SEA Currents: c256
JSWO and Other Adventures
“Hey Heather. It’s 02:30 and you have 20 minutes till dawn watch. It’s nice outside and very warm,” the person waking me up quietly murmured through my curtain. “mrrrrggg,” I replied, groggily reaching for my bunk light, hoping that maybe today would be the day that the light would turn on with my first try. Five minutes later, nursing chafed fingers and cursing the light for once again resisting my efforts, I grabbed my watch and shoes in the dark and stumbled my way towards the coffee pot.
This morning was our last round of anchor watch in Dominica. I was up for the 5-6am shift, a beautiful time of day when the sun haze begins to glow behind the lush green rain-forested mountains that surround Prince Rupert Bay here in Portsmouth, Dominica ~ the Nature Island. After launching the small boat with Tanner, our trusty assistant engineer, a gaggle of eager students and voyagers followed Nina, our super-chef, and Cap’n Sean to the morning market in Portsmouth. During a peaceful quiet sunrise hour on deck, I nestled up on the elephant table with my favorite 4-stringed boat guitar to play a few parting tunes to what I’d easily call my favorite island (so far).
Idle Minds and Free Time
For the past three weeks we have been kept to a strict schedule, a schedule that is required for the safe operation of the vessel, but today, for the first time in three weeks, I found myself without a schedule. Being in port changes almost every aspect of ship life that many of us have gotten used to and grown fond of. The watches change from A watch, B watch, and C watch to Port watch and Starboard watch. The sleep schedule changes, as night watches require fewer people on deck allowing each person to stand for only one hour each night, rather than the traditional four.
Ship Work Day
After an all-hands breakfast of strata and chocolate-chip muffins, it was time to get to work. Students spent the morning writing and drawing in their academic journals, while the crew brainstormed shipboard projects to be accomplished while in port. Nina stayed busy all the while, stewing up delicious snacks and meals to get us through the day. It did not take long for Willy and Kevin to concoct a list of to-dos. There were projects to help with in the engine room and the lab, and plenty of maintenance work
for the ship.
Becca and Missy set up on the quarterdeck with a set of blocks that were in need of a good sanding down and a fresh coat of paint. As they got busy with that, I harnessed up and headed aloft.
As I rolled out of my bunk still shrugging off the last vestiges of sleep, my sleepy brain struggled to pin down what was different. Were the lights a little brighter? Had Nina created some new delicacy for breakfast? Perhaps some new Dominican recipe? Dominican. DOMINICAN! The morning sun found us at anchor in Portsmouth. Everything was different. The tables weren’t gimbaled, the ship wasn’t heeling, things even smelled different. Up on deck, land smells wafted on tropical breezes.
Welcome to Dominica!!
Where to begin today?! After our 3-week transatlantic crossing, early this morning, Cramer pushed on westward and the silhouette of Dominica slowly rose up on the horizon under a somewhat cloudy sky. Our first sighting of the island was from 28 nautical miles out, and the silhouette slowly grew bigger with lush, mountainous peaks charging up to the sky. At about 0800, as we approached Dominica, a picture perfect rainbow stretched across the sky and ended on the peak of one of the mountains.
As Captain, one may think that my job revolves around ‘driving the boat,’ but it’s more like being the choreographer of a complicated dance production. I’ve been fortunate to be the Captain for this undertaking, and what an undertaking it is – When we drop anchor tomorrow off Portsmouth, Dominica we’ll have sailed in excess of 3,200 nautical miles, averaging over 7 knots of ship speed to complete the 23-day transit. This accomplishment will have been made possible by the focused efforts of the entire crew – the scientists, mates, students, voyagers, sailing interns, engineers, steward, and faculty – as we set, struck, or reefed sail over 330 times!!
Field day, Afternoon watch, Annette and Whist
Hello! This is Kevin, the third mate of the SSV Corwith Cramer. I am lucky enough to have an opportunity to tell you all about life aboard the Cramer today! I am the watch officer for A watch, and we stood the six-hour afternoon watch today. Sunday is a busy day aboard the Cramer, because if you haven’t heard, we have field day in the afternoon. It involves candy, dance parties, music and cleaning the entire ship. The Cramer is much better off for all the hard work everyone put in to cleaning her today!
Deep Thoughts from the Galley
Greetings! Your friendly steward here, reporting for blog duty. Sitting in the library as I write, the outside world floats by, visible only through the port hole. As the water streaks and sloshes across the round glass, it would be easy to imagine that I am just watching my laundry on its agitation cycle while lost in some little reverie, but that is improbable for several reasons. First, the luxury of a washing machine is still several hundred miles away.
Material Culture at Sea
Who knew studying material culture could lead to such adventures? I’m a PhD student in the History of American Civilization Program in the Department of History at the University of Delaware, and I’m aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer as a Maritime Voyager. As a material culture historian, I study the things made and used by humans and the culture behind commonplace and unusual objects. Americans wore different sorts of clothing at different points in our history.