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Voyages

SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

The Robert C. Seamans departed Honolulu with class S236 on July 2nd. They plan to sail east across the Pacific, arriving at the Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model Dock in Sausalito on July 29th.

Position information is updated on a workday basis only. Audio updates from the ship are reported periodically throughout the voyage.

Jul

28

S236 Ocean Exploration

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27 July 2011
Current Position: 38deg N x 122deg 58’ W
Current Weather: Winds and seas are calm; overcast skies with variable fog
Photo Caption: Michelle and Chelsea give the Seamans’ hull a good cleaning.

Greetings from Drakes Bay, approximately 40 nautical miles north of the entrance to San Francisco Bay. We first smelled land on the morning watch, but had to get very close to shore before we could see it (in fact, “Land Ho!” was only called as we were anchoring). All are appreciating the gentle seas and minimal wind of our anchorage after an exciting ride on the California Current over the past few days. Drakes Bay sits within one of three National Marine Sanctuaries along this portion of the California coast and is typically a good area for birding and wildlife watching; we’re keeping our eyes peeled for sharks, whales and other such fun creatures. Not only an opportunity to take the time to give back to the ship (we spent a number of hours today engaged in ship’s work - a massive deckwash and hull cleaning!), our anchoring for a short time before approaching San Francisco also allows us to gradually re-enter civilization…although we might not have thought this important beforehand, the space and quiet found here are proving valuable to all as the end of S236 draws imminent.

Tomorrow we’ll get underway at dawn and sail for the Farallon Islands, another protected marine habitat, and then transit the Golden Gate. Strong JWO leadership will square away all the logistics for this passage and students and crew alike are looking forward to arriving in style!

Jul

27

S236 Ocean Exploration

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26 July 2011
Current Position: 38deg 33.5’N × 123deg 46.0’W
Current Weather: Wind N×W, 4 kts; Sea N×W, 5 ft; Cloud Coverage 1/8; Temperature 17deg C
Current Sail Plan: Sailing on a port tack under the stays’ls.
Photo Caption: (From left) Devin, Josh, Caitlin, Allison, and Suzi relaxing on the top of the doghouse.

Greetings from the Robert C. Seamans!

At our very first watch meeting with Jay and Mitch (our watch office and lab officer) we talked about what it meant to be a watch - things like supporting each other, working through challenges together, and taking care of the ship. We talked about situational awareness and how you need to have full conversations with people when you wake them up to make sure they are, in fact, awake. Today we had our last official watch meeting as A Watch and we talked about…the same things. This time, however, we talked about moments in the past month when we actually experienced those ups and downs. We also talked about some of our favorite moments from the trip and how we will feel leaving when we dock in Sausalito.

I can hardly believe that this voyage is coming to an end so soon - it seems like only yesterday that I took my first steps aboard the Seamans in Honolulu. The energy and excitement amongst the staff and students was contagious and I had no doubt in my mind that this would be an incredible experience. Now that my time aboard the Seamans is concluding I can safely say that this has, indeed, been an amazing experience that I will never forget.

Mom and dad, see you in Sausalito!

Allison

Jul

26

S236 Ocean Exploration

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25 July 2011
Current Position: 39deg 45.4’ N × 125deg 53.5’W
Current Weather: Wind N×W, 11-16 kts; Sea N×W, 3 ft; Cloud Coverage 1/8; Temperature 19deg C
Current Sail Plan: Sailing under the Stays’ls, Tops’l, Rafee, and single reefed Main.
Photo Caption: An engineering diagram of the Marine Sanitation Device

Merry Christmas in five months!
It has been another beautiful day onboard Robert C. Seamans. After a few days of motoring, we are finally sailing with “fair winds and following seas” as we are getting closer to the California Current. While we are busy finishing up our research projects which are due tonight, we are still having a lot of time to chill and tons of fun!

Since there are only a few days before the end of our voyage, we are doing our best to make every day eventful and fun. My watch (B watch) had our first themed watch - Christmas in July - followed by Ninja-themed evening watch (C watch). During theme watches, we wear crazy hats, dress up in crazy costumes, and have crazy watch turnovers. I have some mixed feelings about going back to regular life and I think many feel the same way.

During afternoon class I had a wonderful time presenting an engineering report with Athena on the MSD (Marine Sanitation Device), which processes our sewage. Since both of us can draw, we made silly illustrations to demonstrate how the MSD works (see photo for an example). This is just one of the fun presentations onboard Robert C. Seamans. Here at sea we have classes every weekday at 1430, which is the common time when the ship’s company gets together. The classes here are quite different from that of the shore component in Woods Hole. Not only is our classroom surrounded by the blue ocean, but we are leading our own classes! The classes are hosted by students and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the dawn watch is responsible for the Nautical Science Report and Oceanography Report. Each group answers one specific question about current issue, our location, or other topics, for example…And there is no Google onboard, unfortunately, so we have to solve the questions by researching in library books or asking our mighty crew members.

We had crab cakes for lunch. Afternoon snack was sashimi from a fresh tuna caught a few hours ago and dinner was spaghetti. Thanks to our magnificent steward Maggie, we eat like kings.

Alright, this is just a glimpse of our shipboard life. Now I have to work on my research project. It’s due in 2 hours!

Mom and Dad, see you in a few days in San Francisco!

Also secretly working on my project for Swizzle, hehehe…
Chang Shu

Jul

25

S236 Ocean Exploration

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24 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 18.5’N × 128deg 59.7’W
Current Weather: Winds are light and variable, NW×W, Force 3. Currently overcast skies. Seas are calm.
Current Sail Plan: Motor Sailing under the 2 stays’ls on a port tack, 1400 RPM. Course ordered 083deg per ships compass.
Photo Caption: C watch doing what we do BEST…from left to right Jes, Suzi, Omar and Lauren!

Greetings, my shore companions!
I am happy to report that we are all well onboard the Robert C Seamans. Our final rotation between deck and lab officers has begun and I think it’s safe to say that we are all thrilled; not to say that we did not enjoy the other mates and scientists but the reunion with our original watch officers was gratifying. We were able to display the skills that we obtained over the two weeks that we were essentially separated; I believe they were impressed with the wealth of knowledge that we have developed over this time.

Most of us are currently trying to tie the last few pieces of our science projects together. We have obtained most, if not all, of our data and we will be discussing and developing our final conclusions. Thinking back to where we have started and where we are now, it’s amazing how much we have accomplished and learned. Having been directly involved with the deployment and processing of our data made us appreciate how much work is involved to successfully conduct our science experiments.

Home is on my mind, not necessarily that I want to leave, but it would be nice to know how are things back home. Sometimes I really do miss the family and my amazing friends (being away makes me appreciate how awesome you guys really are!), but the family that I have developed here are some of the coolest and most interesting individuals that I have ever met. I am grateful everyday that this class is so amazing, because if it wasn’t I really don’t know how I would have made it.

Mom, just want to say I LOVE YOU! You too DAD, chances are you will not read this, but hey (JK); my big bro, sisters the whole family too! I am enjoying myself, more than I thought I would. The Pacific is actually great, the weather is bearable and the food is AWESOME!! Never the less, Love You Guys! I will see you in a few!

Love/Best Wishes
Omar C.

Jul

24

S236 Ocean Exploration

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23 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 45.9’ N x 133deg 06.4’ W
Current Weather: Light and variable wind with seas of about 1 foot, coming from the NWxN. A beautiful sunset after a relaxing evening with calm seas.
Current Sail Plan: Motor-sailing at 1400 RPMs with a course ordered of 072deg per ship’s compass (about due east); on a port tack under the four lowers
Photo Caption: A Watch mustered on the headrig today after enjoying the eight-hour “sleep of kings!”  From left to right: Preston, Erika, Chelsea, Allison, Julia, Caitlin, Josh, Michelle.

Greetings from the Pacific! All is well aboard the Robert C. Seamans as we settle into Phase III and learn to balance the responsibility of sailing the ship towards home.  I must admit that at first, as my first watch as junior watch officer (JWO) approached, I was apprehensive to say the least.  But several of my watchmates completed their JWO duties before I did, and each of them helped to teach me the proper spirit of the challenge: this is not an individual test, but a test of the watch as a whole.  And maybe not even a test…more like an opportunity.  An opportunity to take charge of something beautiful and to preserve it in the midst of a chaos.  The beautiful is the smooth, successful navigation of a tall ship and the safety of 35 people in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  The chaos is the many forces that will work against that goal: unfavorable winds and seas, lack of knowledge, the constraints of time, and (most importantly) fear.  Over the course of the past four days, I have learned that these forces are no match for the cumulative knowledge, cohesion, and teamwork of my watch.  As all eight of us faced JWO during Phase II, I’m pretty sure that at some point, we each reflected on how much we had learned and feared that it was not enough to take charge of the ship.  I certainly did.  But as JWO watches have progressed, we have all realized that between the eight of us, we cumulatively possess all the knowledge and foresight necessary to handle the weight of the watch.  And even have fun in the doing of it.

Best moment of JWO so far: morning watch (0700-1300) a couple days ago. Caitlin was our fearless JWO, I was junior lab officer (JLO), and the day broke foggy and gray.  The deep bellow of the fog horn sounded every two minutes, made us feel warm.  The first few hours were uneventful as we went through the routine of completing boat checks, filling out the deck log, manning the helm, keeping watch, and doing deck walks.  However, things quickly picked up as we anticipated an 1150 Neuston tow.  In order for us labbies to deploy the Neuston net at 1150, the watch was going to have to figure out how to slow down the ship to 2.0 knots.  In the doghouse (the cabin of the ship where all the charts and monitoring screens are), we learned that ship was going about 8.0 knots.  The wind was gusting 20.0 knots, and we had up the four lowers, the JT, the tops’l, AND the raffee. That’s a LOT of canvas!!  We constructed a plan to strike the tops’l, the raffee, and the JT, then double gybe in order to pass the stays’ls so that they act like brakes to slow down the ship.  The whole procedure went pretty smoothly, with communication solid and spirits running high.  One thing I’ve learned to be on this ship is loud.  Whenever Caitlin sounded a command, like “HANDS TO STRIKE THE JT!” we repeat it wherever we are on the ship so that she knows we heard her command.  Once you have assumed a position at one of the lines, you then shout out “READY ON THE PORT JT SHEET!” for example, and she repeats it back to you.  Once she has heard a ready call for each line associated with the JT, Caitlin can then call out “STRIKE THE JT!” and we all haul or ease our lines. We have all learned the hard way that this communication is essential to successful sail handling.  Once we had taken down the three sails, furled them, AND turned the ship 180 degrees and back again, we went to the doghouse to see if our speed had been reduced enough.  To our dismay, we were still going 3.5 knots, with scheduled splash time for the Neuston net approaching quickly.  When we asked our watch officer, Sara, for help, she shrugged her shoulders, driving home the point that it was our duty to figure it out.  So we gathered around the quarterdeck to think.  Caitlin suggested that we turn up into the wind so the sails catch less wind, and so we changed course from 068deg to 055deg psc and watched our speed decrease to 3.0 knots.  I then suggested that we ease out the main sheet to decrease the effectiveness of the large mains’l near the stern of the ship.  Once we had done this, the ship’s speed went down to 2.0 knots, and exhilarated by our success, I and the two other labbies scampered to the science deck to deploy the Neuston.  Overall, the watch was a big success.  JWO stopped being something scary and started to be an exciting and a beautiful opportunity.  Thank you, Sara, for shrugging your shoulders! :D

Off watch, we drink coffee, huddle around Jay on the dog house as he plays his guitar, play card games, work on our science projects, fillet fish that we catch on our line, photograph the beautiful ship, journal about our experiences, climb the rigging to watch sunsets, and go to the lab to marvel at the beautiful sea creatures we catch in our nets (and sleep gets fit in whenever it can). 

We’ll see you all so soon! Happy belated birthdays to Shelby and Mom!  Love to Rowan, Sofe, Dad, Greta, and Measles. Can’t wait to see you guys again. 

Much love,
Julia

Jul

23

S236 Ocean Exploration

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22 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 48’ N x 136deg 58’ W
Current Weather: Wind NE, 8-10 kts; Sea NE, 3 ft (swell height); Cloud
Coverage: 8/8; Temperature 15deg C
Current Sail Plan: Sailing under the four lowers, the fish, and the JT.
Photo Caption: I took this picture a week or two ago, but I really like it, so I figured I’d throw it in now. Also, it hasn’t been this sunny in a while, and I miss weather like this. This is a picture from the head rig, looking up at the foremast. Aloft, you can just barely see Thomas, Erin, and Devin, who are taking in the view.

Greetings from the Control Room! This is Max, the 2nd Engineer onboard. We thought we’d shake things up a bit and give all of you fine people a staff perspective on things. Why they chose me to give this perspective remains a bit of a mystery, as this summer is my first time with SEA. I didn’t do a student trip, so my association with the ship began about six days before all of the students and about two weeks after I graduated from college. (Talk about culture shock: going from finals in New Hampshire to working aloft on the mast in Hawaii in such a short time. It was surreal). 

As I said, I’m currently below decks in the Engineering Control Room, monitoring a fuel transfer. We have four main fuel storage tanks on board, but before we burn any diesel we run it through a centrifuge (which removes any water that may have condensed in the fuel) and store it in a smaller tank. Since we are going to be motor sailing all night, I went ahead and topped up the tank now, to save having to get up in the middle of the night and refill.

Being an engineer, I have a much different schedule than the students, mates, or scientists. Thomas (the Chief Engineer) and I don’t stand a watch, but we’re on call at any time of the day. We get woken up at 0600 every day (well, theoretically.  It’s a bit hit-or-miss.  Since our wakeups buck the usual watch schedule, sometimes people forget.  It’s cool, we understand), eat breakfast at 0620, and usually hang out with a coffee until 0700. After that, the only things we have on our schedule are lunch at 1220, class at 1430, and dinner at 1900. We fill the day with a set of daily and weekly preventative maintenance measures - for example, checking oil levels, working valves, or corrosion-protecting anything liable to get salty (which, to be frank, is practically everything). We also have any number of projects that pop up as things on board break, bend, wear out, or generally do anything but what they’re supposed to do.

Today our plate was pretty empty, so Thomas, Erin (the 3rd mate) and I decided to get up at 0400 and give our steward a morning off by making eggs benedict for the ship’s company. Then we went back to sleep until 1100 (engineering naptime, also known as pillow inspection or eyelid check. It’s vital). After lunch, we went to class with the rest of the students, then repaired a leaky saltwater line in the condenser for the refrigerator. Yesterday we replaced the serpentine belt on one of the generators, then kicked the crap out of chase-the-buoy. I know Lauren mentioned chase-the-buoy in her entry yesterday, but she failed to adequately acknowledge the Engineering Team’s dominance, so I figured I’d throw in a little plug. We ran straight over the buoy on our first tack. It’s enough to make it seem like Thomas has been working on this boat for 3 years or something.

Well, I figure that’s about it. I’m on call tonight (which means any problems that come up are my problems, and not Thomas’), and the midships head (toilet) has been acting up recently. Which means I’ll probably have to fix it at some point tonight…so I’m going to try to get a little shut-eye before that happens. 

Knock on wood that everything will keep running as well as it has been for the last few days, and we’ll talk to all of you in a week!

Max McClorey

Jul

22

S236 Ocean Exploration

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21 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 45.5’ N x 140deg .21’9 W
Current Weather: Wind NNW, F4; Sea NNW, 4 ft (swell height); Cloud Coverage 8/8; Temperature 17.5deg C
Current Sail Plan: Sailing under the four lowers with the topsail and JT.
Course ordered 068 deg by the ship’s compass
Photo Caption: The Nobeltec trackline of our buoy chase today. It’s not easy to catch a moving target!

Hello Family and Friends!

Today was an especially exciting day onboard the Robert C. Seamans! In place of normal class today, we had a Buoy Chase. This involved members of the crew tossing the target (an orange flotation ring attached to two buoys) over the side. It became the mission of each individual watch to determine and complete the appropriate sail maneuvers to bring the target close enough to catch with a boat hook. First up was my watch, C watch! I volunteered to be the lookout. My job was to obtain a compass bearing on the target and maintain a constant visual, pointing with my arm extended outward to help the rest of the crew determine the position of the target. I also called out the location of the target in relation to the ship, for example, “Two points on the starboard beam!” The rest of my watch, led by today’s amazing JWO, Suzi, decided upon and executed the appropriate sail maneuvers and helm commands to bring the target alongside the ship.

We first decided to try a tack, which ended up not working. We then tried a gybe, which brought us close enough to the target to touch with the boat hook - a great success! Alas, we couldn’t actually capture the target, and much to our dismay it floated on by. Close, but no cigar! The other watches then took control to try and capture the target. Despite their best efforts, neither B watch nor A watch hooked the target, so the professional crew stepped up to try their hand. It took three attempts by the crew to finally pull the target back on board. It was under the Third Mate Erin’s command that the target was finally acquired. From the time the target was thrown overboard, it took around two and a half hours of maneuvering before we met with success! It was our rockin’ First Scientist, Murph, and our stellar Chief Scientist, Deb, who managed to hook the target and pull it over the rail. I know I’m not alone when I say that I will probably be seeing that orange flotation ring in my sleep for many nights to come…

After the Buoy Chase, C watch resumed control of the deck. On our watch today, we successfully set the topsail, something we had never done before as a watch. We also set the Raffee for the first time of the entire trip! Both of these new experiences were a challenge, but C watch has a great track record for rising to meet challenges. We are growing stronger as a watch every day, and we’ve also grown amazingly close as friends. Today during our watch meeting, we took advantage of some down time to play a funny game called fax machine. It was so nice to sit together with our Watch Officer, Jay, and Science Officer, Mitch, and just enjoy each other’s company. With so much of our journey behind us, I find myself wishing I could spend more time with the people here on board. Jay has reminded us several times that never again will these 35 people be in the same place at the same time. Never again will we be able to share this type of experience, and I know we are all planning to make the most out of the time we have left.

To Mom (Mawma), Dad (Happy day-late Birthday!!), Ashley (Smash) and Jim - I miss and love you all! Hug Buster, Peaches and Carla for me! I’ll see you all soon. Tomorrow is my day as assistant steward, so I better get some sleep!

Fair winds!
-Lauren

Jul

21

S236 Ocean Exploration

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Hello all,
We are currently on a port tack, motor sailing under the four lowers on a course ordered and steered of 067 per ships compass, with not quite enough wind to justify setting the jib topsail. Not quite enough wind however merely means Beaufort Force 3 or 4, rather than 5 or 6, so the steady gusts are still enough to blow your wet socks off the drying line and over the side.

Since beginning easting a few days ago, its been especially chilly. The engineers actually turned the heat on this morning - it hasn’t been touched in about a year. (Also, you can barely tell its on; it’s still very cold even below decks, although admittedly not nearly so finger-numbing as standing forward lookout). Complete cloud cover accompanies the brisk temperatures and we saw the sun maybe once today (which is rather disappointing if you’ve had your sextant out every free second since lunch, eagerly anticipating shooting an afternoon sun line). But the clouds make for truly epic pictures, especially at sunset. everyone is wearing their SEA Debbie-knit caps from woods hole. Also, a few nights ago we learned via self-teaching how to make nifty triple braid; I’m calling it now, they’ll be the new thing for S236, just like the hair braids were before we set sail.

Sleeping in until lunch is always a nice perk of having midwatch until 0300, but it usually involves missing breakfast. Consequently however, lunch is twice as exciting. Today was chicken and tortellini (food is important you know. I would be remiss in neglecting to mention it).

JWO phase 3 continued today. And the ship sails on, relatively sound and quite unsunk, which is a good indication that it is safe to draw the following conclusion: these fledgling sailors, with not yet 3 weeks of shipboard experience, have the wherewithal to direct and carry out the sail handling that will get the Robert C Seamans safely to port in Sausalito. Even if most go into their JWO watch terrified of being the voice that directs the show, the performers have confidence that JWO knows what he or she is doing. And by the end of the watch, the JWO has that confidence as well.

With only nine days left aboard, science experimentation is both picking up into a frenzy of data collection and analysis writing, as well as coming to an end. Our final papers are due on Monday.

Today also, towards the end of afternoon watch, the captain decided to try jerry-rigging a sail. Our fisherman (the sail on the foremast which would fly above the fores’l) has been out of commission for the entire trip, not to be replaced until California. However, we have a storm tris’l, most commonly bent on and used as a smaller replacement for the mains’l when the winds become too intense. In the relatively calm North Pacific High, we haven’t that worry, so Pamela experimented and we rigged the tris’l as a fisherman. It didn’t quite work out, but the make-shifting was fun, and captain plans to continue experimentation tomorrow.

Signing out from 40deg 46’ N, 143deg 33’ W,
Erika Higgins

Picture Caption: Class on the quarterdeck

Jul

20

S236 Ocean Exploration

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19 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 40.0’ N x 146deg 55.0’ W
Current Weather: Wind NE, F4; Seas NE x N, 3 ft (swell height); Clouds 8/8; Temperature 18.5deg C
Current Sail Plan: Motorsailing under the four lowers
Photo Caption: Allison, Devin, Preston and Kimberly aloft.

Hello Family and Friends!

It’s pretty difficult to sit here in the library onboard the Robert C. Seamans and tell you all about my day. Rather than describe to you a series of events, I’ve decided to provide a glimpse into my daily thoughts. As has been previously expressed by my shipmates, time is not the same out here as it is on land. I feel like I have been onboard ship longer than 18 days. Yesterday feels like four days ago, but tomorrow’s adventures are right around the corner, a little much too soon. 

My mates and I started this journey expecting to be challenged academically, emotionally and physically. What we did not prepare for was how to not prepare. It’s all about situational awareness. We can learn how to set/strike a sail, gybe or furl, but these are all commands. No one day, no one watch, no one moment is the same as the previous.

I have had to use every skill that I have ever learned in my life onboard this ship and continue to learn more. Everything that I thought I knew how to do has been put to the test out here. I can hear my parents’ advice telling me to stay strong and keep moving forward. At the same time, I think back to lessons I learned at camp on how to be part of a community. All the while I stay focused on Jay’s words of how to winch properly and how it’s okay not knowing everything. Before I know it, Erin’s knowledge of always staying aware of the wind is my main focus, and the list goes on. All this advice that I carry with me and that I continue to take in, is to help me be the best I can in order to give the best of me to my crew. What you give is what you’ll get.

To describe to you one moment of my trip would take up my entire blog. There are many thoughts consistently running through my mind. I am constantly thinking of what has to get done during my watch and how to perform my best, how I will spend my time off watch, reviewing class notes, learning commands, hearing the movement of sails and lines or my favorite: paying attention to my sensations - feeling the wind and sun’s warmth on my face, seeing the cerulean blue of the ocean I love so much (basically appreciating the moment - Carpe Diem!). Our time at sea is not about a grade, a lab deployment or even sail handling. It’s the action of learning together and reaching a goal as a team, while in the process learning about who we are and how to be a part of something greater than the individual.

Thanks for listening!

Melissa and company

P.S. Thank you to all who helped me reach my goal in being a part of SEA Semester

Jul

19

S236 Ocean Exploration

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18 July 2011 (actually it’s about 0415 on the morning of the 19th…)
Current Position: 40deg 40’ N X 149deg 23’ W
Current Weather: Winds force 3 from the ENE, 2ft ExN seas, with temperatures about 18deg C; lots of clouds but stars still visible for shooting!
Current Sail Plan: Motor sailing full and by on a starboard tack under the four lowers. Course ordered is 074deg by the ship’s compass.

Photo Caption: Freshwater transfer with the SV Tamara Lee Ann (the small Marconi rigged sloop) including the four crew of the Tamara, our 3rd mate Erin and chief engineer Thomas in the small boat (the inflatable), and our captain Pamela, chief scientist Deb, chief mate Jay, steward Maggie, and assistant engineer Max, all on the quarterdeck, and Andrew at the helm.

Hello all,
The past few days on the Seamans have been quite eventful! Yesterday, (Sunday) was staff cook day, where all members of the staff pitched in to cook a meal or snack to give Maggie (our wonderful steward) a “day off.” By some manner of luck I was pulled from my watch to help make lunch with our 2nd scientist, Randy (aka Randazzle). We made wicked thick New England clam chowdah and popovers! Other excellent items on the menu that day were crepes, homemade doughnuts, biscotti, burgers with grilled pineapple, sweet potato fries, and chocolate chip cookies. Basically everyone was on a giant sugar high for about 30 hours. 

Today, (Monday) was a little bit more exciting. As we’ve sailed north and eastward, we have been encountering boat traffic more frequently.. For the most part we’ve been seeing large shipping tankers, many being over 150 meters in length. The other day, a small sailing vessel, the Tamara Lee Ann, hailed us via radio, but the connection was bad and we lost them. As you can see in the photo, today they found us! The Tamara also set sail from Honolulu and is headed toward San Francisco, but four days out from Hawaii their watermaker broke. They politely requested some assistance, as they only had 30 gallons of water left, and we gladly obliged. 

Our engineers rigged up a large length of hose (that can be seen if you look at the picture closely) attached to our water tanks and the small boat team floated and lead the hose over to the Tamara (you can see large fenders attached to the hose keeping it afloat). After their tank had been filled, Thomas even jumped aboard and fixed their watermaker! The whole procedure was amazing to observe from aloft, where I sat with Allison, Preston and Devin. As the hose was passed back across to the Seamans the Tamara sent over a few gifts to thank us: two books, The Sailor’s Word Book and a Tom Clancy novel (which I would give the title of, but I think someone might be reading it away from the library), as well as a rigging knife. The Tamara crew waved and cheered enthusiastically as we parted ways. We definitely made some friends today.

Monday afternoon also marked our transition from Phase 2, the “shadow” phase, to Phase 3, the JWO (junior watch officer) phase! Starting at 0700 on Tuesday morning, one member of each watch will be a JWO or JLO, and will be relying on their own knowledge as well as the collective knowledge and skills of their watch to sail/do science. We can no longer rely on our Mates/Scientists for constant advice, as they will only intervene if we are placing ourselves in a dangerous situation. This may seem like a lot of responsibility to hand off to us, but have no fear, we’ve got this. Josh is getting ready (as I type) to take his place as the first JWO! Parents be proud, he’s going do a great job.

Well, it’s time for me to get back to the lab again! Hope all is well on the mainland!
Until next time,
Kimberly and all the crew of the SSV Robert C. Seamans

PS: Dad and Holly, I made seven layer bars and they were a big hit and Lexa, breathe. Big hugs to Andrew, Daisy, and Kitten!!

Jul

18

S236 Ocean Exploration

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17 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 35.9’ N X 152deg 45.3’ W
Current Weather: Winds from the NExN, calm seas (2ft) and temperatures at around 20deg C
Current Sail Plan: Motor sailing on a port tack under the main sail and staysails. Course ordered is 070 deg by the ship’s compass.
Photo Caption: Successfully furled jib

Hello from the SSV Robert C. Seamans! Few of us can hardly believe that we are now over half way through our cruise and will be back on land this time next week. I know that all of us are excited to go home, but even more excited to learn as much as we can before that. And there is still a lot to learn…

Today, my watch (A watch) began at 1300. Which really means that we were on deck at 1245, surveying the deck to see what sails were being used. By 1255, the previous watch (C watch) had informed us of everything we needed to know to take control of the deck. Just as C watch was relieved, my watch officer, Erin, informed me that I was going to be her “shadow.” What she meant by shadow was that I was going to spend the watch following her around, learning (and attempting to accomplish) the duties of a watch officer. Up until today, the shadow has always known ahead of time when they were going to shadow, so that they could have time to mentally prepare for the challenge. Today, I was completely caught off guard.

It was barely an hour into my watch when Erin told me that since we were using the main engine, we were going to strike the jib, and I was going to lead that strike. I hadn’t yet led anything without the guidance of our watch officer, so understandably, I was nervous. Did I really know which lines did what? Did I really know the steps in the right order? Did I know the proper commands to shout out?

However, once I met up with Allison, Josh, and Erika, the three members of my watch who were going to help me strike the jib, I was reassured. Anything I didn’t know, they would help me with, as they always do. Without much delay, Josh and Allison grabbed the downhaul, while Erika eased the halyard. When I gave the order, they quickly hauled the sail down. Because the wind was so light, the sail simply laid on the headrig, waiting to be furled.

Because I was leading the strike, I didn’t join the other three as they climbed onto the headrig. It was strange for me to watch instead of participate in the action, but my watchmates accomplished the task without me, and were back on deck 14 minutes after the initial call to strike was given. It wasn’t our best time, but the task was accomplished well, and with little help from Erin.

As we all gathered back onto the quarter deck, Erin offered advice on how to strike a sail more efficiently and cleared up any thing that may have confused us in the process of striking the jib. Afterwards, all of us felt that our understanding of sail handling had increased just a little bit more, as it does every day we are here.

Because the water was so still, we had a mid-watch break for yoga. Halfway through our stretching, the wind speed picked up, and our sails filled out just a little bit more. As the day wore on, the wind speed gradually increased. Hopefully soon we will have enough to sail by again.

Missing everyone from home but having the greatest time,
Chelsea Gray

Jul

17

S236 Ocean Exploration

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16 July 2011
Current Position: 40deg 26.4’N x 156deg 31.9’W, making a little over 8 knots
Current Weather: Winds from the ESE, calm seas (2ft) and (relatively) chilly temperatures (20deg C)
Current Sail Plan: Motor sailing on a starboard tack under the four lowers. Course ordered is 065deg by the ship’s compass.
Photo Caption: Our first time jumping into the Pacific Ocean, which was incredibly refreshing after a few hours of rigorous cleaning for field day.

Hello to everyone and anyone who is reading the S236 blog! We miss all of you terribly but, let’s be honest, we’re having a blast.

On to our updates…everyone knew today was bound to be perfect because it started off with a huge pod of dolphins swimming alongside our ship. As I stood along side my shipmates observing the megafauna, I thought to myself that, at this very moment in time, there was no where else any of us would rather be.

On a less cheesy note, today we had our second field day and it was just as amazing as the first. After a phenomenal field day rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” (costumes included) all three watches, scientists and mates began the hardy cleanup of our beloved Robert C. Seamans. Some of you blog readers are probably curious as to what sort of cleaning happens onboard the vessel. So, I thought I’d share with you all a few (of many) jobs completed by 1600: cleaning hatches with toothbrushes, squeegee-ing (pretty sure that’s not a word) the floors, thorough head cleanups with two-cornered sponges and dusting the vents with a Q-tip. Additionally, our precious ipods reemerged from the deepest depths of the vessel and provided us quality sing-along tunes and sweet dance moves. Unfortunately for me, my excessive ipod volume hid the fact that Randy, the second scientist on board, caught me singing a little louder than I’d like (whoops).

The ships’ clock rang 1600 and we all congregated at the quarter deck for a debriefing on field day activities. Fortunately, our grimy selves were rewarded with a swim in the biggest pool on the planet: the Pacific Ocean. Responding with whoops and hollers, we scurried to throw on swimsuits and jump into the big old blue. As we swam along the surface, excessively quoting Finding Nemo, we looked back at the Robert C. Seamans and for the first time, appreciated her beauty from the sea’s perspective. Even though she stands 115 feet tall, the Robert C. Seamans appears so small in comparison to the horizon that surrounds us. It’s at that particular moment in the water that we realized that humans are a small part of something much greater than ourselves. 

Although I feel a large amount of “fomo” (fear-of-missing-out) and as much fun as this blog posting really is, I’m a little tired and feel I should probably get some rest before my two cups of strong black coffee and sugar at the beginning of my 0300 watch hour. To all that are reading the blog back home, we’re thinking of you and send all our love (well, as much as we can through the computer screen). See you all too soon.

Fair winds,
Charlotte Lescroart (and everyone else on board!)

Jul

16

S236 Ocean Exploration

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15 July 2011
Current Position: 39 deg 21.37’ N x 158 deg 45.21’W; Making roughly 5.7 knots
Current Weather: Winds ExS Beaufort Scale force 4, partly cloudy with a full moon!
Current Sail Plan: Sailing under the four lowers with the JT, steering full
and by on a starboard tack at 030 degrees by the ship’s compass

Photo Caption: Students hauling the mains’l halyard!

Greetings family and friends!
Today marks the halfway point of our trip (timewise, perhaps not in distance)! As we prepare to enter Phase III, or the JWO (Junior Watch officer) and JLO (Junior Lab Officer) phase, of our trip all students onboard are becoming more comfortable and confident everyday with operations on deck and in lab. My day began after a wondrous night of six hours of sleep - my watch, C-watch, was blessed with the Sleep of Kings or what we have formally renamed as the King of Sleeps. Unfortunately I missed a delicious breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, but sleep was crucial.

At 1430 we had our Deck Practical! This was a little different than our Lab Practical as we completed it in our three watch groups rather than individually. Each watch had to perform a sail handling task and figure out the response to two different safety scenarios. My watch started with the responses to the emergency situations: the first one being a tricky man-overboard scenario in the middle of the night, and the second a fire in the control space near the engine room. With only a few disagreements, our watch figured out the appropriate responses to these difficult situations. Hopefully we will not encounter problems like these, but it’s good to know we are prepared! We then proceeded to our “on deck” task where we needed to set the JT, then strike and furl the JT in less than 8 minutes. C watch dominated it! With only a couple mistakes, we performed these tasks quicker than we had ever done before! During our meeting afterwards, it sounded like all three watches have been doing a much better job with communication and teamwork. Everyone can agree that we are beginning to become more reliant on each other as watch mates rather than relying on our deck officers, which will be extremely important once we are JWOs. Go class S-236!

Tonight after some delicious homemade pizza, courtesy of our steward Mags and student Erica, some students watched the beautiful sunset while others decorated Styrofoam cups for our deployment of the “styrocast” tomorrow morning. This styrocast will send our cups about 2000 meters deep into the ocean and will shrink them approximately half the size. It was a fun little arts and crafts project to take a break from all of the sail handling and data collecting! Everyone’s designs on their cups look great and it will be fun to see how they turn out tomorrow!

Off to bed now to rest up for another day of extreme cleaning tomorrow - our second FIELD DAY! (Mom, you will be happy to hear that I have thoroughly learned to enjoy cleaning.) It should be interesting, as C watch is planning a Madonna-themed performance to motivate the ship’s company (Omar is currently constructing an outfit out of tinfoil…yikes!).

Sending love to my family back home! Miss you guys!

Fair winds,
Suzi Stein (and the rest of the crew onboard the Robert C. Seamans)

Jul

15

S236 Ocean Exploration

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14 July 2011
Current Position: roughly 37deg N x 159 deg W (I’ll have a better idea once I do my celestial navigation homework for tonight); Making around 5.5 knots
Current Weather: Winds ExN and 5 foot swells.  Cloudy but with plenty of moonlight peeking through
Current Sail Plan: Sailing under the four lowers (mains’l, main stays’l, fore stays’l, and the jib)
Photo caption:  The wet lab is full of interesting creatures!

Hi Everyone!

It’s been another busy and fun-filled day aboard the Robert C Seamans! We’re once again making way under sail (the best way to travel by far). Our course ordered was changed this afternoon to 070, aka we’re heading back towards the lovely USA! The weather today was pleasant, with only a bit of a squall this afternoon. Last night had plenty of rain though, and I’m becoming more and more fond of my foul weather gear. Things were nice and clear during class this afternoon. We practiced gybing, turning a total of seven times and making lovely figure-eights in the GPS recording of our cruise track. Our class has certainly come a long way from staggering about while staring blankly at pin rails trying to memorize the lines on the boat. I may still be sliding about like I’m wearing banana peel shoes, but when I grab a line for balance I can tell you exactly what that line is.

We got more done than just sailing today though. This afternoon there was a neuston tow and we collected a host of fun little critters. My favorite was the bubble snail (Janthina). Its lavender shell hangs from a bit of bubbly gook it creates in order to help it float. Miriam’s mini neuston collected some prizes as well. Since it’s much smaller and has a larger collection jar (called the cod end jar) it is much gentler for the organisms. She caught two salps, a crab, and a fully intact Porpita! Porpita are sort of like flat jellyfish and usually by the time we retrieve them the tentacles are all shredded right off, so this was really special. Excitement abounded in the world of the wet lab as we got to observe the crab catch and eat both of the salps. We won’t get to preserve them, but it was really interesting to watch nature take its course.

Tonight is pretty calm and we’re all up to different tasks. B watch has the deck and some people are hanging out with them enjoying the moonlight. Other people are in the saloon working on our Nautical Science assignment, plotting fixes from sextant measurements. Preston, Melissa, and Caitlin are up to something in the galley. I’m not positive what it is but I’m certainly excited for mid-rats (snack) when I get up for dawn watch at 0230! Right now I’m going to climb to the other side of the room (we’re one long black coat short of an epic Matrix-esqe photo shoot here) and get to work myself. I hope everything’s going well on land. Rest assured we’re having a fantastic time out here at sea, but not so fun that we’ll forget to come home when the month is up!

Fair winds!
Michelle

Ps. Lots of love to Mom, Dad, Derek, Kelly, Mary, David, and all the folks on shore!

Jul

14

S236 Ocean Exploration

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13 July 2011
Current Position: Approximately 35deg N x 160deg W. Making roughly 7.5 knots.
Current Weather: Winds have increased to a Beaufort Force 5, gusting 6 from the East. Seas have grown to 7-8 feet as a result.
Current Sail Plan: Sailing under the two stays’ls and the mighty D-sail (Diesel Engine).
Photo Caption: Andrew with today’s Mahi Mahi catch.

Greetings to friends and family back on terra firma:

The 13th of July has been an interesting day for the crew of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. We have been motor-sailing (sailing with only a few, well-trimmed sails in conjunction with the main engine) in order to make it to San Francisco on time. Until recently, we have been losing ground to the west as we progressed northwards to 40deg N as a result of the winds not allowing us to point as far East as we’d like to (a fun fact, the Seamans can only point 60 degrees to the wind and still make forward progress). This, in combination with the fact that the winds from the east have increased, bringing larger seas with them allowed our astute and forward-thinking captain to employ the main engine, take in sail and point further east towards the California coast. By doing this, we have increased our speed to nearly eight knots, and we are currently making good progress in our desired direction, and more importantly, home to all of you!

Given the rougher seas and our desire to make some serious tracks, science deployments did not occur during the day today - making for some restless lab watches and science officers. Fortunately, many have taken the free time during lab watches to work on their research projects. In lieu of science deployments, we did reel in a large Mahi Mahi on our fishing line during my afternoon deck watch today and, under Preston’s guidance, filleted it on deck for preparation in the near future - truly the freshest fish one could enjoy.

After a delicious dinner of pasta, sausage and peppers (like Mom and Pop love to make), C-Watch dutifully took the deck and relieved my watch. Spirits are high for those of us who are off watch enjoy some downtime together in the main salon. Warm beverages, celestial navigation work, and conversation abound as we make strong progress towards that big island called North America. The realization occurred to many today that we have been onboard for just eleven days now, with roughly two weeks left until we arrive in Sausalito. Time works in odd ways out on the Big Blue, with days seeming to drag on-and-on yet take no time at all. We carry on with high hopes and excitement in our hearts to continue on our adventure and be reunited with our beloved friends and families.

Andrew Mark, aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans.
p.s. Hi Mom and Dad & Alex. Love you all!

Jul

13

S236 Ocean Exploration

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12 July 2011 (Preston’s Birthday!)

Current Position:  33deg 39.6’ N x 160deg 56.3’ W
Course: 010deg PSC sailing under both stays’ls and storm trys’l.Additionally motoring as well (this would be called “motor sailing!”)Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature ~26 degC. Intermittently dodging squalls (my own words).
Photo Caption: This is a drawing of my experience viewing the amazing phenomenon that I will later describe in this blog entry (no spoiler alerts!).

Ahoy! Firstly, last night on mid watch (2300-0300) in C-Watch* (the best watch, in my humble opinion), on deck we focused on looking out for and dodging squalls (random rain bursts/storms on the high seas). My new watch officer, Sara Rusche, expertly “squall surfed” us through them
all, thus allowing for a much calmer sail last evening. The most memorable part of the evening for me personally occurred when I was on lookout visually looking out for squalls. I looked to the starboard side of the boat when I noticed a strange, curved white beam extending from the sky down to the water’s edge. I rubbed my eyes and cleaned my glasses’ lenses, but the beam did not go away. I then reported it to my watch officer only to discover that IT WAS A MOONBOW. As in a
rainbow-but at night. It was phenomenally amazing, and if for whatever reason I was not already thoroughly enjoying/getting so much out of this trip, that moonbow sighting would have made the entire experience worthwhile. As it stands, it was at least 17 cherries on top of an already decadent sundae.

Today, on the other hand, marked Preston Luce’s birthday! To celebrate, we made many posters decorating the main saloon (where we eat) and had delicious rainbow cupcakes. Many people (myself included) had large amounts of fun with the cupcakes including eating them in one bite (Mom, I know you’re proud) and putting the frosting all over each others
faces. Preston also requested a conga-line around the boat, which he
then led. It was a fabulous afternoon.

Accommodating this wonderful event was our first lab practical! There were 23 stations around the boat with questions concerning lab procedures. Lab practical questions included written questions (e.g.
what are five things discussed during watch turnovers?), questions including props (e.g. we were given a neuston tow set up with mistakes and were asked to point out what they were), and lastly questions incorporating physical actions (e.g. setting the lines for the “zona del muerto” or “zone of death” on the science deck). I learned that I still yet have much to learn. But David Murphy (“Murph”), my new Lab Officer, and Deb Goodwin, the Chief Scientist, said that was the whole point, and not to worry as it is a low portion of my overall grade (so rest easy, parental units! Your daughter is learning! Slowly!).

Also as a part of Phase II starting today, both the Watch (Deck) and Lab Officers were “shadowed” by two of the watch members. Jes Waller was the Watch Shadow and I was the Lab Shadow, or “stalker” as I like to call
it. Though I tried to appropriately lurk around Murph, the tasks of the day, the Lab Practical, and sail handling made it a little hard to do. Next time I’ll better stalk you, Murph. Next time. (But really not, as
we all only get one chance to follow around each of our officers before moving to PHASE III!).

Lastly, the ship is approaching the center of a high pressure system in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. This particular High is odd in that it has very close isobars-meaning higher winds and seas. These winds are also pushing us too far west-so we have started “motor sailing” to
ensure we get to San Francisco on time!

Overall it has been a wonderful day. Still adjusting to Phase II and new watch officers, but I can tell that switching things up really is a good way to fill in those gaps in our banks of knowledge.

Much love and affection towards the parents that made this trip possible,
Dorothy K. Smith (and everyone else aboard the Seamans!)

*Includes: Sara Rusche (Watch Officer), David Murphy (Lab Officer), Omar Clarke, Devin Hardy, Lauren Hill, Kim Reed, Dorothy Smith,, Suzi Stein, Matt Tantillo, and Jes Waller.

Jul

12

S236 Ocean Exploration

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10 Jul 2011
Current Position: 31 deg 51.75’ N Latitude, 160 deg 28.39’ W Longitude
Sail Plan: Under sail with the mains’l, main stays’l, forestays’l, jib, and JT
Current Weather: Windy (yahoo!) and in the high 70s and sunny! We closely dodged a large squall that we saw on the horizon.
Photo Caption: Plugging away at celestial navigation!

Hello All!

We were just told that we are moving onto Phase II of our trip! This means that each student will start to shadow our watch officers and start to learn some of the intricacies of running the boat. The goal is to get to Phase III where each student has the opportunity to be a JWO, or Junior Watch Officer. At this phase the ship will be completely student run! We are all thrilled to be making so much progress in only 8 days.

The stars were amazing last night as we had completely clear skies. One of our watch officers, Murph, is incredibly knowledgeable about constellations and how to use them to find navigational stars like Polaris, Aries, and Vega. At dawn watch (0300-0700) we were able to find my favorite constellation the Whale as well as Scorpio! They were just setting as we got up for watch. Yesterday A watch got a chance to shoot Aries during civil twilight (when the sun has gone down but you can still see the horizon). There are 127 steps to complete after you shoot a star in order to put a fix on the chart! That’s 127 different times you can make a math mistake. Needless to say it has been taking us a long time to complete each fix (see picture).

This afternoon we had our first unplanned man overboard drill! I was a little slow to realize that it was just a drill and was panicking trying to figure out who went overboard and why no one else was freaking out as much as I was. Five minutes later I realized that it was just a drill, but the students and crew reacted efficiently as though it was the real deal. It was shocking how easy it was to loose sight of the man overboard dummy (Oscar, a soccer ball) in the swells. We realized how important it was for everyone on the ship to point to where the MOB was so that the person on the small motor boat could follow where we were pointing to find Oscar. In less than nine minutes Oscar was safely back on board and we resumed our class.

Yesterday Erin and Omar caught our first fish, a Mahi Mahi! We fish on board by towing a line off the stern of the boat and then pull it in by hand. Devin, Preston and Erin worked on gutting the fish so that our amazing steward Maggie could make sushi for our afternoon snack. It was definitely the freshest sushi I have ever had as the fish had only been dead a few hours.

I’m off to learn about some of the science equipment before our lab practical tomorrow (eek!). And who knows I might just go aloft tonight after dinner (See picture 2)!

Sending lots of love to my family back home!

Fair Winds,
Erin and the rest of the crew aboard the Seamans

Jul

10

S236 Ocean Exploration

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9 July 2011
Position: 28º 43.0’ N by 158º 43.0’ W
Sail Plan: Sailing under the four lowers and JT, course ordered of 010º, steering full and by on a starboard tack.
Weather: Scattered cumulous clouds with Force 5 winds from the East.  Waves are between 3 and 5 ft and also coming from the East.
Photo Caption: Charlotte and Julia decided to try some exercises after our hose-down.

Hail from the freshly cleaned Seamans! It’s been a busy Saturday for all of us, but the skies stayed fair throughout and we’re ending our 1-week anniversary (a.k.a. “weekiversary”) on board with expectedly tired smiles.

Today was special for two reasons. One, it was Andrew’s 21st birthday, and what a way to spend it, eh? Our afternoon snack was a delicious batch of cupcakes in lieu of a full cake, and we feasted on steaks in his honor for dinner. It’s certainly something to be able to say you spent your 21st birthday sailing in the Pacific, and Andrew certainly enjoyed it.

Second, today was our first Field Day! Formerly, we all associated Field Day with the end-of-the-year mini-Olympics of Elementary school, brown-bag lunches, and cheap ribbons we coveted beyond reason. Now these two words mean a clean ship and clean crew after a two-hour scrubbing of every inch of the Seamans. A Watch kicked things off at 1400 with some cheers and song, hyping everyone up for a music-fueled cleaning frenzy. When we finished just after 1600, the Seamans sparkled inside and smelled of freshly-applied Murphy’s Oil Soap (a wood polish, which is worlds better than the dominant smells of the last week). As a reward, we were given a hose-down from one of our fire hoses, followed by an awesome hot-water shower on the fo’c's’le. My watch (C Watch) was on duty for this afternoon, and burning through three hours of our watch this way made it the best watch yet!

With one week behind us, the rhythms of living at sea are finally settling in. Our watch routines, methods of handling the ship, and conditions and standards of living in such close quarters are all becoming smooth and regular. Everyone’s getting the hang of working the sails (Omar, Devin, Suzi, and I did an awesome furl of the JT!), and everyone is taking more initiative in the other duties of the watch. For me, where the sun is on its course through the sky is less important as the time on the clock and when my next watch is. I’ve slept and woken up at all hours of the day, and the Seamans’ constant rolling and pitching means a truly restful slumber is hard to come by. This trip just might make a coffee drinker out of me.

On another note, we’ve picked up a resident of the sea - a pelagic bird. Though nobody is quite sure, we believe our new friend to be a Booby of some type, and it has been enjoying the view from the starboard end of our Course Yard.

The sun set beautifully to leeward behind a bank of clouds, and, while the rest of us relaxed and enjoyed the view, A Watch took up the chance for our first star frenzy. We’ve all been learning about shooting the sun with sextants and figuring our locations without the convenience of a GPS, and now A Watch is learning how to do the same by shooting as many stars as possible during the dusk twilight. Shooting stars is much easier on the eyes compared to the sun, but other stars are quite dim and small to us, so keeping them in view all the way to the horizon is tricky.

Well, that’s about it for tonight. My next watch is the dawn watch, and so I’m going to catch those precious hours of sleep before and hope I wake up in a good mood. Mom, we’re all safe and healthy; Dad, I sure do miss sailing on the lake right now; and Rachel, thinking of your smiling face whenever things get rough here. Hope everyone else following our voyage is doing well in your own endeavors, and friendly reminder to enjoy that stable ground beneath your feet!

The out-of-place Kansan,
Matt

Jul

09

S236 Ocean Exploration

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8 July 2011
Current Position: 27 deg 46 min N x 159 deg 1.5 min W
Sail Plan: Take advantage of these winds! (aka: Steer a course of 010
degrees on a starboard tack under the storm trys’l, mainstays’l, forestays’l, jib, and jib tops’l (JT))
Current Weather: Strong gusts picking up, but beautiful clear skies and warm temperatures
Photo Caption: Dawn and dusk on the open ocean are striking.

Greetings and many warm hugs to family and friends! This is Julia Frankenbach signing on to give you today’s blog for the crew of the Robert C. Seamans. What an amazing time it has been so far aboard the Seamans! Things are really starting to pick up now: backs and arms are weary, hair is greasy, eyelids are drooping during midday class, but every face is smiling. Because the feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment that comes with integrating into the crew of the ship and learning to sail is WELL worth long hours and few showers (and I mean it; it’s been four days since my last freshwater shower!).

Since this morning, my watch (A Watch) went to bed at 0300, we got to sleep until about 0900, when we summoned on the foredeck of the ship to have a watch meeting. We discussed the coming turning point during which we will transition from Phase 1 to Phase II of the cruise track. THIS IS REALLY BIG!! So far, life aboard ship has involved constant learning of new things ranging from complicated science deployments to learning the names and locations of all 72 lines on the ship to understanding how to strike and set sails. During all this learning, our watch officers have been commanding us, watching what we do, and correcting us when we make mistakes. This is all quite typical of Phase I. Phase II, on the other hand, will involve much less watch officer involvement. We will be expected to take much more control of the ship and its needs, coordinating the proper execution of sailing maneuvers amongst the eight of us in A Watch. Here are some of things we need to demonstrate in order to transition from Phase I to Phase II: a) strike/set/furl any of the four lowers and the JT (these are different sails) and know why and when we would set/strike these sails; b) individually demonstrate proper helm relief, then consistently steer the ship within 5 degrees of the ordered course; c) as a lab watch, collect and process at least 2 surface stations without direction, including samples for NO3, PO4, filtered Chl-a, sieved microplastics, and pH run on the spec. Phew!! The list of things we need to be able to do independently goes on, and it’s intimidating, I have to admit. But the feeling of family and the teamwork we’re developing in our watches makes me confident that we’re going to change phases successfully within the next couple of days!!

Amidst the hustle and bustle of running the ship in a safe and timely manner (and, of course, doing so while going in the right direction), I’ve found that it’s important to take some time to breathe in and contemplate the beautiful and strange place we’re in. Some of my most rewarding moments so far have come from simply sitting on the quarter deck as the sun lowers on the western plane of the waves. The sounds of my comrades shouting “2-6-heave! 2-6-heave!” travels to me from somewhere forward of the ship. The strong winds bout with the mains’l above me, and the lowering of the sun turns the westward view into a rolling, living sheet of silver, stretching on forever. It is both sobering and reassuring to remember that we are a node of human activity blowing along the top of a much larger swath of activity and life. One of the best possible assignments aboard the Seamans (so far) is to man the helm (steer the ship) during sunrise. This is the most exhilarating feeling EVER!! I did this during dawn watch a couple of days ago. My watch officer, Jay, commanded a course ordered of 005 degrees (that’s five degrees right of straight north) and so I stood at the back of the ship looking forward, with the ship’s steering wheel in hand and a strong wind blowing from the northeast. The bright, creamy spatter of stars and the mesmerizing glow of the compass light up the ship before you. Then, the sun begins to pale the eastern horizon to your right and it finally breaks out as a blazing orange disk on the eastern horizon. Looking ahead, you see the entire ship plunging forward and rising with the swells, responding to the turns of the wheel you make. An amazing feeling!!

Along with the sublime moments come those of the many hilarious little failures which result from teaching 19- and 20- and 21-year-olds to sail a ship in one week. I believe Rosemary has already communicated to you the story of the Curry Catastrophe, which I walked in on after a long afternoon watch. The floor and seats of the main saloon was COVERED in curry, and Maggie, our beloved steward, was standing in the middle of it, her legs coated in curry, directing the cleanup effort with various cooking implements and laughing like a champ in the midst of it all. One of my more embarrassing fail moments involved almost ruining the chlorophyll-a filter pump by forgetting one crucial step and backlogging the entire system with seawater. The whole thing started to spray seawater into the dry lab and I stood aside, shamefaced, as three scientists stood around it scratching their heads, trying to fix it. (No worries, I didn’t kill it, chlorophyll-a filter back in the game). In addition, staying vertical is the number one challenge of the day for all of us, especially with these huge swells the strong wind has created. So each and every one of us has excellent trip/slip/slide stories for you all. Mine involves 12am and an anchor. After I was relived from lookout at the bow by Preston, I started to do a boat check (which has to happen every hour). Upon inspecting the bow with a red light (to preserve my night vision), a big wave slammed into the bow, sending it pitching upward. I began on the starboard side of the ship and then proceeded to fly over the anchor and onto the sole (or bottom) of the port side, with my head area on the sole and my feet on the top of the anchor. Preston heroically coached me back into a sitting position and I proceeded with my boat check with some chunks missing, but aside from that, as if nothing had happened. (Preston saw it all, but he and Jay and Erin (the medical officer) are sworn to secrecy.) It was then all better because I got to man the helm during sunrise!

Dawn watch for me and the rest of A Watch in four hours, so off to get some shut eye! Sending my love to family and friends onshore and a cheery good night from all those aboard the Seamans! We’ll see you all soon.

Fair Winds,
Julia

Jul

08

S236 Ocean Exploration

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7 July 2011
Current Position: approximately 26 degrees North, 159 degrees West
Sail Plan: Storm trys’l, mainstays’l and forstays’l
Current Weather: Beaufort wind force 5-7 with waves to follow. Squalls a‘plenty
Photo Caption: A luciferin shrimp, one of the types of zooplankton we may discover in our net tows.

Oh heyyyyyy ! To whomever is reading this blog, I’d like to inform you that it is 0358 in the morning of July 8, and as no blog was posted yesterday and lab work is slow, I get the honor of conveying our current situation to the world. Let me begin with saying that our steward is clearly top notch material, and stress eating is a very real situation on board this ship. In fact I’m taking three minute breaks on five minute increments to stuff my face with vanilla wafers and Nutella graciously provided by the galley as our midnight snack. I’m pretty sure the only reason I haven’t gained thirty pounds in the past six days is due to the fact that I’m fighting to stay vertical fifteen hours a day. Because let’s not forget: there is no sitting when you stand watch! Also, hauling lines is giving my arms some sexy definition. Speaking of lines…I actually know them now! A feat I was almost entirely certain was impossible four days ago, but all the gybing we’ve been doing has also helped hit home the downhauls and outhauls, and me and the mainsheet? We’re tight.

Our DR plot has been littered with lines showing us moving backwards for hours at a time, and that is due to the unexpected frequency of small squalls we’ve been running away from. I’m told there is a low pressure system off the Aleutian Islands that has caused a couple storms up there about four days ago, which is increasing our wind force to about thirty knots down here. What this translates to is a fare bit of rocking around on the ship. And by fare amount I mean I have bruises all up and down my lower body from smashing into EVERYTHING. Though the tables are gimbaled, we lost a fair amount of curry last night when the keel was so drastic the tables maxed out and the whole pot went sliding off. To be fair though, most of those bruises came from my “free” time (a complete and utter illusion by the way) today in the lab. I was supposed to be filtering water through slides to catch the bacteria so I could freeze the little buggers and count them later. What actually happened was I got tossed around the lab like a pinball, sacrificing various bits of flesh in order to save the filtration device from sliding off the counter and on to the sole (aka, floor).

The slides did get done and while I was riding the struggle bus, the group on watch did 100 counts of the Neuston tow collected the night before. Every twelve hours we deploy two meter nets and do a Neuston tow along with a surface analysis. The surface analysis gives us chlorophyll-a, phosphate and nitrate levels in the water while our nets give us zooplankton data and plastic bits to analyze for our projects. Whatever science-y goop we pull up from the nets, we split 50/50 with our visiting scientist, Miriam who then runs some magical tests on them with microplastics, about which I know none of the details as of yet. In a one hundred count we count the first one hundred little organisms we see under a microscope and keep tally of it. Simple enough in theory, except whoever is looking through the microscope has to be able to identify an organism out of what feels like a bajillion different possible types of zooplankton - and a lot of them look really freaking similar! Like Euphousids look a lot like larval shrimp and fish eggs are almost identical to a certain type of phytoplankton. That’s why our creature feature project we’ve been working on for class this week is actually super helpful. My group went on Wednesday and discussed the different ways to tell all the jellies (salps, ctenophores and medusas) apart. Plus we got to sing a really fun camp song about jelly fish, so I count that as a win. In general I really like doing the 100 counts, even though it takes me forever because I have to stop every three seconds to double check the power point to make sure I’m tallying the correct species. But seeing all these amazing little creatures up close with the microscope is like looking into another alien planet, filled with bizarre and beautiful life forms. I don’t think I’d skip out on this opportunity even if it meant I never got another bruises as long as I lived. So high seas and smashing pans I’ll take, and fair winds!

Rosemary

Jul

07

S236 Ocean Exploration

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6 July 2011
Current Position: 25º 08.036’N, 159º00.092’W
Sail Plan: Under sail with the mains’l, main stays’l, forestays’, jib, and jib tops’l
Current Weather: Good amount of wind, clouds covering most of the sky and occasional rain.
Seas: Swells from 3 to 4 feet.
Photo Caption: A view of the Seamans’ rigging!

Hello friends and family!

This is Jes Waller coming to you from the library of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Today was a big day for the Seamans, as every day seems to be. All the watches have been working steadily and relentlessly to function as a team and master each aspect of life on the high seas. Today my watch (C watch!) clipped our harnesses to a safety line on the bow and gathered on the bowsprit for our first official watch meeting. We talked about everything from worst and best moments on board to anecdotes from middle school. We then talked about using sextants to determine our exact location on the earth and how to correctly furl a sail. We are learning so much but using what we learn all the time. It can be daunting but it’s the best feeling EVER when we can correctly perform something we’ve learned. Today we performed a gybe, changing the direction of the ship using the sails, by ourselves! I’ve never been happier to pull on a line of rope in my life.. 

On top of learning about each line and sail, we’ve been doing research for our science projects and the lab on board. Today several groups of students, including myself, presented “Creature Features” to the ship’s company. My group researched amphipods and explained the distinguishing features of several species using diagrams and a game. Another group told us about jelly fish using a hilarious short story. The presentations were quick but informative and will help us identify the contents of our daily net tows. In the lab we have begun processing the data we’ve already collected which includes everything from identifying zooplankton to pH analysis on water samples.

This is just a tiny fraction of our day. Safe to say, nobody is bored. We are learning about a broad range of topics faster than I ever thought possible. I think my watch officer Erin said it best when she assured us that we are building a solid base of knowledge but now we must move with alacrity.  We’ve put in the work to become a team, learn sail handling and lab procedure but the next step is for us to diligently apply what we’ve learned and not become frustrated by all the lines waiting to be coiled or samples to be processed. I know we are only a few days in but I’m excited and ready to see what the next phase of this trip holds for us.

That’s all for me, hope all is well and we send love back home!
Jes

Jul

06

S236 Ocean Exploration

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5 July 2011
Current Position: 23°03’N Latitude, 158º05’W Longitude
Sail Plan: Under sail with the mains’l, mainstays’l, forestays’l and jib
Current Weather: Wind has picked up nicely this evening and it is in the low 50’s with increasing cloud cover
Seas: moving strongly from ExN with swells of about 3 feet
Photo Caption: Students and crew at A Watch dinner. Tables are gimbaled (they are center weighted so they never move from a level position) as the boat is rocking back and forth. 

Today was an awesome day on the SSV Robert C Seamans. Our class today was given to us in the shade of the Mains’l on the Quarter deck. Breezes kept us cool and our faculty’s excitement had us energized, for today we were doing our line chase. Previous to this event, the ship’s crew were dedicated to helping us learn all the lines of the ship. Now, we were going to test our knowledge to see how hard we had worked up to this point.

They lined us in our watches (A, B, C) on the quarterdeck while we awaited the go to start the relay. Each watch was eager and ready. As soon as we heard the word go, one person at a time was given a card, where they would have to “speed walk” to the correct line and get the ok to come back. Each person traded off with a new card until all the cards were gone, resulting in a victorious conga line around the ship. Of course, there is always a first place watch, and a last place watch, which happened to be my watch. The awesome thing about competitiveness in this type of environment though is that once A and B watches were done celebrating their hard work, they came over and cheered on my watch (C watch) until we were completely done. Once we finished, we all celebrated together because we all knew how hard we had worked to get to our goal. After our class today, I was able to enjoy a nice long time in the galley with my watch as well as others. The swells have been constantly growing since we left Oahu, so the ship has been rocking more as well. The tables in the main saloon are special in the fact that they are gimbaled. Gimbaling a table allows everything on the surface of the table to remain level at all times no matter what angle the ship is leaning to. At first it was very strange and I had to get used to it quickly, but now it doesn’t even faze anyone when they sit down to eat. Great times here on the SSV Robert C Seamans.

Til next time,
Josh Maxwell, and the class and crew of the S236 on the Robert C Seamans

Jul

05

S236 Ocean Exploration

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4 July 2011
Current Position: 21deg 57.08’ N Latitude, 158deg 30.45’ W Longitude
Sail Plan: Under sail with the mains’l, main stays’l, forestays’l, jib, and jib tops’l
Current Weather: Windy (great for sailing!) and in the high 70s with increasing cloud cover
Photo Caption: The blue Pacific! As seen from the bowsprit.

Happy Fourth of July America, families, and friends! This is Athena reporting from the Robert C. Seamans on what has most definitely been the most unique Fourth of July in my life.

For B watch, consisting of myself, Andrew, Charlotte, Chang, Melissa, Rosemary, Miriam, our second mate Sara, and our chief scientist Murph, our Fourth technically began at midnight during midwatch. While learning about the ship’s science station and checking on the boat while it was at anchor, we had the opportunity to marvel at the beautiful starry sky that being on the water affords us. In the middle of the Pacific, without the small amount of light pollution from Oahu near our anchorage, the midwatch view will be even more breathtaking.

By 9:00am (after a few hours shuteye and breakfast), we had the opportunity to experience another unique view: for the first time we all got the chance to climb up the mast! Climbing a ship’s shrouds has long been a dream of mine, as it has been for many of the adventurous lot here on the Seamans, though I must admit when confronted directly by the idea it was a little unnerving. Nonetheless, I volunteered to go up first to banish any misgivings and once I was climbing the shrouds the adrenaline focused me on my task so there wasn’t much room for doubts. As a reassurance to my mother, who I know will probably worry when reading about this, I was very deliberate and careful when climbing, and of course our watch leaders Sara and Murph gave us fantastic safety advice. We clipped in with our harnesses once we reached the platform about two thirds up the mast and were able to take a few minutes to enjoy the view. To my right was the cerulean vastness of the Pacific, and to the left the clouded mountains of Oahu and porpoises playing off the island’s shore. Our high position and the sweeping view made for a pretty sublime experience, though, with the gentle sway of the anchored boat, it was also very calming.

However, soon we had to say goodbye our fantastic view, for today was our last day with land. From here on out it will be sky and water as far as the eye can see. It will be interesting to see how it will affect us all; our second mate Sara says that open water sailing will make us get “sea brain,” so that when we finally reach land our daily perspectives will be so altered that it will take a while to adjust make to the land lubber’s life. We shall see! As for sea life, we all seem to be adapting well, and every moment is a learning experience. For me, it seems that we’ve been out at sea for a lot longer than two days. I certainly look forward to the days to come here onboard the Seamans!

It’s been a long day, but a satisfying one. Along with stargazing, climbing aloft, working lines during midday watch, and going to afternoon class, I got to learn about outboard motors with our engineer Thomas and Max, the engineering assistant! Fun stuff, my friends.

I hope everyone at home enjoyed their Fourth of July cookouts! We certainly had an American-themed day in the galley and a festive spirit for the occasion. A big shout out to all of our fantastic friends and family!

Til next time,
Athena Naylor, and the class and crew of S236 on the Robert C. Seamans!

Jul

04

S236 Ocean Exploration | Audio Podcast

Pamela Coughlin

Listen

Jul

04

S236 Ocean Exploration

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3 July 2011
Current Position: 21deg 32.15’N x 158deg 14.32’W; Makua, a beautiful cove off Oahu, Hawaii
Sail Plan: Anchored for the night
Current Weather: Comfortable, in the low 80s, the breeze has died off since this afternoon, with increasing sky cover.
Photo Caption: Dorothy at the helm with our Captain, Pamela, and 3rd Mate, Erin.

Hello All!

Today we woke up to a fantastic breakfast dockside in Honolulu and immediately jumped into safety training and drills. Every one of us has a specific position and task during all emergencies as well as general deck operations.  I (Kimberly) am on C watch, along with Matt, Dorothy, Omar, Suzi, Jes, Lauren, Devin, as well as our scientist, Randy and our deck officer, Erin. We had an awesome time today! While others learned how to launch the outboard inflatable (among many other equally fascinating things), we learned how to deploy our life raft, where our immersion suits are, how to deploy the man overboard equipment, and how to close off all ventilation in the event of a fire. Obviously there are many other tasks that must be completed in emergencies, but we split them up between the watches so every person knows where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing. 

After running drills, we prepared to get underway! We took off all the chafe gear, cast off the lines, and started the diesel. My position during this type of ship handling situation is at the helm. As helmsman, I carry out all instructions from Captain Pamela relative to steering the ship via the wheel. I’m not gonna lie, as we maneuvered away from the dock I was full of adrenaline! (Mostly because I was so pumped to be steering the ship, but also because the dock at Honolulu does not leave much room for error!) Once we safely made our way out of the harbor, we truly entered the Pacific, and felt the rock and roll of the ship for the first time. Fortunately, most of us seem to be avoiding the motion sickness thus far (knock on wood) and those who have booted are pushing right through and becoming saltier sailors! 

At this point we set some of the fore and aft sails for our day sail and finally turned off the engine! Today we sailed with the main with one reef, the main stays’l, the fore stays’l, and the jib. Setting and tending the sails was exhilarating and a great workout! We are quickly learning all the lines and sails on the ship, the procedures for handling them, and how to properly put them away. After all the sails were set, C watch took over at 1300 as we made our way around the south shore of Oahu. Our whole day flew by so fast I’m having a hard time remembering exactly what we did on our watch, besides boat checks, engine checks, weather observations, and tending the sails.  Throughout the day, many others had the opportunity to take the helm, as you all can see in the lovely picture of Dorothy steering the ship (photo thanks to Julia)! She might look serious, but I’m pretty sure she had a great time! 

As we approached our anchorage, C watch struck all the sails and furled them. This whole process is a little tricky, as everyone must coordinate, but I think we did an alright job furling the Seamans’ sails for the first time! I think our favorite part of striking sail was when we had to go out onto the headrig to furl the jib. For those of you who don’t know what the headrig is, it’s the area around the bowsprit, where the heads’ls are located. Although this may seem scary, as we were only a net away from the water below, we were all in our harnesses and clipped onto the rig. Mostly this was just extremely exciting and got many of us lusting to go aloft! 

We finally dropped anchor off this beautiful cliff-sided cove, where the stratigraphy in the cliffs is amazing! We’re currently on an “anchor watch” and will be for most of the night. Tomorrow we will leave this area and set off into the Pacific! We are all SO excited and all in great spirits. 

Big thanks to all the Seamans’ crew for a safe and fun journey out of Honolulu harbor, and a big shout-out to all our loved ones! Especially to those at Pleasant Cove, Oven’s Mouth, and my big BDC family! 

Much love,
Kimberly Reed and all of the Robert C. Seamans’ students and crew!!!  =D

Jul

03

S236 Ocean Exploration

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The twenty three students of SEA class S236 have arrived safely in Honolulu for their Summer Semester voyage from Hawaii to California. All hands are in good health and high spirits as they begin to learn about the vessel and life onboard. Caitlin offers the following blog entry:

3 July 2011
Current Position: The Dock, Pier 36, Honolulu, Hawaii
Sail Plan: In port for the night
Current Weather: Warm, in the 80s, light breeze, a few clouds in the sky, generally a gorgeous Hawaiian night
Photo Caption: Our new home, the Robert C. Seamans.

Hello family and friends!!

Here we are onboard the Robert C. Seamans and we are all SO EXCITED!! Everyone arrived to the ship between 1500 and 1600 this afternoon, but we were only allowed to board after we proved that we could tie the knots we have been practicing for the last couple weeks. As we met the wonderfully friendly crew, we moved into our bunks (mine is in the very front of the ship, the foc’s'le, short for the fore castle, with a porthole!) and started to unpack our stuff. I have one shelf that spans my bunk and two little shelves behind me for all of my things, and I think I’m one of the lucky ones! As far as I know though, everyone is fitting into their spaces just fine.

After everyone arrived we had a quick orientation with the entire crew (3 Mates, 3 Assistant Scientists, 1 Engineer, 1 Assistant Engineer, 1 Steward, 1 Chief Scientist (Deb, who was our Oceanography professor), and 1 Captain (Pamela, who was our Nautical Science professor)) and then split up into our watches. My watch is A watch with Preston, Allison, Erika, Julia, Josh, Michelle, and Chelsea. Jay is our Watch Officer and Mitch is our Assistant Scientist. We talked a lot about teamwork, communication, awareness, and what it means to be a watch and part of the ship. Then we had an absolutely wonderful dinner of homemade (shipmade?) pizza and salad which was very delicious, and I am definitely not worried about the quality of the food for the voyage to come. After dinner we had more orientation business to go over where we began to get familiar with the Seamans.

It is currently 10:25 pm Hawaii time, and everyone is extremely tired. However the crew keeps reminding us that we do not yet know what the meaning of ‘tired’ really is, which makes me a little nervous. Everyone is getting ready for their first night onboard, and their last long night of sleep for the next 28 days. We are all so excited to be here and ready to get underway! I know that everyone here sends their love, and we miss you all already.

Whenever a sailor ships out, one does not say goodbye to them. The proper thing to say to is “Smooth sailing,” and they will respond with “Following seas.” So as we leave port tomorrow, send smooth sailing thoughts our way, and we will be thinking of you as we ship out.

Til next time, Caitlin O’Morchoe, the class of S-236, and the crew of Robert C. Seamans