SEA Currents: Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean
“Bienvenidos a Cuba,” - Welcome to Cuba - says a man in olive green as he searches my bunk. “Bienvenidos a Cuba,” says a man in a red-starred hat as he searches my backpack and pockets. I’m wearing my best shirt for the arrival in Cuba. We all are. Polo shirts and modest skirts are pulled from bags as the few articles of clothing that don’t smell like sweaty sailors. We’re also all on our best behavior as we welcome a myriad of officials onto our boat, being quite unsure of our relation with this country and it’s citizens.
Hello! I write to you after just finishing up class as we are entering the port of Santiago de Cuba-so excited to be here! I think many of us are. But getting here, and the exact plan, has been ever-changing. As Chris, Jeff and Craig keep saying, interacting with Cuba means being flexible and adaptable to the circumstances and permissions they give us. For example, our scientific sampling has come to a halt as Cuba has not given us research clearance, which is something Cramer and SEA Semester was granted last year. But all is still well. We are going to Cuba after all!
Going where the wind takes you took on new meaning this week. 15-20 ft swells aided by force 9 winds made docking in Port Antonio more difficult than docking with the ISS. Captain cited something about trajectories, momentum and wind making entering the harbor too dangerous. I wasn’t about to argue as I clung to the railing and looked up at waves.
Today was our second full day of gale force winds, with rolls as steep as forty-two degrees (that’s almost half of a right angle!). Below decks it was sometimes chaotic - clattering pots and pans from the galley, snacks and cups flying off of tables, etc. - but manageable. I finally understand why every object has a specific and secure place because things aboard were nicely stowed and barely shifted with the steep rolls. On deck the ocean was mesmerizing.
Right when I’d begun to feel competent! That, of course, is the moment the sea chose to humble me.
Make no mistake about the skills we’ve developed. Call out a line and any one of us students can find, haul, make fast, and coil it in under a minute or so. Tell any of us to conduct a boat check and you can bet your salty butt we’ll scurry into the depths of the engine room and return with the current exhaust temperature and number of gallons in the day tank. Break the coffee machine (god forbid) and we’ll engineer a fix with just a toothbrush, some fishing line, and a teaspoon of seaweed.
If I had to come up with a personal slogan it would be “take time to listen.” As a marine mammal scientist and acoustician at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA, just down the street from SEA Semester, it is my job to take time to listen to the ocean and use listening as a tool to learn about marine animals including marine mammals. But in my time interacting with people of all ages through various outreach and teaching opportunities, I have realized that too often people don’t take time to listen and that this important part of our environment can easily be lost or forgotten.
The day began at 1 AM with a misunderstanding. A disembodied voice chimed outside the curtain of my bunk cutting through the half-thoughts dreams make. The voice is telling me that it is time to get up, that it is 1AM, it’s a little chilly outside, and that my watch begins in thirty minutes. Normally I would say okay or yes or thank you or any sort of acknowledgement and the voice would quiet once more and find its way to the next bunk, the next curtain to hover outside. Ruefully, I would find shorts, a shirt, the safety harness, the water bottle, and whatever else I needed to begin (albeit a very early one) the morning. But this was not a normal day.
After leaving Samana, Dominican Republic yesterday, we got underway and began motor sailing, which quickly became sailing (yay!!), towards Silver Bank. Lots of things are different with this section of our voyage.
Hello internet world, family, and friends!
It is day 16 of our trip and it has been a rollercoaster of a time! Today is our last day anchored in Samana Bay, DR and also the official start of Phase II for the student crew. Phase II is when students are given more responsibility in lab and on deck during watches. Out watch leaders will start taking small steps back and show us how they make decisions and why those decisions are necessary.
I am not going to lie when I say that I don’t know where to begin with this post. So much has happened on the Cramer and at port stops that it is difficult to focus on something super memorable. So I’m just going to write about my initial impressions about being at sea for such a long period of time. I also want to write this post in honor of our visiting artist Peter Stone, who sadly was not able to join us for the rest of this trip.