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Voyages

SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

The Corwith Cramer boards students of class C-241 (Marine Biodiversity & Conservation) in St. Croix, USVI on Monday May 14, 2012. They plan to sail north, making a port stop in St. George’s, Bermuda. The ship will conclude the sea component of this program in its home port of Woods Hole, Massachusetts on Sunday June 17, 2012.

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.

Mobile users, click here to open in the Google Earth App.

Jun

17

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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June 15 2012

Photo Caption: Captain Jen navigates the Cramer on a sunset cruise through the Cape Cod Canal.

Fair winds to Greg Boyd!  This hard-working researcher departs ship’s company to join SSV Robert C Seamans from Hawaii to San Francisco. Cramer and her crew sail off the dock and out of Gloucester Harbor under reefed main, staysl’s,  tops’l, jib, and jib tops’l.  Light breeze is northerly, skies are clear enough to make out Boston’s skyline.  Overnight, a course is set towards Stellwagen Bank; we sail and wait for the whales of Cape Cod Bay to perform their exultations.

Whale watchers are posted on deck, on housetops, aloft scanning the sea for a blow, fin, fluke.  No luck in the middle of the bank. We steer towards the eastern edge of Stellwagen just north of Provincetown.  It’s here that our spotters notice a churning on the horizon broad on the port bow!  The call “Whale’O!” brings a stream of sailors up on deck for a glimpse. With so many eyes on the water, we soon realize that we are watching something much larger than a humpback and much bluer for that matter.  A blue whale?  Can’t be! It’s turquois and spans four points on the horizon! Huge pod of dolphins?  Then why don’t we see them jump or bioluminese?! Rogue wave? I hope not!  The helmsman steers away, and the Captain shouts “Set all sail”.  To gain speed, we jettison all-things-heavy we can sacrifice: the anchors and chain, the hydrowinch and its pigs, #10 cans and Roxy, generators and relative bearing pullers.  It’s not enough, whatever it might be happens to be faster than our beloved Cramer! Just a few shiplengths off now, and. is that Sargassum?  Why yes it is, but that’s the fastest moving Fluitans I’ve ever seen!  The raging blue water catches our stern, and the ship spins quickly east, then south, west, north over and over again, more rapidly by the minute!  The Chief Scientist puts down his camera for a split second, and it dons on him, “A warm-water eddy from the Gulf Stream is pulling us in!”  The spinoff’s momentum has carried the eddy all the way past Cape Cod, and a whirlpool has formed at its center within spitting distance now!

Round and round and round we go swirling through the crystal clear water, the Sargassum rows, the tropical creatures.  We reach the middle, the vortex of the whirlpool sucks Cramer down inch by tons-per-inch below sea level! Terrifying as this is, our Chief Conservationist admires the sea turtles, the deck crew braces the yards to keep them out of the spiraling wall of water, all scientists have gone absolutely mad sampling and logging at all depths!  We descend past sharks, macroplastic, hydroids, bottled messages, 1% light level “We have to get to the bottom of this Sargasso Sea!”  And we do.

We rest on the seabed with remnants of human history scattered around us: a pipe, washing machine, cannon, dog collar, harpoon, chop sticks, paddle wheel, bowling ball, lobster pot(if it sank then or sinks now, it’s guaranteed to be down here). 

The Sargasso Sea revolves around us now!  We peer through its transparency to the cold, dense, green water of the ocean beyond trying to make sense of how we got here and how we will save our.

“Wake up!  Time for class.”  Phew!  Just another one of the wild dreams that are so vivid aboard.

A healthy debate ensues during class over philosophy and economics of science, policy, and “Whales!”

Our successful sunset transit of the Canal brought many friendly faces, waves, horns, flashing lights, signage, bell ringing, etc.  Thank you! Not only for the “Welcome Home” but also to everyone ashore (so so many of you) who makes a voyage like this possible. 

Ryan Shamburger
Chief Mate

Jun

15

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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14 June 2012
Ship Position: 42N x 70W
Weather: wind WxS, force 1. Motoring under a lot of sails
Seas: 1-3’

Picture Caption: Ben’s reaction to the day’s activities

This is Alex Binford-Walsh and Jody Daniel reporting from the C-241 news room on the SSV Corwith Cramer.

The students and crew arrived at Gloucester at 11:00. Two customs officers boarded the Cramer and cleared each student and crew with their passports. At the end of an “all hands lunch”, Dr. Caleb brought the students to the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Centre (a full 200 yards away from dock). Ben Ong (Woman and Gender studies and Evolutionary Biology major), stated that “in my humble opinion the tour was short but informative and the small aquarium within was A++”. Under the captains orders all hands were on deck to prepare for departure. The day ended with an Asian style meal; sushi, rice, Asian beef, Asian salad and chopsticks. After a brief interview with the captain, the news room was informed that the Corwith Cramer will be headed south east to Stellwagon Bank to look at whales for a couple days. The Cramer is expected to arrive in Woods Hole on Sunday the 17th June at 9:30am where we have been told that eager family members and friends will be waiting.

This is Alex and Jody reporting from the C-241 news room.

Jun

14

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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13 June 2012
Ship Position: 42N x 70W
Weather: Rain, wind SxW, force 4. Motor Sailing under mainstays’l
Seas: 3-5’
C – Careful cleaning during DC (dawn cleanup) and Field Day (aka Galley dance party).
2 – Number of mates I have had. Also the number of penguins paddling a canoe through a desert.
4 – The Beaufort force of the wind right now
1 – The average number of chances a person has to experience something like this.

M – My turn to blog.  Also, Mahi mahi, Mola mola, Madagascar…
B – Bosun in training. Also, big blue copepods and Bluefin tuna.
C – Call me, maybe?

S – Sensational sunrises and sunsets…everyday.
S – Set the stack, strike the stack, set it again. What? You’re not tired are you?
V – Very unusual games.  Seriously, where do you guys learn these? Oh right, camp.

C – Close friends, all 32 of them.
O – Original A watch, a category closer than friends: Ryan, Anne, Cheng, Lindsay M., Janet, Alex, Allison.
R – Ryan, Kirsten,Theo (the mates):Thanks for the extra efforts you made to help me understand. You are great teachers and amazing people I am proud to call friends.
W – Water, water, everywhere and we make our own to drink: thanks for the lesson Petey!
I – I didn’t forget about Laura (deckhand): you’re so cool I can’t believe you are a real person.
T – The jellyfish, the jellyfish, the jellyfish…
H – Homework, out here? Really?

C – Constellations and star fixes.  Love ‘em (especially Scorpio, Pisces, and Leo). All I want for my birthday is a nautical almanac and 229!
R – Repeat after me songs *sigh* and repeated emergency drills.  Last MOB took only 6 mins.
A – Anne, Annie, Amy, and Maia (salty science gurus): Thanks for the lessons and advice that go beyond the lab – but also for those ones. Wishing you many a winkle in time.
M – Master and commander, aka Jen Haddock, my idol. You, me, across the Atlantic. I will make it happen.
E – Eating good and more than I should, thanks to Ashley and all the asst. stews.
R – Really, really mixed emotions about stepping off Cramer.  Getting to know you all has been humbling and made me a better person.  Since sailing around the world indefinatley with you all isn’t an option, I will have to settle for rereading about you in my very detailed archive (journal) which may end up in the Cramer library one day (thanks for the idea, Ben!).

There was never a truer phrase than this:

Wishing you fair winds and following seas, whatever course you set from here.  Remember (and A watch knows this well) that if you need that extra little umph! to take up slack in your line, call for a cranker!  You know what I’m trying to say. 

Erika

PS. Ahoy folks at home!  Some of this requires additional explanation which can be found earlier in the blog or from the person you are checking up on but it is meant for your eyes too.

Figure: Since Erika wrote the wonderful blog, I get my chance to chose the picture for today. Here is a picture of Erika and I, and behind us is Gloucester. Whenever it is my turn to write the blog, it always happens to be the day before we dock. Tomorrow, we will arrive the coast guard dock to clear customs and re-enter America. Hello USA!!! Good bye Sargasso Sea!!! We will miss you!!! –Yip

P.P.S. The man in the corner of the lab is going to leave us and head to Hawaii tomorrow Good bye Greg, we will miss you too!!!

Greetings to all folks that have been keeping track of us on our blog. We have cleared customs in Gloucester Ma and will be working our way towards Woods Hole MA. The plan is to start transiting the Cape Cod Canal from east to west at approximately 1830 Friday Evening.  On Sunday June 17th we are looking to arrive at Dyer’s Dock in Woods Hole. Dyer’s Dock is in between the Steamship Authority and the WHOI docks. It is hard to believe the miles we have traveled, the things that have been learned, the things seen and most importantly the friends made. Class C241 will be arriving with many sea stories to share. What we have shared on the blog is only the beginning of the adventures we have had out here!!  See you all soon.

Capt Jen Haddock

Jun

13

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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12 June 2012
Ship Position: 42N x 69W
Weather: wind SxW, force 4. Sailing downwind under square sails
Seas: 3-5’
Figure caption L to R: Images from this research cruise spanning over seven orders of magnitude in size (1 micrometer bacterial cell to 15 meter whale). Petri plate with marine bacterial colonies, plastic marine debris, viper fish, and humpback whale.

Marine Biodiversity and Conservation on the High Seas.  The SSV Corwith Cramer left Bermuda just over a week ago and has been sailing North of the Gulf Stream for several days now.  Gone are the blue, blue, deep, deep waters of the Sargasso Sea but new discoveries await in the productive waters off George’s Bank and the Gulf of Maine as we transit back to the New England shore. This morning’s pod of humpbacks that greeted us for a pre-breakfast interlude was a nice example.

Our students aboard have logged many hours at the microscope identifying 6 species of Sargassum hydroids, 15 species of deep-water myctophid fishes, and over 50 morphotypes of microbes belonging to the genus Vibrio. Other student projects are looking to explore the population genetic variability in the larvae of spiny lobsters, North-American and European eel larvae, Sargassum shrimp, and the Sargassum macroalgae that constitute the hallmark of the Sargasso Sea itself. Their data will be added to the International Ocean Biogeographic Information System (iOBIS) database, the database that served the former Census of Marine Life (http://www.coml.org), and the Encyclopedia of Life (http://www.eol.org). Additional voucher samples will help promote conservation efforts via the Ocean Genome Legacy by preserving a variety of Sargasso Sea species for later downstream genetic barcoding. The efforts of our microbes student group are also helping to contribute directly to a separate NSF-funded project examining the diversity, function and fate of microbes on plastic marine debris in the open ocean.

In addition to traditional morphological identifications, for the first time aboard these sailing school vessels, students have extracted genomic DNA from their samples and used molecular biology techniques taught on shore to target marker genes of interest for their individual projects. Their precious samples are being sequenced this week at the W. M. Keck Sequencing Facility in the Josephine Bay Paul Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.  Upon return, students will add their new molecular findings to their existing data to prepare final independent research projects that they will formally present as part of a science-policy symposium the final week of the course. Through a unique blend of hands-on research science and policy education, MBC students will have an opportunity to narrow the gap between science and policy makers while helping to affect change in the protection of the High Seas. 

Linda Amaral-Zettler, MBC Faculty, MBL Assistant Scientist

Jun

12

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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June 11th
Ship Position: 41N x 69W
Weather: Variable
Seas: 2-5’
Picture caption:  Just one of our gorgeous sunsets

Buenas dias everyone,

Today was an exciting day as far as charismatic mega fauna are concerned.  We made friends with a pod or two of dolphins who stuck with us for most of the afternoon/evening.  There were between 10 and 20 dolphins and there was definitely at least one family complete with a large male, a female , and an adorable baby.  They were Common Dolphins who seemed to really enjoy getting us all excited and everyone up on deck and then disappearing only to reappear when people started to go back down below.  We also saw a whale which was extremely exciting.  We never got close enough to identify it but we did wee its tail before it disappeared off into the sunset.  A Mola Mola also floated by during class which prompted a quick rush to the port side so we could all see it.  Finally I have been informed that a basking shark was sighted although unfortunately I didn’t get to see it.  Needless to say many pictures were taken and some people spent a good amount of time rushing up and down the ladder so that they wouldn’t miss anything.

We also experienced what I thought was some really fun weather. Most of the day was sunny although cold (we are all wearing our winter clothes and its June) but near the end of class the fog rolled in.  It was like being encased in a cloud and we could barely see anything at all, even the top of the mast was partly obscured.  We had to turn on the fog horn to insure that any other boats out there knew we were around.  This really cemented in my mind that although we are quickly getting closer to land, we are still in isolation out here.  Luckily the fog cleared in time for the dolphins to appear and then to give us a gorgeous sunset.

As our trip comes ever closer to the end it’s a very bittersweet feeling.  On one hand it might be nice to get back to a more regular sleep schedule and be able to move walk more than 130ft but on the other hand I really don’t want to leave.  I have really enjoyed my time on the Cramer and all the things that I have learned and don’t want to go back to the real world.  We are our own little society out here and I have no desire to deal with anyone else.  Sure we get catty sometimes and I am sure everyone wishes at times they could have a little personal time and space but I know we are all really going to miss each other.  It’s true that the students have until the 29th together but it won’t be the same once we are back on land.  Also very sadly we are going to be leaving the crew that has taught us so much and who we have all become very attached to.  Luckily we do have a little more time on the Cramer and many of us have hopes of returning to SEA as a deckhand, mate, or assistant scientist so it may not truly be the end.  I am sure we will enjoy the time we have left and make many new and exciting memories.

Sending good karma out to all who read
Lindsay Spiers

Jun

11

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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June 10th
Ship Position: 39N x 68W
Weather: Sunny with amazing cumulous clouds, cool and crisp
Seas: 2-5’
Picture caption:  Greg retrieving a fishing net

Ahoy!

The past few days have been chock-full of wonderful things. There have been breathtaking sights, hilarious happenings, and lots of ocean-creature-spotting. All the days have blended into one and I’ve lost all concept of time, so here is a bulleted list of some of the highlights:
1. We saw dolphins! Multiple times!! Lots of them!!
2. Erika charted a star fix all by herself that may or may not tell us where we are.
3. We saw a leatherback sea turtle!
4. Caleb (ocean-creature-spotter-extraordinaire) saw a mola mola.
5. We did a styrocast, which involved drawing on Styrofoam cups, stuffing them in “queen sized” pantyhose, tying them to the CTD and letting the wire out as far as it could go. I stood there for over an hour while I let it out to 2080 meters, which was about half the depth of the ocean at that point! The cups shrunk down to two inches from the intense pressure.
6. There have been many beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
7. A pair of crazy petrels attacked us last night on watch. One flew in Elissa’s face while she was deploying the meter net which startled Laura and Jody.
8. It never rains on C watch! (knock on wood) Multiple times in the past week we have taken the watch in the middle of a squall, only to have the clouds lift and the sun come out within 20 minutes or so. Yesterday we saw a beautiful rainbow. Poor B watch keeps getting rained on though. B is for Bad Weather!
9. But good news for B watch! They finally got to go aloft today!
10. We crossed the Gulf Stream! The water colour has changed. It has gone from bottle blue to an inky green. We must be getting up north because it has a slight New England accent. It keeps throwing extra r’s in words, and occasionally we hear it say “wicked!”
11. The species in the nets have also changed. Today we found giant isopods, which look like strange blue swimming roly-polys.
12. The Hunger Games have begun on the Corwith Cramer! Today we fought ‘till the death over the remaining chicken wings. Luckily, the odds were ever in our favor, because there were a lot of vegetarians in the first seating of dinner, and no one had to die.
13. The food has been excellent per usual, thanks to Ashley and her daily assistant steward.
14. We’ve been dancing a lot. Theo taught us some new moves to keep us awake during class, and C watch motivated for Field Day with some edgy, cleaning-inspired dance moves.
15. That’s all we can think of right now, but I’m sure there are more! Love to all at home, and I miss you a lot,

Emily Allen (with help and input from almost everyone on the Cramer)

Jun

10

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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Ship Position: 36N x 67W
Weather: Sunny with amazing cumulous clouds
Seas: 2-5’
Picture caption:  Fred, the lonely mahi mahi

The story of Fred:
This is the story of a lone little mahi mahi.
Fred was a young mah mahi who took up residence in the starboard waters off of the Corwith Cramer. Fred was sad because Fred did not have a friend.. You see, his friend had wandered off to join another pair of mahi who had visited Cramer previously (presumably, this love triangle will spawn more drama). Fred spent his lonely days hunting for flying fish and pondering his lost love. Out of the kindness of our hearts, the crew aboard Cramer offered Fred an escape. He did not have to live with his pain anymore.. This escape came in the form of a shiny lure on the end of a lovely fishing line. Happily for Fred but unfortunately for First Mate Ryan, Fred decided that life was still worth living despite his broken heart and turned down the crews’ kind offer. The crew of the Cramer watched as he swam off into the sunset, a new fish looking for new possibilities and a long life full of adventures.

We hope you enjoyed that little story. The jist of it is that no, we did not get to eat fresh fish. As you can tell, those onboard the Cramer are in a bit of a silly mood. Field day will do that to you. If you haven’t been tuning in, Field day is a magical time where people put on silly costumes and dance to equally silly songs while cleaning every inch of Mama Cramer. Let’s begin by comparing the field day experiences of A and C watch.

Lindsay for A Watch: A watch clearly has the most important duty of making the galley spotless. As one of the most used areas of the ship and the center of all happiness, it is the paramount that we keep it clean. Galley field day for A watch starts with the playing of the ever traditional song “Call Me Maybe,” a lovely ballad written from the heart of young girl to her paramour. Here is a sampling of the well thought out lyrics:
Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe

We clean every inch of the galley from the ceiling (which is 12 ft high mind you) to dry stores (yeah rotten potatoes!). I personally spent a lovely afternoon scrubbing the grease off of oven parts with the Marine Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Caleb McClennen. With a mid-cleaning injection of candy, we championed through the final hour to another rousing chorus of “Call Me Maybe” while the other watches’ looked on jealously.

Jeremy for C Watch: While A watch does have the important task of cleaning the galley (as Lindsay mentioned with some embellishments), C watch has the very important task of cleaning the ships aft.  This includes the bulkheads (walls), soles (floors), every inch of our incredibly spacious library (not), and most importantly the head and shower most commonly used by our chief scientist and captain.  We also take care of cleaning the doghouse (which is not where we keep the ships dogs), but is where all of our navigation, radio, and essential ship equipment lives.  Since we are the fastest watch, we normally end first and therefore have a lot of extra tasks we take care of.  Today, Emily and I had the slightly useless (I mean very important) task of cleaning off the rust on the wheelhouse and around the ship.  Since our ship is steel, rust is Cramer’s worst enemy.  While donned with goggles and gloves, we used osphoric acid (a.k.a. slightly more concentrated liquid than coca cola) to scrub rust.  As we can attest, it doesn’t really work, but is a great forearm workout.  I think it is A and B watch that looks on with jealousy every time C watch gracefully cleans Cramers aft. 
Another lovely aspect of Field Day we would love to share with you is mong. Mong is that special type of dirt, neither liquid nor solid, that has been sitting in the furthest reaches of the area in question and is so gross that presents itself as an impressive trophy to be shown off. Some mong highlights include a three week old, roasted lemon under Roxy, mong in the overhead (ceiling) of the aft head, hinges of the day reefer, and much much more.

We also had some fun times after Field Day involving pizza. Pizza is the traditional dinner served to starving crew after a hard day of scrubbing. Jeremy, as Assistant Steward was given the daunting task of diving for the last can of pineapples and Lindsay joined in as well. From afar, it looked like we were headed for Wonderland. With a lot of effort though, we managed to extract the precious gold fruit to grace the tops of our golden brown pizzas.

We hope you enjoyed this overly long and embellished blog. It’s just what happens after Field Days.
Signed,
Jeremy and Lindsay M

P.S. Mom, I really hope you are actually doing this blog book. I can’t wait to see this ridiculousness published.
P.P.S.  Hi Mom, miss you.  Can’t wait to see you and everyone when we reach Woods Hole.  Can you please make Apple Crisp for when we return to Woods Hole (x17).  I have been slightly raving about it onboard.

Jun

08

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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Hello Everyone!
I hope everyone had as an exciting of a World Ocean Day as we did here on the Cramer! I (Allison) was assisting our amazing and talented steward Ashley in the galley today. With the help of our equally amazing and talented assistant scientist, Annie, we created a pretty stellar World Ocean Day snack for after class. Homemade soft pretzels shaped like ocean critters? Oh yes. We had each project creature represented (glass eel larvae, spiny lobster larvae, Sargassum, hydroids, Sargassum shrimp, and vibrio) along with several organisms found in our typical 100 counts (copepods, medusa, siphonophores, pteropods, heteropods) AND some of the animals we’ve had the pleasure of seeing from our ship (dophins, sharks, turtles, fish). Annie, Ashley, Cheng, and I twisted enough pretzel dough to produce 96 cinnamon-sugar and salt-covered ocean themed pretzels.

We enjoyed these after our class today, which contained quite a broad range of material. Caleb started off by getting us thinking about how we value the environment economically. My peers all had interesting input, and I’ll be looking forward to incorporating these ideas into our conservation plan. After a three-minute stretch break we were off learning how to splice and whip lines. I would call it practical arts and crafts. Possibly one of my favorite things I’ve learned so far.

As much as I loved being assistant steward, I did aquire quite a bit of flour, powdered sugar, chocolate, etc. on. well, me. So I’m off to enjoy my shower day!

Friday, 8 June 2012-WORLD OCEAN DAY
Ship Position: 36N x 67W
Howdy Y’all! There couldn’t be a better way to spend World Ocean Day than right here on the Sargasso Sea. Surrounded by 360 degrees of open ocean, it’s just the 31 people on board plus Mama Cramer. for miles. Other than the occasional vessel, we’re the only humans around for miles and miles, and I love it. Then, of course, there are sharks, jellyfish, seabirds, flying fish, crabs, plastic (EW) and SEA TURTLES! (all of which I personally saw today). Since my policy research has been focused on sea turtles, I was really excited when I heard the news and looked out from the helm to the starboard side to see a leatherback! Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that the turtle was, well, swimming towards a plastic bag. As we realized what was going on, the excitement turned into, “Oh no. you don’t want to do that. Really. Don’t do it! Don’t do it!!!” Hopefully the turtle came to an understanding that plastic is not food or shelter, because plastic pollution is one of the major threats to sea turtles. Plastic does not biodegrade (well actually. more on that from Greg!!!), so as the currents break plastic down into tiny pieces, oceanic creatures like sea turtles mistake it for yummy critters, and it negatively affects their digestive and reproductive systems. Of course this sad sighting goes to show that this stuff truly IS happening to our world ocean ecosystem, and something needs to be done about it to protect it for future use, and for furture generations to enjoy. This story definitely was not meant to bring any one down on World Ocean Day, but rather to critically think about the current state of our oceans and the daily actions we take that may play a role in conserving 70% of our planet. As an Environmental Studies major, I have realized that these hard facts can only be taken with optimisim for a healthier planet. On a brighter note, I should point out that folks aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer celebrated by enjoying the time we have out here together, and of course with Ashley and Allison’s amazing pretzel snacks, in various critter shapes, as Allison mentioned already. Though I could write for hours about what has been going on out here, I must get ready for mid-watch, which is from 2300 to 0300. Lindsay S. and I are in lab and we will be deploying the Neuston and Meter Nets, and the CTD. I feel like a real oceanographer! Oh, and Jeremy and I just decided that class C-241 could probably be the first people EVER to do molecular biology like DNA extractions on a tall ship! 

Adios,
Meredith

Jun

08

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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Friday, 8 June 2012-WORLD OCEAN DAY
Ship Position: 36N x 67W

Picture captions:
Cramer and crew in Blue Halo t-shirts from Bermuda celebrate World Ocean Day in the Sargasso Sea (two images: whole vessel, zoom on people) Vessel Sedna IV of ‘1000 Days for the Planet’ operating alongside Corwith Cramer off of Bermuda; SEA Capt. Jen Haddock with Elissa Walter at the wheel Underwater image of plastic marine debris (plastic fishing net fragment) with associated fish; discovered and recovered by SEA in the Sargasso Sea

“Happy World Ocean Day 2012 from the Sailing School Vessel Corwith Cramer! We are underway in the Sargasso Sea with students from four countries representing 17 universities and colleges participating in the Marine Biodiversity and Conservation SEA Semester program. Students are serving as crew and scientists on a voyage from St. Croix, USVI to Woods Hole, MA while conducting independent research on marine biodiversity and conservation. The voyage recently finished a stop at Bermuda for field trips to scientific, cultural, and conservation organizations. Now back at sea, individual research teams are documenting the biodiversity of organisms including microbes, hydrozoans, Sargassum shrimps, the brown alga Sargassum, spiny lobster larvae, eel larvae, and lantern fishes along the transect through the Sargasso Sea. The student generated data will be shared with collaborators at Ocean Genome Legacy (http://www.oglf.org), Encyclopedia of Life (http://eol.org), Marine Biological Laboratory (http://www.mbl.edu), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (http://www.whoi.edu).

While in Bermuda, SEA also had the opportunity to initiate a new collaboration with ‘1000 Days for the Planet’ (http://www.radio-canada.ca/sedna) a project in partnership with the United Nation’s Secretariat for the Convention on Biodiversity. This three-year journey of the 3-masted schooner Sedna IV around the world to document biodiversity is under the direction of biologist and filmmaker Jean Lemire, and is one of the main events to promote the UN Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020. The vessels Corwith Cramer and Sedna IV worked together for two days in the waters around Bermuda and it was a rare sight to see two sailing research vessels coordinating operations to sample marine biodiversity while also documenting ocean pollution caused by plastic marine debris.

Our hope is that with the help of our collaborators and our students, Sea Education Association continues to make people aware of the importance of the oceans every day, rather than only on World Ocean Day.

Crew of the Corwith Cramer, Sargasso Sea

Jun

07

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Ship Position: 35N x 65W
Weather: Overcast with light winds
Seas: 2-5’
Picture caption: Retrieving the Neuston with Annie, Allison and Cheng Seas have flattened out after a stormy departure from Bermuda. 

It is great to be sailing with Sea Education Association again after a long hiatus.  My time will be spent for the next two weeks helping the students prepare their conservation strategies for the Sargasso Sea, to be presented upon return to Woods Hole.  Quite an impressive string of luck the crew had in Bermuda, meeting underwater archaeologists, fishermen, marine scientists, marine educators, aquarists, the harbor radio in charge of ship traffic in and around Bermuda and of course the Bermuda Alliance for the Sargasso Sea, Pew’s Blue Halo and last but not least Sylvia Earle!  Having just joined the ship after last seeing the crew in Woods Hole, significant seamanship skills along with the scientific and intellectual capacity appear more than developed to take on the wicked problem that is our endeavor to conserve the vast Sargasso Sea.

It has taken only a few days to reconnect to this magnificent place, its deep blue waters and spectacular biodiversity.  A quick trip to the lab today after our first nueston tow revealed the telltale brilliant blue copepods of the tropics, large patches of sargassum complete with shrimp, crabs, nudibrachs, sargassum angler fish among others.  To top it all off, in the past two days at sea we have now seen two smaller sea turtles, neither close enough to identify, but a good sign of the vibrant life supported by the Sargasso.After having been away from the Sargasso for ten years, I can nearly grasp what it must have been like for William Bebe to sail the waters of the Sargasso in the early half of the twentieth centuryaboard the Arcuturs with the New York Zoological Society- now the Wildlife Conservation Society, my current employer. 

It is great to be back, sailing with such a strong professional crew and inquisitive set of students.  I look forward to the next ten days together and the continued unfolding of the Sargasso as it fades in the Gulf Stream and then shelf waters of New England. 

Caleb McClennen (W-144 and Director, Marine Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society)

Jun

06

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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05 June 2012
Ship Position: 32 38.8’ N x 64 19.2’ W
Weather: AM storms, winds from the SW Force 7
Seas: 10-13 ft
Picture caption: B watch guarding Mama Cramer during the storm. All was eventually well.
   
Well, everyone was feeling the motion of the ocean today! Everything needed to be tied down just a little more to prepare for some morning squalls. I woke up to the sound of waves hitting my bunk, which sounded like someone attacking Mama Cramer with a baseball bat. B watch had the delightful morning watch, where winds up to 40kts and waves up to 13 ft made us glad we finally had the opportunity to use our foulies. When Jen said it was bad luck to whistle on the boat, she wasn’t kidding! Luckily, I don’t know how to whistle.
   
Everything cleared up by the time C watch took over the afternoon and I got to curl in to my warm bunk and dream of clear skies. That evening, we had the chance to watch the transit of Venus, where once every 100 years Venus passes in front of the Sun. It was pretty cool. It seems like bad weather is behind us, at least for a few days, and we will continue to motor up to Woods Hole. See everyone in less than 2 weeks!

A short note from Cheng. we had a contact last night from the evening watch. The calculated CPA (closest point of approach) is less than 1 mile. Lucklily they changed their course very soon so that we ended up passing each other from the starboard side. It was safe and fun, because now I know that we are not alone in the Atlantic.

-Taylor and Cheng

Jun

05

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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04 June 2012
Ship Posistion: 32°29’ N X 64°18’W
Weather: Partly cloudy skies, wind WXN force 5
Seas: 5-8 feet
Picture Caption: The view of the stormtrys’l and stays’ls from our quarterdeck

Hove to: how to sail badly.
Grace: This morning at 1100 we left the island of Bermuda to continue our cruise North.  Bermuda will be missed but it sure is nice to be back on the water.  Now we sure have learned an amazing amount about sailing on the Corwith Cramer haven’t we Eliot?

Eliot: Yup, we have learned how to set and strike everysail, fair verses foul leads, furling, reefing, jigging, sweating lines, tieing knots, and the name of every single part of this boat. We also learned fun words like abaft, jibboom and scuppers.

Grace: And we have also learned to sail badly.

Eliot: What?

Grace: You know, when we hove to for science.

Eliot: Oh that’s right.  Why don’t you explain that for the folks back home.

Grace: Well when we deploy some of our large fancy science equipment into the water we want to be stationary.  The hydrocast for example is a large water sampler that weighs over a ton and is lowered to several hundred meters.  Cruising with this equipment would be dangerous so we must come to a stop first.  This would be easy on a power boat and accomplished my simply throwing it in neutral.  But we are on a sail boat.

Eliot: Because it is awesome.

Grace: Yes it is, and we have wind always pushing on our sails.  So we hove to, and set our sails aback.

Eliot: Which means that we set our staysails and mains’l to a starboard tack even though wind is coming from the port side. This means the sails are basically set “on the wrong side” of the boat, which makes us sail sideways very slowly instead of moving forward.

Grace:  If another boat were to sail by when we were hove to they would think we have no idea what we are doing.  But we do know what we are doing. We are a one of a kind sailing vessel, collecting invaluable scientific data about the Sargassum Sea.

Eliot: Shout outs to all the family, friends and collegues following our adventures aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer!

Grace: I love you Drew.

Jun

04

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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03 June 2012
Ships Position: Alongside at Pennos Wharf, St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda
Weather: Cloudy
Seas: Calm.
Picture Caption: Elissa, Ben, John and Jody riding the bus

Today was our last day in Bermuda.  Yesterday we traversed Bermuda for our cultural landscapes project.  Yip, Cheng, Allison and me traveled together to take pictures for our topics. We left on the bus and stopped at the first farm we saw to take a picture and ask the owner about agriculture for Allison’s project. Yip and Cheng also took the chance to ask about cedar and garbage disposal on the island for their projects. We contined on to the library in Hamilton to do some interweb research. By then we were running out of time so we quickly stopped by a couple more places before catching the bus back to St. Georges. We then met up with Captain Jen to visit the radio station which controls navigation and rescue for Bermuda. It was really cool.

Today we had nothing planned, but we also had four hour watches, and so didn’t get the whole day free. A film crew came to capture life on on board. They are from a research sailboat docked next to us and plan to follow us in their boat tomorrow to continue filming. They are interested in biodiversity and the research we are doing.  They asked me to be an extra in a few shots.

Now we have to leave Bermuda. I think we will all miss the relaxation of port stop. 
Alex

Jun

03

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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02 June 2012
Ships Position: Alongside at Pennos Wharf, St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda
Weather: Clear and Sunny
Seas: Calm.
Picture Caption: Jeremy, Erika, Jody and myself hanging out with local
Bermudians at Gibbs Lighthouse

Woot! It’s finally my turn to write the blog.

Hi everyone,

Before I expound on the recent activities that happened in the last 2 days since Lindsay M. blogged about the TEDx Bermuda-Blue Halo event, I’m gonna chat a tad bit about my feelings about the first sailing component that we completed successfully. Oh, by the way, the TEDx Bermuda event is just epic. For just sitting on a comfy seat and listening to esteemed marine biologists and naturalists share their research and experience with the marine environment, I was rewarded with a free t-shirt and the opportunity to take pictures with Dr. Sylvia Earle. Best deal ever fellas. Just saying. Oh yeah, I’ll be typing in vernacular, so if you’re the grammar police, sorry bro.

So anyway! The first leg of the voyage, where we sailed from St. Criox to Bermuda, has been an eye-opening learning experience for me (and I am sure for everyone else as well). It was interesting to experience the life on board a sailing vessel as a working individual and I got the rare opportunity to have an on-job-training experience as a contemporary sailor. The most memorable thing that came to my mind right this instance as I am typing this blog post is learning how to shoot the sun, planets, and stars using a sextant. If you see the tedious process needed to find our position based off celestial navigation, even after having so much pre-computation already being done for us, it’s pretty mind-blowing just simply try imagining how much math and calculations those people back in the old days have to plow through to get an accurate idea of their locations when they are sailing across the vast and treacherous oceans.

On a more personal level, I also take great pride that I was never sea-sick at all through the entire first leg and played no part whatsoever in sharing some of the steward’s delicious food and snacks with the fishes via barfing. So! If you have been following the blog, it is coming close to a week from the day we first docked at the wharf in Bermuda. Thus far, my time in Bermuda has been a blast. During my first day, my homies and I visited many interesting places in Bermuda, such as Crystal and Fantasy Caves, Tom Moore’s Jungle and Tavern, Blue Hole, had lunch at the famous Swizzle Inn of Bermuda, and shopped at the city of Hamilton. I had to buy a new pair of flip flops because my $1 flip flops from walmart broke. I guess what you pay is what you get. Lol.

So anyway, after that awesome TEDx event, we went ship wreck snorkeling in the reefs the very next day just outside of Bermuda with Dr. Jensen and Rod (1st Jun 2012). That was epic awesome as some of the more modern wrecks are still uber, duber well preserved in the shallow waters and the clarity really allowed us to really see and study the entire wreck in detail. It does really feel like I’m exploring the HMS Titantic at certain moments. The diversity of the fishes and marine life around the region was really mesmerizing too. There was so much inertia when we had to leave. And because I forgotten to put sunscreen on my shoulders, I got toasted like a bun. It’s hurting now…

Despite the burnt shoulders, today was the day I look forward most. Its cultural landscape assignment day and today is the day where get to travel and roam around the entire island to take pictures so that we can reflect the relationships between nature and culture of Bermuda via a photo essay. This meant that my homies and I, once again, travel around the island again exploring and learning about Bermudian culture and boy we did. We visited the cultural section of the library, climbed the Gibbs Lighthouse, watched some traditional Bermudian dances, said hi to the man behind the voice to Bermuda Radio, chatted with a whole bunch of Bermudians, and visit the queen’s jubilee celebrations at the dockyard. Oh Oh! Jeremy and I also at MR. CHICKEN’s Fried Chicken! Woohoo! Supporting local businesses right there. A+. Along the way, we took tons of pictures. :D I have a good feeling about this Bermuda Cultural Landscape Photo-essay.
Alright, I gotta go join my research group extract and amplify Vibrio DNA.

Cya next time folks!
Ben O.

Jun

02

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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1 June, 2012
Ships Position: Alongside at Pennos Wharf, St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda
Weather: Clear and warm
Picture: SEA Chief Scientist Amy Siuda discusses research project progress with arriving faculty member Linda Amaral-Zettler as Taylor and Elliot prepare to run an electrophoresis gel of DNA they extracted from Sargassum shrimps.

I arrived on the Cramer today as one of three faculty members joining the MBC program for the second leg from Bermuda to Woods Hole. My first impression was that the boat was a flurry of activity with students working on research projects, policy projects, engineering, and navigation assignments; they have clearly become sailors, scientists, and shipmates in the three weeks since I saw them at the end of the first shore component. Amy and SEA Maritime Studies faculty member John Jensen have been working them hard during the port call and they excitedly describe the first leg of their voyage and their activities so far in Bermuda. They welcome me, Dr. Linda Amaral-Zettler from Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, and Dr. Caleb McClennen from the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx. The students have three days to complete their cultural landscape project research for John and also to finish extracting DNA from their study organisms to be sent back to Woods Hole with Amy for sequencing. I’ll be taking over as Chief Scientist for Amy, and am really looking forward to working with the students again during the second half of our SEA Semester voyage to Woods Hole as we continue our study of the Sargasso Sea.

Erik Zettler, Chief Scientist leg 2

Jun

01

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 31, 2012
Ships Position: Alongside at Pennos Wharf, St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda
Weather: Clear
Seas: Just enough to sail the dory aka, calm.
Picture: The C-241 class in Blue Halo shirts with Dr. Sylvia Earl at the TEDx talk in Hamilton.

Today is what I would call a day of inspiration. We have been sailing these past few weeks, caught up in the specific nuances and details that exist in day to day shipboard life. Our time in Bermuda has been an entirely different story. Our daily routine has changed, we are able to walk more than 134 feet in a single direction, and there are other people to talk and interact with. Thus far, my time abord Mama Cramer has been amazing and I truly treasure the experiences I have had but I think, in our isolated part of the ocean, we loose track of what it is we set out to contribute to.  Our time today was spent having some lovely adventures all over the island. Our early morning started with a bus/ferry ride to Dockyard, an English naval base turned cruise ship tourist destination with some very interesting history. We have been concentrating so much on the science aspect of our trip that it was nice to get some cultural reference and look back at how exactly Bermudians have interacted with and changed their local natural environment. We then proceeded into Hamilton where we had a bit of time to wander and then off to what was probably the most anticipated event of the week, the TEDx talk. We listened to talks about Bermuda tiger shark and humpback whale research as well as the Bermuda-based Blue Halo Project and last but certainly not least, a talk by Dr. Sylvia Earl, oceanographer and ocean conservation advocate extrordinare (for those who don’t know, she is the star celebrity in the marine biology world).

For me, these talks gave me a sense of purpose. I feel that I have been so wrapped up and concerned with my specific project and daily life on the boat that I have lost track of the bigger picture I am trying to add to. All of the lecturers today stressed the need for more research and better understanding of the Sargasso Sea and it was really neat to sit back and think “Hey, I am the one doing that research.” It is nice to know that my project, which looks at mesopelagic (mid-ocean level) lanternfish could provide baseline estimates off which the Blue Halo Project (a project protecting the outer 150nm of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone), would base all future conservation and management efforts. I know that I, for one, will take my experiences here in Bermuda and use them to inspire me as we depart on the last two weeks of our journey across this amazing blue and golden jungle.
Fair winds and following seas,

Lindsay M
P.S. On the more personal side of things, I may have conquered my fear of heights. Free climbing to the tallest point of the ship is apparently something I can do now. Saw dolpins for the first time and will probably get just as obnoxiously excited for the millionth siting as I was that time.
P.P.S. Mom, I hope this is good enough to make it into your C241 blog book. Dad, Bailey, and Cassidy, I miss you (sorry to include you with the dogs dad). Tucker and Patrick, don’t let the senioritis get you just yet! Ellen and Coco, I miss you guys so much! We’re (almost) seniors. weird.

May

31

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 30, 2012
Ships Position: Alongside at Pennos Wharf, St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda
Weather: Clear
Seas: Calm
Picture: Mama Cramer

Just as everyone on board the Cramer for the first ever Marine Biodiveristy and Consevation class had adjusted to life on the high seas, we found ourselves docked in Bermuda and exploring the island. Not sure of whether the last two weeks seem more like a whole month, or a few short days, it is still great to say we successfully sailed through the Bermuda Triangle.

After a day off yesterday to get off the ship and relax on the beach, we had our first field trip in Bermuda today. At the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo, we got a special behind the scenes tour and found out some cool information about one of the oldest aquariums still running in the western hemisphere. In the tanks we saw sharks, eels, sea turtles, lionfish, barracudas, and many other kinds of sea creatures. I was excited at the sight of the large eel after identifying relatively invisible Leptocephali (eel larvae) that we have collected throughout our time at sea, because that is what my research project is on. We also had the opportunity to speak with the president of Bermuda Alliance for the Sargasso Sea (BASS) about issues that directly relate to all the work we have done both on shore in Woods Hole as well as on a rocking boat. For the record, molecular biology on a tall ship in 12 foot seas is quite the challenge. After spending a couple of hours at the aquarium, we got another behind the seas look, this time at Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences (BIOS). We learned about corals, talked with research scientists who study microbes and sea urchins, and discussed our upcoming snorkeling field trip on Friday. I think we are all really excited for that one because we get to go on a boat ride. Speaking of exciting field trips, tomorrow we have to opportunity to attend the TEDx Bermuda conference. I have been dreaming of attending a TED conference ever since I first started watching their internet videos a couple of years ago. I will let tomorrow’s blog writer tell y’all how it goes. As much as I love being sleep deprived, (really, I’ve gotten used to it), I should probably hit the pillow. Since we are dockside, we are allowed to sleep on deck, so I will probably do that as the main salon is a little toasty.

Fair winds and following seas,
Meredith
PS- Two scientists are eating dinner. The first one orders a glass of H20. The second scientist says, “I’ll have some H202”. The second scientist dies.

May

30

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 29, 2012
Ships Position: Tiger Bay, St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda
Weather: Partly Cloudy with good visibilty
Seas: Calm
Picture: Exploring Tom Moore’s Jungle with a short detour to Blue Hole

Life on the SSV Corwith Cramer has been insightful at times, annoying at times (ahh seasickness), thought provoking at times and just plain out fun half the time. As Grace, our helmswoman steered us through the narrow canal under the guide of a Bermudan pilot, I was somewhat ambiguous about our 1 week stay at in Bermuda. Although I am quite accustomed to island life, I was unsure as to how different Bermuda, the island in the middle of the Northern Atlantic gyre, was from the Caribbean islands. I reflected on cultural landscapes that Dr. Jenson drilled into our minds during the shore component and all the information we were presented with in our policy classes. I also noted the presence of Sargassum just outside Bermuda’s coast that was absent from our science observation logs over the days leading to our arrival. I also wondered if Jeremy and I would get our hands on the 2 Caribbean Spiny Lobsters needed to add to our batch of samples to be sent off for sequencing. I wondered what my Grandmother was doing at the time and if she was making rice and peas with fried fish and sautéed vegetables, which I longed for oh so dearly. I pretty much thought about everything and nothing all at once. Interestingly the evening that followed after our safe arrival filled with laughter, an awesome deck practical settled my thoughts a bit. It wasn’t until today when Ben, Erika, Jeremy and I went sightseeing and spoke to some Bermudians that all our policy work really came into perspective. One must understand all aspects of culture when dealing with conservation even the aspects that may seem insignificant like shipwrecks, caves or buildings…there is a story to everyone. So…at the end of day all is well, and I had another day of provoked thoughts as I strolled back aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer. Since I missed dinner I must end my post here as hunger strikes. Yaye me!

Also I miss you Ellie, Mommy, Tubby, Ryan, Artie, Mom, Granddad, Auntie Christine, Uncle Paul, Uncle Gordon, Auntie Joy et al, Auntie Audrey et al, Garfield, Ronnella, Danielle, Lexi, Lindy, Lania, Elle, Ezra, Wayne, Krisma and ECO peeps, Rondel, Jenson, Noyda and my church music peeps, Kelon, Clinton and the Leos Kemo and Anwar  of course! (That’s was quite a mouthful)
Jody N Daniel

May

30

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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27 May 2012
Ship position: 32o02.4’ N x 64o38.9’ W Almost Bermuda!!!
Weather: Partly Cloudy Wind ExN F2
Seas: Calm
Ship Speed: 6knots during the day when main engine was on, hove to after sunset
Picture: “Where is Bermuda?”

Can’t believe it, we almost make it. We are so close to Bermuda!  Around 5pm today, Bermuda finally was shown on radar for the first time, everyone was so excited! Some of us grabbed the binoculars and tried to find Bermuda. As you can see in the picture, Meredith and Lora were using the binoculars to seek the land. Also, we sent Emily to go aloft to look for Bermuda, although she didn’t see anything, she was excited to go aloft. By the sunset, we finally saw the radio tower in Bermuda. Later on, we saw the lights from Bermuda. Since it is very dangerous to go into the port at night, we “hove to” during the night and plan to go in by tomorrow noon. The plan for tomorrow is to meet the pilot at the pilot station off of St. Davids Head at noon (1 o’clock in Bermuda, since Bermuda is an hour ahead of our time zoon, we will be changing Cramer time!). The pilot will be coming abroad and some point after that, so we need to keep our boat really tidy and clean. At 8 o’clock tomorrow morning, C watch will fly the flags of USA, Bermuda, SEA and Quebec, and we are ready for Bermuda!

Other than Bermuda, we also had a lot other excitements on Cramer today. We saw a pod of bottle noses dolphins this morning. It was the first time I saw so many dolphins up close, they were right underneath our boat, and we could even hear them. Also, I finally got my three morning sunlines and LAN today. We had a sextant party at noon, all sextants were out, and everyone tried to “shot” the highest sun (LAN) for today. We calculated when the sun will be the highest, and used the sextant to find the height of the sun and use that to find our position. Actually, we haven’t used GPS to find our position for almost a week. We used celestial navigation skills to find our position in the ocean. We are real mariners right now!!! I wish I could upload more than one picture so you can see 8 people using sextants to shoot the sun at the same time.

The past two weeks have been so long, we learnt so much and experienced a lot. The past two weeks also seems very short, the first day we board on Mama Cramer was like yesterday. It is time for cheering, Bermuda marks the midpoint of our journey. Besides excitement, I think it is also an important moment to reflect the past two weeks and plan the future journey.
Yip

May

27

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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26 May 2012
Ship position: 30o58’ N x 64o13’ W, about equivalent with the
Florida-Georgia state line
Weather: Overcast and a bit chilly (by my standards!)
Wind: Beaufort force of 2 from ExN
Seas: Calm
Ship Speed: 3 knots at 350o
Picture: A sample of Sargassum fluitans. Note the various species living on
and within. Can you spot the Sargassum fish?

“In the next few days, you will find yourself coming across a large, immovable obstacle in your path. Don’t try to avoid it! Instead, perhaps treat it as a resting place for a few days before continuing on your difficult journey.”

This was the Cramer horoscope for Aries, which just so happens to be my sign, as well as the sign of the Captain and several other members of the crew. It’s uncanny how applicable it is to the next few days! We will be coming across a large, immovable obstacle on Monday called Bermuda, where we can rest and relax for a few days before continuing the second leg of our journey. The stars seem to have gotten it right.

The topic of interest for most of this week has been stars: identifying navigation stars, learning celestial navigation, and many many hours of late-night and early-morning star gazing. The stars out here have greatly exceeded my expectations. They are awesome - awesome in the old sense of the word, not like “awesome dude!” - awesome, awe-inspiring, magnificent, spectacular, stellar, and indescribably wonderful. Living in New York City, I get excited when I can faintly see Orion’s belt. Out here, I can clearly see the Milky Way. The night sky forms an inky dome all around us, with sagans of pinpricks of light and swirls of cosmic clouds and a tremendous feeling of insignificance.

Most of the time, the ocean feels desolate, especially at night. One night recently, we were practicing some sail-handling and off in the distance we could see the faint light of another ship. As we worked with the sail (we had some technical difficulties!), the sun began to creep up in the sky and suddenly that faint light of another ship was a huge cargo ship, a few miles away. You get so used to an empty horizon that it is almost jarring to see these massive ships sailing past. You want to tell them “Hey! That’s my horizon! Go find your own!”

Today was an exciting day for a few reasons. My watch finally completed our safety checklist and got cleared to go aloft on the rigging. It was scary and exhilarating to sit on a small platform, 90 feet above the deck, surrounded by endless blue. From up there, I saw something that looked like a whale’s tail, but it turned out to just be some marine debris. Still, the view was phenomenal. Speaking of marine debris, today we were able to put our Man Overboard drill skills to the test, when we launched the rescue boat to pick up a floating glass bottle. It didn’t have anything in it, but we added our own letter and threw it back.

Today was also Field Day, which entails putting on silly costumes and cleaning the ship from top to bottom. Field Day is particularly fun because it is the only time we are allowed to listen to music. Because the ship is so large, many different people play their music, so as you walk through the ship you go from Ke$ha to Janis Joplin to Spanish guitars to “Call Me Maybe”. It can get a little confusing, but it helps motivate the cleaning. Though we follow a strict, repetitive routine out here, it never gets boring, because you never know what the new day will bring!

Much love to all at home (and I hope the MCATs went well!)
Emily Allen

May

26

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 25, 2012
Ship Position: S. Sargasso Sea
Weather:  Partly cloudy, wind: ENE, F1 (2-4 kts)
Ship Speed:  7 knots, heading 010o
Picture: I couldn’t resist sending my father’s blood pressure up a few more
notches. Here’s A Watch climbing the rigging of the Cramer!

Ello Land Lubbers!

Crazy to think those of you on land are preparing to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend! I’ve begun to conceptualize my time more by number of Watch rotations and showers, and less by actual days and nights. We’ve been under way less than two weeks, and life aboard the Cramer has fallen into a somewhat steady pattern.

While our watch schedules, meal times, and class hours rarely deviate, each day is a reminder that using the word “routine” is never an accurate way of describing life aboard a 135-foot, research-oriented sail boat. The time structures may be strict and repetitive, but every daily task from deploying the neuston tow to dish duty in the galley has something different to offer.

Yesterday was our first opportunity to go aloft! I’ve never had much of a fear of heights, but I have a new respect for them after free-climbing the rigging of a moving sailing vessel. Climbing the foremast of the ship gave me a new perspective on the Cramer and the ocean.

This entire experience has been one big shift of perspectives. Looking around in all directions and seeing nothing but blue ocean, staring up at the night sky to see countless stars, and scrutinizing the endless amount of life that can be found in a 1 mL scoop of biomass really makes me question where my role is in a world where so much is unknown.

I’m excited about all I’ve learned so far and what else I’ll be learning for the remainder of the trip. Being at sea has created an atmosphere for learning that is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life. I’m excited to use everything I’ve learned from celestial navigation to DNA extraction when I get back to land. At the very least, I’ll have some pretty impressive knot-tying skills. This is me throwing down the gauntlet to all my Boy Scout friends. You should be scared.

-Allison Adams

May

25

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 24, 2012
Ship position: 28o 03’ N x 63o 24’ W
Weather: Cloudy, warm: wind ESE, 5-10 knots.
Ship Speed: 3 knots, heading 020o
Picture: Alex extracting Sargassum DNA.
   
Today one of the many great questions of the universe was answered; you can extract DNA from Sargassum! After a week and a half out here on the open ocean, Alex and Janet were able to successfully extract DNA from the floating seaweed mats. If you are wondering, Sargassum is the genus of algae that floats on the ocean surface with the assistance of small air pods. Extracting the DNA from this organism has been difficult, but perseverance has paid off. It is a fantastic step towards research results.
   
In other news, class C241 had a very long lesson in celestial navigation and sun lines this afternoon. Sitting under the quarterdeck canopy, the class learned how to calculate our position on the globe using the sun and stars. Now, GPS is solely a back up to find Bermuda. Tonight will be our first attempt to shoot stars and continue plotting our course north. Let’s hope the lesson really sank in!
   
Ashley, our lovely steward, knew just how to soothe our aching minds right after class with homemade apple and cherry crisp. Sometimes I forget I am eating meals prepared on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
   
Last, but not least, after completing all their essential boat skills, A watch (Alex, Janet, Allison, Erika, Cheng, and Lindsay) climbed the rigging and got a bird’s eye view of the sea. Other watches will surely follow close behind.

As we enter the Bermuda High and the sea becomes flat, C241 will continue to collect samples for research and learn more about sailing then we ever thought possible.

Until tomorrow,

The Crew of Mama Cramer
-Taylor Sehein

May

24

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 23, 2012
Ship Position:  27 36’N 63 29’W   S. Sargasso Sea
Weather:  Partly cloudy, wind: ESE F2 (6 knots)
Ship Speed:  3 knots, heading 030
Picture:  C-watch furling the jib (a.k.a. making a sail burrito)

It is hard to believe that we are already about half way through the second week.  It is strange how time works on the Cramer.  Days are not like those on land.  Instead, it’s a constant cycle of being on and off watch, whether it is from 1300-1900 or 0300-0700.  Time that is spent not on watch is a balancing act between project work, eating, assignments, and most importantly, sleeping.  The first few days on the Cramer felt like entire weeks, but now the days are starting to fly by.  This time paradox reflects the changing dynamics of life on the Cramer.  Everyone has found their own groove.  The first week was spent learning the ropes of life on the Cramer (or should I say learning the lines), but now everyone is starting to become more independent.  The mates and scientists are giving us more responsibilities in lab and on deck.  We have shifted more to a learn by doing mentality.  For instance, today while on watch, (go C-watch!) we set and striked the course sail without any guidance from Theo, our mate.  While it wasn’t the prettiest of jobs, we did it together as a watch without any help.  It’s exciting seeing C-watch grow together over the past week and a half.  At first, we followed Theo and Maia around, but now we are taking initiative and working as a team both on deck sailing the ship and in the lab with deployments and processing.  I am excited to see over the next few days what more we can accomplish and begin to do as a team.  As Theo and Maia, like to say, the less they have to speak, the better.

Looking back since the first few days I cannot believe how much I have learned.  I now know all of the lines on the ship, compass points, bearing points, knots, how to steer, gybe, deploy neuston nets, hydrocasts, and CTDs.  I also know how to winkle, filter, extract DNA, and so much more. And that is only from the first week and a half on the Cramer.  Today during midwatch (2300-0300) and afternoon watch (1300-1900) I got to put everything I learned to use.  I took the helm and steered Cramer as we deployed the meter and neuston net and tucker trawl.  I helped set and strike sails, measured dissolved oxygen by winkling (with fun hats), and filtered for chlorophyll a.  During class we learned about celestial navigation and determining our position using sun lines, and later got some exercise chucking rotten melons into the ocean.  The lab has been filled 24/7 with groups working hard on their projects, classifying organisms, and extracting DNA.  We also caught our first Sargassum Nudibranch today!

Overall, it has so far been one crazy adventure.  It is surreal to think where we are.  One little dot in a big blue ocean.  Last night, I stood lookout on the bow, bobbing up and down over the waves.  The dark night sky was clear with more stars than you can imagine and shooting stars darting back and forth.  We are so fortunate to be having this experience; sailing a beautiful ship across a vast ocean.  It is amazing to think how much we have all learned and how much we have grown together as a community since the first day arriving in Woods Hole.  I cannot wait to see how the C-241 community continues to develop and what more adventures we come across as we travel across the Sargasso Sea.

-Jeremy Pivor

P.S.  Hi Mom, Dad, Jonathan, and Jenn!  Hope you are doing well.  Miss you guys!

P.P.S.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY JILL!!!

May

23

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 22, 2012
Ship position: South Sargasso Sea
Weather:  Partly Cloudy
Ship speed: 4 knots

The ninth day on Cramer-Things that I like I like being an assistant steward to help Ashley prepare food in the galley. Ashley, our steward, is an amazing person and an excellent cook. She can make delicious food just by creativity and imagination. She always has different ideas for food and tries to meet everybody’s taste. So far, we have had Thai chili chicken wings, lasagna, falafel, steaks, mac and cheese, and many many other things for lunch and dinner. We had delicious snacks as well three times a day: brownies, cookies and fruits. She makes this place feel like home!

I like sitting on the bow net, watching the blue ocean and feeling the movement of the boat. There is a bow net at the very forward end of the boat. We have been onto the net several times with watch officers to set up and strike jib sail. The first time on the bow net was a bit terrifying because I can feel the most fluctuation of the boat on the net, just like being in the six flag. However, standing on the net and seeing the big blue ocean and patches of Sargassum makes my worries go away immediately. Yesterday, we saw a Mahi and a flying fish. They are so elegant. I feel the mystery of the ocean.

I like handling the lines and the sails on the boat, even if it was hard at the beginning. First because I don’t have the muscle; second because I cannot remember the names of the lines. Yesterday, we had a line chase. It was both a test and a game, which really helped me memorize those lines. Striking and setting the sails needs team work. Everybody is interconnected in the striking/setting process. I feel a strong brotherhood and a bonding every time we strike or set a sail.

There are so many things that I cherish so far that it is hard to list each one of them. There are moments when I feel I am losing control of myself and I cannot keep up anymore because of the work load, the responsibility and seasickness I am having. However, I know why I choose this program at the first place and I have been seeing things that I have never seen before. I realize that many things are actually under control even though they do not seem so.

Cheng Cheng

May

22

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 22, 2012
Ship position: 25 N, 64 W - South Sargasso Sea
Weather:  Very cloudy, easterly winds around force 4
Ship speed: 4 knots
Picture Caption: 2, 6 Heave.Collective effort to raise the main sail

Wow, so our first week aboard Mama Cramer is officially over and what a week it has been.  On one hand it seems just yesterday we climbed aboard and had a harrowing experience being tested on whether or not we remembered our knots.  On the other hand, it feels as if we have been here forever.  We have all traveled such a long way from the first days where we could barely steer a ship to now when our watch officers are willing to let us steer without feeling the need to look over our shoulders constantly.  Although I swear the ship tried to prove that I had learned nothing in regards to steering today when Captain Jen and all the watch officers were on the quarter deck (the deck by the helm) and I was at the helm.  Isn’t that always how it works though?  They were all nice enough not to call me out on my inability to stay right on the course ordered though.  In the world of science we have all started to make progress on our projects though admittedly at different rates.  Personally I am just excited about the plethora of leptocephali (glass eels) we are catching as that is what my project is on.  I also apparently have a new nickname of Spiffy to differentiate me from the other Lindsay.

In another example of how we are learning in leaps and bounds, we had an interactive test/ relay race in teams by watch to test us on how well we know our lines.  The way it worked was each watch lined up on the quarter deck in front of one of the scientist who held a stack of cards with all the names of the lines on them.  When you reached the front of the line you were handed a card and you had to walk at a brisk pace without running to that line and then walk back to your team so that the next person could go. Luckily, your teammates could help you to some extent if you got stuck by yelling hot or cold to try and direct you to the proper line.  This proved to be somewhat of a challenge since no other descriptive words were allowed not even hotter or colder just hot or cold.  My watch’s solution to the problem was to yell hot or cold at different rates and pitched to try and direct people.  The penalty for breaking the rules by running, pointing or saying warmer was to have to crab walk back from your line.  Most teams followed the rules pretty well but one of my teammates ended up having to crab walk on three different occasions.  The entire test was ended with a pick up line from a member of the watch and a conga line around the ship. On an interesting note we apparently worried another ship today with our somewhat haphazard route because we have to do science every 12 hours. During my watch at about 1600, we got a call asking if we were ok because earlier the ship had seen us floating south and now we were traveling north. Everyone who heard this on the Cramer cracked up laughing but luckily we were able to control ourselves enough to answer that yes we were fine and the reason we were traveling south earlier is because we had to orient that way for “educational evolution” (exact words courtesy of Kirsten, one of the mates).  We also got to talk to a cargo ship traveling from Kingston, Jamaica to Spain whose cargo was apparently containers (no more information was given) with a crew of 21.  Its moments like these where we are talking to other ship or even when we just sight another ship on the horizon that I realize just how busy our oceans are.

One more week to Bermuda which fills me both with excitement and an ounce of sadness because Bermuda marks the halfway point in our voyage and it is also the place that we lose our current Chief Scientist.  At the same time Bermuda promises to be a really fun time filled with new adventures and some snorkeling on wrecks.  These next three weeks promise to be full of learning as well as new stories to tell.

Wishing all who read fair winds and a following sea
Lindsay Spiers

May

20

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 20, 2012
Ship position: 23 N, 64 W - South Sargasso Sea
Weather:  Cloudy, easterly winds about Force 4
Ship speed: 4.5 knots
Picture Caption: How many people does it take to roll a sail?

At about 2300 last night, while standing lookout on the bow of the boat, I listened to the melodic, recurring sound of the waves lapping up against the hull and thought about our experience of being at sea aboard the Corwith Cramer. While sailing, conducting scientific research, working closely with 28 other unique individuals, and living on the Atlantic Ocean are all pretty amazing by themselves, what makes our time at sea so worthwhile is the convergence and interaction of all these things. The convergence of all these things results in a somewhat paradoxical coupling of (1) physical and mental demands and (2) solitude and a close knit community. These paradoxes have kept us on our toes and have characterized our time at sea thus far.  In terms of physical and mental demands, we’ve absorbed so much new information in the mere 7 days we’ve been at sea that I’m surprised the knowledge isn’t seeping out of my ears. Information about knots, sails, navigation, species identification, boat protocols, research techniques, etc. is flying at us from all directions. This mental stimulation is complimented by the physical challenge of sailing this 135ft sailboat with nine sails. It’s not uncommon to be in the middle of plotting a GPS fix on a chart or identifying species under the microscope and to be called to help set a sail. This mix of physical and mental activities keeps us on our toes. The second paradox that has defined our time at sea is that between the solitude of being closer to the sea floor than to the nearest coastline and the feeling of living in close proximity with 28 other individuals. When I look at the ship’s radar and see no land masses or other ships for miles and miles I can’t help but to feel isolated. On the other hand, when I climb down the ladder and see 15 of my close friends smiling and playing cards I am overwhelmed with the feeling of the lovely, close knit community we are beginning to build aboard the Cramer. This contrast between isolation and being surrounded by many other distinct individuals, all working together to sail the ship, makes for a multidimensional experience during which we have the opportunity to both reflect internally and enjoy building a life-long SEA community.

We all seem to be settling into the rhythm of the both hectic and relaxing life at sea, full of paradoxes and all. We are all looking forward to learning as much information as possible during our four more weeks at sea (even though it is somewhat daunting to think of how much we have to tackle during this short time.). Aboard the Corwith Cramer we are looking forward to the mental, the physical, the time alone with our thoughts, and the time together with the fantastic company.

—Elissa Walter

May

19

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 19, 2012
Ship position: 22 N, 65 W - South Sargasso Sea baby
Weather:  Cloudy, easterly winds about 15 knots
Ship speed: 4 knots
Picture Caption: Really excited about Sargassum dip netting on the science deck(Janet) Elissa in the background.

No matter how much I read about life at sea, no matter how many anecdotes were told, no matter how hard I tried to imagine what life at sea would be like, nothing could have prepared me for this experience. So trying to write about this experience and explain it to someone who is not here is really hard.

I think “baptism by fire” is the best way to describe the first few days on the Cramer. We started everything at 100% and we were expected to sort of pick it up as we went along, in between dawn watches and class, shifts as assistant steward and boat checks down to the engine room. Sampling for projects has started - let me just say, DNA extraction on a moving ship is up there with hardest things I’ve ever done. Today was the first day I stepped back and realized how much I had learned, and how much I am going to learn. In the next few days we are going to be tested on lines, lab procedures and deck skills. Lab procedures include things like the proper way to set the Neuston tow net, proper data entry, using the CTD profiler, among other things. Deck skills include, oh yeah, steering the boat (which I literally can’t do), setting and striking the sails, knowing navigational stars, checking the weather, tying knots blindfolded, and so on. If all of those things are meaningless to you, don’t worry, they were pretty meaningless to me a few days ago.

But everyone is definitely getting the hang of things. Everyone has their sea legs and we collectively know all the lines and sails on the Cramer. And even though we all have to learn the skills individually, those skills would be pretty useless without the rest of the crew. It takes a team to sail the Cramer and I think that’s just what we’ve got. We are all supporting one another in learning how to live aboard a brigantine. Steering a tall ship by the stars is pretty cool, and so is furling the jib out on the bowsprit as the Atlantic Ocean crashes beneath you, but honestly, the best part of this whole experience is working with a team of really neat folks who I would never have met otherwise.
- Janet Bering

PS. HAPPY 21ST CARINA AND NELLIE!!! I miss and love you two so much and I can’t wait to live with you next year! And Dan, I had a Lady Gaga/Beyonce jam sesh alone on watch last night that made me miss you like crazy. PPS. Hey Dad, I finally learned what a topping lift is. And Mom, I’m smiling in all the pictures just for you.

May

18

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 18, 2012
Ship position:  21 52.3 N x 64 55.5 W
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, BF 4
Speed:  knots
Image Caption: Ben and I sporting some survival suits (don’t worry; it was only a drill mom!)

Ahoy everybody!

First of all, I’m extremely glad to report that despite some fairly bumpy seas for the past few days and nights, most of the new crew aboard the Cramer have really been gaining their sea-legs. After five days aboard (today marks our fourth at sea) we seem to have returned to the positive attitude class C-241 had on shore. Many more smiles can be seen across everybody’s faces replacing the green look many of us had for the first couple days.

Of course, with the return of our temperament came the return of our work-load! People have started work on their research projects: identifying critters, extracting DNA and working with all the samples we’ve been collecting. On top of our work on our independent research, we also have our responsibilities as a watch and students. Daily, my class-members and I take samples; gather data; prepare food and do the dishes; clean the decks, soles (floors) and heads (bathrooms); take weather measurements; do checks on the machinery; and actually sail the ship.

Despite the mountain of work to be done, we are all ecstatic about our situations. Every few hours someone different looks up from their work with a great big goofy smile on their face and says “hey guys, we’re on a boat.” I think these moments are brought about by all the special opportunities to see and do things we never thought of on shore. Sure, people told of what we could expect to see and do, but simply hearing it doesn’t give it justice. Watching the sun rise over the Atlantic with not a single piece of land in sight, climbing out on the netting on the bowsprit to work on the sails with the sea directly below me, and being on the bow on lookout with only the stars for company are all experiences I doubt I will ever forget and are definitely worth the sweat and blisters that seem to be my constant companions. And it’s not even the end of the first week! I cannot wait to see what the next four have in store for the crew, my classmates and I.

Guys, I’m on a boat.
-Eliot Mooiweer

May

17

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 17, 2012
Ship position: 20° 22’N by 64° 57’
Weather: Partly Cloudy Easterly winds BF 4
Speed: 6 knots

As the first student writer of the C241 blog, I will give you a glimpse of the going ons here through our eyes….

Some new experiences: waking up for 3am watch, trying to eat on a gimbaled table, raising a one ton main sail all by our own man power,  gazing out at the mats of Sargassum seaweed we talked about so much on shore.

Some improvements: Less lunch is being revisited at the rail, more lines names have been memorized, new fantastic critters caught in our net tows, the ability to sleep through all of the Cramer’s strange noises.

Some things that will never change: running into walls with each big roll we take, the smiles of excitement on our faces, the openness that is the Sargasso Sea stretching out all around the Cramer just waiting to be explored

Grace Hutton (Pic: they let me take the helm!)

May

16

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 16, 2012
Ship Position: 19 00N x 64 47W
Weather:  Cloudy and scattered squalls, Winds E, F5
Speed:  5 kts
Image caption: Jeremy and Jody extracting DNA from spiny lobster larvae.

We’ve only been underway for 28 hours.  At the same time, it feels like we’ve already been out here for a week.  This morning we sailed through Sir Francis Drake’s Passage between Virgin Gorda and Tortola.  By late afternoon, we drifted off the shallow platform that surrounds the Virgin Islands and entered the North Atlantic.  No land in sight.

Students are quickly adjusting to the routine and finding time to begin their biodiversity studies.  Jeremy and Jody were the first to extract DNA while at sea!  This is no easy feat; maintaining clean techniques while working with extremely small samples on a rolling ship. 

We’ll tow a neuston (surface) net coupled with a meter net (subsurface) tonight at midnight in hope of catching our first eel larvae of the cruise. Wish us luck!

Amy Siuda, Chief Scientist

May

15

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

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May 15, 2012
Ship Position: 18 00N x 64 40W
Weather:  Partly Cloudy Winds ExN F2
Speed 2 kts
Image caption:  C Watch with Emily, Jody, Laura, Theo, Jeremy, Elissa, Grace

On a gorgeous St Croix evening we are sailing with the four lowers (staysails, jib and single reefed main).  All of the students of class C-241 safely arrived in good health aboard the Corwith Cramer on Monday.  They continue to learn about the brigantine they will be calling home for the next few weeks.  The ship is buzzing with the laughter and questions flowing from her new crew. Last night and this morning were spent rotating the students through different parts of the vessel to learn about such things how to work in the galley, how to read the gauges in the engine room but most importantly how to handle emergency situations such as Man Overboard, Fire and Abandon ship.

In the early afternoon, all the crew went to their muster stations. You could tell that the Corwith Cramer was ready to go. She knew that we had our crew and it was time to take them to sea. For Grace it was back at the helm steering the vessel off the dock, through the reef and out to sea under my command.  Sails were set. The watch rotation has begun, sea legs are to be had and we begin to settle in to life at sea

As I sit here writing this I can hear the second sitting of dinner finishing up. Theo, the third mate, is on deck with C Watch reviewing how to strike the main. The voyage has truly begun!!

A big hello to all those at home following our voyage, On behalf of the crew of C-241,  Capt Jen Haddock

May

14

C241 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

The Corwith Cramer boards students of class C-241 (Marine Biodiversity & Conservation) in St. Croix, USVI on Monday May 14, 2012. They plan to sail north, making a port stop in St. George’s, Bermuda. The ship will conclude the sea component of this program in its home port of Woods Hole, Massachusetts on Sunday June 17, 2012. Blog entries coming soon.

*Update - at 1600 EST Ship’s Captain Jennifer Haddock reports that all students are accounted for and Marine Biodiversity & Conservation has begun. Expect the first blog entry tomorrow.*