SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog
The Robert C. Seamans boards students of class S-242 in Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday June 19, 2012. They plan to sail north and east, arriving in Sausalito, CA on July 16, 2012.
Position information is updated on a workday basis only.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 15 July 2012
Location, Course & Speed: At Anchor, Richardson Bay, Sausalito, CA
Sail Plan: Sails are all struck and neatly furled
Weather: Low fog, cold and damp, moderate SxW wind
Photo Caption: Way up on the topsl’ yard arms, a few of us stood perched as we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge into the Bay area early afternoon. Everto was able to make a panoramic series of the bridge, including Izzy in it, as our ultimate destination faded into view.
At first I was looking forward to the opportunity to wrap up our journey and write the last blog entry, but tonight I find myself at a loss for words - filled to the brim with good memories and great food, but just absolutely exhausted. There is no way for me to express the feelings shared and the sights seen. Each day has been anew adventure!
This morning I was woken up at 0430 to take on the morning watch as JWO along with Addie and Ben. We finished our ‘bunk lovin’ cleaning session, throttled up on the engine, hauled in the anchor, and pulled out of Drake’s Bay. Within a few hours the rancid smell of guano hit as the Farallon Islands appeared from within the fog. Most of the crew was on deck to see the breaching whales, sea lions, and all the birds that call the islands their sacred home, unscathed by people. We had an early lunch and hurried to set the squares’ls and the raffee, going for ‘style points’ as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of us were able to climb up to the tops’l yard as we crossed under the bridge - and what a sight! The city spanned out before us as we made our way into the bay, smaller vessels couldn’t help but circle around us as we waved to them and to the bikers looking down from the bridge above us. We rounded Alcatraz and pulled up just off Sausalito where, once anchored, Bobby received a thorough deck wash. After another all-hands dinner the entire crew headed out onto the quarterdeck to celebrate ‘Swizzle’ underneath the Christmas lights hung around the awning, where we shared stories, sang songs, shed tears, and laughed till our stomachs hurt.
Before I know it I’ll be standing on the pier alongside Bobby once again. Only we are not outsiders like we were four weeks ago, we have become one unit, one moment in time. There is a bittersweet feeling when thinking about leaving the ship behind; I am looking forward to shaking out my sea legs but regret breaking our bonds when stepping off that gangway tomorrow at 0900. To my fellow sailors, trailblazers, and new lifelong friends: never stop exploring, never be afraid to make mistakes. This is merely good night, and never goodbye.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 14, 2012
Current Position: Drakes Bay (37 deg 59.922’N x 122 deg 58.223’W)
Course & Speed: Heading into the wind.
Sail Plan: At Anchor
Weather: Bright, cloudy, no fog, light breeze in the bay, and glassy seas
Photo Caption: Robert C. Seamans at anchor in Drake’s Bay from Chimney Rock.
The class of S-242 has gone through many trials by now and everyone has had at least one ultimate high and low point on the trip, with surely more high points to come (Thank you Liz for warning. Those moments make you realize what you really value.). After leaving Honolulu Harbor, a few of us started to feel the pitch and roll of the ship. Everyone helped in every way possible offering comfort and support. Sarah (C Watch’s original mate) was very good at reminding us about the basics of seasickness prevention; she reminded us of these as we transitioned from relatively calm to rough seas throughout the trip. We were given a few days to get our sea legs before we dove head first into everything.
The start of Phase I came with the task of learning the lines of the ship and the way of the lab. As everyone keeps repeating, the learning curve is exceptionally high and I believe we surprised ourselves with what we have learned in such a short time. We made it through the first phase with very few bumps along the way. Abby has helped each of us create a day of our own cuisine with almost no constraints, whipping up three meals and three snacks. Many of us have noticed that we always know when snack is soon to come without having to know the time. Being awake at odd hours of the day and night, we are supposedly burning more calories, which we then regain from the welcomed onslaught of food. In this phase we learned the what - what needed to be functional to get the ship to sail the way we wanted or what needed to together to complete some sampling.
We slowly moved into Phase II with a rotation of mates and scientists; in order for this to happen, Deb and Captain stood watch with A watch, giving the mates a few extra hours to regroup and plan for their next watch. Here we were shadows, learning what happened during each watch in the lab and on deck - from giving Captain updates per night orders or at the change of watch to making sure there was a “Data Cop” for every Neuston tow we completed. This phase was about half the time of the first one and C watch certainly learned a lot about data and data sheet accuracy from Chrissy, who is the lab’s very own “Data Cop.” Under the guidance of our second set of mates and scientists, we learned the operations of the ship and lab - the how of what gets done on the ship to make progress towards our destination.
The next phase (but not quite the final, because we are always learning something new) we were deemed capable of becoming JWOs or JLOs (Junior Watch/Lab Officers). Our watch officers stepped back further than they had in the second phase allowing the JWOs or JLOs to run the deck or the lab with subtle reminders about certain things, if necessary. Everyone was nervous for their first watch in either position, whether they expressed or not. We all learned a ton on our watches in this phase, during which we made a dramatic course change to head east to the California Coast. Jess was JWO and directed all of us to strike the mains’l which had been up since we left Honolulu Harbor.
All of our class work was due at 0000 last night. Addie and Everto turned in their project earlier than the rest of us, so they were both extremely cooperative in helping with the ship’s hourly checks to ensure we were not sinking, on fire, or floating out to sea. Jessica and I turned our project in early enough for me to stand an hour of anchor watch as everyone else finished their projects. We all managed to turn in our projects and a few of us needed to finish some star fixes. As the night was winding down and people were coming off watch, getting into their racks, sleeping, showering, finishing some work, and just taking a moment to talk after all the hard work we had put in all day, we get an “All hands to the quarter deck, All hands to the quarter deck. Bring your harnesses, you will need them.” We have had a number of drills now and mustering calls, so we all understood the importance of gathering on the quarter deck in a timely fashion. We all make it on deck in a pretty disheveled fashion (Chelsea had to get out of the shower and many people were already asleep or just climbing in, but many of us were still up.). Sevag and Dana were convinced that this could not be happening and it was just a rite of passage when we finished our manuscripts and the rest of our school work.
Once we were all gathered, Captain in his usual dead pan steady voice says, “Alright, now that everyone’s here, we are going to start your Nautical Science practical.” He proceeds to explain exactly how it is going to occur with only a few people going forward at a time in groups to set and strike a sail in a timely fashion. He reads out four names to set and strike the mainstays’l. There was some confusion and all the students left on the quarterdeck were starting to question their knowledge about the lines, everyone focused and serious. We can hear Chief Mate Molly yelling commands and Scientist Greg looking extremely frustrated. Second Mate Will returns to the quarterdeck and says we could go more forward on the quarterdeck to “learn from the first group’s mistakes,” just to have Captain say he did not want anyone that close and to have us move further aft. A second group was called and a third group, and so on - each time we were told the first group took too long and we had to try to strike the sail and that it was not completely ready for that to be done. Then a Scientist (either Greg or Adam) tethered us together with our harnesses and started to lead us below; we were still trying to do our best with this practical that was sprung on us after our papers were in. As soon as we stepped into the lobby, we all calmed down a little. With it being Friday the 13th, the crew, with some assistance from Becky, set up a haunted house throughout the ship below decks in a remarkably short amount of time. Of course our engineers, Tom and Max, found the perfect nooks and crannies in which to hide. We all ended up in 16th street (a part of the sleeping quarters) eating orange cupcakes with chocolate frosting, laughing at the happenings of the evening.
Everyone slept very well and it helped we were “on the hook” for the night, so we had to stand anchor watch which only involved two people from watch to be awake at any point with hourly deck walks by the mate or scientist on duty. I am happy to announce that we made it through the night and now the day with no disturbances to speak of. Our weekly field day was especially thorough as, sadly, it was our last one as we were preparing to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow in “style” as Captain says.
We have been having all hands meals and after lunch we found out that we would have the option of going ashore. Julia, Annie, Addie, and Lauren willingly (and thankfully) covered the deck while the other half of the watch went ashore. About sixteen of decided go ashore for about two hours. A number of us hiked to Chimney Rock, the point we can see from the ship and the one we sailed around to our anchorage. We saw a number of elephant seals lounging on the beaches on the Pacific Ocean side of the isthmus/peninsula protecting Drake’s Bay. We were close to a dramatic crop in landscape and Sarah had a number of cool ideas for pictures. The view from point next to Chimney Rock was breathtaking and impossible to put into words. We were able to see the waves and swells coming from the Pacific. We saw the ship which has been our home for the last month look so small in the bay. It was the same realization you might get on bow lookout as you turn to see the ship behind you - we are merely a speck on the endless ocean, but we have such a great impact on the world around us. On the beach, Christina learned to skip rocks.
Once we returned we needed to complete the ritual gear adrift auction, where gear is auctioned based on talents judged by the ship’s company. We had some amazing performances by Morgan, Ben, Anne, Alli and Tina who helped Alli with one after Alli had given an inspiring interpretive dance of neuston tows. Blaine recited a wonderful poem while Adrian read from Bowditch’s Navigation book in a number of different accents all of which are hard to describe.
We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow and a lot more to learn. The students of S242 are bringing the ship in to anchor in Sausalito.
Live your life as you like it,
p.s. Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you had a great day!
We are approaching the end of our voyage here as RCS class 242: it brings to mind the beginning of the trip. Abby, our steward, and I were talking about our favorite days of the trip. She said she loved day 1 of the trip - fresh faces, energy, and enthusiasm. At the time I said I preferred day 4 - when folks are a little more familiar and getting over seasickness, personalities starting to emerge, ah-ha! moments becoming more frequent.
I think I would like to amend my statement. I think I like today, Day 25. By day 25 we are all broken-in, like a good pair of Carhartts; a little dirty, worn, familiar and comfortable. Today we are truly shipmates. These are folks I am proud to have sailed halfway across the Pacific with, and even happier to have laughed the distance with.
I am looking forward to a lot of things: sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, tomorrow’s Swizzle, a cold beer and some phone calls, But right now, right Now, I am also entirely enjoying the present. It’s a sailors’ skill that C watch and I have been talking about a lot recently; the ability to continuously be planning ahead, thinking about the what-if’s, but remaining also entirely present, aware of your surroundings. Right now your children, boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers and sisters are my shipmates and my surroundings, and I am enjoying them.
Molly Eddy, Chief Mate
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 13, 2012
Current Position: Drakes Bay, north of San Francisco, California
Course & Speed: No course, no speed
Sail Plan: Anchored
Photo Caption: El capitán echándose un chapuzón (Going for a Dip)
The big blue, azul grandioso, azul majestuoso - so far we had not seen or touched that which we call earth, la tierra, in so many days and just today someone yelled Land Ho! We now are rounding the Point Reyes lighthouse peninsula into Drake’s Bay. Tanto tiempo sin la tecnología de cada día, the technology that is part of our daily lives, but its all coming to a close now, y ya se nos acabo.
Como toda buena canción el coro ya se repitió, the chorus, oh the sweet chorus, 2, 6, HEAVE! Lo que creíamos era tan chistosowe laughed, oh yes we did, the phrase was foreign to us. Hoy día la gritamos con entusiasmo, and we love itevery strand of our being focused on the same goalsailing. We are salty, salados de pie a cabeza, literalmente claro. We are sailors, but we are not just sailors, we are shipmates - todos en una gran familia made up of many wonderful people (unos mas que otros).
El otro día lo comprobamos, up on the headrig, Al bajar el Jib, oh the Jib such a powerful sail. We climbed out into the salty coolness with only a few strands of line separating us from big blue, el azul radiante, el azul tenebroso. It was dark, tan oscuro quo no se veía nada, but we climbed, gripping on to the JT (or as Morgan likes to call him the Jib Teenager) con la punta de los dedos. We grabbed the Jib as he was flapping around in the Force 7 winds, le dimos un abrazo, a hug, and he stopped his violent flapping. In that moment, que momento, we were one, todos ayudando el uno al otro, calling out commands and most importantly keeping each other safeSiempre es lo primero porque sin salud no tenemos nada, without good health we have nothing.
Hemos progresado muchísimo, we have come far, nunca en mi vida yo pensé que estuviera en esta situación en este lugar, but I am lucky to be here and I wouldnt trade it for anything. Ya llegamos a California, on Monday we disembark, en otros caminos otros rumbos, in many directions, pero nuestros corazones nunca olvidaran este sentimiento. This feeling we all hold in our hearts - hacia el barco, the captain, the mates, los científicos, los ingenieros, the steward, hacia uno y otro. We might all have our own path, nuestra dirección en la que caminamos, but our paths have crossed, por alguna razón y esto, will only happen once, it is happening, solo una vez.
¡A disfrutar de la buena vida!
Let us enjoy life on this boat, at home, at school, donde sea, everywhere, a cualquier hora.
¡Ama! Ya mero llegamos usted no se preocupe todo va rebien. Pa, usted igual, ya mero llego, espero que todos estén bien.
Saludos del Pacific a la familia Barajas. ¡Martha! Sino hay de otra allá les caigo jajá.
Claudia, mi rayito de sol en estos cielos nublados, espero que leas esto y sonrías, te extraño.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 12, 2012
Current Position: 38 deg 31.8’N x 124 deg 6.4’W; the California Current
Course & Speed: a very rough 5 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing under the two stays’ls.
Weather: Half sunny, half overcast
Photo Caption: We saw a pod of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins yesterday!
Hello all of you at home! I have heard a rumor that we will be getting a glimpse of the California Coastline tomorrow!
This morning, I was rudely awakened from my sleep by the noise of shaking dishes in the galley as the ship rocked back and forth too much for anybody’s well-developed sea limbs to hang on safely. I tried in vain to retreat once more into the comfort of my bunk, but the ship was rocking too hard now. As you will recall from past blog entries, we are now in the California Current. As I futilely tried to sleep through crash after crash of dishes, I was brought back to my memories of a roller coaster known as the “California Screamin’.” I’m pretty sure the whole ship is riding on its twin roller coaster now, minus the blasting music and the part where you get off onto firm land after two minutes.
On top of the bounciness of the roller coaster we’re currently riding, we have another source of intensity: oceanography project presentations. With everyone scrambling to assemble posters about their projects in the morning and the ship’s motion bouncing papers and pens off of the galley tables, the term “hot mess” might safely be applied. Even with the Galley Goddess, Abby, keeping everything in order, difficulties arise and we still feel like we’re skating across the floors and decks instead of walking for most of the time. As Morgan put it, we did some truly “Varsity-Level Science Presentations” this afternoon.
Which brings me to the afternoon: poster presentations! This is the day that all of us tell each other (and the ship’s crew) about the discoveries we’ve made in our scientific projects over the cruise. Since we have been collecting data for each other’s projects while only partially knowing why, it proved quite a rewarding experience to know that all of our efforts made someone’s project. From the distribution of macroplastics in the North Pacific Gyre to the migratory patterns of myctophids (lantern fish) and their variations with the moon, it was amazing to see how everyone put together entire sets of new oceanographic findings in a mere four weeks. I, for one, am astounded by how much we’ve learned. After the blur of data collection, sailing, snacks, and even occasionally showers, I can’t believe we’re almost done.
Still, the scramble is not quite over. Tomorrow, we have our final papers due at midnight. Everyone has been extremely supportive and our informal poster presentations have helped us collect ourselves, our data and our thoughts. So I think we’ll come out mostly fine. Thank you B Watch for all the help; you are truly turning into a cohesive and communicative team!
P.S. Shout out to my wonderful family! To Paul, Happy 18th Birthday! To Mom, I can’t wait to give you a great big hug and I promise I even find enough spare time to miss you lots. To Dad, I reason that if I can handle this, I can deal with anything - are you still up for Antarctica?
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 11 July 2012
Current Position: 39 deg 53’ N x 127 deg 03’ W
Course & Speed: 5-6 knots, 095 deg PSC (about 110 deg T)
Sail Plan: 2 stays’ls, possibly the storm trys’l later!
Weather: Cold! Wind at a force 6; seas 9-10 feet
Photo Caption: The sunset we were ordered to sit and watch by the crew. We stared really hard, but didn’t see a green flash—it happened the next day! The stars later were so pretty I couldn’t sleep from thinking about them.
We’re in the California Current!! Jess (C Watch JWO) walked up on deck today for afternoon watch and exclaimed “It’s like The Perfect Storm!” in case you were wondering what the weathers like (ok, not really anywhere near as crazy as The Perfect Storm, but we’ve had very calm conditions for the past few days and this is a big change). Things are crashing around when waves slam against the hull (sending concerned eaters into the galley and soaking lucky shipmates who happen to be at the right place on deck at the right time) and the wind chill has everyone bundled up. Our last-minute neuston today was more of a kite than a net. We’ve also been seeing a lot more vessel traffic lately. It’s incredible to me to watch ships materialize on the horizon from blips on the radar and AIS, especially when we contact them on radio. It’s crazy to hear their voices after hearing the same 35 voices in.how long now? I measure my days in showers and King’s Sleeps; a lot of other shipmates are having similar trouble keeping track of time. Kinda funny to think that every day on land has those same features that we now treasure so much. Time will speed up back on shore, but we won’t be seeing as much of the day.
I’m rushing a bit in writing so I can rest before watch, but the bit I wanted to say (it was stealing away my sleep!) was that we’ve become so dependent on each other. We’re holding each other up. That’s a really difficult skill to learn, especially on land, but somehow it’s easier here. I feel like the saltwater has been scrubbing away at us as a crew and in our watches to reveal brand new people that are still individual, but somehow all our differences are custom made to cover and complete each other. Little skills and wonders are emerging on all the time. It’s really exciting. The crew (the mates and the engineers and Abby and Deb and Cap!) are amazing. I see little bits of people I want to grow up to be and/or marry (making my own wedding ring) in everyone, haha. I love everyone on this ship.
I’m from Hawaii, so once we get back to life on land everyone will be about 3-6000 miles away.no road trips anywhere for me! I’m really enjoying having all these precious people from all over the world so close: less than 135 feet away, ALL THE TIME. (Except for the 30 minutes or so the other day when I was out in the small boat with Tom and Sarah, which was awesome. With the Seamans in sight the whole time, looking small and gorgeous on a blue circle all alone under the circle of sky). I’m afraid that when I get home, I won’t be able to hold myself up. But then I think that without realizing it, we’ve all grown stronger from supporting each other. So we’ll be all right, I think. I’ll need to wobble down to the ocean and find a way to sail again, though. The ocean teaches you so much.
Christina Mei Lin Wine
P.S. Happy birthday Amanda!! I love you so much! The stars out here are elfishly gorgeous and the moon reminds me of you. Stay young until I get back to Maui so we can celebrate together! It’s super ironic that I became a Barnacle Babe here.I hear the word “babe” way too often and it took me the longest time to realize why I had an aversion to calling people it. But I remember now. You remind me of the babe!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 10, 2012
Current Position: 39 deg 56’N x 129 deg 15’W; Transition zone, closing in on the California Current!
Course & Speed: 085 deg at about 5 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing under the double reefed mains’l and the stays’ls
Weather: Cloudy & chilly
Photo Caption: Annie, Izzy, Sarah and I aloft on the foremast.
Hello out there!
Today started out with me lazily wandering around below decks after many hours sleep, and then reporting to watch in the science lab. We are currently in Phase Three of the program, meaning that for each watch a student is assigned to be Junior Watch Officer, “JWO,” or Junior Lab Officer, “JLO,” responsible for leading all of the activities for the day, including but not limited to: sail handling, boat checks, hourlies, science deployments and NOAA weather observations. This morning, Adrian passed over the deck to Sarah and Sevag passed the lab to Tina. During watch we processed a neuston net and scrubbed the entire wet lab floor and mats after a bucket of fish oil spilled, causing a walking hazard (ew).
During class today, Captain gave us an update on our current position. He warned us that the waves and wind would be picking up significantly over the next few days. Boy was he right about that. Yesterday, the ocean was glassy and calm, allowing us to have our first (and only) swim call. The sky was clear and we witnessed the first star filled evening in a long time. Today, the clouds rolled in, completely filling the sky. The winds picked up and the seas have been angry. The boat was tossed around today, sending all of us with motion sickness back into a green-faced state. As of this morning, Alli is no longer burping alone. All the talk about gaining our “sea legs” has seized as we have realized we are now starting the process all over again.
This extreme shift in the weather exemplifies the emotional roller coaster we are all riding on. The highs out here are so high. Yesterday everyone was in great spirits: going aloft, swimming and making sail bags in the sun. The energy buzz was contagious. Annie, Izzy, Sarah and I climbed to the very top of the foremast, giving ourselves the best view of the sunset known to mankind. It was surly one of the best days of my life thus far. On shore, Liz had discussed the highs and lows we would experience while at sea but no one could have prepared us for actually living through them. Today, the vibe has completely changed. Everyone was walking around with a glaze over their eyes replacing the sparkle from yesterday. With our final research paper and presentations looming over us in the near future and the responsibilities that come with being JLO and JWO, the stress and sleep deprivation have become apparent. It is remarkable how so much can change in one day, but regardless of how we are feeling, we always have each other to rely on. Each and every day, we learn new valuable things from our scientists and mates but also from each other. Although I do not know what kind of music Sarah listens to, Becky’s favorite TV show, what Tina’s bangs look like when they are not slicked back by wind and sweat, Annie’s favorite pair of jeans or Izzy’s Facebook profile picture, I have built friendships here that would take years to build elsewhere.
I miss everyone back home dearly and look forward to being reunited with all of you, but for now there is nowhere else I would rather be regardless of what tomorrow may bring.
Lots of love,
PS Happy birthday to my little brother Josh, miss ya shmoush
PPS Congratulations to our fearless leader, Deb, on receiving a much deserved SEA award for excellence in teaching!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 9 July 2012
Current Position: 39 deg 55.4’ N x 131 deg 53.9’ W; 4,366 m above the sea floor
Course & Speed: Heading east toward the Golden Gate at an astounding 2 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing on a port tack under the full stack, main stays’l, and double reefed main
Weather: Currently clear skies with winds from the SW at a temperature of 19 deg C
Photo Caption: A group of us swimming in front of the Robert C. Seamans in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (the deepest swimming pool in the world at about 4,500m currently, and what felt like the coldest pool in the world at 16.8 deg C [62.2 deg F for all of you back on land])
Dearest friends and family back home,
Today is the 9th of July in the year 2012 and boy was it an exciting day! I woke up this morning after the “sleep of kings” excited for our weekly watch meeting because B-watch has finally been cleared to go aloft. We all gathered around the foremast and went over proper climbing techniques then one by one lay aloft on the shrouds. Unlike the first time we climbed up when we were back in port in Honolulu, HI, we were now underway with the wind blowing and sails set along the masts. As I climbed, the shrouds shook and I gripped on for dear life but willed myself to press onward and upward, overcoming my fear of heights. Once at the top, I let out a sigh of relief and began to soak in the amazing view of all the water around us and the ship beneath us. I looked at the sails in a whole new perspective. All the squares were set on the foremast. Then we heard a yell from below; it was A-watch and they were about strike the tops’l and course, which were right where we were standing, so it was time to climb down.
After spending an hour or so below deck helping out as assistant engineer, it was time for class so I went back on deck, but instead of students gathered on the quarterdeck waiting for Captain to start class, people were running around trying to set and strike sails. As orders were given to take in sails, all 24 of us students hustled to the various lines that had to be hauled and eased but there was an unbalanced ratio of lines to students so we all clambered over each other in a spaghetti of lines and mob of hands trying to be useful. In the middle of handling our fourth sail in ten minutes, I turned to Will, our second mate, and asked him why on earth we were doing all of this sail handling in the middle of class hour, and in true “Phase Three” tradition, he answered my question with a question, saying “Well, have you taken a look at around at the sail plan we have up?” Frustrated by the continual lack of straight forward answers, I looked around and noticed that we were set up to gybe. This confused me even more because we had no reason to gybe at 1400 when there were no science deployments, so I asked Will again, “Why are we gybing?” and he yet again answered with more questions, “Well, why do we gybe? Isn’t there a reason for everything we do?” I began to think real hard about the sails we had up and the tack they were on and the wind speed and wind direction and how all of these would affect our sailing and began answering Will in a real serious manner, but then he let slip a slight smile, making me think that the officers may have something up their sleeves.
Finally, once all the sails were in order, we all mustered on the quarter deck waiting for class to start. Captain began to speak in his usual manner at the beginning of each class session. He began talking about the weather and our cruise track plans, which was something he always talks about, but then he said “So with conditions as they are right now, it seems like this will be our only chance for a Swim Call so.” At that point it was impossible to tell what Captain said next because the whole class began cheering and yelling in glee and excitement; we had been waiting for this day for so long that we had actually forgotten about it. For the first week we asked and talked about it almost every day, expecting that if we were going to swim, it would be in the warmer waters by Hawaii, but as we got further and further north and more and more busy, we had all forgotten about it. We raced down the ladders to put on our bathing suits for a chance to jump into 16 degree C water at 4,500m deep. I looked to Will and said “Now I know why we gybed!”
We all formed a line waiting for our chance to jump in. Becky broke the ice with a mighty yell and a giant leap into the freezing water. We all jumped in one by one, yelling and screaming as we leaped off and splashed into the Pacific. It was much needed fun in the midst of all of our studying and attempts at compiling our research papers. Looking down from the rail, we realized just how high above the sea surface we really were. I, personally, was terrified of jumping in from so high up, but as I watched my shipmates and friends do it, I knew I could too. This trip has been all about conquering my fears, such as those of heights, seasickness, germs, and excessive calorie intake, so I climbed up, took a deep breath, and jumped in, screaming the whole way down. Because how many times do you get to jump off a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the company of some of the greatest people in the world?
As we swam, we noted the extreme saltiness of the water and the freezing temperature and kept our eyes peeled for giant salps that drifted by. We also managed to catch some floating debris and bring it back aboard the ship. We laughed and swam and dove, enjoying this truly once in a lifetime opportunity. Then it was time to get back on board and get back to work. Today was truly one of the highlights of our trip from Hawaii to San Francisco - it woke us up from our zombie-like state (due to so much work and so little sleep,) and gave us a much needed shower, offering the boost we needed to finish off our last week (yes, we only have a week left!) and sail under the Golden Gate in, as Captain says, style.
P.S. To everyone back home, I miss you terribly and I wish you could be out here with me!
P.P.S. Happy Birthday to Tim, Love your favorite brother, Greg
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 8, 2012
Current Position: 39 N x 133 W
Course & Speed: 8kts
Weather: It finally got sunny
Photo Caption: Sunset on the open ocean. Reminds us that the highs are very high…let’s not think about the lows (Shout out to Liz).
Some of us would say that days on board of Bobby start early; some would say they start late….I say the day is never over. We take four hour naps and power up with brownies and coffee in between. This morning I was awaken by a voice in my bunk promising me an Oreo covered in brownie. How could I not get up when chocolate was calling me by name and telling me to put on a sweater? After I was done with my power up, I headed over to lab. It was my last shadow day. The lab ended up being quiet - only the sound of intense coloring was heard - as Sarah, Blaine, and I were ferociously decorating our Styrofoam cups for the deployment today. They were lowered to 1500 meters and shrank to a perfect shot glass size. After such exciting morning I found out that I am the first one from my watch to be the Junior Watch Officer (JWO) as we begin Phase Three of the trip; at once my stomach was doing flips and the smell of breakfast made me sick….I was terrified. What if I sink the boat? What if I forget to do all of the boat checks and the engineers hate me for the rest of the trip? What if I forget to wear pants?
I have cleaned my bunk four times, I have finished my project work, done my research on sail handling and star navigation. All to prepare for my four hours of JWO power. Yet it was hours away. I was getting really antsy… At that point Morgan suggested taking ourselves outside and doing a proper session of “can we swim to the shore from here?” We decided that it was not a good idea, not after a meal.
Well, I just got back from my evening watch and yes, we are still sailing, the boat checks were done…and I have my pants on. As I rocked on by delegating and organizing, I also contemplated my trip so far.
It started out with anticipation and wonder…and a bit of anxiety about seasickness. But a few days in I was fine - I got my sea legs, not so much my sea hands. At this current moment spots of calluses are on my hands, but then they were raw and hurt at a thought of any movement. Yet there was a hint of romance no matter where you looked. We had wind in our sails, sun on our faces; we could feel our own strength on this tiny vessel in the middle of uncaring water.
The days went by and I finally realized what it meant to be away from home, truly away. There was no one to ask me ten times if I ate and what, there was no one to rub my poor feet (Alex, I have no idea how I am dealing with a month of no foot rubs), there was no milk (Mom, you were right, they do not have milk for me to drink by cups a day). Not sure when but I began to dream of land, just to wake up to the sound of waves. Here each one of us misses something from our lives on land; sometimes it’s beds we don’t fall out of, sometimes it’s loved ones. To those who patiently wait for us to get back home, we are coming. We are constantly moving, with the wind and without it, we will be back soon.
I send all of my love to those who very patiently wait for me, I miss you all more than I thought I could…more than milk (Mom, if you haven’t got the hint yet: please make sure we have some at home).
With this I must say goodnight, it is time for me to sleep, I hope all is well, and I will see you soon.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 7th, 2012
Current Position: 39 deg 25.7’ N x 137 deg 10.5’ W
Course & Speed: 068 deg True; 3.1 knots
Sail Plan: Full stack (Raffee, Tops’l, Course), Main Stays’l and a
Weather: 18.5 deg C and cloudy
Photo Caption: Tuna off the quarterdeck!
This morning, as I was standing on bow watch, I was worried I wouldn’t have much to write about in the blog. Fog covered the boat, the deck was quiet, and the wind was unremarkable. I was searching the horizon for some spectacular giant squid sighting or renegade whaling ship to tell all of you about. Fortunately, at eight in the morning I heard yells of “Tuna!” from the quarterdeck. Adam and Greg had reeled in the tuna and Molly gutted and fileted the fish on the science deck. Annie curiously dissected the stomach and found little bits of cephalopod. She then savagely ripped off a piece of the tuna and ate it raw (kind of). The tuna is now safely fileted and stored in the freezer. Greg also caringly collected the tails of the tuna and our recent mahi mahi and tied them on the bow as a way to thank the ocean for sharing the fish with us. It is believed that we will receive good luck when the fish tails fall off.
Later in the afternoon, B watch prepared an intricate and thoughtful dance repertoire in order to pump us up for “Field Day,” aka two hours of unglamorous cleaning. This exceptional dance, called “The Wobble,” involves intense and focused hip movement, synchronized stepping forward and back, and vast amounts of self-conscious glancing about. Some participants in The Wobble truly surpassed all expectations, inventing novel representations of ship-life such as “Sweating Lines,” where you truly put your back into it. One could also attempt the stoic and classic pose of “The Captain,” involving less movement, and more rigid arm crossing and stern glances. A fan favorite, the “Wind Watcher,” describes a movement that occurs every hour as we attempt to record the weather. The “Wind Watcher,” in accordance with its name, is less technical of a move, but widely appreciated for its ability to be instantly recognized. We all know the move we make as we try to gauge the direction of the wind: our heads tilt back, our eyes squint unnecessarily, and our heads swivel slowly around as if trying to poorly imitate the move from the matrix without a clue as to where we should be gazing. Most of us hope the attention and dynamism we put into the “Wind Watcher” will convey some sense of competency to our mates. The competition of who could Wobble the best was close, but not really, as C watch truly excelled in all categories. The crowd was both stunned and horrified by the fluidity and vigor of Sevag’s honed “Pteropod Swirl.” The raw performance, if viewed out of context, could appear to be the combination of a mystifying magic trick, a mad scientist’s wild gesticulations, and an angsty teen’s first 7th grade dance. By the time cleaning started, we were all limber and ready to scrub.
“Field Day” involves cleaning toilets, hunting down the scum that collects in the corners of rooms, and Clorox washing walls and ceilings, all while trying to navigate around the gross amounts of hair that collect in our rinse buckets and brushes. If someone told me all the nasty details of what we would be doing on field day before we boarded the boat, I probably would have frantically called my doctor, asking her to please write a prescription explaining my medical condition that prevents me from any extended contact with cleaning agents, squeegees, or sponges. But missing out on field day would actually be miserable. Field day is the only two hours of the week when we can listen to music, and we fully exploit it. The ship could be described as a moving mash-up; walking from the aft cabin towards the foc’sle, each room has its own music and work rhythm. C watch started Big Pimpin’ to Jay-Z in the aft, and continued cleaning and dreaming of our destination to Red Hot Chili Peppers’s “Californication.” The music evolution culminated in Michael Jackson’s “Free Willy,” with Addie as our main inspiration, dancing around with a squeegee in one hand and candy in the other. Each field day gets easier and more enjoyable as we become accustomed to caring for our floating home. When field day ended, we all mustered on the quarterdeck and the sun shone our envirox-bleached hands and gleaming faces.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: July 6th, 2012
Current Position: 39 deg 16.8N x 139 deg 10.7W; In the saloon, staring wistfully at the leftovers
Course & Speed: 088 deg true @ 8 knots; Just finished the main course, moving swiftly on to dessert
Sail Plan: Four lowers
Weather: Overcast and misting
Photo Caption: The tables in the main saloon set for dinner. Note the abundance of left overs and snacks on the counter behind the tables.
As we are now past the halfway mark on our cruise, the readers still keeping up with this blog are likely familiar with most of the key events and changes we have experienced aboard the Seamans. There have been sightings of dolphins (and porpoises as of today), picturesque sunrises and sunsets, debris captured, mastery of the nautical lingo, and of course, bonds of friendship formed and lifelong memories made. The latter on this list is certainly the most cherished, as satisfying as it is to know how to sweat lines and correctly identify sea critters; however, the key element that truly drives and influences these bonds and memories is often overlooked and underemphasized. This key ingredient, my friends, is food. I can already foresee the nods and chuckles of understanding that will be expressed by my shipmates at this claim, especially my fellow A-watchers during our nightly ramen feastings.
Before I began life aboard this vessel, I would have described myself as having a healthy, yet controlled appetite. I like to believe that I paid attention to all the labels and ingredients, opting for organic and what-not, trying to refrain from excessive amounts of sugar or highly processed foods (I have seen Food, Inc along with the next person and I understand the fuss). However, as I write to you now, it is with an uncomfortably full stomach of brie and crackers and with a large mug of coffee drowned in heaping spoonfuls of instant cocoa, Becky’s highly sought-after “cocoa-coffee.” Having witnessed their eating habits during all hours, I would now describe how my watch group as having transformed from previously level-headed, self-controlled young adults into perpetually ravenous, ruthless food-aholics (myself included).
Our first introduction to food aboard was shaky. This was due to no fault of Abby, our pint-sized and bright-eyed galley goddess, but to seasickness. Food was something you forced down and prayed would stay there as a stare-down with the horizon was maintained, as well as a pale, sweaty on the world’s blandest saltines. As we became accustomed to the rocking and rolling of the ship, and the mind boggling gimbaled tables, our appetite was slowly restored to life-on-land levels.but it didn’t stop there. We unselfconsciously feasted on freshly cooked fish, chicken parmesan, pizza, cupcakes, and pasta. We were only making up for the culinary indulgences missed out on while we were still green in the face, right? And during those maybe 20 minutes spent hauling and sweating in a line we surely burned off the calories consumed from the two cupcakes, a lemon square, and the spoonfuls of frosting… But what I really want to highlight is the phase my watch and I now find ourselves in, where we are actually deeply disturbed and genuinely terrified at the preposterous heights our appetites have reached. Do we have no limits? Is “bottomless pit” not merely a comical phrase, but an inexplicable physical reality that occurs during life on a boat? Everyone enjoyed Liz’s guilty confession to gaining twenty pounds when she previously undertook this same cruise, but who’s laughing now?
After every night watch, the A-team convenes in the salon for our ceremonial “ramen party;” it is a way to reward ourselves for all of our hard work counting zooplankton and standing at the bow, and it is always capped off with a group-reading of the blog. Recently, during one such ramen party, after finishing off our ramen with chunks of chocolate-chip studded rice krispy treats, Tina stopped eating (only briefly, of course) to look up at me with fear in her eyes and a solemn expression. “I’m scared,” she said, “why can’t I stop?” I’m scared too, Tina. She then began to recount an event that had occurred the previous night, when weary from watch and getting ready to finally hit the hay, she noticed a perfectly circular, brown stain on her sweater. Is it grime from a pipe in the engine room, or some dirt that got rubbed off some lines while on deck? Don’t kid yourselves, it was chocolate. “It was as if someone had taken a chocolate cupcake and just pressed it against me,” she said. Lo and behold, there were chocolate cupcakes sitting on the high board as a midnight snack from the galley. In a less comical and more horrifying case, Dana was in the lab when she experienced what we have all dreaded and tried to avoid at all costs: making physical contact with biomass. She was hard at work when she looked down to see the goopy mass clinging to her sweater. “Get it off of me,” she whispered shakily. But just as Tina had no real grime on her jacket, Dana had no sea goop on her sweater; it was a more common culprit: frosting. again.
As fun as it is recounting my shipmates’ food festivities, I am on a busy, strictly regimented schedule and I have urgent business to attend to, and that business may or may not be potatoes au gratin. As an additional side note, when I asked Sarah to inform me about what was being served (I am out of view of the tabletop while sitting in the library next to the saloon), she replied “tasty.” Nicely done.
Izzy Hatfield, aka Sassafras
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 05 July 2012
Current Position: Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.*
Course & Speed: 070 deg, 8.1 kts.
Sail Plan: Motorsailing under the stays’ls and a double reefed main.
Weather: Too overcast to get our nightly star sights.
Photo Caption: The science team deploying the CTD carousel over the port side of the Seamans.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. Being at sea is one of those things that will set you back on course (by letting you get lost for a short while), no matter where you are in life. For each new thing that I’m exposed to here, from sail handling to wire deployments to being led by new mates and assuming more responsibilities, the sea is always constant. The winds, however, are not. We’ve recently had to revert to using the diesel engine again even though we unreefed the mains’l and set the raffee the other day, inspired by the calmer conditions. At that time we’d been able to sail purely under the winds for a day or so, but alas they currently fail us in terms of speed-we are on a deadline, you see.
Of course, one of the main objectives of sailing this cruise track in the first place is for the unique scientific perspective it offers-not many vessels sample the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) or the Eastern Pacific in general. But, as comfortable as I am with science and the biological, I’m fairly certain we pulled several varieties of extraterrestrial organisms out of our meter nets today. At 500 meters deep, our deepest meter nets often yield some interesting specimens indeed, but today’s catch included several milliliters worth of amphipods, a hatchet fish, two bright orange marine crustaceans that move in a completely alien way and sort of remind me of Dr. Seuss’s Lorax in morphology, and some type of betentacled gelatinous creature which may not have actually originated on planet Earth. (If “betentacled” is not actually a word, I hereby ordain it so.) We find things all the time that we can’t actually identify. Sometimes we make a game out of it, like we’re currently doing with our “mystery fish,” which is white with blue polka dots and a duck bill on its face. It’s really quite something to come upon creatures that stump everyone-really puts you in awe of the world.
Two days ago, our nets got “salp’d,” Using the highly advanced scientific instrument commonly known as a teaspoon, poor Ben, Anne, and Christina diligently sorted through and quantified nearly nine liters of the things. Salps are a particularly uninteresting variety of gelatinous creature that capture and consume their prey whole. Salps tend to show up periodically in our tows, but we’ve never before collected nine liters of ‘em at one station-five in one of the meter nets alone. Speaking of wire deployments, I finally got to take charge of the heavy machinery today as the J-Frame/hydro winch driver. We use these instruments to lower our nets into the water column-sometimes stacked along the wire and even with other devices like the CTD attached. This way we can get a good look at the water column in terms of temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll-a content as well as zooplankton biodiversity and biomass. We’ve been able to see each of these measures change as we move through different zones of the Pacific-in fact during dawn watch the other day, B watch put together a presentation about these variables for everyone to observe measured changes.
Sometimes there is so much going on around this ship 24/7 that it’s hard to see which way’s up. (In that case, see paragraph one and go sit on deck for a while.) Throughout nearly every moment of every day, there is somewhere to be, something to do, someone to report to. But there are moments here that absolutely make me feel like I’m on top of the world-too many to count, in fact. Today, Everto had me in stitches while we were washing down the nets on science deck, remixing songs with nerdy scientific lyrics about copepods and siphonophores. Nadya had the galley today as assistant steward and busted out some truly amazing PEANUT BUTTER (aka kryptonite) and chocolate chip rice krispies for the midnight snack. My watch (B watch) is getting better and better at working as a cohesive unit and communicating effectively. All in all, the lot of us are getting dangerously good at making our work fun here on the Seamans and I’m loving the opportunity to savor every minute of it.
*By the by, we have two perfectly functioning watermakers on board and a 3500 gallon water tank-I’ve learned tons about them while hanging out with the engineers and I promise we’re fine in terms of water stores, Mom. We even get to shower sometimes.
P.S. - Hello family! I’m doing great and I can’t wait to see you all very soon. All my love!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 4, July 2012
Current Position: Middle of the drink (39 deg N, 144.5 deg W)
Course & Speed: Second star to the right, straight on till morning.
Sail Plan: All but the storms’ls throughout the day.
Weather: Beautifully overcast
Photo Caption: A watch, aloft and out on the forem’st yard.
A watch started the day with an eventful watch full of sail handling. During the middle of the night we sailed under a full mains’l for the first time during our voyage. All mates were on deck and we spent most of our time hauling or tending lines. Personally, hauling and sweating lines is the most fun I have when I am on deck. I am building up and am quite proud of all the blisters that I have earned.
I love my time on deck watch. I have to remind myself to not be too excited when I check in because everyone has either just rolled out of their rack or are very much looking forward to crawling in it. A good wakeup is vital when it comes to starting off your watch right. I have to say that nothing beats being woken up by Annie, who provides all the required information (weather, time, etc) and includes a little bit of something exciting that has happened on deck to put a little more umption in your gumption. I always roll out of my rack exactly at the same time as Alli and we exchange a nod and start dressing for whatever weather we have been told will be waiting for us.
Today my watch was lucky enough to strike and or set almost every sail on this ship. Muckling on a line to haul or sweat it is my happy place and getting the chance to do that on all but two sails absolutely made my day. At the end of our second watch today the Captain joined us as we mustered on the deck to acknowledge the amount of sail handling that we had done and said that we are almost beginning to look like sailors. My watch has found our rhythm and are setting and striking with more and more ease each time. Yesterday during the impressive raising of the full mains’l Cap stood at midships and barked out “SAILORS” while all idle hands hauled away and yelled “BY CHOICE”. Those two moments as a watch and as a crew were the best that I have had yet aboard this vessel.
The three day option of a fresh water shower has provided me with one of my favorite parts of interaction amongst the three different watches. There are few things more entertaining to me than the reaction of non-showered folks to a freshly washed shipmate. The twinkle in the eyes, the sniffing in the air and the comments get me every time: “Oh, Wow, you smell so nice,” “I can’t wait to stand downwind of you,” “You look so nice,” and “Oh that must feel so nice” all said without a hint of jealousy or sarcasm. It is as if the folks with a layer of mung, sweat and salt on them are living vicariously and can’t be happier for their shipmates.
This afternoon during class we were told that we are just about 1,000 nautical miles away from shore. It is unreal to think that we have already come this far. The nautical lingo and routines are second nature to us now. I can’t help but think how strange it is going to be when we return home and feel the need to repeat everything that is barked to us and report that we are going to the head. Time doesn’t work here like it does on land. I find myself saying “that was yesterday. or this morning. or maybe three days ago” because each watch seems like an entire day.
Today’s 4th of July activities included the raising of the American flag while singing the national anthem, a reading of two poems by Adrian, and the firing of a miniature canon by Captain. We also had festive pies and many decorations. I am constantly thinking that this is the most amazing experience of my life. I want time to slow down; it is amazing to think that I did not know any of these people a month and a half ago.
As our First Mate Molly says, “sleep is for the weak. the week you get home,” but my rack is calling my name now.
Peace and love,
Ps. Happy Birthday Shara.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 3 July 2012 @ 1323
Current Position: 38 deg 29.7’N x 147 deg 35.5’W
Course & Speed: 083 deg true @ 9 knots
Weather: Sunny and calm
Photo Caption: Common dolphins playing in the Seamans’ bow wake.
What’s up folks at home!
The morning started out as it has the last couple of days - cold and calm. The temperature picked up slowly as the sun rose and continued to increase as the clouds quickly dispersed, resulting in a warm, sunny afternoon. To add to our whale, shark, and barnacle-filled day yesterday, today we had our first dolphin sighting. Between ten and fifteen common dolphins were first spotted about fifty yards off the starboard bow. By the time the majority of us had rushed forward, the creatures had honed in on our bow, nearly shoving to access some of the wash to play in. The dolphins arced in and out of the water for ten or so minutes before deciding they had pursued this unfamiliar occurrence for long enough.
Today was also the first time we set a square sail in addition to our four lowers, hoping to catch some extra wind. We set the ‘topsail,’ which is the upper of the ship’s two square sails stacked on the forward mast, with the ‘course sail’ being the lower. Contrary to our four lowers, each of which resembles some sort of triangular cloth pulled tight from each corner, a square sail looks like a sheet drying in the wind, secured at each corner. The square sails are the only sails on the ship that are meant to catch wind directly, or slightly off, the stern as they have large surface areas and are secured to ‘yards’ on the mast, which run nearly perpendicular to the ships direction at any given time.
Other than that, we continue to stockpile data to analyze for our respective research projects, and we all seem, on the outside at least, to remain sane. As I was tasked with logging our current status to the rest of the world, I will speak for the rest of the crew in saying we would gladly trade this warm, calm, sunny weather for some juicy, favorable wind. Don’t let your meatloaf.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 2 July 2012
Current Position: 38 deg 01.0’ N x 150 deg 16.0’ w
Course & Speed: 065 deg at 8.0 kts
Sail Plan: Motorsailing under Double-Reefed Main, Mainstays’l, Forestays’l
Weather: Wind is from NW x N at 1 Beaufort Force, Seas from N x E at 3 ft, full stratus cloud cover, 1032.5 mbar pressure, air temperature 19.5 deg C.
Photo Caption: Tina and Christina are emotionally releasing a barnacle bonanza, with Greg looking on in the background.
“There we were, on fighting top, hung
between the ocean and the sky, clinging
to the shrouds of heaven’s stairway.” - A. G. P.
The coming of a new day was heralded by the tired struggle of C Watch arising from their bunks, trying to throw off the chains of a sweet but fleeting sleep. We had but twenty minutes to prepare for midnight watch, which was going to last from 2300 to 0300, but everyone, including myself, was ready to take the deck at the appointed hour (0250). The night was almost breathless, for which we had to supplement with our “d-sail” or the diesel engine - we got up to 9 knots, a very swift speed for our vessel. Despite a warm temperature, it got chilly - but that’s what warm clothes are for!
The Moon, though almost at its fullest brilliance, was covered by a stubborn cloud cover, filtering all the starlight and moonlight save for a subtle hue of silver gilding our white ship, and patches of light far away on the horizon. I looked over the side of the ship to catch perhaps a glimpse of the star surf, but the bioluminescence was not shining as much because of the waxing Moon. Being on bow watch while we were deploying our science nets, I looked out over the calm expanse, with tiny waves breaking against the hull, in a place of profound peace. Before the night was out, I got to take the helm, my favorite position of responsibility.
All other duties of our watch were executed without much confusion and with ever stronger confidence. Lauren was the shadow for Will, our new watch officer, and she learned how to direct her hands to complete all the tasks of sail handling, navigation, and monitoring the ship. Having myself shadowed on Saturday, I was astounded by my own growth and that of my watch and shipmates - just two hundred fifty hours ago we were all wide-eyed and clueless. Now the image of our ship, God willing, sailing through the Golden Gate in splendid style, run essentially by two dozen college kids turned mariners seems less a misty dream and more the inevitable conclusion of our academy.
One of the most precious privileges of midnight watch is the “Sleep of Kings” that follows it - an uninterrupted eight hours of comatose slumber till near noon. No one, not even Diana, woke up for breakfast at 0700. I am told that whales were spotted at 0800, along with sharks at 0955 and an ocean sunfish. Dana saw fields of jellyfish during her morning bow watch. I am also told that a barnacle-encrusted buoy was spotted mid-morning, and the entire ship was maneuvered to pick it up. Molly, the First Mate, opened the door of the science deck and, while tethered to the ship, climbed down a Jacob’s ladder to successfully lift the buoy out of the water, to the utter delight of the Barnacle Babes. This is just another in the string of the most random debris we have seen so far - including a freezer yesterday, spotted by Izzy. Those that testify to such wonders are trustworthy. What I have seen with my own eyes is the said buoy, and what I have felt with my face is that the winds have shifted to the west. The westerlies blow a little ways north of our current position, and once we will reach them, we will spread our squares’ls, turn off the engine and sail the twenty five or so degrees of longitude between us and California.
In class today, we got rid of (read “deployed”) a $10,000 tube that was stashed away in the science hold. It actually is an Argo float. We had two onboard, and this was the last float we were asked to deploy by NOAA. The float is a concrete and essential contribution to the international oceanographic community, and part of a worldwide scientific endeavor to monitor the current velocities, temperature, salinity, and productivity of the oceans. Our class can proudly say that we have added a morsel to the modest pile of knowledge about the planet we ought call Oceanus. Other than that, our Nautical Science class was marked by arts and crafts (read “sail stitching and sewing”), monkeys riding horses (read “line splicing”), and the sail theory behind gybing and double gybing. To finish the afternoon, heaps of regular, gluten-free, and dairy-free pizza and chicken wings we brought out. After that, I did some engineering with Tom and Max. Note to self: handling power tools on a rolling ship is a very interesting experience. I am also told the elusive green flash was spotted by A watch, which relieved C watch at 1900.
We are leaving the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and entering “the Transition Zone.” What this means is that we are leaving a biological desert and entering into an area even richer with marine life and charismatic fauna - such as dolphins and the earlier mentioned whales and sharks. Perhaps we will catch even more copepods, salps, and other smaller critters than we already have. Look out for more marine life sightings!
Yesterday, C watch was the first to go aloft after completing all our prerequisites. Thankfully the ship was only slightly rocking in the calmest seas we have had so far. As we climbed the shrouds and clustered on the topmast platform, I looked up into the overcast heavens above, and a deck filled with tiny-looking people sixty feet below. Annie, Diana, and Julia had the courage to go another twenty feet up the mast - Jess, Lauren, Addie, Sevag, and I clung to the shrouds and looked out onto the boundless ocean, mesmerized in this place between heaven and ocean. How true is the ancient maxim aboard a ship: Ad astra per aspera.
May the wind be at your backs,
P.S. - Kochani! Mam maly kaszel, ale zaczynam sie czuc lepiej. Karmia mnie obficie. Juz polowa drogi! Modle sie za was kazdej nocy - dzieki Bogu i wam skladam za ta wspaniala podroz. Pozdrowienia z Oceanu Spokojnego dla was i Polski. - Adek
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 1 July 2012
Current Position: 36 deg 08.2’ N x 154 deg 57.7’ W
Course & Speed: 015 deg at an average of 7.5 kts
Sail Plan: Motor-sailing under a double-reefed main, two staysl’s and jib
Weather: Force 3, NExE winds, 3 foot seas from the ENE, full cloud cover
(Stratoculumus clouds), pressure at 1029.0 mb, and 21 deg C
Photo Caption: The ship celebrates Morgan’s Birthday (and Canada Day) with cupcakes and decorations on the quarter deck.
B watch started out early this morning with watch at 0300, and I woke up to the whispered singing of “Happy Birthday” to my shore-time roommate and current bunk-mate, Morgan. Becky and Dana’s singing wake-up made me smile, and I knew today was going to be a good, but long, day. I shuffled out of my bunk, put on my rubber boots, foulies and harness in the dark, and made my way up on deck with just enough time to read Captain Rick’s night orders and take my routine walk about the deck before watch turnover. The chilly early-morning air hit me as I made my way to the quarter deck, and my head instantly cleared. The fresh air and stars, speckled across the cloudy sky, have become something I look forward to, something I have grown to love, and something that wakes me no matter how little sleep I have gotten.
On deck, I listened to A watch explain what had been happening on the ship while I had been asleep; I judged the condition of the winds and sea, and volunteered to take forward lookout (my favorite position) for the first hour of the watch. I stepped up onto the bowsprit, looked out at the dark horizon as I rose and fell with the waves and searched for any floating debris in hopes of steering clear of any hazards, keeping the ship safe and sound, and potentially collecting samples for scientific research. Standing in the darkness, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much I have learned over the past two weeks. Despite the fact that time has passed by extremely quickly, it feels as if we have been together on this journey for so long. We have reached the stage at which we are comfortable in our surroundings, our interrupted sleep schedules, and the inner workings of the ship. But now we must step out of our comfort zones, use the knowledge we have gained and begin to take on more responsibility.
Over the past 12 days, I have learned what every line on the ship does and where each one is, how to steer the helm, how to sleep at any time of day, how to filet a freshly-caught fish, how the Seamans’ diesel engine and water makers work, how to look through a microscope in a constantly moving laboratory, how to deploy and retrieve scientific equipment, how to navigate using the sun, and to live by the phrase “Ship, Shipmates, s=Self” (meaning that we must first think of and care for the ship, help and support our shipmates second, and then, and only then, can we think about what we personally want - except in terms of personal safety, of course.Don’t worry, Mom). I know where to find the fore stays’l, its halyard, sheet and downhaul lines, and I know how to set and strike it. But now I must learn when it is time to strike or set a sail, and why one sail is used over another. I must take responsibility for all of this, all that I know, and even more importantly, all that I don’t know. My next personal task is to ask as many questions as possible and understand the thought processes of my mates and scientists so that I, too, may step up and assume a leadership role.
As for now, I will eat lunch, work on my research project for a few hours, and then join the rest of the crew in field day - cleaning the ship from stem to stern. I will then (hopefully) sleep for a few hours before I go back on watch at 1900, this time working in lab and deploying the nets that my shipmates and I use to collect data for our research. When I lay down in bed tonight, at around 2330, I know that I will be thinking of my family and everyone who helped me get here, as I do every night. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity and am having the time of my life. So THANK YOU so much for your loving support - I miss you all and can’t wait to share all of my adventures and stories with you.
P.s. - HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY, MORGAN! WE LOVE YOU!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 30 June 2012
Current Position: 34 deg 40.5’N x 155 deg 41.4’W
Course & Speed: 020 deg at 6.7kts
Sail Plan: Motor-sailing with a double-reefed main and two stays’ls
Weather: Winds ENE at force 4. Seas NE 3ft. Temp 20 C. 100% stratus cloud cover.
Photo Caption: Sending our best wishes to Liz and Sully. This is the first photo of all 35 of us.
Congratulations to our dear Liz (Maritime Studies Professor) on her wedding today!!! We have been missing her and thinking about her in the time since we left Woods Hole, and we can’t wait to see photos! In celebration we raided the ship’s costume bin and conducted our own wedding reception on the quarterdeck. Some were dressed in drag (Sevag), some in middle-school dance dresses (Annie), and some as princesses (me). We drank sparkling water out of plastic wine glasses, and ate pina-colada cake prepared by Abby and Sevag, complete with squid-dog cake toppers. (Squid-dogs, we discovered, are hot dogs cooked with spaghetti sticking out for tentacles and sprinkles for eyes.) We had flowers, streamers, and paper ornaments to finalize the festivities. When we weren’t toasting to Liz and Sully, we couldn’t help but think about the reality of our current circumstance: sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with nothing but miles of seas in all directions, dressed in the most ridiculous outfits we could find. Somehow it didn’t seem that wrong.
On a separate note, as we’ve been getting closer to the center of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, we have been seeing a significant increase in debris, both small and large. Buoys, buckets, fishing line and hundreds of other small plastic pieces float by us every day, the only traffic we have encountered in recent days. A couple of nights ago, as we were doing a science deployment, C Watch witnessed a twenty-foot overturned boat, most likely Japanese tsunami debris, sail past, eerily bobbing up and down in the black night waves. For many of us this display of trash has been the first tangible realization of the consequences of our plastic-based consumer society. Hearing about “garbage patches” in the middle of the ocean on the news is nothing when we are actually able to see it for ourselves, something very few people ever get (or care) to experience. As someone who has already been trying to minimize the plastic waste in my life, this has been an eye-opening experience about where, actually, this stuff ends up. Many of us are conducting research projects relating in some way to plastic, but for all it has become an area of interest; I believe we will each be able to bring some awareness to our friends and families when we are back on shore.
Although sometimes we wish we were on a track with port stops, there is something special about being at sea for four weeks straight, and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience ship life and routine with no interruptions. Something I’ve discovered in the last week is the incredible adaptability we all possess, taking on this challenge head-on, and quickly becoming comfortable in a new, sometimes overwhelming environment. This is a skill that will serve us all well with any adventures to come our way in the future.
For all of you on shore, if you are trying to picture us on the boat, all you need to visualize is a group of 24 students: dirty, tired, bruised from crashing into things as we find our sea legs, but still happy, positive, and working together every hour of the day to get this ship to San Francisco.
P.S. Mom and Dad, I am doing great and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! I hope all is well in humid NJ and foggy SF.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 29 June 2012
Current Position: 33 deg 11’ N x 155 deg 30’ W
Course & Speed: 345 deg at 7 knots
Sail Plan: Under the four lowers with a double reefed main
Weather: Winds coming from the NNE at force 4 with seas at 4 feet
Photo Caption: Rack 30, upper in Sleepy Hollow, aft of midships
Ahoy to the outside world!
It’s 1631 here on the Robert C. Seamans. We just took our lab practical and everyone is feeling pretty good about how they did. Although our assignments are pretty tough, we are all working to help each other out. From a social perspective, life on board is extremely foreign. We are coming up on two weeks at sea and we are all getting used to close quarters, “boat dreams,” long hours, and twenty minute meals. At any given moment, you can only get as much at 134 feet away from another person. Our racks are our only private spaces, and we work, play, eat, and sleep at pace with the other members of our watch.
Sleep is a rarity on board and the hours could not resemble normal. With the constant pitching of the boat, we roll around in our tiny racks, never fully reaching a dead sleep. After conferring with my shipmates, we have discovered the scientific phenomenon of “boat dreams.” From action packed acts of revenge to falling asleep when we are supposed to be on watch, our dreams are like nothing we experienced on land. My fellow A watcher, Becky, described a dream where our watch officer, Molly, came to her rack and instructed her to hold up a string on her blanket as part of a drill. She woke up holding the string and took ten minutes to convince herself that it was in fact irrational to do so. Besides sleep, meals are the pace makers of the day. Without a long time for meals, and occasionally sleeping through them when we don’t have to be up for watch, table manners have gone out the window. The one rule we rigidly follow, however, is no elbows on the table, which would result in disaster due to the gimbaled tables.
Thanks to our constant sleep deprivation and the fact that everything we are doing is brand new, mistakes get made, but we are all better for it after - plus it makes for a good mealtime anecdote. A few nights ago, for example, Blaine and I were measuring out the biovolume of salps (a fairly disgusting gelatinous organism) and he dropped the graduated cylinder on the sole of the wet lab. The salps dripped through the holes in the floor mat. He proceeded to pick them all up one by one with his hands and throw them overboard. Later in the lab, Becky, Dana, and I were measuring out biomass (even more disgusting than salps) when Dana suddenly went stone faced as she realized that she dropped some biomass on her shirt. After some panicked attempts to wipe it off of her, we realized that it was in fact just icing from our earlier snack of cinnamon rolls. As far as our sea legs are concerned, all of our nausea has thankfully passed. However, I would compare our walking on deck to that of a three year old walking with a giant plate of food: unsteady feet and on the brink of falling at all times. Izzy says that she puts off going to the head because she knows she will come out with a new bruise. I myself am developing a nice shiner under my left eye from one of my less than graceful moments.
Today is a special day here as we are moving into phase two of our journey. We are trading watch officers and taking on more sail handling, and lab responsibilities. On A watch, we are very sad to say goodbye to Molly and Adam. We are going to miss Molly’s constant reminders to brush our teeth and wash our hands, and Adams quirky anecdotes from his days as a rocket scientist. However, we are confident that we will enter into phase two successfully and make them proud.
As strange as life here is, I have to say that we are all immensely happy. We are learning more in a short time than we ever have, plus we are developing great friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Whether it’s scrubbing the soles of the galley, or one of those unreal moments of hauling on a line in perfect sync with my shipmates in the middle of the night, I am taking advantage of every moment I get to have here.
PS: Happy birthday to Michael, and happy early birthday to Rachel! Also, to all of my friends and family back home, I am having an amazing experience and I hope you are all having an equally great summer!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 28 June 2012
Current Position: 32 deg 28’ N x 157 deg 13’ W; North Pacific Subtropical Gyre
Course & Speed: 350 deg (NxW) averaging 6 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing under the mainsail, main stays’l, and fore stays’l while motoring ~1500 RPMs.
Weather: Mostly cloudy this morning, clearing with some sun this afternoon. Winds 7-10 kts out of the NE. Seas 4ft.
Photo Caption: Everto, Anne, and Chelsea help second mate Will trim in the
Main Stays’l. (We hauled so hard, we fell onto the deck!)
A Day in the Life Aboard the Robert C. Seamans: June 28
0230 (2:30AM): I hear a whisper. “Chelsea..Chelsea.” I grumble and turn over. “Chelsea, it’s 0230 and you have watch in 25 minutes. It’s pleasant outside, a little windy so you might want a jacket but it’s pretty dry on deck so you shouldn’t need foulies” (aka foul weather gear for you landlubbers). I slowly drag myself out of bed after about 4 hours of glorious sleep. Dawn watch (0300-0700) is one of the greatest and most difficult times to be awake. I know immediately that the seas have calmed down overnight because I don’t have to time the launch out of my bunk quite as much as I have been. I know we are still underway, though, because I can hear the waves quietly slapping the bow. I live in the foc’sle (the very front of the ship) with about eight others. It’s great because it’s well ventilated and roomy, but the first two or three days it was not my favorite space as I was getting my stomach acquainted to shipboard life. As an avid small boat sailor, I thought I might handle the swells fairly well. I was wrong. Sailing against 10-15 foot seas can mess with anyone. (Don’t worry, Mom, I got over it after succumbing two days of meals to the Pacific.) Next, I check the watch schedule and see I am in the lab. When you are on watch, you are either on deck doing sail handling, boat safety, and navigation, or you are in the lab doing science work, net deployments, and looking at really cool critters. Your schedule alternates approximately every other watch. After quickly using the head, washing my face and throwing a jacket and shoes on, I take a pit stop at the coffee machine and midnight snack (cupcakes, yumm!) before heading up on deck.
Everything about the way you live life on a ship is different than what you would expect, and takes a lot of getting used to. As you step on deck in the dark, you call out “Chelsea on deck,” to then hear everyone that is already on the deck repeat that back to you as your eyes adjusts to night vision. Repeating what everyone else says becomes second nature after a few days on board. For example, a mate calls, “Hands to set the jib!” and everyone around you repeats, “Hands to set the jib!” This ensures there is no confusion, and it relays commands quickly and effectively. So once on deck, I then make my way down to the dry lab where we meet for watch turnover. This is an important time in which vital information is passed from one watch to the next. In the lab this morning, we had some net tow samples to sieve and “process”. aka collect cool creatures.
Today was particularly exciting because we found a whole variety of animals like shrimp, jellies, and viperfish, and in our tank we already have a seahorse and an octopus! We also got to watch the sunrise, which is the best part of dawn watch. Unfortunately it was a little cloudy which obscured a clear sunrise, but there is something extremely refreshing about beginning a new day with the first light. The stars out here have been unreal - as most things have been. I had no concept of how numerous and how bright the stars all are, especially under a new moon. For those who don’t know, I’m an aspiring meteorologist (aka weather geek), so as you can imagine I have been on cloud nine (haha, get it?) analyzing the weather patterns and navigating the ship. Currently we are heading into a high pressure system, with calmer seas and much lighter winds than we have seen the past ten days, which explains why we have the motor running. Believe it or not, four weeks is not very much time for us to get to San Francisco under sail alone, so we have to keep up our speed.
After dawn watch is breakfast (today: one of my favorites - homemade oatmeal with brown sugar) followed by dawn cleanup. Whoever has dawn watch is responsible for giving the ship a swift cleanup and wipe down so that we take of her, and thus she will take care of us. What is the reward for this long morning of hard work, you ask? SHOWERS! No further explanation needed.
Class is 1430-1630 (2:30PM-4:30PM) Monday - Friday; that is the only mandatory time that everyone must be awake. Today’s class was very exciting! After a few announcements, we got to practice setting (putting up) and striking (taking down) sails quickly and efficiently. We split up into our watches and timed each other setting and striking the main stays’l and fore stays’l, and then we got to watch all the mates, scientists and engineers show us up! We also learned how to set the Fisherman sail and saw it on the rigging for the first time! It was invigorating to get to do some physical work during class and practice our sail handling and communication with a little competition to motivate us. Then, when we were done, unbeknownst to all students, we had a man overboard drill while “Oscar” (a very gracious and willing lobster pot) was our “man overboard.” Everyone reacted appropriately and went to their designated stations to aid in the retrieval process. I was on B watch, which is in charge of sail handling during an emergency, so I aided in striking the Fisherman sail. Man, those sails are heavy! From there, we helped retrieve Oscar onboard and then discovered our trusty fishing line had become fouled in our motor prop while doing our drill. We were able to successfully clear the prop without much fuss and without leaving any plastic pollution in the ocean. Our reward for our hard work? ICE CREAM AND BROWNIES! No further explanation needed.
I also wanted to touch on one aspect that Captain mentioned in class today that I think sums up how most of us onboard feel at this point in the trip. I have been calling it in my mind, the “second week slump.” It’s not so much a slump really, as it is a point in which we all are feeling comfortable. We all have our sea legs; we have learned most of the vocabulary, locations of things, and the weird sleeping schedule is starting to get easier. Days are flying by and blurring together, and project work is creeping up on us. Captain reminded us, however, that keeping our focus and attention is just as important now as it was in the beginning. Some are experiencing a little homesickness, missing luxuries such as music, gyms, washing machines, and even the green of trees and dark solid ground. But we are making our own fun too, singing and playing games involving keeping our balance on a moving ship, knowing that we will return to real life in the 21st century soon enough. It’s easy to forget that life on land is still going on without us. Although I’m vaguely aware that we are hundreds of miles from land, our horizon looks the same magnificent blue that I can’t describe in words, day after day. If not for our celestial navigation and GPS, I might think we were stationary on an infinite expanse of deep blue ocean, tipped with white sea foam all the way to the horizon.
The highlights of this trip have been some of my highest highs, only allowed to exist because of the lowest lows. Some of the highs I’d like to share: taking my last look at land for a while, staring at the island of O’ahu as a gorgeous tropical background for a solid half hour. Finally getting over my seasickness and enjoying my first wonderful meal that I could keep down. Steering at the helm, with the wind on my face and an entire ship in front of me - when suddenly I see we’ve caught a fish! My watch officer takes the helm, and I begin to reel the fish in. Just as I think my adrenaline is peaking, a six foot shark jumps out of the water and snatches the Mahi Mahi I just caught right off the line. No words.
I hope my account of today will provide some insight to those at home, wondering what we’re doing, and awaiting our safe arrival on land. Know that we miss you all (that’s including you: Mom, Scott, Dad, Tanner & Sammy!), and writing this blog is a huge excitement and a comfort, knowing that you will be reading this very soon!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: June 27th, 2012
Current Position: 31 deg 10.8’N x 157 deg 14.3’W
Course & Speed: course ordered 350 deg per ship’s compass; speed 7.6 kts
Sail Plan: Motor sailing on a starboard tack with the two stays’ls and double reefed main.
Weather: Wind: Beaufort force 5, NE; Seas: NExE; Clouds: 7/8th covered, Cumulus; Temp: 22.8 deg C
Photo Caption: Two of the lovely Barnacle Babes (Tina and Becky) hold up
their first successfully gathered, via dip net, piece of marine debris for barnacle analysis!
It’s a wonderful morning here on the Robert C. Seamans when you wake up and feel the rocking of the boat beneath you and actually enjoy it, without fleeting thoughts as to where the closest head or ladder is to “chuck your muck” over the side. It was one of those glorious mornings for me, especially since I got a later wakeup than the rest of C Watch - theirs was at 0230, while I luckily got to sleep in until 0500! Today’s a special day for me because instead of trudging up on deck for dawn watch, I get to be assistant steward. There are a couple of those special days on board: assistant steward and assistant engineer. I’ve had the pleasure of doing both, and although you miss your watch mates for the day, it’s a nice break in the routine and you get to hang out with Tom and Max (engineers) or Abby (steward), which is quite enjoyable!
Last night Abby and I planned out the meals that we were going to serve today. Around all the crazy sleep and watch schedules we have six meals a day, three snacks on top of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not to mention that for each regular meal there are two seatings, a combination of the ongoing watch, the offgoing watch, the lazy watch, and the Others (contrary to what the Lost fans might think, it’s just a fancy name for the Captain, Chief Scientist, engineers, and miscellaneous scientists and mates). So, after a gentle wakeup from Julia, I got up to help Abby prepare the rest of breakfast, which was sausage and egg sandwiches. It has been a relief to find Abby far from the stereotypical steward that I have read about in various nautical novels. Instead of a very rough and strict demeanor, she’s full of smiles and sunshine. Quite nice for all of us who have been struggling a bit to find our sea legs (Mom, you’ll be happy to know that I did finally find mine, took me a little while.). Also, as my family can attest, it made me really happy to learn Abby was more than down to bake.
After breakfast, we spent the morning experimenting with making chocolate cake cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Thank goodness we have plenty of volunteers around to taste test. I’ll definitely leave the ship with a few more recipes under my belt! Later on the menu consists of pears for a morning snack, followed by mac ‘n cheese for lunch, baked brie with raspberry preserves for afternoon snack, acorn squash sweetened with brown sugar and cinnamon served with wild rice (thanks, Dad, for that idea!), and finally, midnight snack of cupcakes. Jess was very pleased to know that midnight snack actually goes out after dinner, so even if you’re not awake at midnight there will be snack, haha. And as you can see, we are all eating quite splendidly.
Being in the galley is quite the experience. Abby is phenomenal company, but if you can imagine eating, sleeping, walking, and thinking as difficult on a rocking ship, just imagine trying to cook. Even measuring things, from sugar to vanilla, is complicated - I am definitely wearing more of the ingredients than went into the bowl (not to mention how much the floor and the counter got.). Life on board has been interesting to adjust to but I think we’re all there now, which trust me, is very very exciting. There are things that we will never fully adjust to - for me, it’s the view from right above the bowsprit. Although many have commented on the feeling of being airborne on bow watch as the ship pitches forward, the stars out here seem to twinkle twice as much and the ability to see only water without a speck of land on the horizon is a very humbling experience. I’ll never forget the squally nights, especially the ones where I see more shooting stars then I could possibly have wishes for.
That’s all for now! I’m off to join some of my watch mates in Average Joe’s Gym (membership has been dwindling these days). On the academic side of things we had our first “exam” yesterday, a line hunt to make sure we knew the names and purposes of all the lines.
Hope all is well for all the families following at home - shout out to Haley, Conor, Emmett, Mom, and Dad! Haley, still haven’t seen a dolphin to name after you, sorry about that. Happy birthday Connie! Love you guys and miss you so much!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: June 26th, 2012
Current Position: 29 deg 49.7’N x 157 deg 54.2’W, Log: 680 nm
Course & Speed: Course Ordered: 100 deg True; Speed: 6.4kts
Sail Plan: Motor-sailing on a port tack with two stays’ls and double-reefed main.
Weather: Wind: NExE, Beaufort F5. Sea: NExE, Wave height: 6ft. Clouds: 6/8
Cumulus. Temp: 24.2 deg C
Photo Caption: Ben at the helm (note the compass in front of him) as B watch turns over to C watch on the port quarter deck. The first load of laundry (washed in buckets on the deck) dries behind them.
This morning started early for me and the rest of A-watch. As someone who used to whine about waking up at 6:30 in high school, I am shocked by how easy it is to leap out of bed at 0230 for dawn watch. To be fair to my younger self, the difference between attending high school and sailing across the Pacific is more than enough to explain the difference in my attitude. When we get our wakeup call, we have 20 minutes to get prepared for watch before we report for turnover at 0250. This usually includes dressing for the weather, using the head, splashing water on our groggy faces, grabbing some coffee and midnight snack (today was cinnamon rolls!), reading and signing the night orders, and, if you are on deck duty as I was this morning, walking around the deck to see the state of things.
To ‘stand watch’ is a very literal term. Once the boat has been turned over to your watch, you are expected to stay standing for your entire watch. As Molly (our first mate and one of my watch officers) put it, awareness is directly related to your height of eye relative to your own height - standing straight upright being the most aware, lying down being the least. Makes sense.
I began this watch by calculating the expected time of nautical twilight, and finding where the stars we can shoot at twilight should be. Unfortunately, it has been cloudy along the horizon every time I have been on dawn watch, preventing us from actually getting out sextants and shooting the stars. Everyone has at this point, however, shot the sun and then calculated and plotted a line of position from it - one of the most fun mathematical exercises I have ever performed. It’s empowering to feel so capable of determining where you are in the world with total independence from electronics. (I was going to say technology, until I remembered how complex a machine a sextant is - surprisingly easy to overlook that).
After performing a boat check, I was sent up to relieve Blaine on bow watch. Every time I’m up there I remember how thankful I am for the occasionally cumbersome harnesses we wear on watch. The bow was particularly active this morning - riding up over waves, crashing down in the following troughs. Spray from plowing through waves combines with wind to give a healthy salt-water shower. The ride is exhilarating - I laugh aloud with the sheer joy of rolling seas and unexpected spray.
I was at bow watch for sunrise - a stunning experience. I got to see the transition from a black sky of stars and sea of bioluminescence to a red sliver of sun through the clouds, lighting up the sky, transforming the horizon to a faint rainbow as the sun rose. Once I could see the horizon, I got to see that wondrous 360 degree seascape that is unique to the open ocean. I love this view. It feels simultaneously infinite and isolating. While I know that land is absent for hundreds of miles in every direction, my brain can’t process that kind of scale, and I find myself feeling like we are sitting on a small postage stamp of water - almost confined to it - very much disconnected from the rest of the world.
Nadya came up to relieve me, and I was sent to relieve Blaine at the helm, another favorite station of mine. There’s nothing like steering a ship to hit you with the reality of where you are, what you’re doing, and the responsibility that goes with both. Many have compared it to a video game. I can see where they’re coming from, but would argue that being real life, it is far more dynamic and exciting than any video game you’ll ever play. You are given a ‘course ordered’ - the compass heading you should be steering. Just fore of the helm is a melon-sized magnetic compass that you read your ‘course steered’ off of. Steering is therefore a sort of game of getting the compass pin as close to the course ordered as possible.
The first time a crew member asked me how the ship handled, my answer was “like an annoyed elephant”. When the weather’s bad, I still feel that this is an accurate description. The ship, being many tons, takes a while to respond to a change in the rudder. Then once you start changing direction, the ship gains inertia, and you have to be tricky and preemptively turn the wheel back before you get to the desired heading so she’ll stop where you’re aiming for. Really, it’s a lot of fun - I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in making it sound that way. Adam, my other watch officer, introduced me to the idea of steering by the stars during mid watch a few nights ago. Though hard to get used to initially, it’s a great way of getting more aware of your surroundings and not ‘steering with your nose stuck in the compass’.
I’m off to shower, pass out, wake up, and study lines before class at 1430. We have to know the unique name and purpose of 82+ lines that control this ship. It’s a party. I miss everyone on land, hope you’re all well, and suggest that you find your way on to the ocean in the near future! It’s a blast!
Sarah Whitcher <3
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: June 25, 2012
Current Position: 28 deg 44.6’ N x 158 deg 59.5’ W
Course & Speed: 005deg; speed 6.5kts
Sail Plan: Four Lowers
Weather: Beautiful day: blue, sunny skies with some clouds and moderate winds, average 24-25 deg C
Photo Caption: Greg and Chrissy (scientists onboard) joyously posing with their ‘catch-of-the day’ Mahi.
This morning started at 0600 for me (a member of C watch) with a great wakeup from Rebecca for breakfast! Last night was a bit of a rocky sleep but our cozy bunks help to keep us in place, and it’s actually quite relaxing falling asleep to the motion of the waves. Watch was long today (0700-1300), but seemed to fly by with lots to do on deck. I started out as lookout this morning, at first along the starboard quarterdeck and then up at the bow, where I watched the sun peak through the cloudy sky, beaming down onto the endless blue waters in front of me. If this wasn’t already a beautiful sight, a couple of flying fish cruised along the water’s surface below the bow sprit, heading in the direction of, what I soon discovered was, a sea turtle reaching the surface! All in all this morning was awesome!
The rest of the day consisted of a ton of science and sail handling. We deployed a CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth profiler) with 1000m of wire, ‘heaving to’ (as close as we can get to a stop in the middle of the ocean) to do so. At this point I was at the helm, which I’d have to say (along with lookout) is my favorite position on board, thus far. After ‘heaving to’, I was able to stand on the quarterdeck to watch the deployment, alongside Cap’, and a few others, where we spotted a group of Mahi mahi swimming below - such amazing colors in these clear blue seas. Just as it seemed that nature couldn’t possibly surprise me anymore, a Laysan Albatross flew by over our ship. It’s incredible the amount of wildlife we see out here in the middle of nowhere. I also had the opportunity to shoot the sun with Cap’ using the sextant today, and I’ll be heading to plot the sun-line on our chart after I finish here!
All-in-all the trip, so far, has been an adventure. Life at sea is a completely foreign world and definitely takes some getting used to. I was fortunate enough (thus far, anyways) not to have gotten sea sick (Mom, you can hopefully take comfort in this). We’re all constantly hard at work, whether it be on deck, in lab, in the galley, in the library or wherever else we may be need to help out, and I don’t think I’ve ever learnt this much in such a short period of time. It seems as though we’ve been on the ship for weeks: time sort of blends together and sleep is definitely a relative term. There are moments, when I’m out on the bow looking out over a beautiful sunset for example, where I think I could live like this forever, and then there are moments when I’m on hands and knees in the head scrubbing the soles having not have showered in a couple days that I think to myself, “Why am I doing this?” This being said, the good most definitely outweighs the not-so-good on board: the views, the science being conducted, and the sailing itself along with the crew, mates, Deb and Cap’ all help to make this journey one I will never forget.
After a couple days of learning lines, compass bearings, sail handling, cleaning duties and watch schedules we’re all finally starting to think a little more about our research projects, which have sort of been put on the back burner until today. Everyone has had the chance to collect some data in lab so I’m sure we’ll all be in there analyzing samples in no time. I’d say everyone seems pretty excited to get some progress on these and to produce some results!!
We just caught a Mahi before dinner! (Dad, wish you were here to fish with us!) For now, I’m off to plot some sun-lines and study for our ‘line-chase’ tomorrow where we’re all being tested to see if we do, in fact, know all of the lines!
Hope all is well back in Canada, for those of you following these blogs especially in Burlington - Mom, Dad, Hayds and Alex, and in Halifax, I love and miss you all!! See you back on land in no time!
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: June 24, 2012
Current Position: 27 deg 03’ N x 158 deg 56’ W
Course & Speed: Course 000-005 per ship’s compass; Speed 6 kts.
Sail Plan: Four Lowers
Weather: Partly Cloudy with Winds from the East
Photo Caption: The sun will be our guild at day and the stars at night.
The days are starting to mix together, resulting in our not knowing what day of the week it is or even the date. We have to look up the date from a watch in order to know when it matters. One thing that I find consistent is that we know where we are in this large ocean. Knowledge of our location comes from various resources such as GPS and radar, yet even if all of those failed we could still navigate. For many years, people navigated by the stars, the planets, and the moon with technology that today would be for kids. The art of navigating is something incredible, and being able to navigate ourselves without modern day technology feels amazing. Everyone is getting a feel of the ship and will learn to navigate in this way. We reviewed the celestial navigation training from the shore component recently in class and got our first real practice with the sextants (see picture). Yet we can’t just look at the stars as we sail along and know where we are. With the help of a sextant, some celestial bodies and a little math we are able to calculate our location. Many people plotted sun lines to find our position today. The same will surely happen each clear day for the remainder of this voyage.
Today was interesting in many ways. The sea continues to rock us back and forth but it is a great rollercoaster ride filled with its ups and downs. The sea and the crew continue to amaze me. Hope those reading this get to adventure on the sea themselves someday.
P.S. We caught a Mahi Mahi, and then a large shark came and ate the fish off the line before we could reel it in.
P.S. Happy Birthday to Diana’s sister.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Current Position: 24 deg 59.985’ N x 158 deg 52.602’ W
Course & Speed: 352 deg, 6.1 kts
Sail Plan: Four lowers, with a double reefed main.
Weather: Its beautiful and sunny, with a potential for squalls later in the night.
Photo Caption: Captain instructs us in class. Some of us are latched in on the leeward side, in preparation for second breakfast. Others listen around the quarter deck, appreciating the knowledge from Captain, and the view from the Pacific.
0300 (3:00 AM for you landlubbers), A-watch relieved C-watch from their four hour shift, who had been standing since 2300. Squalls kept them company throughout the night, and they would remain with us till sunrise. I took the helm initially, passing just ahead of two squalls, under Molly’s direction. After about an hour I handed it off to Blaine, who navigated us the rest of the night. As morning approached, the seas calmed. Even though the skies were still too cloudy for star shooting, A-watch enjoyed a rainbow off the quarterdeck, a final farewell from the squalls we had passed.
It feels like we have been at sea for at least a week, even though it’s only been three days. A combination of sea sickness, a new world to adjust to, and altered sleep cycles has blurred the days and nights together. On the boat you think in terms of watches and meals. And if you miss a meal, you think in terms of Ramen.
Saturdays are different than most; instead of class we have field day. This means that we clean the ship by making ourselves filthy. Abby, our steward, surprised us with a treat today. Candy. Sweet, sweet candy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to have a fun-sized Milky Way since I was in third grade. On top of it all, for the first time since we stepped aboard the Seamans we got to listen to music. It’s amazing what small things you take for granted on land. As I sit here writing, six of my shipmates are nearby, passing around a book we are reading aloud to each other. But what all of us desire more than stories, or music, or candy, are showers. Warm, fresh-water showers. Fortunately, after our field day, it’s A-watch’s turn to shower. So I will bid all of you a farewell as I go to get as clean as our boat is now, for the first time since leaving our hotel in Honolulu.
Best wishes from the Pacific,
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 22 June 2012
Current Position: 23 deg 25.9’ N x 158 deg 53.4’ W
Course & Speed: Average 4 kts heading 350 deg
Sail Plan: 4 lowers set with double reefed main
Weather: Mostly clear. Passed nearby a squall in the afternoon.
Photo Caption: Smooth sailing from the bow of the ship. Nothing but blue water all around.
“The one who listens to the surf, can feel the pulse beat of the Earth” -
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
It’s Friday here in the Pacific aboard the Robert C. Seamans, but it’s not like anyone would know the difference. Days don’t progress the same way out here as they do on land. Everyone operates from watch cycle to watch cycle. One day, a watch group may be working during the midnight hours and another day they’re working in the early afternoon. The subjective arbitrariness of the seven day system has become extremely apparent.
Never before has the term Blue Planet seemed so relevant. We officially lost sight of any and all land as we left Hawaiian waters and entered the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, thus surrounding us in an endless expanse of ocean. All around us are a variety of blue colors. The blue hue of the sea cannot be effectively described by words. It is the absolute darkest and most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen. Complementing the dark blue of the water is the light blue of the sky, spotted sporadically with white puffs of cumulus clouds. Combine these two shades of blue and you end up with the blue color of people’s seasick faces.
I have yet to eat a bite of candy on the ship. Instead, we have been eating seasickness medicine like a delicious bag of Skittles. In your lowest hour as you stand ill at the side of the ship, you are able to turn to either side and see your fellow shipmates experiencing the same agony. Those who feel slightly better are more than willing to assist the ailing.
Despite the agony of constant motion in every dimension, never before have I felt more a part of the world. These waves and winds have been behaving the same way for billions of years and will continue to do so for many billions of years to come. Whether or not we choose to harness this energy for travel does not matter to the Earth, as it will always carry on, despite human attempts at controlling it. On land, we move everywhere on a solid surface with no regard to society as habitants on a dynamic planet. Here on the ocean however, we are one with Planet Earth, riding the waves of the only body of liquid water in our known universe. We move with the rhythm of the planet, feeling each pulse beat of Mother Earth.
Finally, to everyone on solid ground, don’t take what you have for granite. (get it… geology!)
Peace, Love, and Prosper,
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: June 21, 2012
Current Position: 22 deg 8.6’N x 158 deg 39.4’W
Course & Speed: Heading north from Hawaii, making ~4 knots
Sail Plan: Four lower sails
Weather: Partly cloudy skies, brilliant stars
Photo Caption: Releasing O’ahu’s island flower and roses to the sea as an “Aloha” farewell to Hawaii.
“Are we not as infants
born again upon the rolling seas?” - A.G.P.
C Watch began their day at the brisk morning hour of 0230, as the tired slaves of Morpheus arose from their slumber to greet the sun arising over the mountains of O’ahu on dawn watch. We were on duty from 0300-0700, and the stars were yet shining bright, innumerable and primordial amidst the clouds that rolled through during the night over our anchorage. This would be the last sight of land until California, and once A Watch relieved us at 0700, they weighed anchor at 0800 and threw our sails into the trusty trades.
That same watch completed our very first scientific procedure, a Neuston tow from the port side at 1200, for which they were rewarded with relief from their B Watch comrades at 1300 and an exquisite lunch of chicken stew prepared by our steward, Abby. Those off duty enjoyed their first sea shower on deck, with a sprinkle of freshwater afterwards. Several of us, unfortunately, soon returned their meal for the fishes in the sea. For the benefit of the ill, Captain Rick held our first Nautical Science class on the ship at 1430 on the leeward side. No notebooks were needed for this exercise: the next hour and a half was “Gybe-O-Rama,” or an attempt to turn the ship’s stern into the wind while avoiding ramming the mains’l into anything. Needless to say, the maneuvers of the day were executed flawlessly.
Before the whole affair, we bid a touching farewell to the island that showed us such hospitality. Christina, who hails from Maui, brought for us two bowls filled with Hawaiian flowers. The flowers, which had filled our ship with a sweet scent since we cast off, were now to be thrown into the ocean as a sign of gratitude and a promise of swift return, God willing. We left the land of mist and fire far away behind our stern, no more than a distant apparition melting into the endless horizon, which vanished by the change of watch at 1900.
It seemed as if we saluted the sun a week ago when we assumed our duties before sunset. The last watches of the day (1900-2300, 2300-0300) accomplished more gybes, a stacked double one-meter net tow, and successfully navigated through a small squall. All this, on top of maintenance work, in pitch black darkness, punctuated only by the red glow of our flashlights and the science floodlights. A sky even more wondrous than that of yesternight unfolded amidst the receding clouds. It was a swath of stars so clear and brilliant that the constellations themselves were lost in the glow, and the Milky Way unfolded lazily before us, as clear as clouds of day. And as if heaven were not profound enough to faint the spirit with its endless stretch, the bow dipped into the waves, perturbing living things that sparkled with blue and green luminescence as if they were stars that lost their way and which alighted upon the black waters. In the words of Jessica, who was keeping bow watch: “It was unreal.”
Thus our first day was as first year of an infant’s life: we learned to walk on a moving ship, we learned to eat off gimbaled tables, we learned to speak the language of the sea, and learned to see those divine things surrounding us at every moment. Though discomforts may annoy us now, we shall recall these days with relish, when we were young and sailing on the seas.
Ubi nos unum, nos omnes ibimus, ad limita orbium.
P.S. - Shout out to Mom! Happy birthday! - Alli
P.P.S. - Wszystko jest dobrze! Kocham was i caluje was! Bede jeszcze pisal 1. lipca. -Adek
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: June 20, 2012
Current Position: 21 deg 12.7’ N by 150 deg 02.8’ W
Course & Speed: average 7 knots, 320° NW
Sail Plan: mainsl, satysl, fore staysl, and jib Weather: clear skies with few stratus clouds and fair winds
Photo Caption: All hands to set the main! After a long month of preparation, the day has come for us to finally set sail outside Honolulu Harbor. Becky, expressing her excitement with her tongue, Ben, Alli, and Christina put their backs into hauling on the halyard as first mate, Molly, shouts orders overhead.
Before I opened my eyes this morning it took me a second to remember where I was. I slept snuggled up in the top rack starboard aft, and looked up as the first watch headed out to the see the bare main mast through the hatchway above me. The crew was met with an amazing waffle breakfast by Abby and we were set to work shifting through various stations and emergency drills including man overboard, fire, flood, and abandoning ship. We traveled down into the engine room to learn part of our hourly boat check, practiced furling sails, and my personal favorite, went aloft. Our last crew member and engineer, Tom, finally joined ship as we proceeded to prepare to leave the pier, we were given fresh tuna from the fishermen docked beside us, and at last the minutes ticked down to 1700 the engine was turned on to motor us out through the harbor.
Upon reaching open water, we landlubbers received our first sailing experience setting the mainsl as the majority of us hauled the main halyard (only after the mates pointed to us which line the main halyard was about a dozen times), with our trusty helmsman, Diana, at the wheel. The sails were raised under blue skies and a setting sun - that most wonderful moment we all had anticipated - and the Seamans began to rock beneath us. With that came the first to join to the “North Pacific Hurling Club,” as one of the mates so graciously dubbed it. As a member of the C watch, I was on deck duty during that time so once the sails were trimmed and the other two groups were called down to dinner, I volunteered for bow watch. I could not help but laugh out loud as I clipped myself onto the forestay and looked out into the open ocean ahead me - what a thrill! I am so thankful for this opportunity and am too excited for the course to come.
After relieved from watch, the few of us still able to hold our heads up experienced our first meal on gimbaled tables. Deb could not help but shake her head and smile as we tried to adjust to the table tops shifting with the roll of the vessel, our plates alternating between lowering from just under our chins to the top of our laps, and our silly attempts to aim our forks at our delicious food. Time is a weird concept here and it also will take some getting used to. Once I finish this blog I am headed to bed for a few hours, and then will be woken up for the dawn watch at 0300. We are anchoring over by the leeward, western side of O’ahu tonight and will move towards the North Pacific Gyre tomorrow morning. So far everything is running smoothly and the student crew seems chipper enough, if not totally ecstatic. Tomorrow only brings more adventure, more to learn, and more losing our lunches to the deep.
S242 - SEA Summer Session
Date: 19 June 2012
Current Position: Pier 36, Honolulu, Hawaii
Course & Speed: Alongside the dock
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Mild temperatures, partly cloudy skies, occasional rain showers
S242 students arrived in Honolulu and joined the Robert C. Seamans this afternoon - all are in good health and excited to begin their voyage. The past few hours have been filled with meeting members of the ship’s professional crew, learning about the routines and details of life onboard the vessel, and participating in a series of orientation sessions. Students have already been introduced to deploying scientific equipment, ensuring that the ship is in good operating condition, how to clean up following meals, and the basics of handling lines and sails. Tomorrow brings further orientation, safety training, a chance to experience going aloft, and - most exciting - an afternoon departure for the west side of O’ahu!
Deb Goodwin, Ph.D.
Oceanography Faculty & Chief Scientist