SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
The Robert C. Seamans is officially underway!
South of Pago Pago, American Samoa
Ship’s Heading & Speed
200°, 6 knots
Only 3/8 cloud coverage, mostly cumulous with some cirrus clouds. Little wind throughout the day, but it picked up around nightfall.
It was a very exciting morning aboard the Seamans. In order to be a fully functioning ship, every member of the crew (including all twenty-one students) participates in a rotating six-hour watch schedule. This means a group of people is always awake to be on lookout, do boat checks, stand at the helm, and make sure everything is working smoothly. Today was the first day of our regular watch schedule, and there was certainly a lot to see.
We were ready to leave early in the afternoon. Once our captain, Jay, received clearance from Pago Pago, we started prepping the ship for sail. We climbed up on top of the doghouse (where the charts, radar, and ship log live) to reach some of the sails to take off their covers. A few people ran down to the dock to untie the lines holding us to land. My watch, C watch, was in charge of getting everything down below ready to leave. That mostly means taking out the garbage, and- I mean this in the most genuine sense- it is a very important job. Just imagine what 35 people can do to a 135-foot space. Cleaning the ship is something everyone does, every day. Not only does living in a clean environment boost moral and general health, it helps to make everyone feel accountable to each other and the ship. Plus, with so many people helping, the time goes by pretty quickly. I can honestly say my watch buddy, MEB, made taking out the trash not even feel like a chore.
Once everything was ready, we cast off the line and the ship was free! The harbor of Pago Pago is a beautiful sight to watch as it slowly rolls by. Steep mountains rise straight out of the ocean, covered in a dense layer of forest that makes the environmental science major in me swoon. The ocean was shockingly blue all around. And just as I was ready to say my goodbyes to the small bit of American Samoa I got to see, a familiar face sailed into the harbor toward us, on a traditional Samoan canoe. It was Su’a, who had finally taken out his canoe he showed S-275 just yesterday at his house, after a full year of building and perfecting it. We asked him how his canoe was steering, and he responded by throwing back his head and cheering- it was pretty good.
I am so grateful that Su’a and Reg were able to show our class around their home, and I am blown away by the incredible warmth and welcoming they showed. Yesterday, before he had even gotten a chance to take out his prized canoe in the ocean, Su’a let us gather around and touch the boat. And today, he stopped by to see us off, and then stood for pictures with us while we each were in our own boats. Yesterday. Reg took me all around their plantation and showed me how she made siapo and where she grew the plants to get all the dyes and materials, because she had heard about my paper on tapa (the general term for art done on bark cloth in the South Pacific) and wanted to help me. We all felt their excitement to teach us about American Samoa and to share their home and meal. I could not ask for a better send-off as we marked our head toward the open ocean than Su’a beaming from his hand-crafted vessel, while we watched our sails rise into a clear blue sky.