Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers.
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
After spending a full three days underway, it appears that many aboard are starting to get their sea-legs as well as, for some, lose the light green pallor in their skin. The wind is picking up, and as you can read from the
previous blogs, we’re getting more and more comfortable setting sails, especially the four lowers. It’s beginning to appear as though we’re taking some semblance of sailors!
Aside from sail handling, one of the most important aspects of sailing is also learning the lines of the sails!
After being underway for two and a half days, and sailing for a good amount of time, we are gaining more and more knowledge on sail handling. Words like make fast the jib sheet and thats well seem a lot less intimidating. Making fast a line means to fasten it to a pin in a specific way. That‘s well means a line has been adjusted just perfectly, and to stop what you‘re doing to the line. There really could be a whole dictionary made of sailing terms, those are just two of them! Coiling lines clockwise and walking on the windward side are quickly becoming second nature. And trust me that was not the case a week ago. If one thing is true, sailing has a huge learning curve.
Today has been our first full day of sailing since departing Fakarava. Although some of us are still dealing with seasickness, we all have quickly returned to the routines of life at sea. The watch schedule is in full effect and things have gone off without a hitch. For those who may not know how the watch schedule works, it really is quite simple once you get used to it. There are 5 watches throughout the day: 2 six-hour watches during the day and 3 four-hour watches at night. We are divided into 3 watch groups A, B, and C each with a mate and scientist, and rotate through the watch schedule. For example, C watch had dawn watch this morning (0300-0700), will have evening watch tonight (1900-2300), morning watch tomorrow (0700-1300), and so on.
Today we had our first Field Day to combat all of the Mung on board the Seamans! Mung, as defined by our Chief Mate Sarah, is the grime that is neither a solid nor a liquid, and can seep into the cracks and corners of practically every square inch of the ship.
Our last full day on Fakarava was spent boating to the Southern pass and snorkeling among beautiful coral reefs. We began the day at 0800 with three local guides picking us up at Robert C. Seamans in their motorboats. Our ship is anchored near the northern pass and our goal for the day was to reach the southern pass30 nautical miles away. Fakarava is essentially a giant rectangle with two passes and a calm lagoon in the middle. Its difficult to grasp the scale of the atoll because when youre standing on land facing the lagoon area you arent able to see the other side of the atoll.
Another day ashore on the beautiful atoll of Fakarava! Today we were up bright and early to make our way to shore for a busy day of learning, sightseeing and fun. Our first stop of the day was Lulu, a pearl farm. Here we got to see how oysters are harvested and their pearls extracted. It was amazing to see the famous French Polynesian black pearls coming straight out of live oysters.
Next up was a visit to Yvonne, a sustainable farm on the ocean side (outer rim) of the island.
Several weeks and seasons ago in Woods Hole, we had our Life at Sea talk during which we learned about the ins-and-outs of living on board the Seamans. Following this talk, I began to realize what a unique mix of comfort and discomfort living at sea would be. We were told stories of people wearing goofy outfits, embracing their personalities, and doing weekly cleanups to blaring music, yet I was terrified by the thought that I would soon be sailing in the middle of the Pacific ocean, having had no previous sailing experience. This dichotomy of comfort and discomfort has proved itself to be absolutely true, as we near the end of our first week in French Polynesia and have completed the first leg of our cruise track.
The journey into Fakarava was bumpy at times, but definitely well worth my occasional bouts of seasickness while on morning watch. At around 1300 we began our last push into the main port of Rotoava, which is the
actual village in Fakarava where we are now anchored. Yesterday, the professors gave a mini lecture during which I learned some interesting facts about this classic coral atoll: for example, rainwater is Fakarava’s only
freshwater source besides imported bottled water, turtles are a traditional source of protein, and the island is declared a UN Biosphere. I expect we’ll learn much more once on shore.
Today has been a day of firsts for many of us students. It is our first full day at sea! A and B watch have had their first 6 hour watch, which the weather has made incredibly easy. We all met on the quarterdeck for our first class at 1430 this afternoon and got to see the hydrocast deployed to collect water samples to 600 meters depth, as well as talk about our experiences in Papeete with Moohono. It is amazing how much you can learn in such a short time! During our morning watch we all learned so much about navigation and how the ship works.
Since Mary last wrote, we have been busy with a range of activities in preparation for departure. Last night, we were toured a beautiful sailing canoe called Faafaite and attended a lecture from their crew and captain which provided us with a view of the modern Tahitian relationship with the ocean. Modern Tahitians must struggle to balance new technology and resources and world connections with maintaining a deep relationship with the ocean environment and ocean travel. Faafaite represents reconciliation, reconnecting the people and the islands across the ocean expanse. Interestingly enough, Faafaite has sailed a similar course as the Robert C. Seamans, and represents a similar challenge to reconnect youth with the waning art of ocean exploration.