SEA Currents: celestial navigation
Lost and Found at Sea
Growing up, I prided myself on having a decent sense of direction. I generally played the role of “navigator” with whomever I hiked, drove, or ran with. I figured that coming into SEA Semester I would be able to transfer this ability and that hopefully it would help compensate for my complete lack of knowledge re: anything having to do with boats.
Almost Land Ho!
Hello to those reading this!
We are currently sailing under a beautiful waxing gibbous moon. It is shining just bright enough that most stars are not as visible as they usually are. Tonight is an interesting one; I can feel many mixed emotions - stress to meet the deadline of our final research paper and excitement to reach Dominica in the next two days. A bet has been made for when we expect to see land and the winner gets to shout “Land ho!” As you can see, these are some pretty high stakes we’re betting for.
Sailing by the Stars, Wind and Seas
We are more than 24 hours into our non-instrument run, and hence the unavailable current position. Hopefully the stars, wind, and seas have been guiding us correctly to our port stop in Dominica, soon to appear in a few short days! Just a month ago, most of us had never even set foot on a sailing ship; tonight, we are the ones steering the helm and calling the sail plans, all without the help of a compass or GPS. Of course, then there is the slim chance of making landfall on a different island or continent altogether.
Turning West with New Challenges Ahead and the Stars Above
We have turned to the west! Since leaving the Canaries, we have been working our way generally to the south and west, plowing our way through the Canary Current that flows down the northwest coast of Africa, crossing through the corner of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre that lies in the center of North Atlantic, and now we find ourselves in a new “general locale” (as we call it in lab!): the North Equatorial Current. This current, along with the easterly to northeasterly trade winds will (knock on wood) take us across the 15th parallel of northern latitude on our way to the Caribbean.
Can a day end any better than by sitting on the spreaders, watching flying fish and enjoying the endless blue? After two days and nights with squalls and lightning, the sun finally found her way back to us! The wind is blowing constantly but from the wrong direction for us, so we spend another day motor-sailing. Strategies of how to get the wind to be more cooperative are frequently discussed - so far without success. As a sailor from the Baltic Sea, I am used to tacking a lot and frequently getting the wind on the nose…but I wasn’t expecting to have this problem in the tropics!
Shooting the moon! And sun! And stars! And even some planets!
Today those of us on C watch had the morning watch. It was a comfortable 19°C as we took the deck with beautiful clear skies. For me, and for most of the rest of the watch, the theme of the day has been celestial navigation.
We were fortunate to have a lovely crescent moon high in the clear sky upon taking the watch, not to mention the sun itself. This gave us an excellent opportunity to get a two-body celestial fix. Fairly shortly after getting settled in, Yen and Kate grabbed some sextants and shot the sun and the moon. Hearts players beware, they both shoot the moon like pros.
Auckland or Bust
We’ve spent around four weeks aboard the Seamans now and it finally feels like we are getting used to living here. We have 11 more days until Auckland and I think we are more than ready for the challenge of sailing there. There is still so much to learn but we have mastered the daily routine of life at sea. Things that were hard at the start have become second nature for us now. It’s nice to be able to talk like a sailor and handle some of the sails without having to stop and think about it first.
It happens every day…
Since departing Tonga we’ve seen some beautifully clear skies, and therefore had opportunity for the first few star frenzies of the trip. You—dear reader—might well ask, “What the heck is a star frenzy?” and you would not be alone; many students were asking the same question mere hours ago here aboard Seamans. Some of those students are now veterans of two star frenzies, and already eager for more.
3 Things I’ve Learned Aboard Seamans
Hello again from the SSV Robert C. Seamans, and happy May Day! Time sure has flown while at sea, and we are all excited to reach the many milestones of our cruise track which the month of May has in store. Knowing that we will soon be able to cast our eyes on the wonders of Raiatea, Moorea, and Tahiti (which I’ve heard are just lovely) has the ship in good spirits, and the students have been walking around with a palpable sense of pride and excitement as rotations through the JWO and JLO responsibilities continue, giving everyone a chance to have control of the deck in 6 hour increments, which means giving the necessary commands and always abiding by the ship’s standing orders to get ourselves where we need to go safely, happily, and responsibly.
Mike Oscar November Delta Alpha Yankee
The Sargassum is back! Kind of. Today we found the most Sargassum on the whole trip thus far, but it still wasn’t a whole lot. We wanted to take advantage of the find, so we were hove to all the way until class time at 1400. We got plenty of samples, and they are now being processed. Since being hove to means not too much action of the watch crew on deck, we decided to practice some celestial navigation.