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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

The Corwith Cramer will board students of class C-238 in Christiansted, St. Croix USVI on Friday November 25, 2011. They plan to sail west, with potential port-stops in San Juan Puerto Rico, Samana, Dominican Republic, and Port Antonio, Jamaica. They will then head north and east to Key West, Florida, where students will disembark on Monday January 2, 2012.

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

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



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean | Video Blog



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


1 January 2012

Image caption :  30 Dec - One of our best green flash sunsets welcomed us back into US waters. 

Image caption:  31 Dec - New Year’s Eve party planners, Julia (3rd scientist and DJ for the evening), Randy (2nd scientist and New Year’s Ball lowered from the main mast !!), and Erin (3rd mate and MC for the evening!). 

With a blast of the ship’s horn and a big cheer, the crew of the Corwith Cramer celebrated the New Year at anchor off Key West last night. This morning the ship will head to the dock where the students of class C-238 will close out their SEA Sea Semester.

Over the last six weeks, they have become oceanographers and bluewater sailors, but they have also developed a more complex, first-hand understanding of the diverse cultures, ecologies and histories of the Caribbean. During the shore component back in Woods Hole, they produced research papers on various elements of historical, cultural and ecological change in the Caribbean. During the last six weeks, they have continued that research with first-hand observations during port stops. Their topics ranged from Libby’s study of the history and future of small farms in Jamaica to Mary Claire’s examination of the issue of statehood in Puerto Rico; Ellie studied the relationship between tourism and marine mammal conservation in the Dominican Republic, and Dylan looked at the struggle to enforce safe building codes in the various islands we visited. Over the last week, they presented their findings to each other in class discussions on board. In addition to their focused research, all the students gained new insights on the Caribbean and its peoples through the less structured contacts made in the markets, on the streets, in the churches, at the beaches and the myriad other places they visited during the Cramer’s port stops. As a result of all these experiences, they leave the Corwith Cramer with much more nuanced understanding and appreciation of the places they visited and the people they met. In short, they have become better citizens of the world.
Carl Herzog
Maritime Studies Instructor



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

29 December 2011
GPS Location - reentered Cuban waters!
Weather and ships heading:  Wind a lovely Beaufort Force 3 NE x E breeze,
flying all fore and aft sails, steering full and by making 090 degrees psc.

Photo Caption: Laura and Larissa enjoying a safe sunset on Mother Cramer.

Hello everybody! As we approach Key West (and then gybe south back to Cuba again, and then tack three times back up to Florida due to some wind that happens to be directly in the direction we are trying to sail) bittersweet feelings are starting to set in. Yes, we are excited to be back with family and friends, enjoying the comforts of home, but the sailor’s lives we have been leading are going to be hard to leave behind. Here is a list that Larissa and Laura H have compiled to give all of you at home an idea of life here on the Cramer.

You know you’re an SEA student if…
1. You have a permanent Choco or Teva tan line
2. You get hungry after two hours, always wondering what’s coming next
3. You do calculations for apparent wind whenever you’re outside
4. You have dreams about being on watch (and being late for watch)
5. You do laundry on deck in a bucket with Joy
6. When people say “You look so good!!”  you reply with “Thanks, I just showered!”
7. You have random cuts bruises all over your body
8. Your watch is in military time (even if it takes you 5 minutes to convert it to normal people time)
9. Shooting an awesome sun line makes your day
10. You get land-sick in port stops
11. Sargassum windrows induce great excitement
12. You feel naked without your watch and harness
13. You sleep (after you eat) when you’re not on watch
14. You’ve ever been a blind lab rat (aka tripped over a break in the deck at night after emerging from your well lit cave of science)
15. You never have privacy
16. You’re frequently awoken in the night by sail calls and turning winches
17. Your arm hurts from pumping the head (flushing the toilet)
18. Being aloft is the furthest away you’ll be from anyone
19. Free time = doing work on the elephant table
20. Silly behavior is frequent, (Note: ask about themed watches)
21. The Chirp puts you to sleep
22. You refer to each other as ‘lab-ies’ or ‘deck-ies’ on watch
23. You never wake up for breakfast if you have Sleep of Kings (bed time from 0300-lunch time)
24. You find yourself looking at navigation stars you know rather than checking out for oncoming traffic or squalls when on bow watch (oops!)
25. Dolphin sightings are frequent
26. Bathroom = head
Upstairs = deck
Downstairs = down below
Stairs = ladder
Kitchen = galley
Reefer = refrigerator
Map = chart
27. You smell something awful and realize it’s you
28. You’re at the helm and suddenly you’re 20 degrees off and you try desperately to get back on course before your mate walks by
29. You have calloused hands
30. You become well acquainted with (and learn to love) the engine room
31. You have experienced the mental breakdown that is associated with being Ass Stew (aka Assistant Steward) when trying to cook for 33 people
32. You get to have class on the quarter deck under the hot sun while sailing through the Caribbean Sea (whaaaaat?)
33. You plan on using celestial navigation to figure out where you are whenever it’s nighttime back home
34. Captain Beth calls you a ‘crazed mammal’ when you’re setting the mains’l
35. You use clothes pins as hair ties
36. Body wipes become your best friends
37. You make ceviche from the Mahi Mahi you caught that morning
38. You wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt in 75 degree weather
39. You jump at the sound of any sort of bell. (grab the log, meal time, class, emergency signals)
40. The Cramer has become your home and the shipmates have become your family and you realize with four days to go how difficult it’s going to be to say goodbye

LOVE from Larissa!!
Laura H: Hi Mom, Kristy, Paul, Babi, Dad, The Falcos!! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and have a Happy New Year. Mom- thanks for the bag of goodies, my bunk and the area surrounding it now smells like Christmas trees! Talk to you all soon! Miss all of you and I hope you’re doing well.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

28 December 2011
GPS - Location: Just entered US waters!
Weather and ships heading:  Wind and seas a comfortable Beaufort Force 3, NE x E wind, flying all fore and aft sails, steering full and by making 045 degrees psc. 

Photo Caption: Erin teaching Onji fun ways to remember nav stars

There is something incredible about being at sea, that is connected to the physical intensity of living on a 135-ft moving island with 30 people.

The hills and valleys of life run more exaggerated on either side, just like the smells, the sounds and the tastes of everything. So here is an attempt at capturing some of the greatest and worst details of our world on Cramer right now.

1. Standing lookout at night with dolphins bow riding through the bioluminescence below you.
2. Climbing aloft out onto the yards will all the square sails set around you and watching flying fish jump out of the waves below.
3. Realizing you can identify stars in every direction around you, and that we can figure out our location with a sextant and a whirlwind of calculations.
4. After seeing Vega every evening for the trip, realizing that we finally see it again just before sunrise. 
5. Talking to a huge ship in the middle of the night over the radio and then watching their lights change aspect as they alter course to create a safe passing. 
6. Being JWO (Junior Watch Officer) and talking directly with Captain Beth about the ship’s sail plan and course
7. Calling out to set the mains’l and watching the wind catch the sail as it raises
8. The screams of excitement belting through the entire ship when a sperm whale is spotted just off the port beam
9. Watching the sun rise in the morning through the clouds over Cuba and set behind an oncoming squall in the evening.
10. Feeling the wrestling fishing line as it comes to life with a mahi mahi on the hook.
Least favorites:
1. The sickly smell that can loom around the forward head (toilet)
2. The chunks landing on your cereal that come out of the packaged milk
3. Being off course when Captain Beth walks up and you are on the helm
4. Trying to identify plankton in your 100 count while being seasick
5. Smelling something awful and then realizing you haven’t showered in at least a few days.
6. “Feeding the fish” with the spaghetti dinner spent the afternoon cooking and you just enjoyed and standing watch 10 minutes later

Though the least favorites may sound unappealing, they are still favorites nonetheless. No length of list could ever describe the unbelievable life that is at sea, because it is indescribable.

Erin and Onji (:

P.S. Brian, T and family: Can’t wait to see you guys and spend some time together! Love you! (:
Hey ma! I’m sailing!! (:



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

26 December 2011

Image caption:  Sailing full and by with all fore and aft sails trimmed just so, good ol’ Mother Cramer steers herself while making a comfortable 5 knots; does it get any better?!

Santa certainly delivered for us over the holiday with some great sailing; over 500 nm in just over 4 days since we departed Port Antonio, Jamaica.  We have metaphorically ‘broken on through to the other side’ of the Yucatan Channel, an area that has notoriously rough and unsettled seas.  But this time around it was quite pleasant.  On deck the student JWOs, mates, and captain were kept busy monitoring all the shipping traffic through the region.  The lab is still in standby mode since we are sailing in Cuban waters.  Since we do not have research clearance all scientific deployments have been put on hold.  But the students are making the most of their time.working on their oceanography papers, putting the final touches on their island illustrations, updating notes in their deck Sheet Anchors, and getting ready for their Change Paper presentations. 

The Change paper presentations represent the culmination of 3months worth of work for each student.  Based on a topic chosen during the shore component students have explored some aspect of Caribbean history, culture, economics, politics, environment, conservation, etc that interested them the most.  An in-depth research paper was completed during the shore component, but during our many port stop visits the students have each explored what is really going on in the Caribbean today, and in many cases, finding that each island nation has a different story to tell, and often not what one would have expected based on the information found in books, journals, or reports. What each student discovered during these port stop explorations and how that helps them understand the broader Caribbean region will be the focus of these presentations.  I for one am looking forward to the lively discussions on the quarterdeck!

Jeff Schell, SEA Chief Scientist



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

25 December 2011

Sailing through the Yucatan Passage.

T’was Christmas on Cramer
And all through the boat
Only B watch was stirring
All’s well and afloat

No stockings were hung
By the chimney with care,
For Randy the 7ft tall Christmas elf
Did candy cane bunk deliveries there

The students were nestled
All snug in their beds,
While visions of pteropods
Swam in their heads

Captain in her sun visor,
Jeff in sail cap,
Both settled down,
For an inter-watch nap

But up out on deck
There arose such a clamor
That Beth sprang from her bunk
To see what student’s Christmas project required the use of this hammer

She dashed up the ladder
Faster than heck
And yelled, “Hey you crazed mammals,
What are you doing on the quarter deck?!”

When what to bow’s watch’s eyes should appear,
It wasn’t a sleigh
Nor eight tiny reindeer

Instead a team of dolphins
Arose from the sea,
Steered by the sea king
Bearing gifts for you and for me

“Swim Rigel! Swim Vega!
Swim Dubhe and Castor!
On Deneb!  On Spica!
Arcturus and Schedar!
(These by the way are names of stars used for celestial navigation)

“To the top of the mast
To the front of the bow,
Swim away, sail away
Navigate now.”

So up to the mast top
Past the courses’l and clew
Poseidon did ride shouting,
“I’ve presents for you!”

A pause in their winkling,
The students peered aloft,
Glanced at each other,
Then said with a scoff

“Dear old Poseidon
See we’ve crafted our own
To give to each other
While far from our home

A bundle of gifts
We’ve brought up from below
To hand to our friends
Our hearts all a glow

His eyes sort of shimmered
In that fish scaly way
“At least let me leave
A Mahi for your feast day”

He flopped back to sea
With his dolphin finned crew
“Fair winds and safe travels
On this wide ocean blue!” 

Thanks to Laura P. and Laura H. for that lovely poem!

Photo Caption: Merry Christmas to home from the students and crew of C238!

Season’s greetings from:

Dylan: P and G! A little shearwater or tern watched over me on the bowsprit during watch. I know it was really you two! merry xmas! I’ve had a stomach bug for five days but at least I haven’t been as sea sick! See you SOON!

Randy: Wishing you all a special Christmas and New Years with loved ones, friends, and those people around you! Miss and love you M and E! E, I think you still have me beat for a sweltering Xmas, even as I type here in the library. Saying hi, much love, and warm greetings to friends in far flung places and back in B-town!

April: Hi hello family and friends! Happy Birthday Andy Meek! Hope you all had a spectacular day! Today on board Cramer was filled with love, laughter, food, cuddle puddles with Sarah Banks, and the most magnificent sunset yet. As the sun was setting, we saw a whale on our port beam. What a lovely gift! Also, while posted as lookout this evening I was entertained by a pod of dolphins. Since everything was dark, you were only made aware of their presence by the sound of their faint squeaks and the trails of bioluminescence that followed their every movement. At one point, there were ten dolphins twisting and turning together in a perfectly timed dance. It was the most magical thing I have ever witnessed. I feel so completely blessed at sea and at home. But it isn’t Christmas without you. I’m looking forward to celebrating with you soon. All my love. xoxox

Jessie:  Merry Christmas Mom, Dad and I guess Rox too.  Mom I hope you enjoy your gift!! I’m so excited!!  Rox I’m in the process of making you something nautical.  Dad, hope to hear lots of stories of small animals when I get back. I love you so much! Tell Bill and Wheedletons I miss them too - I doubt Bill reads the blog smile

Libby: All love and a merry Christmas to everyone reading, especially my parents-hope everything was well.  I might miss the snow and family, but a homemade gift exchange and whale sightings do add up to a wonderful holiday.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean | Video Blog



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

December 24, 2011
Position:  20°14.1’ N x 83°28.1’W (Cuban waters)
Weather: Wind still ExN
Heading: 300 PSC

Picture:  Science Fairs are fun!

Happy Holidays!!
Today was the second day of JWO (Junior Watch Officer) phase where the crew entrusts the ship in the hands of us students (scary thought I know, but we’ve got it under control!) I (Mar) was JWO this morning and yes, we’re still floating! It was freakin’ sweet to be in control of a tall ship for a watch. Seth gave me an early Christmas present today! A bag of spark plugs!

We are currently in Cuban waters where we don’t have clearance to continue collecting scientific data, so for now we scientists are sad. ): But we did have our Oceanography Science Fair today!! Think High School Science fair, but for college students, on a boat. Grade school flashback!! Most of the morning was spent preparing for the fair, cutting and pasting information on our boards and doing practice runs of our presentations. Around lunchtime there was a nice break from the stress when a large pod of at least 30 dolphins swam around the bow of the ship for quite a while!

We had perfect weather for our Oceanography Fair-nice winds and clear skies. It was fun to see what everyone else has been working on and the conclusions they came to. We learned about lionfish and grouper larvae, plastics in the ocean and on the beach, sediment transportation, coral reef health and so much more.  Most people on the boat don’t consider themselves scientists, but today I think we were all scientific.

We finally got into the holiday spirit this evening by decorating the main saloon with Christmas lights, paper-made snowflakes and Christmas beads. We decorated delicious sugar cookies and sang Christmas carols during dinner too…well some people are still singing carols and will probably continue well into New Years. Everyone is finishing up their Secret Santa gifts and looking forward to sharing them tomorrow!

Happy Holidays!

Love Onji and Spiderman

P.S. For those of you dying to know the answer to my riddle last week:

The penguin in front says “Wears your paddle” and the penguin behind says “Sure does!” because the sand WEARS away at the paddle. Get it?! I wish I could take credit for the riddle but I heard it from someone else on the ship. Hope you enjoyed (:

Addendum by Mar,
Merry Christmas mom, and hope your holidays are going well Melissa.

Shout-out to family from Mary-Claire

Hey Mom, Dad and Ellena- I tried to get a call through to you in Jamaica, but I couldn’t get the computer to work, which was sad. But I’m doing really great- learning a lot and working hard. It’s weird having Christmas without you and makes me appreciate family holidays more. Love you all, Merry Christmas and can’t wait to see you soon!



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

December 22, 2011
Position:  19°11.0’ N x 78°29.7’W, somewhere outside of Cuban waters (we still have clearance to take science samples)
Weather: Nice, wind is ExN with a Beaufort Force of 4

Picture:  Everybody enjoying breakfast on our gimbled tables in the salon! 

Greetings from Libby and Jill!

I, Libby, don’t have much of an idea where we are or what the atmosphere is doing, but I can report that it must have been nice sailing because things weren’t flying around the galley.  Thankfully.  Today was my stint as Assistant Steward.  Since the beginning of the trip, we’ve all been taking turns at helping Lillian, our steward, make meals for the crew.  Now that we’re more familiar with everything, she’s been delegating more and more responsibility to us—which is why I spent today so out of touch with the world around me.

Assistant Stewards start the day early.  The wakeup comes at 4am, and it’s none too early to get breakfast on the table by 0620.  My day started with mixing up biscuits, followed by making a potato-and-egg breakfast bake.  Since the ship was heeling while the eggs were cooking, the breakfast bakes were a little uneven—one side was like an egg film with potatoes, while the other was two inches deep.  When that was in the oven, I started in on chopping up oranges, then mixed up three batches of Boston Brown bread for lunch (quantities, by the way, are large).  Then it was time to set the table for breakfast.  After everyone had eaten, there was time to cut up apples for morning snack and carrots for lunch, helped by the dishwasher for the watch, and to mix pudding for afternoon snack and sugar cookie dough for the midnight snack.  Once all this was done, there was time for a two hour break before I had to be back to fry hot dogs and heat baked beans to accompany the brown bread for lunch.  Even though we’re running short on some things, we are still way above the salt beef and hardtack level when it comes to meals.

The Assistant Steward day continued at the hectic pace until dinner was done and put away at 1930.  Lilian ws amazing at making dinner come out on time, even when I was sure that it would not.  And to think that she can do this every day…I’m worn out. 

I think I’d better let Jill explain what’s actually going on aboard.

Hi everyone!  Today was a gorgeous, rather quiet, but nonetheless exhausting day!  It was a relief to be able to walk around the ship without falling, sleep without rolling around in your bunk, and to wake up to the nice calm seas. The day we left Jamaica I never thought we would have these waters again.  For this we are all so grateful! Although the waters are peaceful, the seasickness has still set in on a few of us, but they are fighting through it for the last time before we reach home. 

In the science world, we have all been working hard to finish up our oceanography research papers and create posters for our “science fair” on Christmas Eve, where students will present results to everybody on the boat for a few hours.  We are now done with science deployments for our own projects, but are continuing to do deployments for SEA archive data.  Last night while I was on mid-watch (2300-0300), we processed a neuston net tow with the most diverse biomass assemblage I have seen yet.  This was one of the most exciting parts of my day.

On deck, we had a fun packed day doing sail handling, celestial navigation, and the usual.  Everyone is anticipating our third phase change to switch watch officers after Friday, as well as make the switch into being JWO’s (Junior Watch Officer)!  This means that during each watch, one of us students or deckhands will get the opportunity to run the ship.  Instead of receiving orders from the watch officer on duty, we will work together with each other to sail the ship solely on our knowledge.  This is kind of a big deal.  In order to prepare for this, during class today each watch had to gybe (put the stern of the ship through the wind), heave-to (somewhat stop the boat), and make the Cramer go 2 knots (2 nautical miles per hour).  It was a lot of fun, and I think my hands are about to fall off from pulling on so many lines. The practice will serve us well. 
I believe that is all we have got for updates today. Thanks for reading and take care!

From Jill – Merry Christmas everyone!  Still can’t believe it is that time…  Can’t wait to be home, only in about 10 days!  I will talk to you once I am in Key West, on the 2nd.  Miss and love all of you, you know who you are.
P.S.: Merry Christmas to everyone.  I hope there’s snow!  Miss you, and love from



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

December 21, 2011
18°11.0’N x 076°27.0’
Heading 310 PSC
Speed 6.3 knots
Winds Force 4 NExE

Image caption:  Gus, cleverly disguised in his sail-cloth hat, takes a cat nap as we prep the ship to leave Jamaica!

Goodbye Jamaica! You’ve treated us well, but the time has come to head towards Key West. We woke up and were thrown straight into intensive cleaning when a “Field Day” was called. As part of A-Watch, we had to clean the galley! I (Dylan) spent several hours in the small, dark corners of the galley scraping “mung” (not quite solid, not quite liquid) off the soles, walls, and nooks and crannies while I (Ian) washed and wiped down every dish, jar, and container from the galley. After cleaning belowdeck, we had a deck wash and then met for the gear adrift auction. During the auction, items strewn across the boat are “auctioned” off in exchange for displays of talent. I (Dylan) won back my bag of Blue Mountain coffee by licking my elbow while Ian won back his rash guard by leading us in a very silly dance. Then we motored away from the \marina and set sail! Class was canceled, which gave us a chance to relax and get our sea legs back. Dylan slept through lunch, dinner, and breakfast, a total of 14 out of 24 hours. But back in the throes of seasickness, it is pretty much the best thing to do to restore yourself. We did wake up, of course, for midwatch, from 2300 to 0300.

Homeward bound! See ya in ten days!

Dylan and Ian

PS howdy ma and pa! I am struggling with seasickness - but will hopefully get my sea legs back before Key West… can’t wait to come home ! love, Dylan



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean | Video Blog



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

December 20, 2011
Alongside Errol Flynn Marina, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Image caption: Meanwhile, on the ship, Roy a local lobsterman of 60+ years shows Ellie the difference between male and female lobsters.  Later on we learned that both taste good! 

Starboard watch on Cramer, Port watch off the boat!

Hello from Jamaica! Never have I ever been so relaxed on a port stop - usually I’m so busy running around trying to see as much as possible that I forget to enjoy myself.

Jamaica is incredible - there are no words, and frankly, the pictures don’t really do it justice either. It’s alive and immense in a way that you have to see for yourself.

April and I walked around the market, seemingly in circles, trying as much food as our stomachs could handle. We bought pounds of fruit - papayas, delicious grapefruit, mangos, ginger, oranges, soursap (I’m not sure of the spelling, but one of my new favorite fruits in the whole world!)

We met up with Ras, our local Peace Corp volunteer, tour guide extraordinaire, and he pointed out his favorite places to eat, and the local hardware store, because as we are all aware, our Secret Santa presents are starting to wrap up (haha get it?)

For lunch, we stopped at Zilla’s (short for Godzilla’s) and had curried goat and rice and beans - incredible!

We met Norma from the market, (I think most people met Norma) from whom we bought jerk chicken spices.

After our endless wandering around the market, we decided to duck out of Port Antonio towards a beach called Boston Bay. We got a cab, and Dwayne took us to the Blue Lagoon quickly, then on, to the beach. This is going to sound crazy, but the beach was freezing at this point, and no swimming happened.

Dinner - I still can’t believe we were still eating - we had jerk pork, festivals (twisted bread that’s fried) and the best guava juice in the world.

Coming back to the ship, we were exhausted.
Last night in Jamaica.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

December 19, 2011

Image caption:  Ian and April processing waters samples for their study of reef health in Port Antonio, Jamaica

Laura Page & April,
Greeting from Port Antonio Jamaica!  Today. Starboard watch had shore leave and we made the best of our day today.  We started our day by exploring the downtown market where local farmers and craftsman come to sell their wares. We spent our time looking over native woodworking while munching on locally grown carrots.  Some of our best memories however are from the colorful characters we encountered while in the market. 

After a quick lunch downtown, a herd of us all piled into a taxi and went down to the Blue Lagoon made famous first not by Brook Shields in the aptly named movie but by Charleston Heston in Treasure Island.  Not only was the lagoon beautiful but the fresh water spring that flows into the sea water creates a surprising two tone temperature effect when you’re swimming. We ate dinner from a local street vendor affectionately known as Chicken Man.  We have never had chicken so fresh or delicious before.  Some of us even got through an entire chicken it was so good.  After dinner we found a lively club and danced to local music for the evening.  I ended my day with a nice long shower in the marina (a real luxury when you live on a boat) and a quick call home to the parents.  Jamaica has been a beautiful land full of wonderful people but we are all ready to get back to sea!

Mom & Dad, I love you both very much, it’s a few days out from the holidays and I bet you aren’t missing the constant Christmas music I like to blare but I am missing you and love you very much. Kieran, I miss you a lot and I’m looking forward to being home with you again.

Today was port watch’s turn to be on board Cramer. Students were given time to work on their OC projects and illustrations (all while listening to music. A luxury I won’t soon take for granted again). Gus, Ian, and I spent the morning gathering data for our project about reef ecosystem health undeterred by the less than ideal weather conditions. Fortunately, the rain cleared when we made it to our first site. There was however very little reef to observe. The majority of the sites were eel grass, and, and the only coral present was dead. The fish species and population were just as grim as I only saw three fish in both fifteen minute observation periods. We suspect that this was partially caused by just how rough the seas were. Due to the sea state, we were not able to safely reach the furthest site.

Dad, Winds have been great so far for this leg of the journey, broad on our starboard quarter. I’m getting plenty of sail handling experience. In our last watch, we set and struck the tops’l four times. I’m going to be a pro this summer on Vixen!

Mom, Seems like everything is coming together as we are heading home. I haven’t been feeling seasick and the Cramer is bustling with Christmas cheer. The word on the street is that we’re going to be decorating sugar cookies tomorrow. YUM! Who knows what other fun things are in store for us! I think of you always.

Mel: Agreed, best early Christmas present EVER! Also, do you have plans for January 3rd? Let’s hang out!

Betty, Debbie, Alex, Meg: Can’t wait to see you all so soon. Hope you’re ready for the Jamaican feast I will be preparing for you. Send my love to all the kiddies! Looking forward to simple days playing trains on the floor (and possibly sledding?)

Ricky Lee: Hope you had a safe trip home! Just wanted you to know that I finished two drawings yesterday! BAH! We miss you!
All my love, April

Happiness, Knowledge
Not for another time, but this time
Not for another place, but this place
-Henry David Thoreau



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

Saturday, 17 December, 2011

Hello, World!

For all you latitude/longitude enthusiasts out there, our position is 18°11.0’N x 076°27.0’. 

We are dockside here in Port Antonio, Jamaica, alongside the swanky Errol Flynn Marina. (Errol Flynn movies are shown nighty, while our favorite carbonated grapefruit beverage, Ting, is served chilled in glass bottles!) Docked port side to at the cruise ship dock is quite the enjoyable contrast to last weekend’s lengthy small boat runs while at anchor in Samana, Dominican Republic. We now just step right off the vessel and we are ashore. Happy days!

Wind was favorable throughout last night, Friday. A Watch brought us to Folly Point, Port Antonio’s doorstep. We motored 188° psc into East Harbor with a good-sized swell off our port quarter. Our helmsman, Gus, banged a sharp right and steadied up on the range at 260° psc as we motored through the narrow channel between Navy Island (where Errol Flynn’s house still stands) and Titchfield Peninsula. We suddenly were in the incredibly tranquil West Harbor and docked. Agriculture, Immigration, and Customs took up our next few hours but our evening was reserved for Town Talk Restaurant. 

Talk Town is an open space restaurant that overlooks Port Antonio. Ruby, our good friend and hostess, made sure we were served the finest in local cuisine - curried goat, jerk chicken, fish, rice & beans, yucca, and plantains.  A fabulous time was had by all!

We’ll be here in Port Antonio until late Wednesday morning. They’ll be plenty more adventures and tales and inevitably more TING and more Errol Flynn. Stand by for much more to follow. 

Until then,
Captain Beth



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

The Rio Grande valley in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica.  The day’s hike began alongside the river and would return later that afternoon!
Sunday, 18 December, 2011

Greetings from JAMAICA!!! Today we had a fun-filled day of excursions to give us a taste of the island before the days we get to go out and explore the area for ourselves. There were two options, a nature hike or a trip into the Maroon community, and the two of us, Larissa and Mary Claire, conveniently signed up for different ones.

Larissa: Since I haven’t been able to walk in a straight line for more than 95 feet on the Cramer (both because of its size limit and the fact that the waves enjoy slamming me into the sides, into masts, into lines, into other people, into equipment, you name it), I decided to take a beautiful five hour nature hike way up into the mountains. We started out walking through agricultural fields where our guide, Rufus, pointed out the various crops they grow and other plants that have uses in the Jamaican community. Tall banana trees with huge leaves grew everywhere, with green bushels of unripe fruit hanging from them (the exported fruits covered in blue plastic bags to protect them from pests, the local ones hanging freely). There were papaya plants, cacao plants, cocoa plants, (really hot) peppers that are sworn to burn holes in mouths if eaten directly, and many other fruits that Rufus gladly picked and sliced open for us to taste. After our journey through these fields, we hopped onto a path that took us up into the mountains. Along the way, we learned how to recognize plants that are safe to eat as well as plants with uses varying from producing floor polish to stopping blood clots to calming nerves to providing hikers with toilet paper. The journey was intense - muddy, narrow, and steep - but we persevered (albeit with a few tumbles) and ended up at one of the most beautiful waterfall any of us had ever seen. We climbed up the waterfall, using the grips of the rocks to pull ourselves up, stopping along the way to cool down underneath the fresh water flowing quickly past us. Our day ended with a bamboo raft ride across the Rio Grande where we met up with the other group and made our way back home to either get ready to go out around Port Antonio to grab some famous jerk chicken or report for watch on board.

To everyone abroad who just got home WELCOME BACK, to the best Big ever HAPPY BIRTHDAY, to Chics WELCOME HOME, to everyone MERRY CHRISTMAS - getting excited to see everyone supa sooon!!

Mary Claire: I decided to take the other field trip option: to Moore Town, a Maroon Community. Maroons Communities are villages that were founded by people who escaped plantation slavery to live free in untrackably dense Caribbean forests. A few of these communities have survived to the present day, isolated enough that customs from their African heritage are still very much a part of their culture.

About 11 of us rode our tour bus up twisty rutted mountain roads to get to Moore Town and we met with the Colonel (elected leader of Moore Town) in a little one-room cultural museum that the Moore Town Maroons have built.

The Colonel talked to us for a while about Moore Town and the Maroons, and then answered questions from us. He liked to talk, and the Q and A went on for a long time, but it was really interesting, and he was very willing to answer whatever we asked.

As he explained it, Moore Town is trying to become more self-sufficient and resilient. They are trying to expand their local economy- he said something about hoping to build an industrial park so that they could produce both raw materials and consumer goods. He talked about improving education. In a place that seems to have such a culture of isolation, it surprised me how much he stressed the importance of modernity and keeping up with the rest of the world. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear him talk about renewable energy. Apparently Moore Town really wants to get off the Federal electrical grid and produce their own electricity. The Colonel had a far-sighted understanding about dependence on limited fossil fuel resources that most elected officials lack.

It had been a rather rainy morning, but it cleared up around when we finished talking- so we took advantage of the break in the weather to hike to a nearby waterfall. The hike was pretty muddy and steep, which was fun- and walking through the jungle you really got a sense of how escaped slaves could live out there without being found by the Spanish or British. The plant-life is so thick!

The waterfall was beautiful. One big heavy spray falling into a basin that then spilled over more rocks and on down the river. The water was clear and- cold! (not that cold, but I’m comparing it to the other things we’ve swam in which have been like bath water, practically)

We hiked back and then got to sit in on a traditional Maroon drum jam, which was incredible. There were three guys, probably in their teens on drums, an older fellow leading singing, another guy with a horn, and a couple of people with maracas. It was a small space, but people were up and dancing the whole time. It was really informal, but also really incredible sounding. I felt a little weird just sitting in the back listening while everyone was jamming and dancing, and almost got up to dance a couple of times, but the Colonel had told us that drumming was sacred to them, and a way of communicating with ancestors, so I didn’t want to insulting our hosts by crossing some sort of cultural line.

All in all, an extremely interesting visit, and I felt lucky to see a side of Jamaica that is maybe less visible to outsiders. 

Now we’re docked in a super fancy marina (the Errol Flynn Marina) with wifi and showers and all sorts of luxury things so Mom, Dad and Ellena, I will hopefully have called you before you see this, but if I don’t get through happy Christmas and New Years and see you soon!  Love Mary-Claire



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

Friday, 16 December, 2011
18° 13.5’N 75° 40.4’W
Heading 276 True
Speed 6.4 knots
Winds Force 4 NExE

Image caption:  “Shooting LAN”

Just when we thought the fun was over, C watch rediscovered the wind last night.  We took the night watch under seemingly settled conditions with little sail set running with the wind.  When sailing with the breeze, the winds true force is masked by the ship’s relative motion to it.  Though the continual increase of wind was noted and recorded, it didn’t change the fact that as we maneuvered to heave to for a CTD deployment the full force of the wind widened some eyes.  Our watches “shadow”, Hadley set and struck all of the previously planned sails only to find that we could not stop the ship with this much wind without setting the storm trys’l again.  Out came all the safety gear that was put away just hours before. 

On the second day of this leg it was apparent we had a lot of ocean to cover in a short period.  By morning the wind had returned to what felt like a much more reasonable amount partly due to it being daylight now but we were still pushing along nicely. We were now sitting pretty with only 80 miles left.  Gus was our shadow for the morning watch and as it was his second time in the rotation, it felt more like he was trying out for my job than acting as my shadow.  For six hours he set and struck sails, maintained a tight ship, and kept a close look out on the Windward Passage traffic situation.  As it was a beautiful day (and their assignment due date is nearing) there was a great turnout for Local Apparent Noon shooting (the time when the sun is at its highest point for your location which in turn provides an accurate latitude). 

Much of the ship’s company has come to resemble Santa’s elves as Christmas projects are beginning to take their many shapes.  All hand crafted ditties and bags are being finished up as their due date is around the corner as well. 

-Brian Patrick Barnes 2nd Mate/Bosun



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

15 December 2011

Photo Caption:  Carl goes over the finer point of celestial navigation with students Dylan, Larissa, Mary-Claire, Mar, Ian, and 1st officer Matt. 

Laura Page and Ian,
Greetings from the Windward Passage!  We are currently sailing southwest between Cuba and Haiti on the way to our third and final port stop of Port Antonio, Jamaica.  We ran into problems yesterday with a cold front that brought with it strong winds and large swells.  It finally passed us early this morning leaving our seas calmer and skies clearer.  Unfortunately it also took the winds with it. 

The scientists on board, not being ones to waste any down time, took this calm period to do as many deployments as possible to make up for those lost to the bad weather. This kept the deck crew busy too because double the science means double the sail handling.  By the afternoon, the winds picked up and we were sailing again. 

Class today focused on some of the finer points of celestial navigation and radar plotting.  Carl described in length how to advance a running fix from shooting the sun with a sextant while 2nd mate Erin demystified the radar console in the dog house. 

This week the students are officially in the second part of the program called “Phase II-Sail Training”. This is the time when the students themselves begin to take on more and more responsibilities while on watch. One student on each watch will shadow their mate to start learning the more intricate features of a mate’s job. This includes, but is in no way limited to, leading the set or strike of a sail and plotting vessel traffic and weather on the radar. 

We are doing well here on board and are having the time of our lives! 
-Laura Page and Ian

P.S. To Chris Ward and Frank Page- Mama Beane may be right after all, I got to shadow the engineer for my watch yesterday and the time has never passed by so quickly I was having that much fun.  I love and miss you both, and although I wish more than anything I could be home for the holidays, you really couldn’t have gotten me a better present then this life voyage. Thank you, for everything.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean | Video Blog



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

December 14, 2011

Photo caption: Brian demonstrates the filleting of a 22lb dorado to a crowd of onlookers.

It has been an exciting couple of days aboard the Cramer. We have finally found wind and are sailing along the north coast of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) on our way to Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Yesterday was a big day for C watch. After weeks of learning how to set and strike sails, steer the boat and shoot the sun (among other things) we finally got our chance to go aloft. Sarah, Jill, Ellie, Gus, Chris, Hadley and Brian climbed the foremast and stood almost at the top, looking down over the tiny moving picture of the Cramer beneath us and the miles and miles of ocean that we could see before us. A watch climbed up the foremast earlier in the day, and appeared to have quite a lovely time hanging out on the yards. I, (Ellie) had never climbed anything that high before and I was shaking as I climbed and trying not to look down. However, when I got to the top and saw the ocean spread out under me I forgot all fear. Sarah, Gus and Hadley made the treacherous trip the next 10 ft or so up to the very top of the foremast, where the view must have been spectacular (It was! Rumor has it there is a message written on the flat top of the mast, but only Brian was willing to straddle the stays at the very top and dodge the whirling anemometer to read what it says. Maybe when there’s a little less swell.)

When we had all safely climbed down, we found that our fishing line had finally caught something: a beautiful mahi mahi that Erin, our 3rd mate, wrestled to the deck and killed. Brian, the 2nd mate, showed an eager group of us how to filet and skin the mahi (also called a dolphin fish or a dorado) and we sent the fresh filets to the galley. Consequently, we had delicious mahi ceviche for afternoon snack today, thanks Lillian and Raquel! The science side of the ship was interested in the fish as well, so we sliced up the stomach to see what was inside. To the amazement of everyone watching, Brian pulled an almost perfectly intact flying fish from the mahi’s stomach. With the exception of the head, it was so well-preserved that we were able later on to open the flying fish’s stomach as well, revealing the remains of afternoon snack’s dinner’s dinner. We also saved the mahi’s eyes, and removed the lenses to study later. The tail was lashed to the bowsprit, in keeping with tradition.

Whether due to the good luck brought by that talisman, or perhaps due to the cold front rolling in from the northwest, our wind finally built during the morning from the desired northeast. By early in the afternoon we were striking the mains’l, and setting the storm tris’l in its place. This smaller sail is rigged whenever the weather gets potentially nasty for an extended period, and it helps keep the forces acting on the ship balanced without the need to handle the heavy and potentially dangerous boom in high winds. The long boom is lashed in place, and the tris’l is rigged independent of it in the manner of a stays’l or the jib. With the passing of the cold front and with diminished winds coming from astern of us, we set the tops’l and the course, and were soon making better than eight knots through the building seas.

Class on the quarterdeck was exciting. Jeff’s demonstration of various graphing techniques warred for our attention with the seven and eight foot waves occasionally drenching us with spray. With both wind and seas on our quarter, and in anticipation of an exciting evening,  we eventually struck the square sails (tops’l and course) and carried on under the stays’ls, jib and storm tris’l. After weeks of fairweather sailing, a bit of wind is a welcome and exciting change. We’ve moved into “phase two” of our time on the ship, and we’re beginning to take more of a leadership role during our watch. For me (Gus), this meant leading the sail handling that went on, which was a challenge in the demanding conditions! We all succeeded however, and it is intensely satisfying to really feel the watch (and the others who helped out - thanks!) working together as a team.

Dinner was fantastic pasta, eaten on wildly swinging gimbaled tables, followed by card games and people drifting off to their bunks. I spent an hour in the galley getting ready for my second round of being assistant steward tomorrow, and now I’ m sitting in the library, finishing this entry and watching all the books on the shelf flop one way, and the other way, and back again. But in my mind, I’m still seeing the endless slate-blue sea, lashed with whitecaps, stretching out to meet cumulous clouds lit golden by the sunset. There’s nothing like a wild day at sea to remind you how small you are. And, somehow, to make your insignificance into a virtue.

Ellie and Gus

P.S. We both send love to our families and friends back home!!



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


13 December, 2011

Photo Caption:  Science happening - Malcom, Julia, and Onji examine a community of critters living in clumps of Sargassum. 

An absolutely lovely day of sailing; all fore and aft sails (Main, Main Staysail, Fore Staysail, Jib, Jib Topsail, and Fisherman) are filled with a gentle breeze, and we are making a comfortable 3 knots over ground, some cumulous clouds and pleasant temperature in the shade of all our sails.  We are sailing just north of Hispaniola on a port tack, steering 078 degrees true. 

For those back home paying close attention, you may wonder, that course does not point in the direction of our next port stop - Jamaica.  Well, that is the nature of sailing - you go with what winds you have; and the fact is that a more immediate goal is to head further offshore to distance ourselves from the sight of land.  This will give our students and crew a clear horizon to help with their celestial navigation. 

As we near the mid-point of our voyage it seems only appropriate to take a little time and reflect upon where we have been and consider what is yet to come.  A time to get our bearings so to speak, and make certain we are staying on course with the many goals of the program. 

Learning how to sail and be a handy shipmate.check.  By the taffrail log we have logged over 800 nautical miles, and with each passing mile students have become more familiar with the ways of shipboard life and their responsibilities as one of the crew.  They know their lines, and how to set, strike, and furl all the sails.  They have all learned to steer the Cramer under a variety of weather conditions and points of sail.  They use the terms, ‘head’, ‘below decks’ and ‘galley’ as if they were describing their childhood home.  Their Deck Safety checklists are entirely complete, earning them the honor to go climb aloft in the rigging. They have wasted no time in doing so.  With these achievements as a foundation, we move into Phase II of the program on deck, a time when students take on more responsibility for the completion of On Watch duties. 

Learning about the marine environment and how to think like a scientist.check.  While in Samana, Dominican Republic,  the lab was busy surveying local beaches, snorkeling on nearby reefs, and plumbing the depths for sediment. Just this morning we completed our 21st ‘at sea’, scientific station.  Using various instruments and equipment onboard the Cramer students have examined the physical characteristics of the ocean (temperature, salinity, currents, etc), the chemical composition of seawater (nutrients, pH, dissolved oxygen, etc), the biological diversity of different ecosystems (bacteria, zooplankton, reef communities, etc), as well as the geologic features of the seafloor (sediment grain size, composition, depth, etc). All of this work has provided data for the students’ oceanography projects.  Phase II in the lab is a time when students start putting this wealth of data to work for them.  With the use of graphs, tables, and various statistical tests, students will begin to test the validity of their hypotheses in the days and weeks to come.  We are on the verge of discovery, the answers to their many scientific questions are soon to be revealed; and if we are lucky, the next set of even more interesting questions will present themselves.

Learning about the Caribbean region and diversity of island nations.check. The Caribbean is a convenient geographic region to consider as a whole, but from an environmental, historical, cultural, political, and economic standpoint, each island, each independent nation or commonwealth is entirely unique.  This is difficult, if not near impossible to appreciate unless you experience the differences firsthand.  We have had the opportunity now to visit three islands:  St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and most recently the Dominican Republic.  In this web blog there is little room to describe the differences let alone unravel the complex historical reasons for them.  But in short, we have begun to understand what it means to be Crucian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican.  Through organized tours, informal meetings, and chance encounters walking through island communities, the students have experienced the language, food, music, customs, habits, and mannerisms that characterize each island.  The diversity of identity and character found among these islands will be further illustrated when we reach Jamaica, our final foreign port stop.

But the cultural diversity our students have been exposed to in these very different places has come hand-in-hand with shared expressions of the human experience: Smiles on school children’s faces as we share songs and dance, the exuberance in an elderly man’s voice when he plays a winning domino, and the familiar scenes of a little R&R after a long week’s work—having dinner, drinks and perhaps some dancing with friends.  Are we really so different?

Jeff Schell,
SEA Chief Scientist and Faculty Oceanographer



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


12 December 2011
19°4.7’N X 69° 11.5’ W
Motor-Sailing in Light Winds

Photo caption: A view of Samana.  Translation:  ‘Samana, City of God’

Yesterday’s adventure started when my P.I.C. (Partner in crime-Laura Page), our personal photographer (Mac) and I (Onji) headed up the mountain to El Limon (Samana’s waterfall). Despite the winding hills, random dogs and chickens crossing the road and our driver who randomly stopped to talk to friends he saw walking along the way, we made it up the hill. While waiting for our guide, Martin, to handle logistics for the morning, we 3 musketeers wandered around the art store that was next to the restaurant that was next to the trail and found a few pieces we liked. As the owner fumbled through more paintings to sell me, he began to call me “Dominican”, as if it were my name because he said I looked like I was Dominican. I took it as a compliment, but I learned my Spanish isn’t nearly as good as it should be if I want to pass as a Dominican.


Before we headed up the mountain we were offered freshly ground coffee served with sugar grown and hand-picked on the island sprinkled with real cocoa. It was my first cup of coffee (yes, I managed college without coffee!) and I LOVED it so much I had another! After the coffee set in and we were all wired and ready to go, our horse whisper (really our trail guide), Miguel strapped us on our caballos and we were on our way to El Limon! I rode Cappuccino-fitting for the day’s previous event, Mac rode Ferrari…a brand not suited for the rocky terrain of the mountains but a great little chugger and the name of Laura Page’s horse wasn’t nearly as exciting so we don’t remember it. They were all great horses that we really enjoyed riding through the mud especially since it meant we didn’t get muddy.

About a mile and a half into our journey Miguel sent the horses to their play pen and we had to walk to the rest of the trail. We walked down what seemed like a never ending trail of stairs until we reached the base of the waterfall. As we stood in awe with our jaws dropped in a tourist-like manner, Miguel climbed half way up the waterfall and leaped into the water! We all had the same thought, “Oh, I’m SO doing that!” but Martin gave us that look and because we do like our lives, we decided to let Miguel have all that fun. Miguel did share some waterfall secrets with us by taking us under the fall into a small cave where we hung out and giggled in excitement for a while. After about 30 minutes of pure bliss, the large crowds of tourists gathered and we made our way out of the water. We tried to enjoy the view a little longer but apparently Speedos never left Europe…and they made it up to El Limon also…so we decided to head back for lunch.

On our way back Miguel stopped and pointed out to us mango, coconut and cocoa trees along the path. He picked up a small seedling, about the size of a pea and said, “picante, muy picante” and placed it in my hand. Of course I HAD to try it and it was indeed, muy picante! I think my lips burned the rest of the trail. To make up for my scorching lips and him laughing at my expense, he picked the fruit of a lipstick tree and painted mine and LP’s face with it. Mac got great pictures of us, as a personal photographer should!  We left it on for the rest of the day, and looking back now, I understand all the crazy looks we got while walking around town later on….

Anyway, when we arrived back to the restaurant there was a feast waiting for us on the table: fried fish, curried chicken, shrimp, pasta, rice and beans, salad, fresh grapefruit and it was all SO DELICIOUS! I asked Miguel and Martin if they ate meals like these regularly and they said yes…which made me wonder how much harder those stairs would have been if I ate like that on a regular basis…For dessert we had another cup of coffee, tallying my day’s total to three and my energy level to 200%. Just before leaving, the store owner brought over the artwork both Laura Page and I wanted and asked us if we wanted to purchase them. We were on a budget and as other students know, broken budgets=empty stomachs, so we needed to negotiate. I left the negotiations to LP and 10 minutes later we walked away with both paintings for such a great deal, I think it would be illegal to tell you the price. All I can say is LP no longer stands for Laura Page, LP now stands for Lower your Price.

After some wandering, beach bumming and picture taking we met up with the rest of the group and headed over to see Chicken Man, a man whose chicken is so good, he is indeed called Chicken Man. We caught up with the rest of the group and enjoyed a huge portion of chicken and rice before heading off to dance! There are SO many places in Samana playing music at all times of the day it was actually quite hard to decide where to stop and bust a move! Eventually we picked a place with great music, cool lights and a dance floor, but no one was dancing. Though this might have kept others from having fun, we scurried onto the dance floor and started our own dance party! A few locals joined in for a while, but I can guarantee we had more fun than anyone in there! But, like the dramatic ending of the night for Cinderella, we had to leave to make the last boat back to the Cramer. The night ended with a double scoop of chocolate ice-cream and the memories of an epic day!

What can I (Libby) say after that?  The rest of us had an awesome day, too (although those in port watch on the boat might not entirely agree, but making baggywrinkles to prevent chafing in the rigging and snorkeling to get data about reef health don’t sound too bad…).  The market was open in the morning, and the rest of starboard watch had a grand time among the crowded stalls selling almost everything edible, and largely unknown to us.  We retired from the fray with bags of bananas, passion fruit, cacao beans, coconut oil, and a pineapple peeled and chopped up by the man who was selling it.  It was a good pineapple.  A couple of us went to Mass at the Catholic Church in town, which occupies an airy and new building near the docks.  The oldest church building in town is actually the Anglican church just up the hill. Mass was well attended (at eight in the morning) and the music (provided by an ensemble of guitarists) included Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” with appropriate words in Spanish.

Samana was a lovely stop, but now we’re getting back into the swing of things aboard.  We are headed to Jamaica now, and after stops to pick up really cool sediment samples on our way out for my project (Tidal influence in the distribution of sediments in Samana Bay), we are motor sailing to round Point Samana and get started on our passage around the island of Hispaniola.  It’s good to be back aboard.

Onji and Libby

P.S.  Lil (our steward) and everyone put on a good birthday celebration aboard here.  It was a great day-my present to myself was a clean set of sheets.  Wish I could say ‘Hi’ in person….

P.P.S. Hey Bro!! I heard this great riddle but didn’t want to share it until I figured it out lol! Read it aloud and think Onj-enuity!  “2 penguins are paddling in a canoe through the desert (I don’t know why, just go with it). The penguin in front turns to the penguin behind him and says, “Where’s your paddle?” and the other penguin replies, “Sure does!” Have fun with that one! Love you LOTS and looking forward to being home for a while to spend some time together (:

Ernest: This warm weather is awesome, but when I get to Cali we’re going boarding! Keep flying and staying focused! Love you! (:



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


December 10th, 2011
Anchored off of Samana, Dominican Republic
19°11.5’N x 069°20.0’W

Hola everybody from Sarah and Jill!  Today was another day jam packed full of fun.  Watches were split for the day, with starboard watch taking care of the Cramer, and port watch off, free to explore la Republica Dominicana for the entire day!  In the morning, most of port watch decided to embark on a horse-backing riding adventure to a100 foot waterfall in the rainforest. Most of the path was rocky and steep, and some of the horses looked a little small and straggly, but all of them were plucky and up to the task. We all also had guides walking along with us and encouraging forward momentum.  It was a neat experience to get to know them, since the language barrier was in effect and they were close to our age.  The waterfall was huge and beautiful.  Behind the fall there were caves you could swim into and explore.

After our excursion out of Samana, we traipsed off to explore the city.  We walked through the local market, shops, ate at local restaurants, and watched the nearly-constant domino games.  The market was big, with tons of people from all over the area trying to sell their stuff, from used shoes to butchered animals heads (Some of the most interesting smells on the trip so far, including field days.)  From what we have seen, everywhere you go is very informal and low key.  Compared to Puerto Rico, much less people speak English so we had to whip out our Spanish skills to communicate.  After meandering around town, a few of us went to the beach, and others played dominoes, or walked along the causeway. From the beach, there was a beautiful view of the Cramer and some of the surrounding islands.  We then hung out in town for the evening, getting a taste of Samana’s nightlife, the infamous Chicken man, and some incredible local fish.  The night was full of loud music and dancing, despite a heavy downpour and almost total power blackout. Samana is so beautiful, and everyone’s having a great time!

Lots of love,
Sarah and Jill Thompson, from the Jill Thompson Experience

P.S. Lots and lots of love to my family! I have a mountain of postcards, but I keep forgetting to get stamps… but I have them! Tell Grandma Happy Belated Birthday - Love you all! xoxoxo - Sa

P.S.S. from Jill - Miss you everybody so much.  It is going to be hard not to talk until next year… only three weeks until I’m home though!  Wish everyone could be in Jamaica for my second annual 21st.  Merry Christmas too!  It doesn’t feel like December at all here.  Love you all!!!



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


December 9, 2011
Anchored in Samana Bay
19°11.5’N x 069°20.0’W

Hello all!

We are writing from our anchorage off of Samana, DR.

Coming into Samana (MC): Right now the Cramer is anchored maybe half a mile out from the town of Samana. You can see it behind this long causeway over the water in the crook of a valley and stretching up the hill behind. The whole island of Hispaniola appears to be forested with palm trees, at least what we saw of it sailing in. A palm tree here and there, I’m used to. But a whole island full of them? That’s some pretty foreign ecology there for me.

Kayaking (Dylan): At 0800 yesterday, a noisy catamaran pulled up alongside the Cramer to take us to Los Haitises; the DR equivalent of a national park. The ship’s soundtrack of Ke$ha and several upbeat local artists was slightly incongruous with the serene beauty of the scenery. We meandered our way around dozens of small islands created by the uplift and subsequent erosion of ancient coral reefs. The islands, half hidden by the fog, were mounds of lush, dark green flora, dotted with the white of egrets nesting in the trees. The weathered calcite deposits were exposed at the base of each island, and caves were recessed into some of them. Hundreds of birds were engaged in every sort of standard bird activity. There were frigate birds, known here as Tijereta, searching for mates on the leeward side of one island with their red throat pouches inflated. Brown pelicans skimmed along the water and occasionally dove for fish. My favorites were the graceful black birds with forked tails that hung almost perfectly still in the air. They may’ve been female Tijereta, perhaps looking for mates?

After an hour, we pulled up alongside a larger island and embarked on our kayaking adventure through the mangrove swamps. Mangrove roots, which stick out of the water or ground depending on what type of mangrove it is, are all tubular, haphazard loop-de-loops that braid and weave together forming a sort of organic celtic knot. My kayaking partner, Sarah, mused about getting a tattoo of mangrove roots! Sarah and I stayed at the back of the pack and spotted many camouflaged crabs scampering on the vines and roots. Most were dark brown, but we saw one crab about the size of a hand with juicy red mandibles and pincers. We were told mangroves are also home to manatees, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any. We eventually returned to the boat where we ate lunch before our next adventure!

Caves (MC):  The caves are scattered under all these rocky coral-islands and were named San Gabriel by European colonists because of the stalactites/stalagmites formations that looked like angel silhouettes.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in a substantial cave before- I must have… at any rate, they were very beautiful. All limestone, with areas where bacteria had turned the rock green. There was hundred year old graffiti- dated, and then thousand year old graffiti- petroglyphs (not dated).

Our guide, WilFredo (I think that’s how you spell it) took us through several chambers.  In one there was a little bit of water that went under an overhang. He said that you could exit the cave by swimming. As the group moved on I asked Wilfredo if I could swim through myself, and with his OK I swam (maybe fifty feet) through the cave-tunnel and out. It was really beautiful coming out alone into the sunshine surrounded by the other small islands.  It wasn’t too long before everyone else followed along and we played around in the water and on the rocks.

The final chamber in our little cave-stroll was this big cavern opened to the sky. A giant old mangrove was growing right through the middle of it to the floor (if you looked you could see the roots running through the other caves as well).  It looked unreal- like the set for a movie, but also awesome (in the real sense of the word awesome). Sarah said that this was why people build cathedrals, trying to capture the feeling you got in that space.

School-visit (Dylan): After a quick boat ride back to town we piled into some vans to go visit a whale museum. The museum was conservation-oriented and entirely in Spanish. I have never learned Spanish but understood enough of the exhibit and learned, among other things, that mama whales can produce 45 gallons of leche in one day! We met a local businessman, a student, and a principal who answered our questions about life in the DR. Afterwards we walked up a trash-strewn hill where children were playing baseball (the sport of the DR) towards a school that SEA has previously connected with. One of the many stray dogs started following us at this point. At the school we listened to a few dozen students sing and read notes of welcome in English. In return, we sang a sailing shanty song called “Cape Cod Girls”, Jingle Bells, and our lovely assistant scientist Skye lead us all in the “Egg dance”. Afterwards we exchanged questions. Many of the students we meet wanted to be lawyers when they grow up. When asked about what they were most excited about for Christmas, every single one said being with family. There wasn’t any mention of presents until we asked them. One student was hoping for a Barbie, but mostly laptops, ipods, blackberries, and iPads. One boy though, a future lawyer, wanted his house fixed. We departed in a flurry of picture taking and Facebook exchanges.

Wandering around Samana (Dylan): Afterwards I went with some of my shipmates to an outdoor restaurant called “Bambu”. There was a bit lost in translation as my request for a papaya smoothie resulted in pineapple juice, but I had an incredible piece of chicken for less than 6 USD. I might add that our dog, affectionately named D.O.G by Ian, was still with us at this point and was enjoying a food scrap here and there. D.O.G came with us to the ice cream parlor and even right up to the dock where we take a small boat to return to the Cramer.

Wandering around Samana (Dylan and MC): After our field trip we had some free time in Samana. I went for a walk with Sarah up into the hillside and we ran into a man making coffee! By making coffee I mean he was breaking the raw, dried beans that he had harvested off of the trees in his yard, in a giant wooden mortar with a big, club like pestle. We took pictures with him- it’s incredible how much Spanish I’ve forgotten, but Sarah could communicate with him. And he also gave us a branch of one of his coffee trees with some beans on it. The ripe coffee beans tasted sweet!

Samana is beautiful- very clearly poor, lots of trash and dogs all over the place, but the town is built up onto the hillside and the buildings are lovely with lots of potted plants and rooftop gardens as well as the tropical jungle that seems to be trying to edge its way back in.

It’s not somewhere I’d want to walk around at night alone, but in a big group it was really fun. There were little food carts, dominoes are a big deal (better play fast and smack your tiles down on the table top every time) everyone rides mopeds, and it’s the first place we’ve been that really feels like a foreign country. We stopped in a general store with stacks of clothing all over the place, and a little of everything else too!  The place feels bigger than it is- even after an hour of wandering I found us retracing my steps from earlier in the day. 

Getting caught in a rain storm today seems to have done my camera in, which is sad- (maybe it will dry out) but fortunately we’re all sharing pictures on the ship computers. So I’ll still have plenty of photos!

This blogpost is longer than usual, but yesterday was so packed!  Today we spent doing academic and ship work. In the afternoon we cleaned the boat inside and out and were rewarded with a swim call! It was a busy but enjoyable day.


Mary Claire and Dylan

PS MC: Once again love to Mom, Dad, Ellena, Grandparents and any other of my family members who happens to be reading this. I’m having a great time! And it’s flying by.

DA: I miss and love you ma and pa and bro.  mucho amor to any aunties or amigos who read this! I’m mailing post cards tomorrow! Rachel! I think I’ll have time off in Jamaica on the 19th! Look forward to seeing you if you can make it! I’ll txt you the 17th.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


07 December 2011
19°45.6’N X 068°54.9’W
Wind: ExS Force: 4
Sailing the 4 lowers (Main, Mainstays’l, Forestays’l & Jib) and JT (Jib Topsail)

(Picture caption: START FRENZY!)

Hello outside world!

Today was beautiful, from the gorgeous sunrise to the clear night where A watch brought out the sextants to shoot Jupiter, Venus, Deneb, Vega, Altair and tons of other navigation stars. The day was just as exciting, full of large swells, lots of sail handling, and of course the occasional squall (small, isolated storm). Bad weather is so much more fun than good weather, now that we’ve all gotten over being seasick-again. In class we learned to splice and whip line, skills that can be used even after we depart from the Cramer.

Although we are sailing in the Sargasso Sea, we didn’t see nearly as much sargassum as expected. ): We actually saw more during the first leg of our trip, which seems a little odd. We have, however, gathered all kinds of zooplankton and fish larvae that will be used for a few oceanography projects.

I (Onji) was assistant steward today and am very proud of the work Lillian and I did. Cooking for 34 people is a lot of fun but harder than you would think! The galley is warm and cozy with limited space for food, so storage has to be creative. Half of the fun is walking through the ship lifting mattresses and seat cushions to find hidden compartments where the dry food is stored. It’s like a giant scavenger hunt, except if you don’t win you don’t eat. Thankfully I can read a map and everything turned out well (unless everyone was just trying to make me feel good) and I will be sleeping on a very full and happy stomach tonight!

Less than a day away from Samana, Dominican Republic and looking forward to experiencing another port! Can’t wait to Salsa the night away with some locals and enjoy Dominican cuisine. Maybe even bring home a faceless doll or two, a unique craft handmade to represent the Dominican people.  In my research I learned they are as unique as the people are, representing the variety of cultures that formed what we now know as the Dominicans. I hope to bring some back and share their beautiful artistry and history.

Hope you all are enjoying winter, we sure don’t miss it!

Ian & Onji (:

P.S. Hey Ma! I’m feeling better, hope you keep recovering well! Love you (: Happy Birthday to my good friend Mr. King (:

Special shout-out to Ms. Fricks’ class! Keep up the good work guys and I look forward to seeing you again in 2012!



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Location: 19 degrees 10.5 minutes north, 67 degrees 46.3 minutes west, northwest of Puerto Rico.
Temperature: 28.7 degrees Celsius

Photo: Mac and Ellie in the galley.

Yesterday, we had our handful of seasick sailors.  I find that it is easy to notice this when I cook for the ship’s company.  Today is our first full day of sailing since Puerto Rico. And, it seems as if everyone is feeling better. 

Each day a student is assigned to help me in the galley. With his/ her help, 3 meals and 3 snacks are created. Throughout the course of the trip each student will have two opportunities to plan and prepare the meals for their shipmates.  During their first visit to the galley I assist them in the process of creation; but as their comfort, familiarity and confidence grows, students take charge of all the meals.

A full 24 hours since we have departed San Juan, Puerto Rico and we have comfortably settled back into the ship’s routine.  During afternoon class the students were reminded of the many projects they need to be working on. One assignment they have is a Deck Checklist, which they must complete before reaching the Dominican Republic, our next port stop.  Some of the many aspects of the checklist include:  knowing the sails and all the lines, proper response to Man-Over-Board drills, location of all fire extinguishers, safe line handling technique, etc.  Once they have completed the checklist students will have earned the honor of going aloft!

Along with assignments, shipmates are participating in a secret gift exchange for the holidays! Names were selected before we reached Puerto Rico, and now whenever there is some free time students and crew alike can be found busily working on their crafty projects. 

Lillian Corbin



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


December 5, 2011

(photo caption:  Chief Mate Matt Glenn on the bow as the Corwith Cramer departs San Juan.)

The Corwith Cramer departed San Juan, Puerto Rico this afternoon after three days of exploring the old city and surrounding countryside.  After meeting lots of people and visiting a diverse cross-section of the city’s sites, the students are leaving with a much clearer understanding of the complex culture of Puerto Rico.

Docked along the city harbor wall between massive cruise ship piers, the Cramer itself had become a tourist attraction for thousands of cruise ship passengers and locals walking along the harborfront.

We set sail in the harbor channel and towed a neuston net as we departed to collect plankton samples in the harbor entrance.  As the city’s dramatic skyline of ancient forts and modern beachfront towers faded into the horizon, the students set to the job of adjusting back to life underway. Some were feeling queasy as they sought to regain their sea legs, while the ship rose and fell with a rolling sea swell from a faraway Atlantic storm.

We’ll be at sea for only about four days this week before arriving in Samana, a small town on a bay in the northeast corner of the Dominican Republic. I look forward to hearing the students impressions of another new place - so close to Puerto Rico and sharing a similar Spanish heritage, but dramatically different as a result of diverging histories in the last 100 years.

Carl Herzog
Maritime Studies Instructor



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean | Video Blog



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


December 3, 2011
Day three docked in San Juan , Puerto Rico. The wind is averaging force one on the Beaufort scale NE x E, with minimal cloud coverage. It’s around 30° C – still hot, but not that bad! (Skye said she had to put on a long-sleeved shirt at one point – oh my!)

Photo caption: The view from El Morro looking down on the cemetery towards the beach.

HOLA MATEYS!  Sarah and Jill here, writing from our glorious dock in San Juan.  The first day of our split watches, port and starboard, began today, and already, separation anxiety has set in. Port watch was free to explore the city of San Juan, while starboard spent the day nurturing Mama Cramer.  For Starboard watch, it was a full day of scrubbing, polishing, and repairing sails with time off to work on oceanography projects and illustrations. Beth Stivison got to do her favorite job – oiling the wood in the lab!  Hadley and Vic were hard at work repairing the seams of the main stays’l – thanks guys!  Mac and Ellie enjoyed looking at organisms under the microscope, while Dylan serenaded a crowd of local Puerto Ricans with American folk music. As usual, MC found a place to slack line, and Jessie worked on her beautiful drawing of Beth Stivison.   

Port watch meandered around in the city of Old San Juan, wandering and exploring, until ending up at one of the greatest beaches of all time.  Most of the crew visited the Spanish fort, El Morro on the far edge of town.  Matt particularly liked the old ship graffiti in the dungeons of the fort.  Laura Hansen found the architecture to be particularly interesting.  Ian poked around the city and met a 90 year old man named Alfonso.  Seth, Captain Beth, and Erin went to the lumberyard with extreme secrecy and preparation for Secret Santa. 

Larissa, Chris, Mar, and Gus said that snorkeling was their favorite part of this magical day. They were able to see tons of fish living in the reefs.  Sarah and Jill got buried in the sand while April played volibol with some locals.  While these goofballs were playing around in the ocean, Laura Page and Onji were hard at work collecting samples for their oceanography project studying plastics.  They were able to collect 5-10 pounds of trash in only a 50 m section of the beach (holy trash!).

We were lucky enough to be in San Juan while the SOFO Food Festival is going on.  Local restaurants throughout the city moved out into the streets for the entire weekend with tempting food and drink options, live music and dancing.  Not to mention, an abundance of Christmas cheer!  Raquel, the best guide ever, took us to the best places around San Juan, including a great local bar, where we salsa danced and played pool. Although we are excited to continue our journey across the Caribbean, we already feel we will miss Puerto Rico.  Every aspect of the island, as far as we have seen is beautiful – the people are friendly, the land is gorgeous, and the food is delicious.

Lots of love,
JT and SBanks

P.S. – Love and miss you Mom , Dad, Jen, Nuggy, Bryant, Brad, Ash, Hogey and the rest of the crew!  Also hi Sheryl, Moni and everyone.  Wish everyone was here with me.  I am on a boat! For some of you good luck on your finals and enjoy all the snow in Iowa!  Mwahaha.  Sorry, not sorry.  Luff you all!

P.S.S. Lots of love to my wonderful parents and sweet ‘little’ brother! Lots of love to Aunt Patty and Uncle Dave – tell Aunt Patty I have a stack of postcards for her! Say hi to everyone in Denmark, and the rest of the family – I miss you all! Big love to my sweet suite Wilsonites – I can’t wait to see you all soon! Stay warm – xoxoxoxo, Sash



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

Dec 2, 2011

-Alongside in San Juan, Puerto Rico
-Laura Page and April

Greetings from the docks of old San Juan, Puerto Rico!  It feels like a lifetime of experiences since we set sail from St. Croix yet we’ve only spent a week at sea learning:  amongst other things, sail handling, celestial navigation, scientific deployments, and how to work together as a crew.

Our second day in port consisted of a field trip to the National Park El Yunque a   mountainous, tropical rainforest.  Our guide was a colorful character named John.  He originally hailed from Britain but has spent the last 29 years working in Puerto Rican rainforest conservation.  He did a great job of showing us the natural flora and fauna along our hike up the mountain.  We discovered the various ways a single palm tree can be used for shelter, food, and cleaning supplies.  He showed us how to identify ginger in case we should become hungry along the way. 

A curious detail of the park was the seeming lack of large animal life.  John explained to us that because the island formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago and was thus never part of the mainland, the only life to inhabit it were those small enough to easily swim or fly to it.  That makes today’s endemic species quite small consisting of creatures like lizards, snails, humming birds and several species of bats and Coqui frogs.  The latter two groups helped to keep us mosquito-free along the hike; and the fact that there is little standing water for mosquitos to breed on the steep mountain slopes, thus a welcome relief from bug bites!

Upon reaching the peak of the trail, over 3000 ft above sea level, we all took a much desired break for lunch and time to take in some spectacular views.  On the trip down, our guide steered us to a series of cascading, waterfalls where we all cooled off from the morning’s hike.  In fact, the water was quite chilly!

In the afternoon our bus driver dropped us off at a nearby beach front where we explored and sampled some delicious local fried foods.

For those of us with evening shore leave, we went to the local food festival, participated in a small parade, and witnessed a ceremonial lighting of a Christmas tree.  A reminder that cold winter holidays are not lost on the tropical climates.  The rest of the evening was spent dancing and exploring the Puerto Rican nightlife.  We ended the day tired and happy. 

-Laura Page and April

Shout Outs:

Dad (Donald Collier) I spent the day playing assistant to our engineer, Seth.  We changed the oil, the fuel filter, exercised valves, and I even got to turn on the engine.  Pedal to the METAL!  Also, I’ve been practicing my BALLANTINE coils and I think of you each time.
Mom (Tamar Stearns): I’m having the time of my life here.  Each day is better than the last.  Lookout during dawn watch is my favorite because it provides a perfect opportunity for reflection.  I look forward to sharing stories and a glass of wine.  Love you!

Laura Page-
Mom and Dad, I love you.  -LP



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean | Video Blog



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

Thursday 01 December
Alongside, old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Partly sunny, comfortable temperatures

Image caption:  The Corwith Cramer docked in the middle of all the fun in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  No parking tickets yet!

Marissa Rosenfeld:

Today, I wasn’t sea sick for the second day this trip which was awesome and always a good thing.  I think I set a record for vomiting only twenty minutes after leaving port in St. Croix. In the AM, we were about 3 miles off shore before finally docking in San Juan around 1400. The city reminds me a lot of Florida. Today’s class took place docked next to a busy street where rubber necking pedestrians witnessed the last of our creature feature presentations. Dylan and I wore plastic zip lock bags on our heads to demonstrate the monumental awesomeness of our gelatinous blob creatures.

Also, A watch began making a non-religious advent calendar today, I know I made some pretty awesome prizes some lucky shipmate will be sure to question the sanity of its thought process, but I feel that’s the spirit of the holidays. What was most exciting was the return of cell phones and internet access. It wasn’t long before some of my fellow shipmates and I was out on the bow trying to get internet reception to our computers. I know a certain friend of mine was excited to get a surprise Skype call from Puerto Rico.

Tomorrow we get to go on a hike, it’s gonna be epic, can’t wait to see more of the island. For the most part being at sea was pretty good.  Night deck watches are defiantly the best. I like learning the constellations and executing the manual tasks of raising and striking the sails. , I’m sure the rest of the trip will be better now that I can enjoy it without being seasick.

Peace out
miss ya baby girl wink

Mary Claire:

A long packed day today with a Midwatch from 11:00 pm to 3 am , another watch from 1 pm to 7pm and another from 10pm to 12am.

But we’re in Puerto Rico now, which is exciting.

It was really beautiful sailing (or rather motoring because the wind diminished) into Old San Juan-  hills all around, an old fort and a big dense city. When I imagined port stops I thought we would be docked at some sort of boat area - instead we’re pulled up against a sidewalk, and can walk right off the boat directly into the city. I feel like we could get a parking ticket since we’re practically parked on the road. When I say in San Juan, it’s funny, because I haven’t actually set foot off the boat yet. When we docked Captain Beth split us up into two watches. Half the crew got to go ashore and the other half stayed behind to watch the ship. So tomorrow night I’ll get to explore the city - tomorrow, during the day we have a field trip to the rain forest!

Other things. early this morning I learned how to do Winkler Titrations to measure dissolved oxygen in sea water- that was pretty cool. Titrating was much more fun and stress free than the last time I did it, for lab in Chem 101.

I’ve definitely enjoyed this little bit of sailing, and have learned a lot in the past 5 days or so. It was the first time I’d ever been out of sight of land on a boat. It was nice to discover that I didn’t get seasick. Maybe a tiny bit queasy, but I don’t think I would have noticed it if I hadn’t known that you’re supposed to get sick when you get on a boat.

Days are pretty full, there isn’t much time for anything other than watches, eating and sleeping- although I keep pretty busy in the real world too. Still it’ll be nice to have a little time to do things that aren’t on a schedule, and it was really nice to see hill/mountains as we were coming in.

Well that’s all I’ve got at the moment, I’m pretty fried and ready for bed. Love to mom, dad and Ellena if you’re following this blog! I’ll give you a call tomorrow!

Mary Claire



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Noon position: 17°41.8’N x 065°16.5’W
Weather: 32°C mostly clear with scattered cumulus clouds on the horizon.
Wind N at Beaufort Force 3, seas NxW, 2 ft.

Photo Caption: Mary-Claire, Ian, and Carl shoot evening stars for a celestial fix.

C watch started of the day with an exciting dawn watch (0300-0700). We had our first opportunity to tack the ship (with a small watch, Cramer is easier to gybe). Our watch is really starting to work together as a seamless sailing machine. We also witnessed a spectacular sunrise, and carried out a series of Winkler titrations in the lab. Winkler titration is used to test for dissolved oxygen content in seawater.

The previous evening saw a frenzy of celestial navigation, with members of all three watches sighting a variety of evening stars. Everyone is gradually gaining confidence using a sextant. That afternoon we gave the iDip (improved dip net) its first test run, successfully netting two passing clumps of Sargassum weed after mastering the art of the iDip. It’s a steep learning curve. The net includes a small canister used to capture a sample of the water surrounding the Sargassum. Sarah and Jill are testing these samples for nutrients, and were ecstatic to finally be collecting data. Ellie and Jill processed the samples and found an abundance of shrimp, several fish, and a Sargassum crab!

Our knowledge of Cramer’s running rigging was put to the test today during the much anticipated Line Chase. The three watches faced off on the quarterdeck to determine which watch could identify all the lines in relay the fastest. Competition was fierce, and B watch eventually took the day. Afterwards we celebrated Beth Stivison’s birthday with cake and ice cream, courtesy of Lillian and Sarah Banks (assistant steward for the day). Happy birthday Beth!

It’s 1808 now, as we’re finishing up this entry, and we are eagerly anticipating dinner. C watch is on again at 1900, sailing towards Puerto Rico. Cramer should make port in San Juan some time tomorrow. We’re looking forward to exploring the city in the next few days.

- Ellie Howell and Gus Hynes

P.S. Love to the fam. Enjoy winter in Maine. And Seattle.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


29 November 2011
1800 Atlantic Standard Time (6 pm EST)
17° 15.7’ N x 065° 26.3’ W
Warm, 28.5° C with a cool. ~10 knot (Beaufort Force 3) wind from the NNE

Motor sailing, with the four lowers set, on a heading of 030.  We had to turn on the engine to make Puerto Rico in time, or light headwinds would have made us late (sigh).

Photo Caption: A lazy afternoon aboard the Cramer

Today, I think we (Mac & Libby) can say that we are finally getting used to the fact that we are, indeed, on a boat.  Watch schedules and sail handling are starting to make sense, calmer seas have put us in control of our stomachs again, and we are starting in on the meat of our cruise.

We began watch this morning (at 0650) by tacking the ship for the first time.  We usually jibe because it is easier and takes fewer people, but with two watches on deck we managed a credible tack without too many “What am I supposed to be doing?!” moments.  Morning watch only got more exciting from there.  Since the wind was light, dawn watch had set all of our fore-and-aft sails.  However, science wanted to put in a hydrocast (the first of this trip!), so we had to take the upper sails (jib topsail and fisherman) down again so we could heave to and stop the ship to let them put the equipment in. Once that was done (Success! Equipment and samples safely recovered!), we took the reef out of the main for the first time in hopes of going faster, but to no avail - a dying wind blowing directly in our teeth made a timely arrival in San Juan seem impossible - so we turned on the main engine and have been motor-sailing since.

While on morning watch, we participated in our first MASAM! (aka Maritime Studies AM!).  We read and discussed excerpts from “Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herrman Wouk, a novel loosely based on the Virgin Islands in the 1960s. B watch (our watch) took its first noon sight at… noon! The anticipation built as we held the sun in the sight of the sextant, with it slowly rising to the local apparent noon of 12:14. After some simple calculations, that have become increasingly difficult after sleeping on a ship, we calculated our latitude to within 10’. Then we handed over the watch and adjourned to a delicious lunch of mac & cheese.  In the afternoon, we had our first student presentations for class, consisting of weather & navigation, science, and creature features (describing four zooplanktons). Krill… swim away!

I tell you, we’re budding scientists out here.  And sailors.

Mac & Libby

Love you Mom, Dad, my brothers, and my dearest friends. Stay positive!
Love to all.  It’s wonderful to be sailing.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


28 November 2011
2000 Atlantic Standard Time (7 PM EST)
Photo Caption: Sarah and Gus sweatin’ it out on the jib sheet

On this cool and clear evening (temperature 27.2°C), we are sailing on a course ordered track of 005° with the help of a NE×E wind (Beaufort Force 3) at 2 knots because of our deployed Neuston net tow. Our position is around 16°34’N×065°34’W.

Hello world! Greetings from the middle of the eastern Caribbean Sea! We are your first student bloggers, Dylan and Larissa, writing to you from the ship’s sauna (better known as the library) to tell you about our crazy adventures on the Corwith Cramer!

After a somewhat uneventful evening, the first watch of the day spotted what appeared to be an abandoned skiff on the horizon. Upon further inspection, it was, in fact, an abandoned skiff that may have been cast adrift by a storm. We motored towards it, copied down its information to send to the Coast Guard, and continued on our journey south.  Later, we had our first class, a vastly different experience from those in Woods Hole, in part (largely) because of our still uneasy stomachs. However, we seem to be slowly but surely getting our sea legs. The Fisherman sail was set today, which increased our speed and heel, easing the pitching of the ship, making the afternoon snack of Goldfish and Nilla Wafers much more enjoyable! During snack, we had a visitor. Fat Albert, the plumper of two hitchhiker pigeons, crawled out from his home under the rescue boat to hesitantly peck at some cracker crumbs provided by Ian.

From 1300-1900, the two of us were on lab watch, meaning we assisted the third assistant scientist, Julia, with scientific deployments, data processing, and hourly lab reports. Despite initially knowing very little about oceanographic research, we are becoming competent enough to carry out the aforementioned tasks quite efficiently and accurately. Today, we spent a lot of time processing the samples from the previous watch’s Neuston net tow, which included Sargassum, fish larvae, several crabs, and TONS OF ANEMONE, which sting. Ow. We learned how to measure pH using the spectrophotometer and how to assess the makeup of a zooplankton sample by doing a 100-count. In the biggest scientific news of the day, last night, the Sargassum crab in the aquarium mercilessly devoured all three live fish in the aquarium. It was a tough loss.

Thanks for reading,

Dylan and Larissa

Miss you Pam, Gordon, Morgan, the critters and all my buddies. Rachel - I’ll text you in a few days!

Missin da fam, peeps abroad, peeps at school. Hope all’s well - love you all! Bing!

We’re on a boat! Ahhhh!



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


27 November 2011
1700 Atlantic Standard Time (5 PM EST)
Weather:  wind East by South at ~10 knots (Beaufort force 3). Skies mostly overcast.

Photo caption: Mary Claire, Laura and April watch dolphins swimming at the bow.

Sailing south under the four lowers (mains’l, mainstays’l, forestays’l and jib). Position: About 25 nautical miles southwest of St. Croix, 17°15’N x 065°18’W.

After a night of occasional rain showers, the students of C-238 spent their first full day underway Sunday. With Gus working in the first rotation as assistant steward, the crew was treated to bacon and bagels for breakfast along with fresh pineapple and juices.

In the mid-morning, the on-watch lab team deployed the first scientific gear of the voyage.  With Larissa on the throttle, the students sent a CTD sensor down 1,000 meters into the deep on the hydrowinch to record salinity and temperature at various depths. The data collected will help Mary Claire assess the formation of water masses for her oceanography project.

Students also towed the neuston net, which skims along the surface of the ocean, collecting tiny plants and animals, and deployed dip nets over the side of the vessel to collect Sargassum for Jill and Sarah’s project.

While the ship was hove-to for science, Mar, Dylan and Ian used sextants to measure the altitude of the sun and create the first celestial line of position on the nautical chart.

An afternoon of safety drills rounded out a day filled with new experiences for C-238.

Carl Herzog
Maritime Studies Instructor



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


26 November 2011
1700 (5 PM)

Weather:  winds from the NE at ~10 knots (Beaufort force 3), diminishing; sky filling with clouds throughout the day. 

Sailing with the four lowers (mains’l, mainstays’l, forestays’l and jib about 10 nautical miles north of St. Croix, 17°57.3’N x 064°45.1’W.

Photo caption:  Beth, April, Dylan, and Rachel are pulling up the last few inches of the mainstays’l halyard.  A lesson in teamwork and coordination referred to as ‘sweating and tailing a line’. 

The students spent the morning learning safety procedures in the lab and handling lines under strain.  They practiced making observations of weather, oceanographic conditions, and engineering systems and how to properly record that information in various logbooks.  They learned how to drive the hydrowinch too, and all of that before lunch; which by the way was this amazing ginger-carrot soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and salad - thanks Lillian! 

With full bellies it was time to finally say goodbye to St. Croix and head out to sea.  We have already set a ton of sails, students are at the helm, we have collected Sargassum in our nets, and even had the pleasure of seeing dolphins play in the bow waves of the Corwith Cramer.  It is not even time for dinner!  Basically, the students are earning their sea legs; they are simply too busy learning to be bothered with sea sickness. 

And so the story of C238 begins to unfold. Curious?  Intrigued?  Wanting for more? Me too, so be certain to check back with us tomorrow and in the days and weeks ahead. 

Chief Scientist
Jeff Schell



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

Class 238 - Documenting Change in the Caribbean:  Colonization to Conservation

Hello World!

All 14 students arrived safely to the ship yesterday afternoon at Gallows Bay, in Christiansted, St. Croix.  Our newly arrived crew were in excellent form, and after weeks of on-shore life were delighted finally to have arrived on board the SSV Corwith Cramer.

We had an all-hands dinner at 1730, began some initial training, and then participated in some St Croix annual cultural fun, a celebration called Jump Up.  We are currently preparing to get underway for our first week at sea and continue with training.

We are ready to document change, plus have a lot of fun together.

Until next time,
Captain Beth



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean


Photo caption:  Chief Mate Matt Glen checks to make certain Onji has learned her knots before boarding the Corwith Cramer.



C238 Documenting Change in the Caribbean

The Corwith Cramer will board students of class C-238 in Christiansted, St. Croix USVI on Friday November 25, 2011. They plan to sail west, with potential port-stops in San Juan Puerto Rico, Samana, Dominican Republic, and Port Antonio, Jamaica. They will then head north and east to Key West, Florida, where students will disembark on Monday January 2, 2012.