art facility known as C-port.  ECO is the leading contractor in offshore oil rig supply, delivering everything from meals to well pipes to platforms and drilling rigs all over the world.  They were very proud of the fact that they build, maintain, and own their own fleet, with some 200+ vessels specialty built for offshore supply.  The boom in offshore and deepwater drilling brought explosive growth to the company, which started with a single local shrimp fisherman converting his trawler into a supply boat.  That was Edison Chouest himself half a century ago.  While under escort through the secured port, there were hundreds of specialized chemicals, dozens of enormous offshore rig anchors, and even a few blowout preventer units, ready to be drop shipped or “hot shotted” to the newest exploration well.  ECO is the employer of many thousands of Louisianans, and is obviously a big player in the Gulf community and marine infrastructure. 

As we leave port, we are once again sailing into the wind.  It is quite beautiful here though, and fighting a head ward wind isn’t too bad after baking on a barrier island for three days.  The students are becoming increasingly responsible for management of the ship and the execution of sail handling, with the students raising both staysails simultaneously as we left Barataria Pass.  From this point forward, the students will begin the “shadow” phase where they will follow their assigned watch mate, to learn about making critical decisions while on a sea voyage.  By the end of the trip, they will be the ones running the show!

James Roth

May

25

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

May

24

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday May 23, 2011
Position: 29 deg 15’N x 089 deg 58’W
Heading:  Alongside
Speed: 0 Knots
Weather: winds SE Beaufort force 2
Photo caption: Shrimp boats alongside Grand Isla, LA

The students and crew of C235 had a busy day exploring Grand Isle and the surrounding area on Monday. 

We loaded up the vans and SEA Maritime Studies faculty John Jensen led a tour of the bayou and surrounding towns.  There was some local evidence of the flooding of the Mississippi river, but this area is not, and does not expect to be greatly affected.  The students enjoyed some Cajun cooking at lunch and then went directly to a tour of the Fisheries Research Lab at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Myron Fischer, director of the research lab, gave us a tour of the facility, which included a lab that studies the health of local shellfish and an aquaculture facility, which specializes in raising local oysters. We also had a lecture on the environmental impacts on local fish, including hurricane effects, flooding, subsidence, and sea level rise. Yesterday we got a lot of insight into the struggles that come with conducting research on fish and shellfish populations that are susceptible to many natural and unnatural disasters.

After a busy day we enjoyed a fine dinner of locally caught shrimp aboard the Cramer with some of our new friends here in Grand Isle.  Tuesday will be our last full day in Grand Isle before heading back to sea towards Key West and then on to Woods Hole.

May

23

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

May

23

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday May 22, 2011
Position: 29 deg 15’N x 089 deg 58’W
Heading:  Alongside Grand Isle, LA
Speed: 0 Knots
Weather: winds WNW Beaufort force 2, hot and humid
Photo caption: Group photo including Dennis Nixon and Rich Camilli (left) after arriving in Grand Isle

Greetings from sunny Grand Isle from abroad the Corwith Cramer y’all! We managed to successfully navigate through the plethora of oil rigs and supertankers off the coast of Louisiana to make it to our port stop in Grand Isle.

We arrived at the entrance of Barataria Bay yesterday at 0800 and were privileged to be escorted to our dock by Andy Galliano the President of the Grand Isle Port Commission. Motoring towards the shore we were passed by
many shrimping boats, heading out in search of their daily catch. Estuarine porpoises who were playing in the waters were part of our procession party as well. Our new home alongside has an interesting view looking out towards the marshland on one side and an oil refinery on the other. After tying up,we began the day with a final lecture from Professor Dennis Nixon of the University of Rhode Island, who joined the Cramer for the passage from Key West to Grand Isle to add a marine policy component to our at sea education.The topic was an analysis of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and it’s legal implications. It was thoroughly interesting and great to get an opportunity to ask all the questions we have been itching to.

After a delicious lunch out on deck, the other students and I decided to get some relief from the humidity and satisfy our craving by walking “downtown"for banana splits. Along the road unfolded a very different America than what we became use to in Massachusetts. The houses are all raised above the ground to protect against damage from tropical storms; they are colorfully painted and have quirky names like “Red Fish Blue Fish”.  A few houses had memorials for those that died in DWH and political sculptures displaying their frustration with BP. Our encounters with the locals displayed how raw the effects of the spill still are within the community.

Along our wanderings we met friendly John and invited him to have ice cream with us. It turns out that he and his brother Dale are in charge on the beach clean up operations for Grand Isle and the surrounding barrier islands. Grand Isle was one of the areas where a lot of the oil washed upon shore and threatened the habitats of native and migratory birds. He invited us back to their base for a tour of the trucks that they employ to sift the beach for the soft brown tar balls and showed photos of the beach before they began their work. He also took us for a walk along the shore line to hunt for fresh tar balls and show us their achievements of the last 9months. Even though they have made incredible progress, it was obvious that the beach was still suffering from this disaster.

Today we will be traveling around the surrounding region undertaking cultural analysis and hopefully getting to interact more with the locals. Inthe afternoon we will be touring the Southern Louisiana Marine Lab and getting an insight of their contributions to oil spill recovery. Then for the evening our plan is to search for a good place to try the unique Cajun cuisine that everyone here has been raving about.

Elana Hawke

May

22

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday May 21st, 2011
Position:  28 degrees 29.8’N X 89 degrees 23.2’W
Heading:  Hove To
Speed:  0.6 knots
Weather:  Clear, SE F3 wind, 25 degrees Celsius
Photo Caption:  Measuring alkalinity, in a stylish hat

This evening we are sampling the waters about 20nm off the outlet of the Mississippi river in order to determine both the dissolved oxygen concentrations and the nutrient load of the waters.

Some parts of the Gulf of Mexico have had areas of very low oxygen content, primarily in the spring and summer, which are so low that they can not support life-these are the so called ‘dead zones’.  Causally these hypoxic waters are often attributed to the runoff of huge volumes of nutrients from agricultural production in the vast Mississippi watershed.  Tonight we are sampling the water column with a sophisticated array of sampling instruments, including the in situ mass spectrometer to determine the amount of nutrients and oxygen in these waters.  This year’s historic levels of flooding in the river system have the potential of carrying a larger than normal nutrient load into the gulf, but it is likely too soon for us to see an additional effect.

Once this sampling is complete we will head up to Grand Isle, LA where the ship will stop for the next three days. While in port we will run chemical analyses on the water samples to quantify alkalinity, phosphates, oxygen, and ph among other factors.  Students can then incorporate these data into their independent research projects and in less than a month will present their findings back in Woods Hole, the final destination for this cruise.

Although we are heading into port tomorrow, this cruise has almost four weeks to go and about 1900nm until we reach Woods Hole.  We have only just begun!

Captain Chris McGuire

May

21

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday, May 20, 2011
Position:  28º 41.8’ N x 088º 27.5’ W
Heading: Hove-to (currently drifting at 295º True)
Speed:  1.4 knots
Weather:  Clear, Winds SExE F4, Seas ESE 4ft, 26º Celsius
Photo Caption: A huge semi submersible oil production rig lighting the night

Yesterday at 2300, my watch (A watch) took over the deck. I was still partly asleep when I came up on deck and was surprised to see a lot of people and a lot of bright lights. We had finally sailed into the area of the gulf populated by oil rigs and while I thought cruise ships were bright, these rigs are ridiculously lit up with lights and flares created by the burning of excess natural gas. A lot of people were sacrificing their sleep to watch the light show. I was also greeted by force 5 winds, the strongest we’ve had yet and this meant that we could finally turn the motor off and sail while still maintaining a good speed.

Towards the end of our watch at around 0230 we reached the next sampling area. Karin was at the helm and she expertly brought us hove-to (or drifting instead of sailing) just 0.1 nautical miles from our intended target. Thus began what has been a 17-and-counting hour long process of tow-yos. Tow-yo is the type of scientific deployment we’ve been doing. Essentially we want to send down the water sampling instruments and instead of bringing them all the way to the surface we yo-yo them at depth. In order to do this we sent the rosette down 1350m of wire (actual depth was less due to the wire angling) then up to 750m, then back down, then back up, etc as we drifted along.

What this has meant for us deckhands and students is a lot of time on watch without a lot of the normal duties. At least one person always has to be at the wire controls, raising and lowering the wire and monitoring how many meters are out, and we still have a look-out, but beyond that there haven’t been too many jobs. Our watch filled the time this afternoon by writing a gag “Galley Hourly.” There are hourly data sheets that are filled out on deck, in the lab, and in the engine room, recording items such as the wind force and direction, the water temperature and salinity, and the oil pressure of the generator. In order to make the galley feel less left out, we created a galley hourly which included the sudsy-ness of the soapy dish water, the water temperature and absorbance at 435 nm of the blue sanitizing water, and whether or not the steward had received her hourly massage! Obviously, we had a very productive watch.

- Tristan Feldman

May

20

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday, May 19, 2011
Position:  28 degrees 28.655’N X 87 degrees 54.323’W
Heading:  280 degrees True
Speed:  6.4 knots
Weather:  Partly Cloudy, F3, 25 degrees Celsius
Photo Caption:  Cyrina and Eric conducting science on deck!

AHOY from the Corwith Cramer!  We are finally under full sails and working our way slowly but surely to the Deepwater Horizon site, now only 15 miles away.  And science is happening!  Neuston net tows are being deployed, CTD and Hydrocast samples are being collected, and the whole crew is working hard analyzing the samples.  But these casts will be just the tip of the data iceberg.  Tomorrow morning the ship will be hove-to (stopped to a slow drift) while we continue collecting the various water samples throughout the water column, looking at pH levels, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and nutrients as some things of interest.  We sail for science!

Our seamanship skills are being sharpened everyday as well.  Watch rotations are smoother, line handling is easier, and sea legs are sturdier.  Today the whole crew gathered for a relay race testing our knowledge of the sail lines.  Everyone was a winner, ‘cause team work seems like no work!  Tune in for the next blog!

Fair winds,

Eric Card

May

19

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Position: 28 degrees 14.5’ north x 086 degrees 05.4’ west
Heading: 285 WNW
Speed: 7.0 knots
Weather: Winds ENE Force 2, clear skies
Photo Caption: Brianna, Meryssa, Amanda, Cyrina, and Elana enjoying their
time at SEA

Greetings from the Gulf of Mexico! C235 motors on into the night - again - but this time with hopes that fair winds will greet us soon as a high pressure system moves to the east of us.

This evening we set the topsail (as a quick taste of the sailing to come!) and enjoyed a quiet dinner down below. A big shout out to our incredible stewards Jen Webber and Nicole Couto for cooking up some savory mac and cheese and keeping our bellies full with delicious treats.

Today students and deckhands alike were seen scurrying around deck in the early morning studying their lines in preparation for the line chase that was scheduled for today. The line chase was postponed till tomorrow and in its place, we spent considerable time with renowned ocean engineer and scientist Rich Camilli from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute who talked to us about his oceanographic research. In 2010, Rich visited the Gulf of Mexico and used an autonomous robot equipped with a mass spectrometer to look for anthropogenic and biogenic hydrocarbons. His work, which was published in the journal Science, was widely publicized and he is considered an expert in undersea research.

By tomorrow night we’ll make our way to the Biloxi Dome and use the same technology Rich used last year to hopefully find evidence of underwater oil seeps.

Meg Kiernan and Tyson Bottenus

May

18

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

May

18

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday May 17, 2011
Position: 27deg 23’N x 84deg 22’W
Heading:  335 degrees
Speed: 6 Knots
Weather: winds WNW Force 4, Partly cloudy
Photo caption: Scientist Carla Scocchi preps the rosette with Elana and Erica.

Hello all! Greetings from the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Corwith Cramer. It’s the end of our second full day aboard, and all are starting to get their bearings and gain their sea legs. Our bodies are getting used to the rock and the roll of the ship, and as a result we’re collecting fewer bruises (or as I like to call them, badges of pride!). The sea sickness has started to subside, and all of a sudden those brownies that looked like a sick practical joke twenty-four hours ago are looking more and more appealing. All and all, I’m seeing a lot of happy smiling faces on deck.

Those of you on shore might be wondering, so what do they actually DO on this boat? Well, that’s a good question. A typical day for us starts with a personalized wake-up thirty minutes before our watch. Yes, that’s right, I said a personalized wake-up, soooo much better than an obnoxiously loud beeping sound. We then scurry like crazy to get ready in order to make sure that we get on deck/in lab on time to relieve the watch before us (being ‘on time’ is very important here). We then proceed to take care of the business of the ship for the next four to six hours. In lab we collect data for various research projects by deploying oceanographic equipment, analyzing water and biological samples, recording and processing data, etc. On deck, we go on lookout, do boat checks, and handle sails all in the name of keeping the boat safe so that our shipmates can sleep in peace. Once we are done with our watch, we get free time to: hang out on deck and watch the dolphins swim by, lie on top of the doghouse and soak up the sun, shoot the breeze with our fellow shipmates, and oh yeah.we try to squeeze the sleeping, eating, and homework doing sometime in there too. And then the whole process starts again when we stand another watch.

That’s all for today, don’t forget to tune in next time for the Corwith Cramer Show!
Jing Zhong

May

16

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday 16 May 2011
Position: 25” 31’N x 83” 24’W
Heading: 335
Speed: 6.6 knots
Photo Caption: C-235s B Watch takes on the Gulf of Mexico

Our long days of class and time spent bent over books in Woods Hole seem far away as our life on the Corwith Cramer kicks into gear.  The C-235 students were joined by a motley crew of alumni deckhands, scientists, mates, captain and crew to begin our transition from landlubbers to salty sailors.  We began our adventure nervous, excited, sea sick, and happy as the deck under our feet started to pitch and roll with the oncoming North-Westerlies from across the Gulf hitting our port side as we headed into the Gulf of Mexico towards the Deepwater Horizon wellhead and the focus of our research in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

We passed Rebecca Shoal off the coast of Florida and waved hello to the Dry Tortugas off to our port side during midwatch from 2300-0300 today as a full moon watched us move safely further into the Gulf.  Flying fish, dolphins, and heaps and heaps of Sargassum have all come and said hello on our first 24 hours at sea.  Putting good time into the lab, as well as on deck, our crew of students has stood two watches so far, getting familiarized with manning the helm, tying knots, boat checks, and plotting our position, as well as testing for chl-a, alkalinity, and pH in the lab from our very first carousel deployment of the trip.

Our first full day at sea is over, but we will be up in a matter of hours to take over Dawn Watch and see the first sunrise of our cruise on the Corwith Cramer.  The rest of my crew are sleeping peacefully in their bunks sequestered into the sides of our new home, but asked me to send love out to everyone who is reading.  We are finally out to sea!

Stay tuned for more and have a beautiful day.  Kiss that warm solid ground for us all, and well send some love out to the Gulf for you.

Cyrina King

May

16

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment | Video Blog

May

15

C235 Energy & the Ocean Environment

Sunday 15 May 2011
Position: 24deg 20’N x 82deg 21’W
Heading:  280 degrees true
Speed: 5 Knots
Weather: WNW F4, Partly cloudy, 24degC
Photo caption: No photo today, but check out our latest video blog!

The students of C235 all arrived in Key West Saturday afternoon and immediately began learning about the Corwith Cramer, their new home for the next five weeks. They spent Saturday afternoon and evening completing a series of safety orientation sessions to the different parts of the ship, including the engine room, galley, lab, and doghouse.  Bright and early Sunday morning they practiced handling the hydrowire, learned basic line handling skills, and how to conduct a thorough boat check (an hourly transit of all the ship’s spaces with an eye for things not as they should be). After a break for morning snack we conducted safety drills, and then right after lunch departed Key West and began motoring West along the Keys before turning North into the Gulf of Mexico.

We conducted our first Neuston tow (a net that tows half in and half out of the water) Sunday afternoon and collected a heap of sargassum (seaweed) complete with the tiny fish, shrimp, and crabs that live in it.  In addition we also caught quite a few small pieces of plastic in the net including shards of fishing line and a plastic pellet. After a busy first 24 hours aboard the ship we have settled into the watch schedule for the evening and are continuing to learn the routines of watch standing, both on deck and in the lab. The evening skies are lit up by a near full moon and the lights of land are but a dim haze in our wake. It is good to be at sea.

Captain Chris McGuire