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Voyages

SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

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Nov

19

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 18, 2012
Anchored in Francis bay, St. John, USVI

Wow, what a long day it’s been! Our last full day aboard the Corwith Cramer was full of excitement, competition, singing and of course cleaning. After some of us took our final opportunity to sleep on deck under the stars with a comforting breeze, we started our day with a special pre-field day cleaning. We were all given 30 minutes to pack up all our stuff and wipe down our bunks and shelves, the cleaning then continued with a full deck wash. This ended up being a cross between a water fight with fire hoses and intense scrubbing of all the exterior surfaces of the Cramer. After our normal field day we were able to switch up our usual post field day deck shower routine for a more refreshing a swim call.

After lunch we proceeded to the main event of the day, organized once again by the incredible Maia and Colleen, the 2012 Schooner Olympics aboard the Corwith Cramer. The event names (Archery, 100m relay, shot put and golfing among others) were strangely deceiving since most of these events included getting wet either by being sprayed with a fire hose, swimming in emersion suits or by getting water dumped on our heads. The three teams put all of their energy and creativity into the games by making team flags, wearing uniforms/ costumes and by competing heavily in the final event, a team eating contest.

To commemorate our last night with the crew aboard the Cramer we had a final swizzle and talent show. Many of us shared our singing talents while others told jokes and Allison read the letter she had written to her parents. This letter was meant to be put in the mail buoy, which we sadly missed due to rough seas and poor visibility. A few of us had gotten together throughout the day to make awards on behalf of the Student Sailor Society for Seamanship and Sarcasm for the crew. The various, personalized awards were given to each crew member towards the end of the evening as a way to thank them for all they have done to make this voyage a truly unique and unforgettable one. On behalf of the entire C-243 class, thanks to all the 13 crew members for getting us to our destination safe and sound, and teaching us everything from sailhandling to cleaning and crafting to hard work.

As the evening wound down/ is winding down, the entire Cramer crew is becoming eerily quiet, or so it seems. I think we are all reminiscing on the past six weeks, how they have changed us. During our time at sea, we sailed 3166.5 Nautical miles, completed 77 gybes and performed 149 sail changes. I personally am battling with the idea of whether or not I am happy to be going home and leaving the Cramer tomorrow. On the one hand, I feel like we have all worked harder and more diligently than most of us would during any other college semester and are ready to go home, be lazy and listen to music or watch lots of movies. On the other hand, being isolated from the “real world” for 6 weeks (aside from our few days off in Bequia) and having created our own little comfortable bubble on the Cramer with our crew and classmates, which we have gotten to know so well, makes me want to stay on board. Regardless of what we want, however, class C-243 will be disembarking tomorrow morning, full of memories of a truly unforgettable voyage, which even with 1,000 pictures we still won’t be able to really explain to our family and friends back home.

Note: please do not take this last part personally; our journey was simply as indescribable as it was unique.

Love,
Ali Uribe

Photo caption: non-competing athletes cheering on the duathlon competitors as they swim around the boat in immersion suits.

Nov

17

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 17, 2012
Anchored in Francis bay, St. John
Pic: Some students and deck hands giving the Course a good harbor furl.

Today was almost a day like any other aboard the Cramer, which means it was amazing in its own spectacular way.

I had dawn watch this morning, my last one of the trip. Dawn watch is my favorite watch because of the sun. I love to watch the sunrise. Sunrise isn’t something I gave much thought to on land, it was just something that happened. Here it is a wonderful, slow, beautiful and filling event. We were hove to before heading into St. John and there were a few scattered squall clouds on the horizon, heading our way. I watched as the crepuscular rays carved their way over the clouds trying to peer out.

And then the squall hit us. Icy cold rain and wind brought us shivering under coats for a few moments. It seemed enough to drench through my jacket and dampen my soul. But then the sun came back sharp as ever, and as the squall died away we were treated to a massive rainbow as we stood out to dry. No matter how cold, or angry or tired I am during dawn watch, the moment the sun comes out makes everything better. There is nothing in the world, quite like the dawn at sea.

Today we reentered the United States in St. John, U.S.V.I.. A short and awkward process that involved a visit to the air conditioned customs office. Ah, Air conditioning. It was also here that we said goodbye to a recent guest aboard our ship, Alana. She travels back home today after witnessing and learning about the collection of plastics through SEA.  We wish her fair winds on her journey home.

Our afternoon was quiet, which was unusual and nice. We had a swim call and everyone leapt into the sea to scrub themselves off and swim around for a bit. On deck we listened to Molly read aloud a story book about a seafaring man and his adventures with a whale. Afterwards some of us wrote letters to ourselves to remember the trip and the things we discovered along the way.

Tomorrow is the final day for us as Crew. It’ll be both bitter and sweet. For now though, we are enjoying our stay at anchor*, and the good company of friends.

I’ll be home soon,
Steph

Hey Mom, Thanks for all the sunscreen, it was truly a blessing. Can’t wait to see you in a few days. Say hi to dad, Mia and marshy for me. Mel, Thank you for your help with class scheduling. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Shorty, “What care we for the wind or weather; when we know that every inch is; bringing us homeward, to Mingolay.” I’ll see you soon. All other friends and family: I love you, thank you for all the encouragement you game me before this journey, and thanks as well for following our adventures.

*Kevin Smalls would like it noted that she made 27 loaves of bread today. Impressive.

Nov

16

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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16 November 2012
2015 Hours
Underway towards St. Johns (where we’ll clear customs)
18° 39.2’N x 64° 01.8’W
Sailing under the main stays’l, course, tops’l, and raffee.
28.0oC - Starry Skies

Well, it was five weeks ago today that students showed up to the ship in Rockland, ME.  It’s hard to imagine those cold seasick nights now that we’re in the Caribbean, well accustomed to the motion of the ship and to its routines.  Five weeks ago students were barely beginning to collect data for all of the research projects, desperately trying to figure out how to walk in a straight line, and trying to retain any information that was being thrown at them from all of the crew.  Today was different.  Today marked the final science deployment of the trip, which students executed without the help of the professional crew (walking confidently around the deck to do so), followed by the final presentations of research projects.  All of the final papers were turned in on time last night, and if the presentations were any indication, the papers should be a fascinating read.

As a result of the completion to all the hard work, the mood today was much more stress free, and sights have been set on making the end of trip as great as possible.  Students can be found working on all sorts of sailorly crafts, beginning to plan out our last night’s swizzle (which will be wicked fun), doing all of the things they haven’t done but have wanted to (like touching the top of the foremast), and trying to figure out if they are excited to head home to see family and friends, or sad to be leaving this place they’ve called home for 5 weeks and these shipmates, which is an all-together different relationship than most have ever experienced (they’ll have to try to explain that to you if you don’t understand what I’m talking about).

In an effort to maintain these relationships some (Elizabeth Ruiz) have taken steps to collect everyone’s contact information, and some were elected to this task in a slightly more official capacity.  Allie Uribe was elected by her classmates to be C-243’s class representative.  I know everyone thought this was an awesome choice and all aboard look forward to staying in touch, but not before having the most fun last few days all together.

Dan Stone

PS Family, friends, loved ones, from CA to MA, can’t wait to talk to/see you all very soon!

PHOTO:  Allison and Georgina presenting on Leptocephali Larvae Distribution

Nov

15

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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Thursday, November 15, 2012
1645 hours
At anchor in Baie Colombie, St. Bart’s, France
17° 55.4’N x 062° 52.3’W
33.4oC, sunny skies
Sail plan: under squares around west end of St. Martin towards dusk

Well, today was the big day. After nearly six weeks of painstaking collection of data, analysis and writing up initial findings in carefully annotated research papers, some of the students presented their work to the group.  The setting was hard to match: on the aft deck (by the helm and the dog house aka the steering brain of the ship) in a sand-rimmed Caribbean bay under brilliant blue skies. And at anchor, no less, so no high winds tearing the words out of people’s mouths as they explained their work.

In fact, the biggest distraction was catamarans full of holidaying partiers who beeped at us as they cruised past, wondering what the heck we were doing listening to scientific presentations when we could be swimming.

But the presentations were fascinating.  Duncan explained about eddies and how the cold ones bring up nutrients from lower water. Caity and Eli told us about the structure of the water column – essentially where the water came from and where it showed up along the Corwith Cramer’s route south. Michelle and Stephanie rocked the ship with a fabulous presentation that posed some theories about how Sargassum gets into the Sargasso Sea. Elizabeth U. showed us the results of her research into which critters live on Sargassum and explored a few theories about how to tell how old Sargassum is by what lives in symbiosis with it.

And then Ali and Chrissy explained their comprehensive counts of the plastics – including the stuff so small you can’t see it without a microscope – they had found in tows from Maine to here.  Their research adds to the longest set of data recorded on ocean plastic concentrations ever collected in the world. Like researchers before them, they found that the visible plastic particles collect in the gyre of the south Sargasso Sea and are sparse elsewhere. In a single tow, they collected 3,280 pieces, needing hours of counting by several teams of student scientists. And that’s not to mention all the microscopic stuff that one study shows may come from dryer lint and washing machine traps as we wash polyester clothing. Very heady stuff. And the relief of tension was palpable after these first five presentations. The other four will come tomorrow, with luck in another beautiful spot as we make our way toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and, eventually, home. All the research papers are due a minute before midnight tonight.  For me, it’s tremendously exciting to see these budding scientists present findings on what are, as chief scientist Chuck Lea told me, likely the first data sets they’ve collected independently. This is science in action, and at sea.

And yes, after the rigors of science came the swimming. We stripped to our bathing suits and leapt into the bay named after Columbus. It’s the coolest I’ve been since I came south.

Alanna Mitchell

Quick shout out from Michelle – Happy birthday sheesta! I hope that you had a fantastic day! I am excited to see you soon – major sister bonding time is in the works 

Nov

14

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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14 November 2012
Location: equi-distant between St Kitts, St Barts, and Barbuda
Sail Plan: Main and staysl’s
Photos: Peaches and Alice face off in deck-twister

Well Hello,

Another eventful day here aboard Corwith Cramer; we didn’t find the plug at the bottom of the ocean or have to install monster truck tires on the ship, but we did catch our first fish today (I know- 34 days!?)!! We technically caught two Mahi-mahi, but the first one was too small. Nansha, our St. Lucian observer, thinks that the one we kept was about 8 lbs. I am looking forward to having it tonight as part of supper. Now, we have to give credit where it’s due: we switched lures yesterday and went to the “Terry Cloth” lure; Captain Terry Hayward’s guaranteed-never-fail strip of white T-shirt on a large hook. I didn’t doubt him before, but I certainly won’t from now on.

Other events of the day included; a talk from Alana, our resident journalist, about being a science writer, ocean acidification and its ramifications, a very smooth M.O.B. Drill, as well as Peaches’ Local Apparent Birthday party. Some of the crew set up some best-loved small child birthday games for all to enjoy. I think the biggest hit was deck-Twister, chalk circles drawn on the deck led to the most intense game I’ve seen to date.

The trip is quickly drawing to a close; science presentations start tomorrow, and we disembark in St Croix on Monday. I think we are all getting tired and ready for a change, but are also not ready for the influx of stimuli from the rest of the world.

Re-entry is always a serious adjustment, even for those of us who have been doing this for years. I would like to warn all at home, that as your loved ones return, you might not get much more about the trip than “it was great.” Eventually stories and photos will come out, but it takes a while to process this kind of experience, and for the sake of my shipmates I am asking for your patience. Please don’t badger or cajole them, or arrange too many extra full-family events right when they get home (I know its thanksgiving.). Know that they do still love you, they did miss you and they will become normally functioning humans again shortly.

Tonight we plan on sailing “in the box” off St Barts (an arbitrary set of parameters set by the captain) where we will anchor for presentations tomorrow. It should be a good challenge for tonight and I look forward to tomorrow’s presentations. Well, it’s awfully hot here in the library, and I think the computer might be better used for one of those papers, so I think I’d better get out of here.

Best Regards,
Molly Eddy, Chief Mate.

Nov

13

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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Tuesday November 13, 2012 1929

Location: 15° 55.7’N x 061° 50.8’W
Sailing under the Four Lowers and the Jib Tops’l

Hello everybody and I hope all is well on shore.  We had a great day on board Cramer today, which was especially exciting after a very, very quiet night.  After spending the night hove-to near Dominica, we used the deep patch of water we were in to perform our most important scientific deployment to date; the styrocast. We send Styrofoam cups decorated by the ship’s company down deep.  All of our careful artwork came back super tiny after being sent down to 1800m.  On the way back up, our wire hooked onto a piece of yellow line.  Naturally, we were really curious as to what it could be, so of course we started to haul it up.  We used, as Chuck would say, some fancy sailorly stuff and ran the line to the Gypsy head on the windlass and hauled up several hundred feet of line before we were forced to cut it so that we could get under way again. 

As we sail past the coast of France (the island of Guadeloupe, that is), theories abound as to what was at the bottom of the mystery line, some believe that it was the plug that holds the water for the ocean while others believed there to be some treasure at the end.  Either way, it sure would have been exciting.  Our Chief Mate, Molly, was pretty excited to put monster truck wheels onto Cramer if we accidentally drained the ocean.

As we get closer and closer to the end of the trip (only 6 days until we dock in St. Croix), project work approaches a feverish pace.  It seems nearly every spare moment is spent interpreting data and fine tuning results.  Even though we are working hard we are still remembering to have fun; from telling bad jokes before class, to rigging up a tin can telephone system between the quarter deck and lab, the good times are still rolling here on Cramer.

Hello to all my family and friends see you all soon and I hope it’s not too cold up in New England.  Happy Birthday Dad, sorry it’s a couple days late. 

-Ryan “Peaches” Loftus
Deckhand

Nov

12

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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12 November 2012
15° 15.1’ N x 061° 25.7’ W
Hove to under the mains’l and stays’ls, just west of the island of Dominica

Four and a half weeks down, and only one to go! It’s hard to believe.  Time doesn’’t seem to work in the usual way on Cramer – it feels like we sailed away from Rockland very recently, but it also seems as if we’’ve been on board for months.  My theory is that constantly having new things to learn makes time pass quickly, and waking up so many times each day (for watches, meals, and class) has the opposite effect.

At any rate, after an ambiguous amount of time spent surrounded by water and sky and little else, being near land again is surprisingly strange. Especially because the land we’re near is very different from the land we came from! The islands seem to rise straight up from the water in green, green ridges that reach the clouds. Approaching Bequia felt like a scene from a book; perched aloft on the second spreader, several of my watchmates and I had an excellent view as we rounded the island to reach Admiralty Bay. It was absurdly beautiful, and it also suddenly smelled like land, which was a pretty weird sensation.

Our port stop was a lot of fun – the highlights for me were being able to swim (after more than a month of being very close to a very large amount of very inviting water, but unable to jump into it!), and a morning spent sailing the dory and going snorkeling (we saw an octopus!).  But the single thing I enjoyed most (well, except for the swimming) happened the day my watch was on the boat doing boat-y chores that can’t get taken care of at sea.  Considering the tropical surroundings, this sounds unlikely, but it’‘s true …though I realize that some people might not find the prospect of tarring the backstay as appealing as I did! I climbed to the top of the mainmast, wriggled my way into a bosun’s chair that had been hauled up, and proceeded downwards, slathering tar onto the stay (and myself) as I went. (Mom, I promise I’m perfectly fine. And it was great. Really!)

Enjoyable as Bequia was, it feels good to be underway again.  We’re settling back into the daily routine of wake-ups, sail-handling, galley clean-up, boat checks, project work, and the many other aspects of shipboard life.  The gentle rocking of my bunk – something I missed while at anchor –has been restored, as have the occasional crashing of pots and pans in the galley.  Every so often a person or two goes rocketing inadvertently across the main salon or the quarterdeck, and tries to pass it off as a deliberate movement …in other words, life is back to normal.  Only a little while now until we reach St. Croix – which is something a lot of us have mixed feelings about.  I’m certainly looking forward to getting home, but…sailing on this ship is amazing, and leaving it is going to be difficult for us!

Hope all is well in the lives of friends and family in their various parts of the world.  I think of all of you often (particularly while standing bow watch during nighttime watches), and can’t wait to see many of you at Thanksgiving!

Love,
Alice

Nov

11

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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Sunday, November 11, 2012
1400 hrs: 13°38’ N x 6°12’ W
Sailing under:  main, main stays’l, fore stays’l, jib

Mainly sunny and very hot

I realized things were changing this morning when the tables in the galley (aka dining room) began to move. I joined the Corwith Cramer yesterday, flying from chilly Toronto to meet the ship in Bequia where it was anchored for three days. I’m a journalist and have joined the expedition because I’’m writing an article on marine plastics and the SEA organization is one of the few in the world to collect data on how much is where.

But at anchor, the ship’s galley tables are anchored too. Once we set sail this morning at first light, the table tops had to be loosed from their moorings. Baffling and unexpected, especially with hot coffee clasped in both hands.  But it turns out that when the tables move with the ocean, which they do, wildly, things on the tables stay put instead of sliding off.

It’s just one of the many ways the rhythm of ship life at sea is returning for the 29 people on board, most of whom had been at sea together for more than five weeks solid until the shore leave at Bequia. Now we’re finishing the last week of the trip, all of it to be spent at sea. For a newbie, it’s startling. I’‘ve never been on a tall ship before. I’‘ve only seen them in pirate movies. So to see some of the sails unfurl this morning, to feel the ship move solely under the power of the winds, was the thrill of a lifetime.

It’s not just the sails that fascinate, or the weekly process of scouring every inch of the ship, which we’re doing today.  The ancient arts of the mariner are in full evidence here. Thick ropes are everywhere, impeccably coiled, handled with fluid, precise movements, and boasting names I’‘ve never heard before. Each of the sails has its own name, too, and a tidy collection of ropes and pulleys that make it come to life.

You can imagine the past on a ship like this. You can hear commands that have been used for centuries and picture the men who barked them, men who relied on these rhythms and rules, on the stars and the winds and the steady oceans to keep them alive out here. You can see why they would do it – this was the only way to see the world in the days when tall ships were king. It was the way to find things out.

It’s not that the future doesn’t come into the picture. Today, we steer by GPS in addition to the stars and look for plastics, which were unknown before the Second World War. And today, many of the people running this ship are women, not to mention a majority of the students doing sailing and science on it.  But many of the old rules hold. Yesterday the captain, Terry Hayward, was motoring several of us into Bequia in an inflatable craft when he caught sight of a rope hanging off the side of the Cramer. That’s a grave offence, I learned. Poor form, and not to be tolerated on the Corwith Cramer.  Immediately, he radioed the crew. Within seconds, the rope was smartly pulled up and put in its proper place.

I guess I’m learning what it means to run a tight ship, what it really means to learn the ropes. And, of course, what to do with my elbows at the galley tables at sea. I suspect there will be more to come.

Alanna Mitchell

Photo caption: Stephanie, Captain Terry Hayward and Dan Stone on the quarterdeck with Bequia in the background

Nov

09

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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Friday November 9, 2012
c/o, c/s: At anchor with three shots out on starboard side. Admiralty Bay, Bequia.
Wind: NExN F1
Seas: NE 1ft

My first steps on land were much less of an “experience” than I had anticipated.  The ground didn’t seem to rock back and forth and I didn’t get queezy with a case of the “land-sickness.” In fact, being back on land for the first time in almost a month seemed shockingly normal overall - until a car zoomed by on the “wrong side” of the road with the steering wheel on what I know to be “the wrong side.” Our group lunged out of the way, realizing we weren’t standing in the middle of a sidewalk, but in fact, a small street in the center of a place far far different from the last land we inhabited. 

Almost everyone had some type of list in terms of things they wanted to do, eat, or buy. Some felt immediately compelled to explore further into the island, while others frolicked in the ocean and relaxed on the sand.  It was nearly overwhelming how many ways there were to relax - something I certainly cannot complain about, given the last few weeks of hard work. Bequia also has beautiful dive sites to offer, which Ali, Georgina, Michelle, and I took advantage of today.  Having not dived since the fall of 2008, I was feeling pretty nervous, but I was in the great company of friends who settled my nerves and helped refresh me on the “scuba hand language” and protocol.

Bequia has been incredible so far, and we still have one more full day! After this, we’ll have to make the transition back to hard work and normal watch schedules as we head for St. Croix.  I’m finding it hard to believe I’ll be departing this beautiful ship in 10 days and returning to winter life on land.

As always, Mom, Dad, Jed, and lady frands are on my mind.  I miss and love you all so so much, and I can’t wait to share some exhilarating stories with you shortly.  Anticipate an even stranger sleeping habit from me upon arrival. I may feel obliged to wake up at 0300, scuttle to the forwardmost point of our house and assure you that our visual bearings have remained unchanged, there are few large rocks that we seem to be at risk of hitting, and that given the squally appearance of far-off clouds, we may want to consider striking the deck umbrellas. 

Love,
Chrissy/Crisp

Nov

08

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 7, 2012
Lat, Long
c/o, c/s: At anchor with three shots out on starboard side. Admiralty Bay,
Bequia.
Wind: NExN F1
Seas: NE 1ft

Land ho! After 27 days at sea, sunrise this morning was marked by land on the horizon. A faint area of darkness through a squall slowly grew, and by the early afternoon it was clear that we were in the islands. We are now sitting at anchor in Admiralty Bay on the island of Bequia. What a ride it has been.

Thoughts of land overwhelm all of us on board, with plans being made for what each of us wants most after so long at sea. Ice cream and beer seem to be the most popular conversation topics, along with exercise and island exploration.  We will spend the night on board the ship continuing our regular watches through the morning, making sure we do not become underway sooner than we planned for, and we will begin to go ashore in watch shifts in the morning.

I find myself at a fascinating time to be writing a blog post, with so much excitement and news aboard the ship. The results of the presidential election made their way to our ears this morning, causing quite a stir of joy in some, and frustration in others. As with the rest of the country, this has been a polarizing election season on board Cramer, and we must all step delicately as to not sow unrest on board the ship. Some say to never discuss politics in a bar, I say never discuss politics at sea.

Even more interesting is the subtle mental shift that has taken place over the past few days. Throughout the past few nights we have seen the faint glow of the lights in Barbados, and we now find ourselves in port. It is odd how much your thought process changes, knowing that you are so close to civilization, or how foreign it felt to wave at the first new person I’d seen in quite some time. While we will continue our adventure at sea in a few days, for me the trip will take a distinct turn. No longer will I lay awake in my bunk wondering the absurd distance to the nearest land, or if the closest people to the ship are on earth, or in the International Space Station. We will see land and other boats regularly, and while this may provide a sense of ease for some, I will remain wary. As the Captain reminded us this evening: “Being in port, we are closer to the rough edges”.

As for tonight, we swap Carhartts for slacks, and boat knives for skirts, as we toast to the Lord Neptune on the quarter deck. Three cheers for a safe voyage thus far! Hip hip HUZZAH! Hip hip HUZZAH! Hip hip HUZZAH!


Love to my Momma, Sister and Dad, And to my wonderful Rachel who all put up with my wanderlust. Phone calls will come as soon as I make it ashore on Friday.

Jack Bethel

Nov

07

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 7, 2012
Lat, Long
c/o, c/s: At anchor with three shots out on starboard side. Admiralty Bay, Bequia.
Wind: NExN F1
Seas: NE 1ft

Land ho! After 27 days at sea, sunrise this morning was marked by land on the horizon. A faint area of darkness through a squall slowly grew, and by the early afternoon it was clear that we were in the islands. We are now sitting at anchor in Admiralty Bay on the island of Bequia. What a ride it has been.

Thoughts of land overwhelm all of us on board, with plans being made for what each of us wants most after so long at sea. Ice cream and beer seem to be the most popular conversation topics, along with exercise and island exploration.  We will spend the night on board the ship continuing our regular watches through the morning, making sure we do not become underway sooner than we planned for, and we will begin to go ashore in watch shifts in the morning.

I find myself at a fascinating time to be writing a blog post, with so much excitement and news aboard the ship. The results of the presidential election made their way to our ears this morning, causing quite a stir of joy in some, and frustration in others. As with the rest of the country, this has been a polarizing election season on board Cramer, and we must all step delicately as to not sow unrest on board the ship. Some say to never discuss politics in a bar, I say never discuss politics at sea.

Even more interesting is the subtle mental shift that has taken place over the past few days. Throughout the past few nights we have seen the faint glow of the lights in Barbados, and we now find ourselves in port. It is odd how much your thought process changes, knowing that you are so close to civilization, or how foreign it felt to wave at the first new person I’d seen in quite some time. While we will continue our adventure at sea in a few days, for me the trip will take a distinct turn. No longer will I lay awake in my bunk wondering the absurd distance to the nearest land, or if the closest people to the ship are on earth, or in the International Space Station. We will see land and other boats regularly, and while this may provide a sense of ease for some, I will remain wary. As the Captian reminded us this evening: “Being in port, we are closer to the rough edges”.

As for tonight, we swap Carhartts for slacks, and boat knives for skirts, as we toast to the Lord Neptune on the quarter deck. Three cheers for a safe voyage thus far! Hip hip HUZZAH! Hip hip HUZZAH! Hip hip HUZZAH!

Love to my Momma, Sister and Dad, And to my wonderful Rachel who all put up with my wanderlust. Phone calls will come as soon as I make it ashore on Friday.

Jack Bethel

Nov

06

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 6, 2012 (We are all excited to find out our new President soon!)
12°13.3’ N x 59°45.5’ W
c/o, c/s: 315°
Sailing Under the Mains’l, Stays’ls, Course, and Tops’l

We’re almost to Bequia, we’re almost to Bequia! After setting the record for being the class to go the farthest south (from leaving Rockland, ME), we have now changed course and are heading North. Everyone aboard is super excited about seeing/going onto land, though it is going to be really weird to leave this bubble that we have formed here aboard the Cramer. We will be having a mocktail party on the Cramer tomorrow evening (conveniently located at the CC Quarterdeck Club) to celebrate our arrival to port, with music and all! We were told to dress in our finest, so it should definitely be interesting to see what everyone comes up with (especially with the clothes we have been wearing this whole trip).

Although we are all very excited about Bequia, our minds are still focused on Phase III. I myself am Junior Watch Officer tonight for Midwatch and I am so excited but so nervous. The crew has done a wonderful job preparing us for this phase and I’m sure it will be a great learning experience for us all. We can now steer the Cramer, identify sail plans for certain situations, can read radar for squalls/traffic, and even find our location without the use of GPS. The fact that we have learned how to do all of this, in less than four weeks, is still so awesome.

As the weather is getting nicer, evening twilight is definitely becoming the favorite time of day here aboard the Cramer. It is so relaxing to go out on deck during the sunset. There you will find people doing just about everything: shooting stars, going aloft, playing games, reading, playing the ukulele, laughing, and singing. The work is definitely adding up at this point, but it is still nice to take a break and have fun with everyone. The days are really starting to all combine into one. We have each been trying to keep journals of our time spent aboard the Cramer, though I particularly am having a hard time because each journal entry so far just has “I am having so much fun!!” It is so sad to think that our time aboard the Cramer is almost up, it is something that we all completely, 100%, refuse to even acknowledge.

Mom & Dad: I got your message…and you were worried about me being in the middle of the Atlantic during hurricane season! Glad you guys are okay, though, & I’ll definitely try to call you while in Bequia (Dad make sure you have Giants updates ready for me)! To all my friends at URI & back home: I hope you guys are all having an amazing semester, can’t wait to hear stories because I have so so so many to tell you!

Love You All!
-Caity

Nov

05

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 5, 2012
11°43´Nx057°40´W
c/o c/s 200
Sailing under the four lowers.

Remember Remember the Fifth of November

Today started out squally near dawn but turned into a beautiful day. I am blogging just before I go on watch this evening (1900-2300). Our watch (B watch) will be the first to kick off the Third Phase aboard SSV Corwith Cramer – the Junior Watch Officer phase. Kevin Smalls (ie, Katie George) has the somewhat intimidating honor of being the first Junior Watch Officer.

Time seems to be spiraling faster and faster. For the first few weeks, we were all in such a sorry state and helpless as baby albatrosses (which I’‘m told are really quite pathetic). But now we’re knowledgeable, capable, and strong enough to be handed Corwith Cramer and sail her. It’s an overwhelming concept.

Those first few weeks, it all seemed so unnatural. So confusing. So difficult. To me, at least, it seemed like an immense trial that would never end. Now, as I sit on deck and watch flying fish scatter across the sunset stained seas, I find that nothing could be more natural. And more peaceful. And more satisfying.

And now I barely have enough time to write my postcards before we arrive in Bequia!

This has been, and continues to be, one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. I have grown stronger in body and spirit in these last few weeks than I ever did in my life on shore.

To my friends, family, and fiancé – I love and miss you all. And happy birthday, Captain Scurvy!

-Elizabeth Urban

Nov

04

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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November 4th, 2012
13°35.4´Nx058°43.8´W
c/o c/s 190
Sailing under the Four Lowers, JT and Fisherman

Happy Sunday! Hope your weekends have been super cool and air conditioned, because ours has been super cool but not conditioned. On the bright side, we have had the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets and double rainbows!!!!!! Last night on evening watch, as we were diligently doing our duties, and making jokes with our watch officers and deckhand Becca, we had the chance to observe the Milkyway spanning across the entire sky like an arch above us. Since the trade winds picked up a few days ago, we have been speeding along on our course to Bequia and have frequently managed to go 7kts for longer periods of time. Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (a highly unpredictable area in which winds are ever changing due to the southwest and northeasterly winds colliding), had moved to about 14° N on Friday which could have made it difficult to head west into the Grenadines. Thankfully, the ITCZ has moved south and will no longer affect us, so seems we will have smooth sailing to Bequia.

Phase III of our journey begins tomorrow. This means that all of us will have the opportunity/ no other choice to become Junior Watch Officers (JWO). During this time, we will lead our watches without the assistance of professional crew. While they will be there watching our every move and participating to a certain level, they will not be answering questions about sailing maneuvers or setting and striking sails. We will have the opportunity to use our knowledge that we have gained in the last few weeks to help us as well as the support of our watch groups. Nerves are kicking in but so is excitement at the prospect of this amazing accomplishment. We feel as prepared as one can be at this point for this phase but really we still have so much to learn. Every watch brings new opportunities to learn new things as well as practice and learn from stupid mistakes. Wish us luck!

Love Georgina and Ali
Photo: Sextant Practice and Morning Shots of the Sun to substitute for GPS

Nov

03

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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3 November 2012
15°34.5´Nx058°12.2´W/5.5KTS/200°
Sailing under the 4 Lowers (Mains’l, Main Stays’l, Fore Stays’l, Jib) andJib Tops’l.
Wind ESE Force 4, Seas ESE 5ft

Hello family and friends! Thank you so much for taking the time and interest in our blog, we are all continually working very hard to bring the world new scientific data and we greatly appreciate the support from all of you.

We are sailing over 5400 ft. of ocean and the only thing keeping us from the bottom is our magnificent vessel. Since she takes such good care of us, we decided to return the favor and show her some love via a thorough cleaning and maintenance; today was a field day! We use fire lines to bring everything that needs cleaning up on deck while below deck is scrubbed out. It was a beautiful sunny day for a ships cleaning and the best part about it is that afterwards we all enjoy a deck wash for ourselves. We take a shower under a high pressure fire hose on deck.

I for one am definitely going to sleep easy tonight after today’s labor. We are in the tropics now so the weather is warming up and twilight has become as picturesque as you can get, with the horizon looking more turquoise than blue. We are almost to Bequia now so this means our voyage is almost at an end. My how time flies when you’re having fun! I will miss being rocked to sleep all the time but it will be nice to sleep on land again.

Love to my family and miss you all. Lots of excitement to share during Thanksgiving. I am very much looking forward to seeing you all again.

Aaron

Nov

01

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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1 November
19 28.5 N x 57 32.1
(We’re level with Puerto Rico!)
Sailing happily under the mains’l, main stays’l, forestays’l, and jib

It has been quite the week here on the Cramer! There are these moments that I experience on board, when we’re shouting, celebrating, screaming and laughing, that come with this incredible feeling of disbelief. It’s when the 28 of us sailing along in this magnificently blue sea, under the glowing sun or luminous moon that I realize we’re in our own little world, that I’m actually sailing, and actively sailing, and there’s 6000m of ocean under our feet. That’s what I love about this trip, it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before, and I’m having a hoot of a time. As evidenced by yesterday’s and last night’s Halloween festivities, and the shenanigans C watch manages to get ourselves into, we make our own fun.

It feels like it’s been getting hotter every day. I’m getting some serious sandal tan lines and everyone is starting to look just a little more tan (some a little more pink) than we did three weeks ago. My bunk in the main salon, my sacred little cubbyhole of personal space turns into a small oven each time I clamber in to dream. Every whisper of a breeze than makes it to my corner is sacred. To fight the heat and ease the grossness between showers, we’ve taken to deck showers.

The other night, after an especially hot afternoon watch the five of us on C watch slapped on our bathing suits and scrambled up the ladder to the saltwater hose on the quarterdeck. I can tell those of you at home are wrinkling your nose, but you’d be surprised at how refreshing that 25.4 C water is after a solid day of sail handling. It was dark and the five of us took turns soaping up and scrubbing down, that is, until the water stopped running. We had let the hose run for too long, and the automatic shut off had kicked in. Since we were all soapy and soaking wet going into the engine room wasn’t an option. So the five of us waddled up the deck in the moonlight and had to ask the chief mate for assistance. I’m sure the sight of us made her really look forward to having us on her watch in Phase III.

But besides our explorations in cleanliness, yesterday was Halloween! I know I’m still recovering from the massive amounts of sugar I ate yesterday, and I hope everyone at home had a great night trick or treating, because all of us aboard sure did. We started the afternoon by donning our costumes for watch and for the afternoon celebration. Colleen, our second mate, and Maia, our first scientist, spent all day baking up a storm for us and organizing our afternoon. Awards for costumes were handed out, pumpkins were displayed, and we ate delicious pumpkin chocolate whoopee pies. Then we buddied up and went on a boat check. Well, kind of. Cramer’s crew tucked themselves in the spots that we have to check each time we do our hourly check. Someone was camped out in the emergency boat, another in the engine room, and so on. We relaxed, laughed, and (I know I certainly) ate too much. Costumes stayed on for the most part throughout the day, and it was pretty much the best watch ever. I mean really, pumpkins and candy during our boat checks? What could be better?

The day unwound from there, everyone sorting through their treats as if nothing had changed since the third grade. Just as I was curling up in my bunk to read and tuck myself in for the evening I got a knock at my bunk. I had just been feeling as though Halloween wasn’t quite over when Colleen and Maia sent me, and the rest of C-243, up to the deck for ghost stories.

This, of course, was just to get us out from down below so they could set up haunted ship. They picked small groups from the edges of our story circle and dragged us back down below, where the crew was waiting to scare us right back into our bunks. I’m not normally one for screaming, but everyone was so convincing. The steward was waiting down below in full face paint, with slumped shoulders and an actually really terrifying voice. In the main salon, some of the crew were dining under the strobe lights. As we moved farther aft, it only got better. The chief mate crawled towards us, screaming as someone dragged her back into the library. As we hid under the stairs, someone blew compressed air up from the hatch that leads to a part of the engine room. Like I said, convincing.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I’d like to thank the crew for making it as exciting and memorable as it was. I can’t believe we’re halfway through our trip, I wonder if they can plan thanksgiving and Christmas, too.

Elizabeth

Happy belated birthday, Katie! Me and G. cocco miss you! And to my dearest friend Imani, a happy early birthday to you. Have you opened your gift? Because when you live life as an adventure. To those back home: I miss you and love you all, and I know you’ll worry no matter what, but I’m doing really well. I’m working hard and staying strong. Love you.

Photo: C watch and our seasick pumpkin. Alice, Elizabeth R, Eli, Allison, and Michelle

Oct

31

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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31 October 2012
20°53.1’N x 057°09.1’W
Sailing under the Course, Tops’l, and Mainstays’l Course Ordered 200° Speed ~3kts

Photo Caption: the entire Cramer Crew in Halloween Costumes on the quarter deck.

Happy Halloween! The Corwith Cramer crew has had a great last 24 hours, full of sunshine, science, costumes and candy. We are just coming out of a high pressure area, so yesterday and today we were blessed with beautifully sunny skies, allowing some of us to see the green flash at sunset. Since we are now leaving this high and slowly finding the trade winds, our winds have picked up to strong force 3 so that we have been able to make some headway on route to Bequia.

We are now past the halfway point of our voyage south, so work is beginning to pile up as we approach project and assignment deadlines. We are also now more than well accustomed to our schedules and our 3 day watch cycles are beginning to feel like just one day.

The spirit of Halloween engulfed the Cramer today as we all wore crazy costumes for class and some of us even wore our costumes to dawn and morning watches. We had a great Halloween celebration in “class” today. Students went trick or treating on a boat check in which the crew was spread out on the boat, hidden in different places for students to find. We received another treat when Colleen and Maia brought out their deliciously home baked pumpkin whoopee pies and fresh lemonade for snack. Next, we had a costume competition with prizes for the winners. Each watch also carved a pumpkin for the judges to award prizes to. A-watch carved out Franken-Terry to acknowledge the much enjoyed doghouse desktop picture of Captain Terry playfully sticking his tongue out; B-watch carved the Cramer on one side and squidward/ a skull on the other; and C-watch chose to commemorate our difficult first few days at sea by carving a heaving face into their pumpkin. Thanks to Maia and Colleen and the entire crew, who made this afternoon so much fun and giving us all a sugar high.

To my parents and brothers, I hope you are all happy and healthy in your various niches around the world, I can’t wait to see you all so soon and I hope that our babies, Buffy, Mamba and Guana are just as happy and playful as ever. To Jay and Spalding I hope you guys busted big in the city and had a great homecoming, Spalding, Happy belated birthday. Maya, I hope you are still enjoying Scotland and have managed to continue your European tour. Lukas, I hope all is well in Oxford, I miss you and can’t wait to go skiing with you. To everyone else at home and on campus, I miss you all and can’t wait to see you again soon.

Love,
Ali

Oct

30

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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30 October 2012
22°19.5’N x 057°01.9’W
Sailing under the Course, Tops’l, and Mainstays’l Course Ordered 200° Speed ~3kts

Photo caption: Sunset sing along on the quarterdeck with Liannimal and Don accompanied by interpretive dancing with Chrissy and Jack.

A quiet day here at 22N latitude. We started out the day motor sailing South to the Caribbean but we’re trying to cut down on the engine hours and do what we do best – sail for science. If only we could get some favorable (or any) wind! Today on morning watch we deployed the typical salvo of scientific instruments into the ocean and it appears that we may not be in the Sargasso Sea anymore. Sunshine and warm temperatures are the order of the day and sunscreen application and hydrating occurs at least every boat check (hourly).

We had two feathery friends on watch today. One – a gannet – is a sea bird that spends most of its life on the ocean out of sight of land. The other –a small cowbird – was more of a surprise. This bird has probably never been to sea before and it seemed more than a bit confused. Although it was a nice reminder of life on land – it seemed out of place and it was gone by afternoon watch. There was no professional sea bird crew to meet it and take it under their wings (lame humor - I know) so it remains lost and out of sight for now. Fortunately we humans have the crew and each other for support and guidance to keep us safe and sailing happily along the blue ocean. Learning is not a one way street on board the Cramer. Everyone has something to share and a new perspective on how things can be done and that certainly works for us. It is a great educational culture when you can get an amazing bread recipe from our illustrious steward Rob, examine some marine life you had no idea existed in the lab, acquire a better understanding of the ship’s systems from our engineer Don, find navigational stars with Captain Terry, and repair and bend on a sail with the mates all in the same day. And this was a quiet day.

The pumpkins are carved, the spooky decorations are up, and the whole crew is gearing up for tomorrow’s festivities. For now we’ll just keep sailing and learning and hydrating.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the crew of the HMS Bounty and their families during this trying time for them and the entire tall ships community.

- Deckhand Dan

Oct

29

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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29 October 2012
23° 50.5’N x 056° 52.7’ W
Sailing under the four lowers. Heading: 200 psc at 5 knots.

The days (more like random hours of consciousness) remain very exciting aboard the beautiful Corwith Cramer.  Lab today was packed with a full morning station where we deployed numerous data collecting “toys” at varying depths and towed different nets to collect plankton, Sargassum, plastic, and other marine organisms.  We’re now fully into Phase II of III in the process of earning our rank as Junior Watch Officer, and our responsibilities are constantly accumulating.  Expectations have risen in regards to our spatial awareness, time management, and overall comprehension of “the big picture” when on watch.  Being a “shadow” for the watch can be very challenging, stressful, and sometimes frustrating, but is made possible with all of the wonderful advice and support from fellow watch members, mates, deckhands, and assistant scientists. 

Last week, as mentioned by Duncan in his blog post, A watch was asked to perform a gybe/heave to drill in front of the whole ship without any assistance.  This week, there was enough wind for B and C watch to take a stab at it.  As a member of A watch, I was happy to be done with the drill, but it was still fun to cheer on the other groups and observe how their teams approached the task.  I think everyone was fairly critical of their performance, but overall, it’s still amazing to step back and acknowledge how much we have learned about commanding a ship as large and powerful as the Cramer. 

My favorite task on watch so far is definitely bow watch.  In the presence of big swells, the bow seems to launch the highest, crashing down on the next wave and often splashing you.  This is fun if you’re appropriately dressed in foulies, but is otherwise just very damp.  I like singing quietly the various songs that remind me of home, especially “somewhere over the rainbow,” by Iz.  In a living situation that is so cramped, bow watch is one of the few times when you can be alone with your thoughts, begin to internalize the fact that you’re bobbing around in the middle of the ocean, and relax.

Photo:  Here is Don, our beloved engineer who knows just about everything there is to know about the mechanical happenings of the ship. Don is one of the four “others” on the ship, as he is not bound to any particular watch group – and what a lovely other he is.  If he’s not working in the engine room, he can often be found on deck with an adorable pink ukulele, or simply making wonderful conversation.  He is yet another member of the incredible crew that makes this trip so enjoyable.

Mom and Dad I love you guys so much and think about you all the time! Thank you for once again, letting me plunge into the Atlantic during hurricane season.  I promise to come back in one piece (and relatively soon!). Jed –I miss you and love you so much.  Your pictures and poem hang prominently in my bunk and I can’t stop thinking about my imminent trip in December. All of my CC and home ladies – many of you are scattered across the globe and I hope you’re having the times of your life.  I can’t wait to hear every last detail in a few months!

All my love,
Chrissy

Oct

28

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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28 October 2012
25°08.1’ N x 57°04.8’ W
Sailing South under a single reef mains’l, main stays’l, forestays’l, and jib!

The days, nights, and watches seem to be moving faster and faster with every passing day. I know a lot of us (me especially) aboard can hardly wrap our heads around how far we’ve come—we’re just about level with the very bottom of Florida as I write this, with weeks to go before our first stop in Bequia.

We’re starting to feel the nearness of our destination: the temperature is picking up, and with our hourly science and weather observations there’s no question that we’re quite a ways south of our beginning. I’ve also been wearing the same pair of cotton shorts for a week, so the temperature isn’t the only sign. The sun has been shining (perfect for all of our celestial sun lines) and the past week, along with the persistent sound of water passing by our vessel has all but washed away those first difficulties. During those first few days it was challenging to stand up without the help of the leeward rail, but now, as the callouses on my hands fill in and the aches ease out of my shoulders I can’t help but feel like I’m doing something incredible.

It seems as though every day a new deployment goes in the water for sampling. Yesterday during our morning watch it seemed like we deployed every toy we have aboard—the Secchi disc, phytonet, neuston net, both meter nets… The list goes on, and at this point, everyone’s project is well underway. Mine might be going a little too smoothly, there are close to 100 lantern fish waiting up in the lab, but let me tell you, it’s looking good for this one.

Phase two is also in full affect! Everyone in our watch group is currently getting the chance to be the shadow for the watch. The shadow gets to plan the watch and divvy up tasks and during last night’s Midwatch it my pleasure of being the shadow on deck.

Midwatch, for me, is the hardest to get up for. My sleep schedule is hardly a schedule anymore, but a series of opportune naps, it’s not as bad as it sounds, trust me. But as I waddled, half asleep, around the deck for my pre-watch deck walk, a huge amount of spray nailed me right in the face. That, coupled with some extreme sail handing (in the dark, rolling and pitching with the mains’l flapping in the wind) woke me right up. Every day and every watch brings a new challenge. Even washing dishes in the galley can be a learning experience, but as the days go by I can’t help but be in awe of how the watches are coming together. I went to Woods Hole knowing absolutely nothing about sails, oceanography, or life without land. I can say with confidence that we’re getting there.

In other news—the ship is abuzz with excitement, Halloween is just around the corner! C watch carved our pumpkin today, and my costume is all set. Stay tuned for photos!

Familia: You’re never far from my thoughts, and I miss and love you all. Papa, I hope that you’re settling in comfortably after your trip. Good luck and I’ll talk to you soon. Mama I’ll be home before you know it, and I’m already planning a surprise for your birthday. Jandro: make sure to keep the little two in line! We’ll feast when I get home. I have the Eeyore you gave me hanging in my bunk, Alyssia. Juanito, make sure to practice hard so that when I get back we can play some duets. Don’t forget to walk the dogs, and when you give them treats, make sure to give Sammie extra. Love you.

Elizabeth

Photo caption: Michelle, Eli, Alice, Elizabeth R, and Allison with a beautiful pumpkin!

Oct

27

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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27 October 2012
27°01.6’ N x 57°39.1’ W
Motor-sailing under the main stays’l

It’s actually pretty crazy once you finally stop and think about it: we have been sailing for two weeks now. It has been two weeks since we have seen any sight of land, and it will be another two weeks until we finally see it again when we arrive in Bequia. At first, life aboard the Cramer seemed so new and so completely different from life on land. Now, life on land just seems like a really weird concept to all of us. Our lives are no longer centered around a full 8 hours of sleep, but rather naps. It is now normal for us to wake up and go on watch as others on land are just falling asleep. It is also normal to come off of watch and fall asleep just as others on land are getting up and going to work and school. A full night sleep just seems like a complete foreign concept to all of us here aboard the Cramer. We have gotten used to calling the kitchen- the galley, the bathroom- the head, the floor- the soles. Going home and doing the opposite is definitely going to be an adjustment. The rocking of the boat has also now become a normal part of our lives. My bunk is in the focs’le (right under the bow) which I have completely grown to love. Not only do I get a nice little “rocking to sleep” every night but, when the focs’le doors are open, I also get the treat of being sung to sleep by the person that has the job of being on bow watch that night/morning. Bow watch at night is definitely one of the most relaxing/peaceful parts of the day, but at 0400, singing is almost a necessity to stay awake.

Each and every day is a new learning experience for us all; I really don’t think we will ever run out of things to learn. This morning I was in lab during dawn watch and we were processing the midnight neuston tow. We spent four hours counting micro-plastic that was found inside the net, with an ongoing count of over 2,400 pieces. We are hundreds of miles away from land, yet are still finding thousands of pieces of plastic in the water. All of us have recently started diving right into our research for our projects and this abundance of micro-plastic is actually very helpful for one project.

Though we are all so constantly busy, we definitely are still having so much fun. No matter what time of day it is, you will still always be able to hear someone laughing. Today, we had field day. After being led by a pretty inspirational pre-game football speech by our chief scientist Chuck, we all split up in our watches and cleaned every single part of the Cramer. It’s our one chance to listen to music during the trip and we all make sure we take full advantage of it. We all ended the day with a salt water shower using the fire hose on deck, it was so much fun. Halloween is also coming up and everyone aboard is getting so excited. Each watch has picked a pumpkin that we will carve and everyone is running around trying to plan out their costume. I cannot stress it enough how much of an amazing time we are all having aboard the Cramer.  Oh and to all of our friends and family back home that are worried about us with all these hurricanes: don’t be! We are perfectly fine and we are actually motor-sailing right now because there is no wind. We are all very tan, happy, and safe!

We miss you so much Katie & are thinking about you constantly! Hope your ankle is feeling so much better!

Friends and family back home, I miss you all tons especially you: Mom, dad, Chris, and Ryan, but I seriously am having the time of my life out here. Give Shadow, T-bone, and Reese each a real big hug and kiss for me!
-Caity

Photo caption: A watch post pizza bliss dinner-Dan S, Maia, Allie, Georgina, Chrissy, Aaron, Jack and Becca.

Oct

26

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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Friday October 26, 2012
28° 27.6N 57° 32.2W
Sailing under a Full Stack and the Main Stays’l
Heading South at about 3 Knots

Photo: A view from aloft of a CTD being set up on deck while our engineer plays tropical music.

Hello All! We hope that life back on Terra Firma is going well. Things here on the Corwith Cramer are, as always, full of education and adventure.

Life onboard ship is unlike life on land in so many ways. Here I have been asked to do things I wouldn’t normally do or think was ordinary. From the simple task of waking up, to collecting samples for our research, everything here has a new added flair of movement due to the constant rolling and shifting of our home. One of the most fascinating of these adventures is science in the dark.

Science in the daylight is quite the adventure to start with. Yesterday, I was the shadow of the scientist and it was up to me (with lots of help and support from my superiors and crewmates) to put together a plan of action for collecting data from one of our largest stations to date. In brief we did a phyto net, a secchi disk, a CTD, two McLane pumps, a meter net, a neuston tow and a surface station. It took us about 5 hours to complete all of the above, and it was a bit exhausting to say the least. Afterwards the oncoming watch helped sort through all of the data and samples we had collected so that they could be used in our group projects. The caliber of the group really shines through in the data collection and analysis. It is crazy to think that in less than two weeks we all know how to use the lab equipment to its full potential, conducting not only our own research but aiding in multiple other projects as well. I don’t think I have ever encountered so many different machines and data sets in such a short amount of time before.

While Science during the day is fantastic it is science at night that I find the most fun and challenging. It is one thing to walk around on a rolling deck when the sun is shining and you can see everything in the ocean, it is another world entirely when you are stumbling around in the pitch black night. One of the first nights out, when I had just recovered from sea sickness, I was brought out on deck with Caity and asked to set up a neuston tow in the dark. We were then left alone with a brilliantly dim red flashlight and only a vague idea of where all of the equipment was stowed. Somehow we managed to get the whole thing set up and put together despite our misgivings. All of our fellow crewmembers have all done the same over time, each one of them conquering the darkness in search of small organisms from the sea. Everything is a little harder at night: you can’‘t quite see the lines, bowlines are harder to tie, and the sea spray seems to always hit you a little harder. In the end that’s what makes it more fun though. Every little bit of it is an adventure.

Well that’s about all I have time for. I wish all of you a great weekend.
Yours,
Stephanie

P.S. Hey Shorty, I’m still wearing the necklace. I think of you often when I sing on late night bow watches. “Let us ride home again with a story to tell.” Believe me; I will have many stories to tell you.

Oct

25

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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25 Oct 2012
29° 53.9’N x 057° 34.0’ W
Sailing under the Main Stay s’l, Course, Top s’l, and (my favorite) the Raffee
Winds NWxW F3, Seas NxW 4 ft.
Course 195°, Speed 2 knots

Nearly two weeks into our voyage and hundreds of miles from land, we’’ve all adjusted to life on the Corwith Cramer. Waking up at 0230 for dawn watch is now a norm, and knowing how to set and strike each particular sail is becoming second nature. We now know how to determine our position not only from the sun, but from sextant sights of stars as well. The daily operations of the ship are slowly being transferred to us students as we learn more every day. Especially because phase two of the trip has started, and each watch is expected to know how to run the ship with little to no assistance by one of the more experience crew members. Yesterday A watch was called on to perform a double gybe and heave-to, then get underway again all on their own. It was a difficult maneuver but they proved that they were up to it. Once the winds pick up again (a high pressure system sitting on top of us has caused there to be less wind), B and C watch will get their chance to prove themselves on the deck and perform the same maneuver.

They keep us busy here on the Corwith Cramer. Outside of class every weekday at 1430, our watch schedule, and lots of sleep, there is not very much idle time. When you do get free time, it’s nice to relax on the quarter deck on a sunny day. If you’re feeling energetic though, you can take a trip aloft or out on the bow sprit. We’‘ve been told that something is written at the top of the fore mast, but after climbing all the way up we didn’‘t find anything. Despite that, the view from the top of the mast was unbelievable.

As I’’m writing this, our chief scientist Chuck tells us that we’‘ve crossed into the South Sargasso Sea from the North Sargasso Sea and are below 30° N. Soon we’ll hit the trade winds that will carry us southwest right to our port stop of Bequia, before ending our trip in St. Croix.

Picture of B watch members Caity, Stephanie, and Duncan (from left to right) on the port end of the course yard.

Mom, Dad, Alex, William, the Baileys and friends and family I miss you!

-Duncan

Oct

24

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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24-Oct-12
31° 54.8’N x 057° 45.1’ W
Sailing under four lowers with a single reefed main, tops’l, and jib, speed 5 kts,  course ordered 180.
Wind N force 4. Seas from N at 4 ft.

There are flying fish everywhere! Every few minutes, schools of them go sailing through the air, at times traveling more than 6 feet across the water. Since boarding the Cramer, we’ve seen all sorts of new exciting critters. Flying fish are a personal favorite, but this afternoon, we were treated to a show by a pod of dolphins following our ship. Seven of them dove below the bow and jumped in the air for us; one mother dolphin even had a baby in tow.  Every now and again, a few seabirds find their way to our ship, likely enticed by all the tasty food aboard.

The days have been getting warm, and sweaters have been traded in for sandals and tanktops (plenty of spf aboard!). The nights are still chilly, and prove to be a very exciting time aboard the ship. Sail handling, scientific deployments; all the daytime activities continue through the night under red lights so as not to spoil night vision. Lucky for us the sky is bright with stars! Many, many stars, the milky way can even be seen clearly on a cloudless night. If one is patient and observant, there is a shooting star every few minutes. We have even become shooting star critics, oo-ing and ah-ing for the particularly bright or long ones.

Today marks the end of “phase one” of our experience here on Cramer. We sadly say goodbye to our originally assigned mate and scientist, and move forward to a new pairing. Our watches remain the same, so we still work with the same student group, but in this new phase, we become “shadows” of our new mate and scientists. As shadows, we have greater responsibility and leadership roles in things like properly setting sails and science deployments, and hourly shipboard tasks to keep things running smoothly. We’re lucky to have such great teachers here on Cramer, and it is very rewarding to begin to understand the workings of such a new and exciting environment.

Hugs to Mom, Dad, Caroline, Nick, and all my land-bound friends! Thinking of you and looking forward to sharing more stories when I return!

-Allison

Photo of C watch: Elizabeth, Michelle, Alice, Allison, Maia, Eli, Dan R., Dan S.

Oct

23

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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October 23, 2012
Sailing downwind under the tops’l and course
Wind NNW F4
Course 170, speed 6kts

Today was a fabulous day. There was beautiful weather for most of the day with only a bit of rain this afternoon. We had our practical oceanography exam today, looking at all the equipment and procedures we have been using thus far in our trip. (We rocked it!) We also had a fire drill and an abandon ship drill today. Exciting things all around, today has been quite the busy day.

As you can see, B watch is having a grand time. As we prepare for phase 2 we say goodbye to Colleen and Julia. Today we had our last watch meeting on the bowsprit, talked and had a paper airplane competition. It has been a great time having them with us and I (and the rest of B watch) will definitely miss having them around. They have guided us through so much since we stepped onboard the Cramer. From learning how to set and strike the sails to how best to clean up after dawn watch. There are so many things yet to come, but today has been a day of reflection for me. Handling sails in an emergency drill and processing lab samples is not your typical college day.  Here on the Cramer it was a fairly normal one.

A quick shout out to my friends and family following, I love you all and I’m writing letters even if there is no mail to send them through. Hope all is well and your adventures are half as spectacular as mine.

~Katie

Photo caption: B watch on the bowsprit- Katie, Elizabeth, Duncan, Katie, Stephanie, Colleen, Julia and Ryan

Oct

22

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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October 22, 2012
35°14.73’N x 59°06.50’W
Sailing under the Raffee, Tops’l, Course, and Mainstays’l, course ordered 170
Wind: NW, varying in force from 0 to 7

Yesterday afternoon we encountered a local squall associated with some rain abruptly followed by a cold front that over took us around 1900 last night.

You guessed it, more rain. Needless to say, the Cramer crew has received a freshwater rinse from bilge to masthead. Last night was filled with torrential downpours and wind ranging up to force 7, our foulies came in handy. This however, did not deter the everyday routine of the watches. Sail handling, science, boat check, and plotting went on business as usual. The weather additionally set us back a little by pushing us a bit northwest of our intended course. Our luck seemed to change as dawn watch began. We made up for our backwards drifting and headed south once again. By the end of morning watch the rains began to cease and the sun broke through the clouds just in time for our 1430 ship meeting.

The academic schedule is in full swing now with science diagrams due by second seating of dinner tonight and a lab practical tomorrow at class. Work in the lab on science projects is beginning as sampling from net tows and CTDs are analyzed. On the nautical science front, there have been a couple celestial assignments. Today, three sunlines shot within 10 minutes, reduced, and plotted, were due. For the end of the week there is another celestial assignment, which investigates the art of precomputing twilight and stars on your birthday. Balancing watch and school work can be a challenge but the crew is adapting well.

Tonight since the winds and weather are in our favor, A watch had the distinct pleasure of setting the Raffee. Sitting high on the foremast above the Tops’l and Course, the Raffee completes Cramer’s stack of squares’ls. All is well aboard the Corwith Cramer.

Smooth sailing to the crew in the Pacific and a shout out to my family and Shelby, can’t wait to see all of you after Thanksgiving.

-Liann

Oct

21

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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October 21st 2012
36°24.70’N x 60°33.36’W
Sailing under the four lowers with a single reefed main
Wind: SSW Force 6 Seas: SxW 7’

As you can see above, we have all completed our “watch checklist” and have earned the privilege of going aloft! In order to go aloft every person on each watch needs to be checked off on things such as line handling, logbook entries, fire extinguisher locations etc. It is not until every person is checked of on everything that the watch is able to go aloft as a group. We have all officially completed the checklist! My watch (C watch) was able to go up for the first time yesterday! But first we had to get through field day.

Field day is our day to say thank you to the Corwith Cramer for transporting us safely. The ship is divided into watches and cleaned thoroughly. It took 2-3 hours to dust, scrub, scrape, and wash every nook and cranny but it felt so much better after. As you can imagine 28 people sharing living quarters can get pretty grimy fairly quick. Even though it was hard dirty work we still had fun. It was nice to hear music and Rob the steward walked around with a big bowl of candy for us.

After cleaning duties were all completed we strapped on our harnesses, emptied our pockets and up we went! It was a little daunting at first but after getting past the first shrouds it is a breeze. Several of us climbed up to the course yard and hung out for a while looking down on the ship and water below us. While up there we were able to see for miles! It was a really cool experience and now that we have gone aloft supervised we can go aloft on our breaks if we so please. The cold front that we encountered today has limited climbing but as soon as we get past this it is to the bow sprit and aloft I go! (Don’t worry Mom – we wear harnesses and are trained properly how to ascend and descend. It is very safe).  As the days go by they are also beginning to go a lot faster. As we learn more in lab and on deck there is always more to do. We are kept so busy here that watches and time off seem to just vanish!  One week ago we barely knew what a watch entailed and now we are starting to make the calls and run them ourselves. I wonder what week two has in store for us…

- Michelle -

Happy Birthday to our Chief Scientist Chuck Lea!

Oct

18

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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18 October 2012
38°39.7’N x 062°42.9’W
“Motorsailing” downwind with the mainstays’l steering 170psc
Winds: N force 3; Seas: NE 10’

Although the 10ft swells have not declined we have gone from a robust 9.4kts of wind down to pretty much nothing. Five days into sailing we have resorted to a little bit of motoring along with the mainstays’l until we get into some winds – “motorsailing”. I have been putting off writing today because I was feeling a little down. The combination of last week’s violent seasickness adventure, the night watch schedules, and the tugging and pulling of the ship as it rocks have got me all tuckered out.  When I say tugging and pulling of the ship I don’t mean that lightly. For the past few days the students and crew here aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer have been experiencing a constant struggle against gravity. Mundane routines such as eating dinner, brushing ones teeth, standing and even sleeping have become a challenge. Down below as pots, pans, papers, and anything that happens to be on a fixed surface fly across the room, you can occasionally see a little Katie George sliding from one end of the galley to the other, along with them. Up on deck and especially on bow watch it feels as though you are in one of the pirate ship rides at the local fair. But that ride has nothing on the Corwith Cramer at the moment. Although it has been fun, our sore stomach muscles and bruised… well everything, are ready for a break. It is a good sign that we are all definitely over our seasickness but I heard a silent cheer today with the news of the deterioration of Rafael off to our east.

While on bow watch a few nights ago I saw my first pod of dolphins swimming around and under the ship. The faint glow of their silhouettes coupled with their long trail of bubbles left me in awe. It was not only beautiful but also very eerie to watch them dart in and out below the bowsprit. My first encounter left me amazed and 5 encounters later I am still running to the rail every time someone says dolphins! Besides the dolphins there have also been many birds and thanks to the ornithology course I took this summer at Shoals I have developed a love for them all; Herring Gulls, Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and even the occasional songbirds that take a rest on the ship. The presence of all of these critters has been a boost as things become gradually more and more demanding here. With watch, assignments piling up and the famous “line chase” fast approaching breaks are becoming a valuable thing. I was outside going over the seemingly endless amounts of lines with Allison just before coming in to write this. We were at the point where we were mixing up our words, heads once again spinning with the amount of memorization when suddenly I looked up and there was a pod of dolphins about 5ft from the ship jumping and putting on a show for us. Moments like that make life here beautiful. It is questionable if I will be able to remember my lines for tomorrows line chase but I know that I will remember that scene for a lifetime.

Mom and Dad I love you and miss you. Unfortunately I did not acquire G-pas sailor stomach of steel but regardless I am having a great time here! Shista I will see you soon <3!    – Michelle

Oct

17

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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17 October 2012
41°10.1’N x 64°19.5’W
Sailing downwind under the course and tops’l, steering 160psc
Winds: NxW force 6; Seas: N 8’

Greetings from Class C-243,
This past day has been action packed!  Upon crossing back into US waters we re-started our science deployments. This morning A watch completed a secchi disk to measure light penetration and a CTD to sample water from different depths. Students and scientists are happy to be busy in lab once again. All the while we have seen some of the biggest wind and seas of the trip. This morning we were cruising along at a blistering 9.4kts under the tops’l, course, mainstays’l and trys’‘l with winds reaching 30kts. Along with big wind, we’‘ve had seas of up to 14 ft, whoa!

In class this afternoon students got to try their hands at marlinspike seamanship, an important set of skills for any sailor. In two rotations, we worked on whippings and eye splices. 

In other exciting news, the deck GPS has been covered by a cardboard sign urging students to look to the stars. From now on we will use the taffrail log and celestial navigation to plot hourly positions. The weather is warming up, and we are all excited to be in the tropical sunshine soon!

Lots of love to Ma, Da, brother Daniel, and boyfriend Mikey and of course- wishing puppy Layla a speedy recovery. Can’t wait to see you all in
December! xoxo, Becca

Oct

16

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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16 October 2012
41°49.5’N x 065°41.0’W
Sailing on a stbd tack under the storm trys’l, main stays’l, fore stays’l
and jib at 4kts and steering 135psc
Winds: SSW force 4; Seas: S 5’; completely cloudy with rain

The fifth day of our trip has been off to a wonderful start.  I myself just woke up after being on watch from 2300-0300 but the crew has been busy throughout the night battling off some pretty rough seas and dealing with the rain. The watches have been a bit slow these last two days because there is no science to be done as a result of being in Canadian Waters (eh?). When our chief scientist was getting sampling permits from countries we would be passing through along our cruise track he did not get one from Canada (eh?) because we were supposed to be leaving from Woods Hole. Due to our extended yard period we ended up leaving from Rockland inside the Gulf of Maine which is so awkwardly divided between the United States and Canada (eh?). In order to get away from some pretty rough weather and avoid some gale force winds we had to steer into Canada (eh?) but all is well and the sampling should continue in a day or so. As students aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer we have been learning so much already. We have been learning about boat safety, science equipment deployment, as well as how to sail our beloved mother ship. We have all had the chance to set or strike a sail and though this all sounds so simple trust me when I say it’s not. Besides everything having a different name aboard a ship, these things are heavy!! Luckily we have an outstanding crew and a great set of mates who have been patient and a huge resource as we learn the ropes (or should I say lines) of boat life. The seasickness epidemic has finally passed us for the most part and I think everyone is finally getting their much deserved sea legs. After heaving lines and heaving up lunch we are pretty tired but our journey has only just begun. Friends and family we all miss you bunches but know that we are doing okay and having the adventure of a lifetime! Mama and Dadeo I miss you and I love you and I can’t wait to see you in November but IM HAVING THE MOST FUN EVER!!! Fair winds. –Eli Niebuhr

Oct

15

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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15 October 2012
41 53.8’N x 066 43.0’W
Sailing under the storm trys’l, stays’ls and jib at 4knots steering 145
Winds: SxW Force 4; Seas: SxW 4’; mostly clear skies

Today is day four into our trip south. Our crew is quickly learning what it means to go to sea in all aspects. Over the weekend the newest members of the crew started learning their way around the ship while standing in their watches. The three watches, A,  B and C watch, rotate on a schedule which makes sure that there is always one watch awake taking care of the ship in terms of navigation, safety and ship operations while also taking scientific samples to meet our oceanographic goals. The students did their first boat checks, weather observations, science hourlies, science deployments and they have gotten to eat their first meals with gimbaled tables! If you are wondering whether or not the crew has been learning about sea sickness on top of all that, well the answer is yes. Sea sickness is a very real part of learning what it means to go to sea and some of our students, and staff, have been very actively participating in this learning opportunity. The photo is of some of our sea sick champions! It is so easy to let sea sickness get you down, but all of our crew, and these five (Michelle Opela, Chrissy Maruyama , Steph Mygas , Aaron Milstein , Liann Correia ) in particular, didn’t let the state of their stomachs hold them back. The fact that our crew has been able to keep up a swift learning pace while struggling with sea sickness is an impressive feat! There is still so much to learn and as we continue to sail south we will continue to learn as break neck speed.

Big hellos to friends and family!

Oct

13

C243 - Ocean Exploration

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12 October 2012
Rockland Marine
A chilly October evening in Maine.

Today 15 students joined the Corwith Cramer in Rockland, Maine for the beginning of the C-243 sea component. They joined the 13 crew who have been working for several days to prepare the ship for 39 days at sea.  As students arrived, they loaded their gear into their bunks and got their first looks at Momma Cramer, just imagine moving into a new house with 27 of your closest friends! Some excited family members got to tour the ship (many looking for a place to hide so that they might get a chance to come sailing with us) and see just what their loved ones are getting into. Our new crew members had a couple hours to figure out how to stow six weeks’ worth of stuff on two shelves. Once they finished getting settled the mates asked for volunteers to rig the storm trys’l (a smaller version of our mains’l) and tuck a reef (a sailor-y way of saying “make it smaller”) in the main in preparation for getting underway tomorrow. We had our first all hands dinner this evening which Rob, our steward, knocked out of the park with a fantastic meal of chicken, rice and escarole. This evening the entire crew will be walking through orientation stations in which the new portion will learn about engine room and lab safety, get a taste of the inner workings of the galley, and get a guided tour of all of the spaces on the ship. Tonight will be the last full night of sleep for the ship’s company while we are tied securely to the dock here in Rockland. Tomorrow, we will leave the dock to anchor close by and finish our safety training.  After these first 24 hours of vast amounts of information we will leave the anchorage and begin our journey to points south.