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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

The Corwith Cramer departed Key West, Florida on Monday January 9th with participants for a Colleague Voyage, and plans to sail west to the Dry Tortugas before returning to Key West on Thursday Jan 12th.

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.



C238a Colleague Voyage

Photo caption: Rich Niesenbaum (Muhlenberg College) and Nancy Smith (Eckerd College) prepare Shipek sediment grab

Blog by:
Bethany Jenkins (Univ. of Rhode Island), Mary Harrington (Smith College),Caroline Karp (Brown Univ.)

Hello from B watch on Jan 10 from 24 deg 30.73N and 83 deg 0.54 W.  Where is that you ask?  We are S SW of the Dry Tortugas where we had our port stop today. On Jan 9 we left our anchorage near Key West and under sail power made our way toward the Dry Tortugas. Our watch split science and deck duties from 0300-0700.  Most of us were new to the helm of the Cramer and discovered that she sails well with little steering correction in fair wind.Moral of the story: the more you steer the more you steer.  One of us(Bethany) was a student on the Westward (W 103) 22 years ago.  I forgot many things but it’s amazing what comes back. The watch rotations, the ship’s schedule and the wonderful crew are identical to those aspects I experienced so long ago.  One major change for me is that the Cramer top foc’sle bunk is a luxury cabin compared to the top foc’sle bunk on the Westward.

We transited to the Dry Tortugas via the zodiac driven by our trusted firstmate Sully and assistant scientist Maia.  Many of us snorkeled around the island and saw: Ballyhoos, Pudding wife, Parrot fish, Long Spine Sea Urchins,Portuguese Man O’ Wars, a Green Moray eel, Barracudas, mating Whelks, Queen Conchs, Purple Fan Corals and many other interesting and delightful undersea creatures.  Mary, our neurobiologist from Smith College, was impressed by the brain coral.  Above the sea, there were many Frigate birds with white and red throats.  So, you don’t need to go to the Galapagos to see Frigates-you can just sail on the Cramer to the Dry Tortugas. Upon returning to the ship, our maritime historian Liz gave us all a whirlwind tour of how SEA integrates maritime history into its curriculum including understanding culture underlying the many port stops.  Our captain, Virginia, helped us understand the physics of sailing and how we would leave anchor under sail power. Her knowledge of the ship and her handling is truly impressive.

We are eating well thanks to our steward Lillian and assistant steward Abby. I have to say on this short cruise we are super spoiled not having to do galley rotations ourselves and we are just enjoying goodies prepared by others.  B watch was back on deck and in the lab in the evening under our assistant scientist Maia’s insightful direction in the lab and our mate Rocky’s fearless leadership on deck . We did a double gybe to set up the ship for a 2 knot cruising speed for towing a plankton net at 75 m.  We deployed the net and our watch turned over and the subsequent watch analyzed the biological samples we collected.

Since I’ve been at SEA, I’ve been to sea on multiple oceanographic research vessels. While one can conduct state-of-the-art science aboard these ships,they are noisy, belching diesel platforms. It’s a real treat to do science under sail again.  SEA was the start of my oceanography career and I really want to encourage future and former students who dream of doing SEA or oceanographic research that this is a great way to embark on that endeavor.Bethany Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology and Oceanography, University of Rhode Island.



C238a Colleague Voyage

Monday, 9 January 2012
24°34’N x 081°48’W
At 0830 participants from institutions around the country boarded the SSV Corwith Cramer in Key West, FL for colleague voyage C238A, beginning a long day of orientation, sailing, and science. Our goal during this trip is to actively engage every participant in order to demonstrate the sailing, research, and teaching capabilities and the vessel and SEA Semester. After introductions and a safety briefing at the dock, we got underway and headed out the channel under motor and staysails, past sailboats, cruise ships, Coast Guard vessels, and jet skis to anchor off of Fort Zachary Taylor. There we began the thorough orientation to the vessel systems, routines, and safety procedures that every SEA Semester student completes. As Captain Virginia Land McGuire pointed out, since every person aboard is a working crew member, in order to move the vessel safely and efficiently across the ocean you need to know the same important information about the vessel whether you are headed out for 4 days or 4 months. Participants were split into three watches and received orientations to the laboratory, engine room, galley, and deck including how to do a proper boat check. Winch and science deck safety was demonstrated by deploying the Shipek sediment grab using the hydrographic winch to collect our first physical sample of carbonate sediment. After lunch orientation continued and we walked through fire/emergency and abandon ship drills, including the proper way to don an exposure suit. With the orientations completed, the duty watch assumed control of the vessel and we heaved up the anchor, hoisted sails, and got underway to the west toward the Dry Tortugas.

The Corwith Cramer was built to SEA specifications in Spain and launched in1987, with a mid-life refit in 2002 including the complete redesign and upgrade of the laboratory and engine room. In 1513 Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon was sailing another Spanish-built ship in these very waters and noted “A current such that although they had great wind, they could not proceed forward, but backward…”. This is the first known reference to the Gulf Stream, one of the strongest currents in the ocean. We will be sailing in the Florida Current, the major source of the Gulf Stream, and hope to make it to the Dry Tortugas, a group of islands that is a state park only accessible by boat or float plane.

Erik Zettler, SEA Chief Scientist