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SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Location: Alongside Aloha Tower, Honolulu, HI

Image caption:  S253 shipmates showing their pride.

Aloha Family and Friends,

We are happy to report that the HPU-SEA Aloha ‘Aina cruise (S253) has been a resounding success.  The students, crew, and faculty are well and the SSV Robert C. Seamans is safe and sound tied up alongside Aloha Tower in downtown Honolulu, HI.  Our final task onboard is to give our home a thorough scrub and then students will move back to their familiar HPU campus home to clean themselves, I hope, before they meet with tonight’s guest speaker. 

Yes, even though the sailing portion of the program has drawn to a close there is still much learning to take place.  Students will spend the next 48 hours preparing final reports and share all that they have learned Friday afternoon during group presentations and closing discussions with faculty. 

Stay tuned the next couple of days as Aloha ‘Aina wraps up. 

Jeff Schell, Chief Scientist for Sea Education Association

PS: Chrissy Edgeworth - has enthusiastically / unanimously been elected as the SEA Class Representative.



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Tuesday, 24 June 2014, 16:00
Position: 20° 39.74’’ N x 156° 55.62’’ W

Image caption:  Lana’i Field School students (grades 6-8) learning to set the forestays’l

Ahoy S-253 Friends and Family!

Day four of our sailing voyage led us to anchor off the west side of Lana’i for the night before motor sailing to Manele Bay this morning. It’s hard to believe that our voyage is coming to an end already; it feels as though just yesterday we were coming aboard and learning the ropes (figuratively and literally!). In such a short amount of time we have bonded with the crew and each other while learning nautical skills including knot tying, sail setting, and steering. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that we are truly grateful for all of the opportunities that this SEA Semester has offered to us, especially lifelong friendships and memories.

Last week, we had the opportunity to travel on shore to Lana’i as guests of the Lana’i Field School, where we worked with students grades 6-12. They gave presentations about the history and culture of their island home. To return the favor, we invited the same students on board the SSV Robert C. Seamans today and taught them about our floating abode. We had the students split into groups and rotate through stations, including knot tying, a tour of the vessel, working in the lab looking at phytoplankton, collecting sediment samples, and learning to set, strike, and furl sails. It was a long morning, but an excellent opportunity to give back to the community of Lana’i. This afternoon we had some fun jumping off the bowsprit and rails of the ship to enjoy the beautiful waters of Hawai’i (and too cool off after a VERY hot morning!). After coming back aboard, we set six of the nine sails onboard (Mains’l, Maintays’l, Forestays’l, Jib, Jibtops’l, and the Fisherman) and began making our way to Aloha Tower on O’ahu.

Again, I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that we are not ready to return to shore. While we are all excited to take showers longer than five minutes and sleep during normal hours, we have made this ship our home, and all the people living on it our ohana. Personally, I have learned so much about who I am as a person, including my values, my outlook on life, and work ethic. I am my best person when I see nothing but the open ocean, sailing and learning continuously. SEA is a program that everyone should take part in, as I believe that everyone walks away a better student, friend, and person.

I’’d like to give a quick shoutout to my mama, dad, and sisters (yes, all of you – Raquel, Mads, and Lex), as well as the entire Beach Bum crew and customers – I MISS YOU GUYS!

Sabrina Hutchinson, B Watch
Hawai’i Pacific University, Marine Biology



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Monday, 23 June 2014, 1600
Position: 20° 49.8’N x 156° 60.0’W
Location: Less than 1nm off the coast of Lanai

Aloha Friends and family!

Wow! What a journey it has been!! I cant believe we are almost at the end of our sailing journey.  Over this short one week of sail time I have gained an experience of a lifetime.  From setting and striking the four
lowers to collecting zooplankton from intense science deployments, this has been everything and more than I expected out of this program.

The last 24 hours has been the most exciting time on the ship. Today during class was the line chase relay.  We were divided into our watch groups and given cards with different lines. The first watch to get through their stack of cards won. Of course C watch won (me, Alice, Carly, Connor, and Christina)!  It is necessary to know the lines well enough to set and strike the appropriate sails at a moments notice to keep the ship sailing in the right direction and speed.  An example of this quick application is during last nights watch.  My watch, C watch, stood on watch from 1800 until 2300.  During this time we were experiencing the reality of sailing into the winds.  This provided great opportunities to practice our knowledge of setting and striking sails in demanding conditions.  I had the privilege of crawling out onto the bowsprit to furl the JT.  No worries mama, I was clipped in and secure.  The adrenaline from this even kept me going through the 2300 watch turnover.

The sailing aspect of this adventure has been my favorite because it is something I have never experienced before, but I have fallen in love with it. I would love to continue to learn the ins and outs of sailing and find future sailing opportunities. 

I would like to give a shout out to all of my family who has encouraged the furthering of my education from day one. Thanks for the support and I hope to see everyone soon: Mama, daddy, Mawmaw, Pawpaw, Daphne, Abigail (hope u get to do this one day!!), my twinkie Hallie (Hope things are going well at Yale), and Colton!!  Love yall!!!

Heather Crosby
University of the South, Sewanee, TN



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Sunday, 22 June 2014, 21:19
Position: 19° 47.5’ N x 157° 12.0’ W

Aloha friends and family!

It’s hard to believe that it’s only day four at sea. The days have practically melted together as we’ve been jam packed with standing watch, scarfing down delicious food, deploying science gear, learning about our new home aboard the Robert C. Seamans, napping on occasion, and tapping into our inner sailors.

The first thing I learned after stepping on board the ship was a little saying that goes, “Ship, Shipmates, Self.” Basically, we put the ship first; a happy ship makes for a happy crew. Then we look out for our shipmates. When 29 other people have your back, it’s a lot easier to remember to put on sunscreen and walk on the high side. Lastly, once the ship and your shipmates are taken care of, taking care of yourself will fall into place!

On another note, the past 24 hours have been a whirlwind. Around 22:00 last night, 21 June, we gybed (a.k.a. turned this baby around) and are headed due north en route to Lana’i. It was breathtaking standing watch on the bowsprit and looking straight ahead to the North Star. We also practiced some celestial navigation as the clouds made way for the Southern Cross, the Big Dipper, Arcturus, Spica, and Scorpius—just to name a few! Our morning watch crew conducted a “Super Station” science deployment around 9 a.m. consisting of a phytonet, secchi disk, CTD, hydrocast, and Neuston tow. We pulled up a cool little 2-inch blue shrimp in our Neuston tow amongst a plethora of copepods and other little critters! In class today we went over 5 new knots: a bowline, a square, a figure eight, a sheet bend, and a round turn & two half hitches.

However, I’d have to say that my favorite part of the past 24 hours would have to be going aloft and hanging out on the course yard about 60 feet above the deep blue! Check out the photo of Kyle and I saluting the sea from up above.

Stay tuned for more and I hope all is well back on the mainland!

Christine Edgeworth, A Watch
Syracuse University

P.S. Shoutout to my mom & pops, Sarbear, Kev and Kristina, & Baby Edge…miss and love you all! I have yet to get sunburnt, you’d be proud.



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Friday, 20 June 2014 23:00
Position: 19° 18.8’N x 156° 16.9’ W

We had a wonderful day sailing today as we headed south east. In the early morning hours, we finally passed the Big Island and made headway into the open ocean. A watch took mid-shift watch from 2300 until 3:00am where we observed the moon rise over the mountains of Big Island and learned about sailing in larger waves and stronger winds, as we went through the inter-island channels. Everyone took turns at the helm, learning to steer, and on bow watch or doing boat checks. Every hour on the hour, we check everything on the boat to make sure it is safe and to catch any issues far in advance before they turn into problems. For some of us, these boat checks proved to be a little challenging the first time, as we had to head deep into the engine room during the large swells to make sure all of our generators were functioning correctly. B watch relieved A watch at 3:00am to take the dawn shift- allowing A watch to bunk up and get some sleep.

While many A watchers slept through breakfast, I was up and about at 0840 to enjoy a nice cup of coffee on deck and to watch C watch deploy science. They deployed the carousel and other devices to gather information from all different levels in the ocean, such as salinity, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll concentrations. While doing these science deployments, the boat was hove to, meaning not under sail or engine, for almost 4 hours. Around 1000, we all gathered on deck to enjoy delicious smoothies prepared by our lovely galley team. During that time we enjoyed a peaceful drift amongst light morning winds. Once we got moving again (motor sailing) we deployed the Neuston net to collect critters living in the air/sea interface. While the watches rotated, many people enjoyed the ocean view, worked on homework, and took naps. At 1400 we assembled on deck for whole ship announcements and class. During class we learned more about the Neuston Net and sail handling. Each watch took a sail and practiced setting and striking it. We perfected our ability to make fast (tie down) and make ready the different lines of all the sails. A watch worked the deck after class and a few of us worked in the science lab to process the samples taken from earlier in the day. We filtered water for bacteria. sorted the biomass of the Neuston tow, and did hourly observations of our surroundings. The Neuston net brought up lots of blue copepods, Halobates (marine water stiders), and various fish larvae. It also brought up a baby sport fish, who we named Herman. We placed Herman into a small tank so that we could observe him for a while before setting him free. For dinner we had steak, salad, and potatoes au gratin. Many of us tried to eat quickly so that we could catch the sun set. We were not quick enough, so we just enjoyed the nifty clouds.

So far on this trip, I have done a lot of observation- of the world around me, and of myself and how I interact with that world. Sitting on deck, watching the sunset with the waves gently crashing against the boat, I felt very peaceful. I have yet to fully connect the dots and give a name to that connection between myself and the world around me, but sitting there I felt it, and I think the others did too.

We hope all is well back home and we can’t wait to share more about our journey.

Kelsey Glander
Franklin and Marshall College



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Thursday, 19 June 2014, 16:35
Position: 20° 37.075’ N 156° 46.868’ W

Photo caption: A lovely day as we depart Maui with a fair breeze.

Aloha family and friends of class S-253: Aloha ‘Aina,
After a morning filled with Man-Over-Board, fire, and abandon shipexercises, we are finally underway! We set sail off of Lahaina Port on the west shore of Maui at approximately 13:00. The first half hour was “all hands on deck” as we set our mainstay’s’l, forestay’s’l, and top s’l and headed south. We are currently headed out to sea to, as Jeff likes to say, “do science” (aka the fun stuff!) and will remain at sea until Tuesday when we will return to the island of Lana’i.

The first watch, B watch, took control of the vessel shortly after we were underway and will remain on watch until 19:00. Our group of 15 students is broken down into 3 watches of 5 students each. Each watch is also assigned a mate and an assistant scientist. While on watch, 2 students are responsible for the deck, 2 students are responsible for working in the lab, and 1 student is responsible for dishes. Students rotate through these jobs on different watches. A watch lasts either 4 or 6 hours and a single watch is usually on watch 1-2 times per day.

Included in this post is a picture of B watch wearing immersion suits that are worn in the (unlikely!) event that we have to abandon ship. While they serve a very important function in case of emergency, they’re also hilarious to see on fellow shipmates, —so please feel free to laugh! Personally they remind me of the dancing lobsters from the Amanda Show.

While I can only give insight into our first few hours at sea, I’’m sure my classmates will have more information to share as we continue our journey together on the Robert C. Seamans. Stay tuned!

Samantha Schildroth, A Watch
University of New England



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Wednesday, June 18 2014

Image Caption:
Cooperation and connection – our students packing up to leave Kahoolawe working with students from the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corp (KUPU ) that arrived the same morning to take our place.  This image captures an important value that has directed all of our educational programming – to meet with, work with, learning from, and in some cases to teach the many friends and partner organizations that have helped make the Aloha ‘Aina program such a success.

Anchored just offshore the west coast of Maui, near the historic town of Lahaina, Maui.  This historic town was once an important commercial port built on the profits of whaling and sugar cane plantations.  Today it is a popular tourist destination due to pristine waters ideal for snorkeling/diving, sport fishing, access to the inter-island ferry terminal.

The students were soooo excited last night as they finally moved aboard their new home – the SSV Robert C. Seamans.  All students are now comfortably moved in to their personal bunk space, have learned how to move about the ship safely, and have met the crew.  Captain Beth Doxsee made sure we started to develop a harmonious shipboard community by asking each person to share one funny, personal fact along with the typical name and hometown.  We now have a glimpse of each person’s particular sense of humor.  Our talented and friendly galley team served up a delicious meal of roast chicken, green beans, salad, and a colorful mix of local grown root vegetables.  Students were sent to bed early last night and there were no complaints since their event –filled day had begun at 0630 on the island of Kahoolawe.

What an amazing, special place and such a rare and humbling experience to have been invited to visit Kahoolawe.  I encourage anyone reading this blog to visit the Kahoolawe Island Restoration Commission (KIRC website to learn more about the important and tragic history of the island the tremendous amount of hope and work that is being directed toward island restoration.

Students were able to visit important cultural landmarks, learn about the challenges and successes of land use/water management and plant restoration, conduct a snorkel survey of a healthy reef ecosystem, and enjoy the serenity and stunning scenery of Kahoolawe. A sincere thanks to all the KIRC staff who made our stay a safe and welcome educational

Today the students are back on shore working with Dr Jack Kittinger and Ekolu Lindsey of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council ( Students will be getting their hands dirty planting native vegetation to help restore an eroded watershed and follow up with another reef snorkel survey to establish baseline conditions of reef health.  Just one more amazing experience for the students onshore before we set sail tomorrow!

Stay tuned, much more to follow soon.

Jeff Schell, Chief Scientist
Sea Education Association



S253 Aloha 'Aina


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Hello Family and Friends of Aloha ‘Aina – a collaborative study abroad program with Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) and Sea Education Association (SEA).

After a brief, yet influential and important week of classes at Hawaii Loa campus on the island of Oahu the students have now started to explore the islands of Maui and Lanai.  As we did on Oahu, the students are experiencing and learning about the history, culture, traditional practice and science of the Hawaiian Islands and wrestling with complex issues of conservation and resource management in an era of multiple stakeholders and competing, economic and cultural incentives.

Some of the highlights over the last couple days include:  sunrise at Mount Haleakala on the island of Maui and an impromptu time to talk story with Aunty Nan who led us in a traditional chant (or Oli) welcoming the rising sun.  A hike through National Park lands introduced us to a variety of endemic plant and bird species, as well as introduced species and their negative impacts.  However, later in the day we saw examples of introduced plant species ( in this case lavender varieties) that can be quite beneficial when grown in the appropriate climate and represent a shining example of sustainable agriculture reminiscent of the ancient Hawaiian ahupua`a land use system.

The next day we partnered with Pacific Whale Foundation and spent the day with their experienced crew and marine educators exploring three different reef habitats – two of them around the island of Molokini.  Check this place out on Google Earth when you get a chance!!!!  After decades of snorkeling around the world I have come across few places with such an abundance of healthy coral and a diversity of fish endemic to such and isolated location.  At our third location near Lahaina, Maui students had the luck to view several sea turtles and a lone white tip reef shark (from safe distance).  But once the students were back on board and we tallied our visual observations it was time to conduct more extensive scientific sampling.  We pulled out our plankton net, collected water samples for nutrient and chlorophyll-a analysis, and made observations of sea floor bathymetry and currents, just one more data point among many that we have collected from different port stops.  The captain (Brian Barnes) and crew (Mike and Anna) of Pacific Whale Foundation were fabulous and we pass along our many thanks for the opportunity to learn from them.  We were very fortunate to partner with such an experienced organization.

The next morning we made our way to Lanai and were only recently settled into our new home before our students partnered with Lana’i Field School (E ʻike Hou iā Lānaʻi).  We listened to their students (ages 12-16) as they taught us about the history and myriad ecosystems of Lanai.  In exchange our students taught about fish dissections, seafloor bathymetry and formation of the Hawaiian Islands, and the importance of scientific monitoring and use of water chemistry test kits.

While on Lanai we stayed at an old plantation house that is now owned by the community and used for social events.  The students have really come together as a community and are enjoying their turn at cooking meals for each other.  We had a lovely ‘dinner’ last night of breakfast pancakes and plenty of bacon!  Breakfast this AM was egg and cheese sandwiches with homemade buttermilk biscuits, a variety of local fruit, and more bacon. Thank goodness because we had a busy day exploring a traditional fish pond and ahupua’a that has experienced tremendous change over the centuries; plenty of hiking, scientific sampling, observing and learning in the warm, arid environment of Lana;i.

The attached picture is a flashback in time to when we were on Oahu visiting Waimea Valley (WV) – an intact ahupua’a that has been converted to an area of conservation, archeological research, education, botanical gardens and recreation.  Shown here are a few students marveling at a captured invasive species of toad as explained by our guide and WV naturalist – Kaila Alva.

More updates to follow so stay tuned!

Dr. Jeffrey Schell
Chief Scientist for Sea Education Association.



S253 Aloha 'Aina

Class S-253, Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands, is off to a great start. However, the program has experienced an unexpected change in schedule.

We are currently working to address an unforeseen maintenance issue that has delayed boarding for the sea component. Despite this change, we are committed to continuing a high quality academic program. In the meantime, students are continuing their coursework and programming on shore at Hawaii Pacific University, where they’ve been since May 27.

As always, we are invested in our students’ experiences and will post updates as they become available about exactly how we expect the program to be impacted. We hope to have a timeline for repairs in place by noon Hawaii time on Friday, June 6.

Peg Brandon
Sea Education Association