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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

The Corwith Cramer departs Key West, Florida on February 16, 2012 with students on C-239 (Ocean Exploration), and plans to sail east making stops in Samana, Dominican Republic and Port Antonio, Jamaica before returning to Key West on Sunday, March 25th, 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.



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 23, 2012

Hey, all!  Today we saw some manatees.  Well, a manatee that had swallowed a German tourist that is.  With some chaotic yet entertaining manaTV, an enlightening manatee story, and some haiku’s thrown in, the last class of our trip ended with laughter.  Here are just a few of those little gems for you to mull over:

You sniff dirt, you do
Thinking it will sustain you
Yet you still are cold

But just like Ray Ray and Mads
Sometimes you eat fish

As project presentations and paper due dates draw ever-closer, in fact the day after tomorrow, last minute worries arose during project time this afternoon.  Yet as that end draws near, relief is clear, as so little is left to complete.  Now what’s left is claiming as many leptos and fish larvae that I can.yet what I’ll do with them remains a mystery. 

And how is it already the end of March?  With the Sargasso, Samana, and Port Antonio all behind us, there’s so little time ahead.  As of this morning we were hove to and floating in the Florida Current, and we’ll soon be in Key West.  Crazy, no?  With thoughts of clean clothes and solid land beneath our feet comes the pain of leaving those whose constant company we’ve come to love and the ship that’s been our home these past six weeks.

Here’s to hoping for the green flash and clear skies for some nav stars,




C239 Ocean Exploration

Wednesday March 21

Hello everyone!

Another lovely day in the Caribbean Sea! Today we found the Loop Current, which turns into the Florida Current, which turns into the Gulf Stream. Faced with unfavorable headwinds, we pulled into the center of the current, which is moving to the NE at about 2kts,and we promptly hove-to and let the current pull us dead upwind! Drifting upwind, northeast to Key West! The waves have been huge for the past two days, anywhere from 6 to 12’, with the occasional 15 foot monsters. Wave height is a tricky guesstimating business. But as we know from all our celestial, the height of the quarterdeck is 12’, so if we see a wave crest over the horizon we know its larger than 12’ plus our own height. We get a few of those but not a lot (don’t worry moms). In seas like this, it is worth a point of college credit to get your mug of tea or coffee up a ladder in the heaving sea and onto the deck, without spilling a drop. At the beginning of the trip, I would cling to the bulkheads to keep from spilling, sheltering the mug with my body, teeth gritted and smarting from hot spilled liquid on my hands. Last night I took a mug in each hand up the ladder (with my back jammed up against the handrail for support) in some of the biggest seas we’ve seen yet, without a single missing drop! I felt pretty good about it, announcing as I came up on deck “Girl wonder carries 2 full cups of tea through high seas-a miracle!” To general regard and respect. Though it seemed to happen slowly, and now is almost over, I think many of us now feel competent.  This is an improvement.

The rhythm and repetition of life on the ship and our own growing abilities have brought us farther than we could have thought. I wish someone had taken a video of us trying to set the main on the first week-we would shudder now, I imagine! Looking at our past selves dithering over the topping lift and halyard, arguing about jiggers, crying “TWO-SIX” out of rhythm and failing to repeat commands. There are many little rhythms of boat life that I imagine we will carry with us back on shore-small habits of speech. On Mama Cramer, as I mentioned, we repeat commands. “Ready starboard jib sheet” is echoed by a shout of the same. We bring it to the table, someone asks, “pass the salt” and we all chorus “pass the salt” and when a job we are doing is done, such as sweating a line, we say “that’s well”, which also carries over to off-watch activities. “that’s well your salt”.

We had our deck practical exam today-we rotated around the ship answering questions like “change the AIS status from sailing to motoring, tie a round turn and two half hitches, what are the responsibilities of the JWO, name 5 navigation stars and their constellations”. It was…well, practical.

We often talk of the food we’ll eat, or the things we’ll do when we get home. I am looking forward to doing yoga on a non-moving surface, my mom’s pasta sauce and a nice evening with my parents! To San Pelligrino, a nice glass of wine, snuggling with our dogs and cats! I also plan on using all the hot water, mom and dad, and staying in your lovely shower until my entire body prunes. I am also leaving the sheets here to be used as rags, they are beyond call and useful only for oiling rigging.

We are also working hard on our science projects. Eutrophication is calling me. See you all soon and fair winds!

Love, Sarah Wineberg

Ps. This is an old picture of Steve and Tom winkling in the lab. It is a ship rule that if you are winkling you must wear a funny hat.



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 20, 2012

We have all tried new things and been pushed beyond our comfort zones. Sometimes we rise up to the challenge, other times we grow frustrated with our lack of understanding, but we grow just the same. I’ve been thinking a lot about the strength an individual has to have to survive and thrive in the situation presented in ship life. I am happy to say, I have found my strength both literally and figuratively.

Just the other day I decided to try something new. There is an activity called “Paul Bunyoning” a sail. It is when one person raises the sail by themselves. Now, I can’t do pull ups, I can hardly get through 20 pushups, but just out of curiosity I decided to try and see how far I can raise the Jib by myself. Once the JWO gave the command I started hauling and thinking about the people back home. One haul for mom. one haul for dad. The sail continued to rise and with each haul I thought of someone back home. One haul for Steph, one haul for Matt.. I kept going and going until I began to feel my forearms growing sore and my grip loosening on the halyard. My breathing grew deeper but I couldn’t stop; one haul for grandma, one haul for Betty. my mental list of names kept going and that jib kept getting higher and higher until I reached a point that I had run out of names. I paused, forearms beginning to feel like jelly. Then I heard my fellow B-Watch around me, “You can do it! You’re almost there!” One haul for each of them, Maddie, Anna, Ben, Cassie, and Thane. Then I heard a call from the quarter deck “Doing great Lila! Put your body into it!” One haul each for Dylan, Anne, Molly, Maia, Sarah, Tom, Cap, and Mary.. Finally I was out of breath hanging from the jib halyard as I tried to get more out of it, “Take it to the pin!” I called to my watch mates who helped me get it there. “I’m going to sweat it out,” I said. 2-6 heave, 2-6 heave. I couldn’t get any more out of it. “That’s well!” I heard my fellow watch mate yell. After the halyard was made fast I paused and looked at the jib. It was set. Make no mistake; I didn’t do it by myself. On the contrary, had my watch not encouraged me to keep going I would have stopped hauling halfway up. 

I have bittersweet feelings about leaving on the 25th as many of my fellow crew has as well. Yes, we miss all of you parents, friends, and loved ones, but this journey has been so incredible. I wish I could adequately put into words what this trip has done to us in a way that will give it justice but I find I cannot. We are not the same people who you saw leave for Woods Hole. We have grown, we have found strength in ourselves and in each other, and we will never be the same.  We have accomplished a great deal aboard this ship and have formed an extremely close community. Still, we all long for the comforts of home. Personally I’m looking forward to homemade spaghetti sauce (MOM PLEASE MAKE SOME FOR WHEN I COME HOME!)

As far as the hum drum of ship life goes, I suppose I will start from evening watch yesterday which is where I begin my ‘day.’ The evening watch started from 1900-2300 and I was on deck. We were in the Yucatan and the seas were becoming like a roller coaster. More than once, I was posted as bow lookout which gives adequate time for singing and for thinking. I know I’m supposed to be looking out for danger the ship may have been heading into, and I was. I was just thinking while I did my task. We hit some weather and the waves splashing over the bow was great fun. By the end of watch I was soaked and had once again seen bioluminescent dolphins swimming just beneath me.

I suppose it was when I was staring at those dolphins swimming (which it’s the third day they have shown up to play with Cramer), or perhaps it was when I was gazing at the stars which are so numerous and plentiful that the sky will never look the same without them, that I reflected on this journey in its entirety and the growth that each person has shown on this trip. When I first arrived in Woods Hole I was scared. I was afraid I would fail, that I would be at odds with the people around me, that I wasn’t strong enough for a program like this. The thought occurred to me, I felt the same way about going to college and the wise words that bring me back to reality rang through my head, “People fear their own success.”

So there I stood on the bow riding up and down realizing our adventure was coming to a close. I was standing in pouring rain with added water from the waves crashing against Cramer and I could deem myself successful. I had found a strength and confidence within myself that I have been able to pull out and show on a daily basis. I’ve seen this growth with my fellow crew members as well. I’ve seen the transition and I’ve managed to distance myself to appreciate the changes that have come over us.

Today the reflection continued as we deployed a “Styrocast.” As depth increases, pressure increases and Styrofoam under pressure shrinks. The last couple of days we decorated little Styrofoam cups to deploy to depth so the pressure could shrink them down and make a nice little souvenir. I made mine as a gift and I hope it will adorn the shelf of its recipient amongst other treasures from the sea. After the styrocast, watch was finished and it was time for class. We had some presentations and then were given the afternoon off. Every student on the ship did project work.

Now B watches day is winding down and it’s getting to be time for our 3 hours of sleep before our next watch at 2300. What an adventure we have had.

We send our loved ones a fond hello and hope all of you are well. We will be back in Key West on the 24th and leaving Cramer at 0900 on the 25th.

Much Love,
Lila “Whale Bones” Jones



C239 Ocean Exploration

Hello land folk!

As of noon today, we have officially changed course to the north, homeward bound for Key West! Progressing through the Yucatan (aka Pukatan) straits, we’re all expecting our smooth sailing to be much sportier in the next couple days. The Junior Watch Officer transition has taken full effect, and to be brutally frank it has been quite stressful and challenging. We no longer have the luxury of guidance or a simple approving nod from our mates, and must utilize all other resources (fellow students included!) to keep the ship running efficiently during our watch. The purpose of JWO is to put the bountiful amount of information we have acquired into use without the instruction of staff members, who keep a watchful eye over our activity. I have personally found the key to effective authority is to be confident in commands and decisions, even if you are incorrect. For in most cases, you are indeed correct, and trouble only arises when doubt and second-guessing filters in. I will also say, that the feeling of accomplishment and pride afterward is truly rewarding.

With all this stress and pressure from JWO and research projects, there has also been some good fun and silliness to relieve our worried minds. Last night Lila and Maia hosted our second swizzle under a gorgeous starry sky, Milky Way and all. Song singing, tacky jokes, throw in a couple of karate moves, and of course lots of good laughs made for a successful swizzle. In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day we all wore the closest thing to green in our limited wardrobe, some getting quite creative with the ship’s dress-up box! The last activity had us all sitting in a great circle, facing seaward on the quarter deck. While Maia read from a lengthy list, chosen individuals were to stand and tap a crew member, or multiple, who they thought fit the aloud description best. Some were more humorous, such as: Who has the funniest sleepy face? Who looks the best in an immersion suit? Who would you want on a kickball team? Whereas, other questions held more meaning: Who remembers details? Who goes the extra mile to help out? Who are you thankful to have gotten to know better? Who would you want to sail again with?

What began as a creative swizzle game, turned into a heart-warming activity of giving silent compliments to shipmates. The exercise was a reality check of how well we have all gotten to know and befriend one another over the duration of both the shore and ocean component. It will be so strange to not have this community of now accomplished sailors, who have shared blood, sweat, and tears together, back in at home in our day-to-day lives. The end of our lengthy voyage is nearing fast! The feeling is bittersweet to us all. The prospect of leaving the ship and crew is saddening, but land sounds surreal (especially going through the Pukatan Straits). It has been an ongoing, changing conversation of what the first thing we will do once ashore will be, and what we miss most. 

A quick mention of today’s activities: had an eventful morning of sailing through a high traffic, congested area off of the tip of Cuba. Conditions are ideal with a consistent easterly wind and fair weather. For class today, the mates held a bosunry class where we learned to eye splice, seize, and whip lines - sailors’ arts and crafts, if you will. Our lovely steward Ashley and today’s assistant: Cassie, made delicious meals of enchiladas, apple pie, bacon/cauliflower soup, asparagus - the works! The whole crew can agree we are far from being underfed!

*Quick note to my parents: thank you so much for your birthday emails - know that I read them and they meant the world to me. Like so many other crew members and their loved ones, missing you terribly!

That’s all for now, prepare for an overload of stories in less than a week’s time!

Jessie Jarvis



C239 Ocean Exploration

18 March 2012,

20 deg 58.2’N x 84 deg 24.3’W
Sailing Northwest on a starboard tack under the four lowers (Main, main
stays’l, fore stays’l, and jib). 
Winds F3 ENE

Good Evening Everyone! 

Well we just finished up an eventful Sunday here aboard the Corwith Cramer. At 0045 this morning we pulled our last project nets of the trip out of the water, a meter net and neuston combo on the wire.  Cassie Audette, the Junior Lab Officer (JLO), with the help of Anna O’Hara set up the and executed the deployment.  Ben Schmidt, the Junior Watch Officer (JWO) worked closely with Cassie and Anna to get the ship going two knots and to keep the deck safe while the nets were in the water.  We were looking for leptocephali (eel larve) and phyllosoma (lobster larve) and we managed to catch two leptocephali, which made Ellie Daniels and Kelsey Condon, our resident experts, very happy. 

Morning watch brought us fair winds and with all the sails trimmed correctly we clipped along at 7 to 8 knots.  A pod of about 30 Atlantic Spotted Dolphins decided that our bow wake was an excellent place to do a little surfing and came to play for half an hour.  Sarah Wineberg, our morning JWO, was particularly excited and got a whole group of people up on the bow taking pictures and talking to the dolphins.  It must have looked funny from back aft to see a whole bunch of people lining the bow but no heads to be seen, as they were all over the side looking at the dolphins.  People finally started to trickle back below when Jessie Jarvis, our steward for the day, rang the bell for lunch.  Amazingly we still have avocados that are just getting ripe and so today we were treated to fresh avo on our sandwiches.  Yum!! 

After lunch it was time for field day.  It seems like we just had a field day and yet, the mung is everywhere and the battle continues.  Walking around the ship during field day is quite a musical education.  Dylan Clark in the galley with Mike Orefice and Jimmy Deurr were rocking out to a little Dispatch, while in the Main Salon, a mere 3 feet away, Molly Eddy, Thane Richards,  and Maddie Stoehr had the good-bad eighties pumping.  Shaggy was the music of choice in the Lab, where Tom Neilson and Anne Handschy spent their time looking for escaped zooplankton on the sole of the lab. 

Ashley Look, our steward, always treats us well.  On field day she makes us wonderful pizza, with her own special crust recipe.  It is a huge hit with everyone and she generally makes enough that there are leftover.  Quite a feat with this group let me tell you!  This evening after dinner everyone pitched in to help with dinner cleanup so that we could have a swizzle. Maia Theophanis and Lila Jones headed up organizing this party on the quarterdeck, and the pink flamingo and pig shaped Christmas lights gave the quarterdeck an unexpectedly festive feel!  Sean McNally turned out to be the improvisation master and our Captain, Jason Quilter, is a very fine ninja dancer under pressure.  As we sailed along into the deepening twilight I chanced to look over the side of the ship.  From the outside the ship is quiet and dark, but if you happen to glance inside the rail you see the happy laughing faces of our crew.  What a community we have become!  Our home away from home.   

As I write now the ship is settling into her nighttime rhythm. Dusty Smith, our engineer, just secured the generators from their day time run. The only sounds now are the waves along the hull and the rise and fall of voices from the evening watch.  Madeline Mckenna, Steve Whelley and Ryan
Loftus have the deck tonight and will keep us safe until tomorrow. 

Until then, good night all!


Mary Engels, Chief Scientist



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 17,2012
Position:  19 deg 52.2N X 082 deg 20.0W
Wind: NE, force 4
Sail Plan: Jib, Squares, Main Stays’l, Reefed Mains’l

Our time is really winding down here on the Cramer.  Not to be confused with slowing down.  As you heard, yesterday was our Lab Practical, while today we had our third Data Day, and tomorrow our last celestial navigation assignment is due.  Looking at the calendar the other day, I realized we each only have 2 more showers, and tomorrow will be the last “field day” while underway. 

A field day is the deep cleaning of the ship that takes place once every week.  Each watch has a duty and everyone splits off to take care of their part of the ship.  It usually takes place on Saturday making Sunday our only afternoon off, but somehow I don’t think were skipping class Monday for a relaxing afternoon to ourselves!

Data day went smoothly earlier today while each group met with their scientist/mentor to go over progress over the past week and the discussion section of our research paper.  These data days are the only times some of the research groups meet with all three partners, so they are very valuable. This means there is a mad dash for computers and a busy hour and a half of work for every student on the boat.  Before we got into this work however, Capt. Jason decided we could use more sail power!  Sail handling with the entire ships company does not happen too often but today we struck the forestays’l, set the course, then set the raffee at a blistering pace.  Side note: I believe everyone is long past the blister stage, and instead has well deserved, caulis covered hands.  The raffee is quite the sight to see. It is only the second time it has been set this trip, and the first I have seen it.  The sail is unique in that it is stowed away, unattached to any lines, rather than furled and ready to be set on the fly.  After attaching the halyard, downhaul, and sheets, it is hauled up to its perch atop the foremast.  It’s very much like a kite and not actually attached to a stay, boom, or yard like the other sails.  We also got our lab practical’s back after just one night and everyone did well.  I will certainly be happy when tomorrow is over knowing there are only a couple of assignments left and I can go full bore with my research paper. 

Yucatan Peninsula (aka Pukitan as the crew likes to scare us with) is fast approaching and after that we head north back to Key West.  We just came through the Cayman Islands, although all that was visible off the radar screen was a faint blinking red light.  A-watch used its’ bearing and radar distance to get a fix from it which was pretty cool as we have not seen much land outside our port stops.

Both Samana and Port Antonio were amazing experiences for everyone. There was sightseeing, hiking, swimming, local culture, new friends, and of course souvenirs, pictures and memories.  Overall I think the port stops really made the trip so far.  They allowed for a much needed break from everything aboard the ship.  To step on solid ground, see new places and talk to people other than the 28 we have spent the last month with was the perfect way to clear our heads.  The amount that a port can suck the knowledge out of you is amazing.  Getting back on the boat, you can struggle to know more than you did day one in Key West.  Things are now in full swing and everyone is learning a great deal by making our own decisions and tackling the hurdles that come from not having a mate or scientist to answer questions.  There are certainly times that we are stopped and must figure out what is wrong before we can continue and the people who are legally responsible for us and the ship will not let things get wrong or dangerous. There is a great deal that can be learned however from doing something wrong and realizing it afterwards. 

I have a feeling that this trip will hit us all harder than we expect once it is truly over.  We are still moving through our duties and don’t have much extra time to appreciate what it is we are doing all the time.  When it’s all over the real lessons learned and people we have met will sink in.  I know that everyone has learned and grown throughout this trip no matter what their experience level coming into is and I for one are happy with the decision I made for semester abroad.

-Ben Schmidt



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 15 2012

Hello friends and family!

What a beautiful day for sailing it is here on the north coast of Jamaica! Force 4 winds, clear skies and little swell! The sun is baking hot and the sea is an unimaginable shade of blue. Today is the first day of JWO, (Junior Watch Officer) in which students run the ship. So far, so good! Maddy Steuhr (aka “Blue Crush” after her surfing excursion) is our first JWO, running afternoon watch like a boss right now. We had a stunning sunrise this morning, I volunteered happily for 6 min observations in lab to watch pink and gold crepuscular rays creep from the folds of a purple layer of cumulostratus clouds, while a towering puffy and golden cumulonimbus palace hovered over our bowsprit, threatening a squall, which was delivered, and enjoyed by all. A fantastic cloud that looked like a “thumbs up” passed us by, a good omen! We are sailing west along the north coast of Jamaica now, to try and sail between the Cayman Islands, it’s all off-shore accounts with us!

Our last night in Port Antonio a man named Tom (from Maine), who is sailing around the Caribbean in his Cape Dory 27 came over to Cramer with his concertina. Chief Mate Dylan whipped out his guitar, and we had a night of shanty singing and hot chocolate. I learned a song called “Mingalay Boat Song” which is very beautiful and I’m sure its somewhere on the internet. Apparently there are many tunes to it, but I highly recommend it .This has sparked my interest in learning more shanties. So far everyone on the ship loves “South Australia”, a lovely classic sea shanty. Only problem is, all the students only know the chorus! So very often you’ll hear someone coiling a line or washing dishes humming “dum dum dum dum daaa HAUL AWAY YOU ROLLING KINGS, HEAVE AWAY, HAUL AWAY, HAUL AWAY AND HEAR ME SAY WE’RE BOUND FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA! Dum dum dum dum…” and everyone around them will join in smartly, then return to quiet humming.

Some of us (myself included) enjoy spending time with marlinespike seamanship. We’re teaching ourselves new and fancy knots. I’ve added the monkey’s fist, turk’s head, and carrick bend to my repertoire. Deck Hand Thane is currently frustrated with star knots, a very difficult and pretty knot used to whip wayward sailors in the old days. I’ve fallen in love with rope work, and I’m looking forward to turning some scavenged old line I know I have somewhere into beautiful rope mats for myself and family. We’ve also been working on grommets. I’ve made some for Deck Hand Ryan’s ditty bag, that are very small, smaller than US quarter. (They’re very hard to make!) 

We’re having fun, staying safe, and looking forward to home.

(quick shoutout- love to my parents, Hannah I know you’re coming back from Gambia tody, I’ll see you on the 27th, I love you, Lets go to Paccharino ASAP)

Hail ya ho boys, let her go boys
Bring her head ‘round, into the weather
Hail ya ho boys, let her go boys
Sailing homeward to Mingalay

-Sarah Wineberg



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 16, 2012

Hello All! It has been a busy morning and afternoon here aboard the Cramer. Early this morning on morning watch, C watch got a lot of practice in with sail handling. As per usual every four days we deployed a hydrocast and secchi disc station at 1030 with a quick transition to a 1200 neuston tow. In order to get on station for science we had to gybe and then heave to. In other words the ship had to be stopped in order to cast the wire off the ship safely and efficiently. This is where the sail handling of C watch came in, we first had to strike the top’sl, and the jib in order to get on station, as well as prepare the stay’sls and the main’sl to gybe. With Ryan as our morning watch JWO, we did this in record time for our watch in about 15 minutes flat, making us almost 10 minutes early on station giving science a little more time to prepare for their deployments. After the three deployments on station, we began to make our way back on to our course ordered. To complete this we first had to get the ship moving again by setting the jib, jib top’sl, and the fish (which was pretty exciting because this is was only the second time this trip the fish has been set). We then had to gybe back to a starboard tack, after a little trouble with the fish and some helpful hands from A watch we got the sails set and gybed in record time (20 minutes).

After being a little late for lunch due to the busy sail handling that went on during our transition of watch groups and what seemed to be only a few minutes the bell was sound for class. Now this happens every day so it should not have come to a shock to us to hear the bell but today was a different kind of class, today we took our lab practical. Although all of us have known about the practical since day one we all still felt a little uneasy about our first written test situation at sea. This was definitely realized by the Captain as well as the rest of staff. Because of the tension we had as we eagerly sat through our normal class presentations of weather and navigation reports, Jason decided that it be best for us to take a step back from it all with a little fun. He decided to share his knowledge of ninja skills with a game he learned from a sensei during his sail travels in Asia a few years back. This quickly changed all of our moods as we all began to get involved. The game was simple there were three motions and words (or noises) that could be made throughout the game in which everyone was standing in a circle. The goal was to use the words and motions to pass to another person in the circle in a certain order and if the person you passed to messed up the order, the motion, or the word they would be out or vice versa. Once we started, we all saw how difficult this actually was and participants, including myself were quickly out of the game. It is funny how a few laughs can quickly make your stress level go down.

Once the game was over and a lot of laughs it was now finally time for us to start the lab practical. The lab practical put our knowledge of the lab skills we have learned throughout our weeks here aboard the Cramer to the test in 20 questions. The test did however offer a few laughs along the way with some of the extra credit options for example, tie a bowline around your back, and spell the first and last name of your assistant scientists correctly. After about an hour, moving in out of the lab and on deck we were all finally finished and snack was served. Once the initial moaning and groaning of some of the simple things that some of us forgot to answer correctly we unknowingly transitioned into a man over board DRILL. After a great DRILL, A watch took back the deck and the other watches went below for much needed shade and rest from a long day on deck.

JWO phase has been well underway for about two days now and all the JWOS and JLOS have done a great job so far in keeping the ship running smoothly. I step into the JWO phase for the first time tonight on midwatch (2300-0300), wish me luck!

To all our friends and families at home we will see you all very soon as we quickly approach our final days here at sea!

Sean McNally



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 14, 2012
A late blog entry and an apology to all of our avid readers!  March 14, 2012

was a day of mixed emotions as we left Port Antonio - our last port stop before completing our sojourn - and again set sail and switched our ship’s AIS status from “Moored” to “Sailing Underway.”  Two of our ships company, myself and our 1st Assistant Scientist, Maia, were nearly stranded in Port Antonio as the outboard engine of our small boat refused to come to life after casting off our dock lines.  It is because of the generous spirit of our hosts at the Errol Flynn Marina that we were able to be towed back to the Cramer before hauling the small boat onboard and leaving through the narrow passage between Navy Island and the mainland of Port Antonio back to the open ocean.  I always feel a little selfish pride when we set out from places like Port Antonio; people from neighboring boats anchored in the marina came out to watch us depart and I find that watching Cramer move gracefully out to sea is a great opportunity to stop and soak in the thrilling nature of the moment.  “Yeah,” I think to myself as I watch them watch us “That’s right. I’m on that boat.  And you are absolutely right in what you’re probably thinking: it is indeed fantastic.” 

We motored away from shore for a few hours before setting sails and turning to the west and towards the Cayman Islands.  The sun shined brightly and those of us with more fragile stomachs were glad to not have the choppy swell that had greeted us when we left Samana Bay a week and a half prior. It was a beautiful day to be at sea. 

At 14:15 all hands mustered on the quarterdeck under what was now becoming a sunshine that was overstaying its welcome in intensity.  As is customary for when we leave port, we scrubbed down Mother Cramer with a Field Day and relieved her of the dirt she had collected while we explored Jamaica.  B watch had the deck for midnight watch the night of March 14 and I had another chance to indulge in one of my favorite Cramer pastimes: nighttime bow watch.  We sailed under light wind with the lights of Jamaica burning like small kerosene lanterns off of our port bow and as the watch changed we struck the mains’l as a small squall and light rain struck our stern.

Being underway again also meant that we shifted to our final phase in watch officers, so all watches resumed sea watches with a new mate and scientist overseeing their work.  Watches continued to stand in shadow phase - with one student shadowing the work of the mate or scientist - in order for both students and staff to become acquainted with one another as watch peers before we switch to the Junior Watch Officer (JWO) phase.  The excitement for JWO phase - a “controlled student mutiny,” as Captain Jason put it - is certainly palpable amongst the ships company.  As a deckhand and someone who has been through this process before as a student, I am very excited to see the students of C239 take the onus of responsibility on themselves.  We have come a long way since departing Key West a few weeks ago and I can very comfortably say that the students have risen to the challenge that Mother Cramer has issued to them.  JWO, bring it on.

“Corwith Cramer returning to 1-6.”
-Thane Richard



C239 Ocean Exploration

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Port Antonio, Jamaica
Docked at the Errol Flynn Marina

Today, port watch was able to take our day off in Port Antonio.  Because of the shorter time here we split up our watches into two groups rather than the normal three. My watch consisted of myself, Maddy M, Ben, Anna, Sean, Steve, Sarah W, and SJ. As a whole, we decided to not hire any guides for group activities/tours but rather explore Port Antonio on our own schedule.

We eagerly left the dock at 0730 ship time to go and see what Jamaica had to offer us.  Well, considering 0730 ship time was 0630 Jamaica time on a Monday morning, we realized that we might have been a little anxious to get out, quickly realizing that all the shops were closed and the only people there were either on their way to school or work. Regardless, we ended up passing the time quickly, taking pictures of the infrastructure around us, and we walked up a street that led us to the top of hill and we looked out over the bay of Port Antonio. It was beautiful to get the whole view of the bay and we could see Momma Cramer looking larger to any of the other boats in the marina. Continuing with our day, we all got in a taxi and made our way to the beaches. First stop, the famous Blue Lagoon. Which, disappointingly enough turns out actually to not be associated with the movie, however it was beautiful but we only stayed for a little because of the on again, off again rain. Our next adventure we traveled onto Boston Bay. When we arrived we were immediately greeted with the Jamaican men and the blue waves asking to be surfed in. And naturally, a few of us responded and decided to go surfing (“when in Rome” was our deciding factor to go, or when in Jamaica I guess). Me, Ben, Sean, Maddy M, and Ashley all rented boards (I got a lesson also since it was my first time), and went out to go hit the waves. We all managed to catch a few waves, especially Benny Boo Boo, catching the biggest waves and riding them out. Unfortunately Sean ended his surfing experience unknowingly stepping on a sea urchin. No worries though! SJ and Maia have been performing medical care to remove the spines from his foot and he is quickly making a comeback. After surfing, we went to grab lunch at a local jerk chicken shop that included chicken, pork, breadfruit, and other vegetables. Under the rain standing at a table top we devoured our meals with the rain pouring off the aluminum roof over our heads enjoying the scenery looking into the green forest.

We finally left the beach and went back into town to do some more shopping. In general, we found it exhausting to have to say “no” to all the different vendors attempting to sell us their products. But we all found our different goods to bring home and then we went back to the marina to relax by the poolside. After some laundry and relaxing we finished our day off with more jerk chicken at a stand in town and then walked to bar/restaurant that we could eat our “chicken and festival” that was overlooking the town out into the water.  Once our bellies were full we then found our way back to the marina to relax from the hustle of the town, which was a perfect way to end our exciting yet exhausting day. We look forward to a full night’s sleep (although I have to wake up at 0430 to be steward for the day, but I’ll get one tomorrow night!).

Hopefully most of us contacted home since being in port, but if not, to all the families and friends reading, we are all doing wonderful here on Momma Cramer and can’t believe that we have under two weeks left. Also sorry to all the parents about the blogs being a little late but hopefully everyone is managing just fine. But we miss you all!

To all my family and friends from Cincinnati (and everywhere else) I miss you and can’t wait to share about all of our adventures! Seek the joy.

With so much love,

Maddie Stoehr



C239 Ocean Exploration

Monday, March 12, 2012

Port Antonio, Jamaica
Docked at Errol Flynn Marina

As we made our way to Port Antonio on the 10th, I received my lovely wake up bright and early, well technically dark and early because the sun had yet to rise at 0600. I usually consider myself a morning person, but after spending the previous day in the galley followed by a night long rock & roll session, literally, I was exhausted! Getting up was truly a struggle. After a bowl of oatmeal stocked with raisins, fresh pears and brown sugar, as well as a mug or two of coffee, I was beginning to liven up. I strapped on my harness and made my way to the quarter deck. Immediately I was greeted with a bolt of energy emanating from A-watch, the mates and the captain. As I turned to face the bow I noticed the reason for their excitement: Jamaica. Dead ahead. Every inch of my being was exuberant. The simple sight of the mountains against the growing light of the sky and the twinkle of the street lamps was enough to eradicate all of my weariness, I was awake and ready.

As we waited for turn-over, Maddie, Cassie and I held on as tightly as possible for the seas were relentless, the rock & roll had not subsided. Despite our efforts all three of us went down, for a better depiction imagine deer on roller skates. Turn-over never really happened, we were all on watch, and soon C-watch joined us as well. To ensure a smooth and safe entry to the tiny channel, Mama Cramer needed as many hands and eyes on deck as possible. I was sent to bow watch. Although my job seemed subdued I was on edge thinking of just how much trouble I would be in if I failed to notice a small fishing boat within our path. Thankfully that did not happen. I stood up there, eyes peeled, listening to the static of walkie-talkies, the hustle of feet carrying bumpers from the Laz (a handy storage compartment beneath the quarter deck) to the port deck, and the striking of sails, as we motored our way into the channel. Everyone was on their game.

When I say the channel was small, I mean small! You could easily swim from one end to the other in a matter of minutes. And it sure was shallow as well. Just off the starboard bow I could see the white sand beneath the aqua-blue water. Even though I was on lookout I couldn’t help but notice the intense greenery I was surrounded by. Both sides of the channel were filled with lush plants and towering palm trees. You could hear the birds singing their Jamaican tunes and could smell the sweet earth of the forest, a truly stunning moment. As we turned to the right through the channel, Port Antonio appeared. A quaint city tucked into the mountain side. To the left was our true destination, the Marina. We were so close, everyone was ready to dock and experience Jamaica. It was almost in reach until we were put into a bit of a holding pattern while Maia and Thane took the small boat to confirm our arrival and our parking spot. After what seemed like an eternity the true work began. Engine on. Engine off. Small boat, push 2. Hold. Throw the heaving line. Captain Jason was a master, maneuvering our vessel in ways I did not think were possible. Soon after that we were at the dock and ready to go. Well almost, we still had to clear customs, which didn’t happen until much, much later in the day.

Since we only had 2 days on the islands the students were divided; half to explore, half to watch the ship. Because of our customs issue, the students who were supposed to be off exploring weren’t allowed to leave the marina. Granted it was no waterfall adventure but for the time being no one complained about the pool and beach access, as well as some hot showers. To compensate for our losses we extended our stay by one day so that both port-watches could have a full day off, a very kind gesture by our administrators. The boat was safe and sound on the dock and all we had to do was wait for our time to be released into the beating heart of Rastafarian culture!

Peace and Love, Anna Olivia.



C239 Ocean Exploration

Friday March 9th 2012

18 deg 51.5’N x 74 deg 55.9’W
Sailing downwind under the mainstays’l, course and tops’l.  Winds are NExN, force 3. 

Hello all! I would like to start this post by listing my misconceptions about SEA Semester
I would have free time, which I would spend enjoying being on the ship, drawing, and bonding with my new friends.
I would be reading books.
My time in lab would be spent working on my own research project..
Drawing on a moving ship wouldn’t be that hard.
I would not get seasick.
I would be too scared to go aloft, and if I did go aloft, I would hate it.
My watch would shun me for my lack of upper body strength.

WRONG. First of all, I have no free time. Second of all, in lab, we collect data for everyone, and time for your own research project is during your free time, which I don’t have any of. Drawing on a moving ship is nearly impossible, and I definitely got seasick.  On the other hand, I did go aloft, and I was terrified, but it was amazing. The ship looks so small from the course yard, and you can really see just how much space there is around us. Also, my lack of upper body strength does not appear to be as much of an issue as I thought it would be, and my watch is great. As time passes on, and the infamous JWO phase looms closer, I believe most of us are beginning to feel that the fairly uniform and considerably overwhelming feelings of incompetence have begun to fade. Sort of. I look back on the first few days of sailing, at which point when someone called ‘hands to the mainstays’l’ I would simply stand back for a second and wait for some other brave soul to walk their hands up to the main stays’l first. Then comes the part where I would follow, tug on some random line, hope it made the suspected sail jiggle in the adequate fashion, and pretend I had some idea which line I was hauling on.

The times they are a’ changing, and so is A watch’s knowledge of sail handling. I’m not claiming to be particularly salty yet, but today we did set the rafee. Which is kind of a big deal. For those of you who are not in the know as far as Mama Cramer’s sail plan goes, it goes like this. She has three square sails (the old fashion kind that are pushed from a wind off the stern), and the names of these sails are the course, the tops’l, and the rafee. The rafee is the highest of these sails, and is in fact, a triangle. The way you set the rafee is particularly exciting, because in essence, you kind of sail it up to the top of the foremast like a wind balloon. First, you pull the sail out of the bag that it lives in on top of the elephant table, and unfold it on the foredeck. Then the halyard and two sheets are hauled down off the mast, and attached to the corners of the rafee. Once everything is all tied off, haul away, and the sail flies up to the top of the mast like a kite in the wind.

It was prettyyyyyy awesome. I like to think that A-watch (also known as team vomit, due to the fact that in the first few weeks onboard 5 out of 6 of us were taking part in the whole boot and rally routine, which the rest of the ship kept their cookies down) has improved by leaps and bounds. We are continuously doing things we have never done before, setting and striking sails with minimal help, deploying scientific gear, ect. To finish up, I am going to list some good things in quick succession. I fileted a fresh caught Mahi Mahi with my pocket knife on the deck of the ship under the instruction of Mary, our chief scientist.  The head rig is one of the best places I have ever been, and the color of the water here is a blue I couldn’t even imagine previously. Yesterday, for class, I drew an octopus on Mike’s chest as a ‘visual aid’ in our creature feature presentation, and I now know how to tie a monkey’s fist. In Samana, I swam in a beautiful waterfall, explored magnificent caves, and said ‘No, Gracias,” to a Dominican man asked me to marry him. I am trying to learn my stars, and at night, I sing on the bowsprit.

Being on this ship is like being in a whole different world. This world is 134 ft long, and it never stops moving. You are never alone and completely isolated at the same time. Someone is always sleeping, and someone is always awake. The days are usually broken up into two parts, your schedule does not follow 24 hours, time does not make sense, and the sunsets are always fantastic. This is certainly not real life, and all that goes along with real life does not seem to apply here.

To my friends and family, I love and miss you. You my mom, I collected sand for you in Samana. To my father, I made your Thai soup, and everyone loved it.

PS; The image is an illustration of a stage 8 Caribbean Spiny Lobster Larvae. Cute, huh?

See you later alligators,
Isabella Rotman



C239 Ocean Exploration

Thursday March 8, 2012

Yo Ho!
Today is a beautiful day to be out sailing along the Windward Passage and headed off to Jamaica… mannn. Since our turn, the winds have been in our favor (and mama Cramer’s) and we haven’t been a rockin’ and a rollin’ quite so much, meaning we can get a little more sleep without fear of rolling right out of our bunks.  Here on the Cramer things have been about the same, still slaving away in the science labs, navigating and sail handling on deck and of course working on our science projects. In class today we learned about a ship’s right of way, I personally have been deceived my whole life, believing that sail boats always had the right of way, turns out I was wrong (thanks Dad). Despite the never ending pile of work we seem to have, we have managed to still make some peaceful time for ourselves. This afternoon, me, SJ, Cassie, and Anna made time to relax out on the bowsprit and enjoy the bow crashing down into the ocean and get caught up with one another. Once we got off the bowsprit we were greeted with our afternoon snack of fresh bananas from Samana and Dylan (our chief mate) playing the guitar on the foredeck. Although today wasn’t very eventful it was great to be able to take a few minutes out of our normal hectic schedule. 

While today’s relaxation was great, we still have places to go and things to see!  Currently, we are in between Haiti and Cuba, although we can only see Haiti, and we have about 200 nautical miles until we reach Port Antonio and we are planning on getting there early Sunday morning….so soon!  It is hard to believe that we are already close to approaching our final port stop, and then headed on our way back to Key West.  It’s been kind of crazy realizing that we have been out here for around three weeks and it has flown by, yet some of us have developed the idea that each day of “real life” equals two days of “sea life”. The crazy schedules that we are on making the time of day completely irrelevant, yet we still need to know the exact time for every change of watch we have, somewhat contradicting.

All in all we are all doing great. We are well in our way into phase II of the program and inching closer to the JWO (junior watch officer) phase, where we will be expected to take control of the ship as students…..mutiny? Only kidding of course. Each day we learn our lines a little better, set, strike and furl sails a bit quicker, make our sea legs a little stronger, and make a few more mistakes to learn from, all the while enjoying and appreciating the Cramer and the sea for all they have to offer. We are continuing to enjoy the warm tropical weather and the fair winds so far!

To all of my friends and family from home, I miss you all so much and think of you each and every day.

(PS - the whole pirate fantasy thing is not encouraged so much - I’ve been trying to learn my best but I make no promises that I can live up to the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow when I get home, but I’ll keep trying!)

With so much love,
Maddie Stoehr



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 7, 2012

Today we continued to make progress towards our next destination Port Antonio, Jamaica. All day the northern shore of Haiti has been visible as we head west to the Windward Passage between Hispaniola and Cuba. Since our course change yesterday, we have been making good speed under sail, about 6-7 knots, and are well on pace to reaching Jamaica four days from now (March 10).

The seas built throughout the morning and helped shake our shore habits as we all fell back into the rhythm of being at sea. We saw 6-8 ft. seas with occasional larger waves that tested our manners at the gimbled tables and made science deployments a bit more exciting. The lab conducted a meter net tow at 500m, keeping everyone on their toes as we trolled slowly through the large wave sets. The ship was busy all day with sail handling and the watches worked to keep Cramer moving along. We were able to make time to practice our celestial navigation skills and shoot the sun as it reached its highest peak overhead at noon.

Our class leaders today, Ben and Cassie, felt the crew was looking dehydrated and burned out from Samana, so class on the quarter deck began with a relay race between A, B, and C watch. The goal was to finish a number of glasses of water, balanced on trays, as we traversed the pitching deck. This friendly completion rehydrated the crew and provided entertainment as we watched our shipmates bobble water glasses as they fought the pitch and roll. Class continued with a lesson on bio-luminescence followed by an emergency drill that simulated a fire in the galley. These drills are part of our normal routine and help maintain our emergency preparedness.

We ended our day under a very full moon that was bright overhead in the late afternoon. It is incredible to think that we have already sailed halfway through our journey and we are well on our way to our final port stop before returning home. Research projects are progressing quickly and all three watches are performing more independently on deck each day as we work through the end of phase two.

I hope everyone back on shore is doing well! The crew sends their love to friends and family.

Steve Whelley



C239 Ocean Exploration

March 6, 2012

Position: North of Cabo Frances Viejo, D.R.
Wx: Clear, wind E F4-5
Sailing a run under main stays’l & squares

Photo: Preparing the Hydrocast

Ahoy land lubbers,

We have just left the Dominican Republic after a very eventful and busy, yet restful three days. Ship life is now back in full swing and watches are rotating smoothly as per-usual. We had a bit of a rough start attempting to navigate through Mona’s passage due to winds that were not in our favor; our speed was only about 3-4 knots. We turned around and are now traveling toward the Windward Passage around the western side of the island at a breakneck speed upwards of 9.5 knots.  There has been much sail handling around the clock and we sailors in training are becoming more familiar with our relationship to the wind and waves every day.

After discussing various methods of making bow watch at night less lonesome with my fellow shipmates I have concluded that, while everyone has their own taste in musical selection, singing in or out of key seems to be a popular go-to activity. My recent hours on bow watch have been spent humming Christmas tunes and top forty songs that are surely no longer top forty after being at sea for several weeks.

Slowly, but surely, we have all become more accustomed to ship life. We no longer sit at the dinner table mouth open, gawking at the gimbled tables trying desperately to understand how the food can magically fly ‘up’ at you instead of sliding down. The concept of moving around the tables while they remain stationary is harder for some to grasp than others. We have also found ways to cope with the forceful rolling of the ship (side to side tipping motion) while we try to sleep. I was informed of a method that requires you to ‘taco’ your bunk, a process in which you empty the contents of your suitcase into your bunk and shove it all under your mattress on either side, hence creating a lovely taco to sleep in without being thrown into the wooden sides of your bed. The pitching motion (the up and down motion from stern to bow) has become something others and I myself find comforting some nights.

On another note, I would like to address a subject that is integral to smooth ship life and happy sailors. Our steward wields a great deal of power onboard the Cramer: when she is happy, she cooks wonderful things and when she does, it makes everyone onboard eternally grateful. There are six opportunities to be fed every day and no one leaves hungry; now that I think of it, I haven’t been hungry once this whole trip. The culinary scope ranges from comforting favorites such as delicious soups and noodle dishes to wonderfully exotic and somewhat experimental treats like fried plantains with cinnamon chipotle rub and pumpkin scones with sunflower seeds and parmesan cheese toppings. Yesterday, Izzy made a beautiful Thai stew, recipe compliments of home; just one of many delectable edible concoctions. She even takes care to give the salad dressings intriguing names like ‘fetu’ and ‘cactus sauce’. Ship life keeps you busy and on your toes, but in the galley you have to be on your tippy toes. Things are constantly being cycled through Roxy, our faithful (and somewhat temperamental) oven. There’s never a dull moment trying to produce food for 28 people 6 times a day. Before you actually spend a day as assistant steward, food just seems to magically appear from the 8’x8’ galley. People will learn just as much about cooking here than they will about sailing, science and navigation. Ashley, our steward is a wealth of knowledge and knows how to make cooking fun and doable. Being assistant steward is an equally challenging, but pleasant change from being on deck or in lab.

Projects are well under way in the lab and deployments are happening left and right. By now, each group has a large handful of data to grapple with and seemingly never enough time. Kelsey and I have more eels than we know what to do with.  Ready or not, the first draft of our results section is due this Friday. Somehow, things get done and the ship sails on. It’s a bit of a mystery to us all really, although we have been warned that once we are back on land we will suddenly realize how efficient ship-life is by comparison. Apparently, it is not uncommon for post-SEA students institute the sponge system into their daily lives: three cornered sponges are for vertical surfaces, two cornered sponges are for the soles (floor) and four cornered sponges are reserved strictly for galley duties.

Overall, ship morale seems to be on the up and up as we all gain confidence in our knowledge onboard. We have just on short week before Jamaica, then we begin the junior watch officer phase in which we essentially run the show.

I have enjoyed hearing stories of family members and pets from my peers and can tell that you are all in our thoughts daily. It feels strange missing land so much, but also feels wonderful getting caught up in the experience of here and now. Perhaps on day I’ll even looks back and remember the leeward side fondly. A-watch (Jimmy, Mike, Izzy, SJ, Sarah and I) has been given the loving nickname of “Team Vomit”; at least we have each other. Life is still good on board and I have even started acquiring a slight color change like so many of my ship mates, something I’m sure no one here or in my family would have ever thought possible.  Don’t worry though; we wear sunscreen like it’s our job.

Fair winds to all and much love to friends and family,

Ellie Quinn



C239 Ocean Exploration

Monday March 5, 2012

Position: SE of Samana
Wx: Clear with East winds, Force 4
Motorsailing under stays’ls and mainsail
Course: towards Mona Passage

Hello all! We’re here experiencing yet another beautiful day in the warm Caribbean sun. We are currently motor-sailing our way from Samana, D.R. towards our second destination of Port Antonia, Jamaica. After an awesome weekend of exploring it’s nice to be back at sea aboard Mama Cramer, even though a good number of us lost our sea-legs and decided to give our meals back to Neptune.

This weekend was exactly what I wanted (and needed); warm sand, clear skies, delicious food, cold drinks and people that I love. Whale watching was absolutely incredible! I had never been until this weekend and Samana Bay did not disappoint. Lila, Cassie and I must’ve seen at least twenty whales. As if that wasn’t enough we had the opportunity of seeing a few whales breech as we were leaving the bay. What a humbling sight it is to see a 15 meter animal launch itself out of the water with such ease and grace. It truly makes you realize how small you are.

Whale watching was great and all, but Sunday’s adventure surely takes the cake. B & C watch (meaning Maddy, Steve, Ben, Maddie, Jessie, Sean, Lila, Cassie, Kelsey and myself) started our day with waffles and whip cream, the breakfast of champions. We were then greeted on the science deck by our lovely guide, Martin, who piled us into his motor boat and brought us to a mangrove reserve, which was honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We cruised in and out of islands littered with trees and birds. Each oasis was more beautiful than the last. We stopped off at one island and got to explore a few caves; they smelled fresh and looked untouched. In near silence we meandered around, stopping every once in a while to take in the sheer sight and splendor of what our eyes were truly viewing.  After a few more caves and a bumpy boat ride we were back at the Cramer awaiting our fate, allow me to explain. The previous day had been fairly rough and the winds were quite high making Cap a little uneasy seeing as our anchor had dragged a bit. Our departure from Samana was pending, based upon how the weather acted. Luckily, the seas were calm and the wind was relatively low so we were able to spend the rest of the day on the main island! With a quick pit stop at the bank and the market we hopped into the back of Martin’s pick-up truck and ventured forward to the beach. I was expecting a touristy place filled with blonde-haired, blue-eyed American babies, but instead I was pleasantly surprised by a beach scattered with chairs, tables and locals. We set up shop at a few tables, ordered our food (which was far out!) and drink and simply chilled. I don’t think I could have been happier. We were chatting, dancing in our seats, and laughing. It made me realize how much I really love and appreciate everyone in my class, even those that weren’t with us. This course is tough and it can truly make you question your sanity, but seeing the relationships I have built over the past 2 months with these incredible people makes all the stress and anxiety worthwhile. We may suffer under the work load, but at least we’re suffering together!  After we ate our fill and took a dip in the crystal blue water it was time for us to leave, only to head back to the resort beach where the relaxing continued (tough life, I know). I befriended a few local kids who were at the beach as well; Victor was by far my favorite. He is a tiny 11-year-old boy with honest eyes, a jovial laugh and a smile that melted my heart. I was simply smitten! The day was long and the sun had worked its way deep into our minds, so obviously it was time for dancing! Kelsey and I hit the floor and danced the night away, well we danced our final hour away. It was a groovy day that could have only been improved if the entire class was there. I dub Samana a successful port stop!

Hello to all my friends and family! I am alive and very well, don’t fret!
You are all on my mind and I cannot wait to see you in a few short weeks. Be sure to give my Kylie lots of loving from me please!

Peace and Love, Anna Olivia.



C239 Ocean Exploration

Ahoy All and Hola from Samana!

The last two days in Samana have kept everyone incredibly entertained and busy with much needed R&R as well as some light maintenance for Mama Cramer.  We are incredibly lucky to have contacts on the island who have helped us arrange shore excursions such as whale watching and a tour of a mangrove forest and caves. Other students decided to spend the day exploring what Samana has to offer on foot.

The local culture is very inviting and warm. I will not lie, Samana is the first place I have ever experienced a form culture shock. No, it isn’t because their culture is so different from ours because in many aspects it is similar just as much as it is different. It’s actually from the language barrier. I am now in a situation where I know very little of the native language but am also very thankful for quite a few locals who understand and speak English.

Yesterday our watch (B Watch) had the deck for the entire day while the other two groups (A and C Watch) had an opportunity to go ashore. It was hot, sunny, and we were thankful that it wasn’t a full working day. We were on watch for 24 hours but it was split up in such a way that it didn’t feel like it. We all had one hour shifts where our responsibilities were ONLY ensuring that the condition of the boat was well. Rest of the time was spent helping with projects such as polishing brass and running phosphate samples. At night we took turns staying on watch still ensuring things on the ship were going smoothly.

Today was a much needed day off. This is the first time since boarding the ship that we have had a legitimate time off with no work on our radar. I found it quite amusing that after getting from Cramer onto the dock, the earth felt like it was moving underneath me. Yes, the still land is moving and Cramer is not and no, I did not look drunk or trip over myself.

The morning for Anna, Cassie, and I started when we checked in for our whale watching tour. Yes, we spent our first day off of the ship in two and a half weeks on a smaller boat and it was worth it. We had an amazing time! There were many humpbacks from males to moms and calves. At one point, a weather front passed over us with a downpour of rain. To see the ocean waves rolling away with the spray of rain was an amazingly beautiful sight. The closest thing I can equate it to is seeing the dunes of the desert move with the wind as a light haze hoovers just above the boundary of earth and sky. The ocean is a desert of sorts but not one that is barren and dead. It is only a desert in the sense that it is vast and the scenery doesn’t change much unless conditions permit larger waves one day and smaller waves the next.  Anna, Cassie, and I all stood on the bow of the whale watching ship getting drenched and enjoying every minute of the bumpy ride while the other not so sea savvy fell ill with the rocking boat.

The humpbacks were beautiful. Their white wings danced underneath the water and I was left in amazement when I finally was able to realize the size of these magnificent creatures. It was an amazing adventure!

So after our excursion in the marine sanctuary we were dropped off on an island. The three of us sat quietly on the beach listening to the waves, playing in the surf, and drinking bottles of Coke. Soon our boat was ready to depart the island and head back to Samana. We arrived at the dock and slipped into a small restaurant where we got some sandwiches and then we headed for the beach. From Cramer, we can see a hotel perched atop a large hill with an elevator heading down to their beach. Cap informed us it was a public beach and so, we went looking for it. We ended up in the right direction but unsure of the area we asked a local who spoke fluent English, “How do we get to the Hotel?” He told us to go the opposite direction and walk up a rather large hill to take the elevator down to the beach. Once we met up with other members of our crew (Izzy, SJ, Mike, Jimmy , Ellie, and Sarah) we realized that we were originally on the right path the entire time and had gone in an unnecessary circle. We asked the wrong question and had a good laugh about it. He told us how to get to the hotel and only the hotel. We sat there with a great view of Cramer eating fresh coconut and playing a fun game of water Frisbee.

This much needed day of R&R was wrapped up with a delicious dinner and ice cream before we headed back to the ship. It’s been a long and enjoyable day but I am actually quite happy to be able to crawl into my little bunk that has become home and fall asleep to the sounds of the ship and the gentle rocking of the small swells and wakes of passing boats. This life has been an abrupt change from normal life on land and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I find my passions for the sea growing each night and day and I have very mixed emotions that this program is nearly half way complete. The voyage has been amazing.

We send our love to our friends and family (I know some people called/got calls from their loved ones today) and we look forward to being able to see all of you soon. I hope all of you are well and we all miss you very much.

Best Wishes,
Lila “Whale Bones” Jones



C239 Ocean Exploration

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Hello to all those on shore!  You will be relieved to know that we intrepid sailors on the good ship Cramer have made it safely to port here in Samana. The day started at 0600 for those of us on C watch about 10 miles from our anchorage.  The weather was sunny and warm with a few clouds over the island and a squall coming in from the sea.  The squall thankfully was short lived with some light rain but it kicked wind up to about 18 knots. We sailed into the anchorage under the mainstays’l and the tops’l.

We got plenty of practice setting and striking the tops’l during our multitude of science deployments, four Shipek grabs in all.  Once we were done with science we sailed in under the main stays’l most of the way into the anchorage, passing the Class Afloat ship Sorlandet, a beautiful Norwegian full rigged ship.  Once we set the hook the work did not end.  We began to get Cramer dressed for port by putting harbor furls in the four lower sails and the squares under the direction of our Third Mate Sarah.

Once Cramer was shipshape class began and it was our first data day! During this time the project groups met with their science mentors and began to shape their projects.  This was a long process but all our hard work paid off after class with our first Sierra Charlie, swim call.  The water was fantastic and allowed to get clean after many days aboard ship. Hello to all the family and friends of the crew here on Cramer and we hope you all in New England are staying warm and out of the snow.

Ryan “Peaches” Loftus, Deckhand



C239 Ocean Exploration

29 February 2012

Happy leap year day (is that a thing?). Regardless, it’s just another day in the life onboard Cramer. We had another rowdy night of science full of tows and processing, followed by a day with more science, lots of wind and moderate swells (4-5 ft) helping to blow us towards the DR! This morning, A watch had the deck and had a busy time keeping up with cleaning duties and sail handling as we struck and trimmed sails to optimize both safety and speed as we watched distant weather systems approach. No rain for us today though! It’s a balmy 25°C (you can do the math…) and we’re all enjoying the constant sunshine in shorts and t-shirts (and sunscreen, don’t worry mom).

We also had the pleasure of catching not one but TWO mahi-mahi, filleted by our own crew members and then cooked to perfection by the lovely Ashley and her assistant steward of the day, Chefy Jessie.  I had the pleasure of being dish washer all morning and got to enjoy their company as they whipped up one delicious meal after another. Even the vegetarians on board dabbled in the fish tacos, and they were fantastic. We are always spoiled in the food department, but it’s a good thing because it takes a lot of fuel to maintain the schedule we’re on. It seems like I’m always surprised when that 2:30 am wake up rolls around, almost like I can’t believe it. But once you’re up and about, it seems perfectly normal to be towing nets through the water and climbing out on the bowsprit to furl sails in the dark. We’ve all got our most important knots down so that we can do them in the dark, because a lot of the time, we do. We’re always eager to learn easier and more efficient ways to do things onboard, and being familiar with knots and lines is one of the best ways.

One thing I’ve been noticing at sea is the way everyone spends their time off. It’s always tempting to simply crawl back in your bunk and grab some more sleep between watches, but that makes for a very dull social life. A Watch has gotten into the habit of playing cards after dinner, and I’ve already learned a few new games including an S.E.A. favorite, whist. It’s a lot like spades or a variation of hearts, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s great to get students, mates, scientists and everyone in between playing a rousing game of cards. A lot of people like to journal and read, sometimes out on deck. We have several musicians among us and it’s always great when our Chief mate, Dylan, brings his guitar out on deck. We have some artists with sketchbooks and cameras, and some poetry writers. We also have a swizzle planning committee who have been hard at work because our first swizzle is coming up tomorrow. A “swizzle” is an S.E.A. tradition involving themes, dressing up, games and, of course, food. We are having a Resort-Wear themed talent show, of sorts. We’ll have to wait and see what comes out of that, but I’m guessing it will be humorous in some fashion or another. And, of course, we all spend a fair amount (maybe even most) of our free time working on our science projects and homework assignments. I’m constantly awed and impressed by my shipmates’ ability to get things done and prevail in good humor. It’s nice to know that when you’re tired and saturated with science-garble, your shipmates feel the same and are always there to help you make it through. I am so grateful to find myself in a community of such supportive people coming from every direction.

That’s most of what I’ve got for the day. It’s time for dinner and I need to fuel up before midwatch tonight. The first person to spot land gets a prize, and I’m hoping it will be me out on bow watch in the middle of the night. It’s not extremely likely, but you never know, right?

Everyone on board says hello and I love you to friends and family. To my loved ones at home and far off, I miss you dearly and send you all of my love. May the long time sun shine on you.

SJ (Sarah Johnson)



C239 Ocean Exploration

Tuesday February 28, 2012

It has been a great sunny day with cloud cover letting up and sea state dropping a bit from the past few days!  Moral has remained high aboard the Cramer although most of us have already seen the first inevitable exhaustion period that hits from over 10 days of staggered sleep.  While there is plenty of time to rest, life never stops stirring aboard and watch duties are not optional.  It is truly amazing how much work is required to properly maintain a working vessel.  With daily cleaning of the deck, soles (cabin floors), heads, showers and galley, cooking for 28 people (3 meals and 3 snacks/ day), constant science deployment and processing, weekday classes, emergency drills, and of course sail handling and navigation, the flow never ceases.  That lengthy list is of course leaving a number of things out! 

Since moving into phase II of the trip, students have taken much more control of happenings and procedures onboard.  Rather than mates and scientists telling, teaching, and delegating what needs to be done throughout a 4 or 6 hour watch, there is a student “shadow” assigned for lab as well as deck.  They are in charge of assigning tasks for their remaining watch mates such as helmsperson or lookout, rotating accordingly, making sure all hourly checks are taken and log entries are recorded.  While the lab shadow is specifically in charge of making sure the deployment schedule is kept and setting up nets or the hydrowinch with necessary equipment, the deck shadow overseas sail handling and navigation while making the necessary commands.  With 7 research projects all looking at different things, and 9 sails each having 3-5 lines, everyone has been thrown into a cyclone of information and with the help of “Momma Cramer”, we have stayed afloat. This second stage has begun to simulate a deeper hierarchy onboard.  The students are now split up into a leader (a.k.a mate/“shadow”) and deckhands rather than one even keeled watch group.  The actual mate on duty overseas the shadow to make sure everyone is safe, but with the new student direction we are learning just how much we must constantly think about in order to properly maneuver the boat, and function as a whole.  Taking/ making commands from each other is preparing us to really take over the “con” of the ship in the “Junior Watch Officer” stage.

As we near our first port stop in Samana, D.R the excitement is slowly building.  I was happy to see on our watch schedule that I (along with the rest of B watch) am on watch from 0300-0700 Thursday as are expected to arrive in port at 0600.  Should be a great sunrise!  We do not yet know how we are split up throughout the four days at port, but one watch will always be on the boat while the two others are off.  To all the mothers out there, don’t worry (any more than you already are) we have a curfew and will not be out all night!  Many staff on the ship have been to both Samana and Port Antonio multiple times so it will be very interesting to get a tour of the local area and restaurants.  I know some of you are standing by for that long awaited phone call, so make sure you don’t disregard a foreign number. 

I think for most of us it will be an interesting experience to have finally found our sea legs and step onto land for the first time in 14 days. I am sure looking forward to sleeping on calm water in the harbor that will not require bracing the walls to stay on my mattress or the “body hitting the wall wake ups” throughout the night.  The bouncing walk wall to wall from the rolling ship is actually pretty entertaining though. 

Ben Schmidt



C239 Ocean Exploration

Monday February 27, 2012

Sailing South Towards Samana, D.R.
Wx- Clear with an East wind, Force 4-5
Jib, Stays’ls and trys’l

Hello All! We finished up the weekend here with big things. Mid-afternoon on Sunday Mike spotted a “run away” buoy, about 3 nautical miles off our port side. This led the Cramer and her crew on a buoy investigation mission, more or less, to provide our Captain with more information on the buoy in order to inform the Coast Guard of its last known location. To our surprise, the buoy was surrounded by a school of Mahi-Mahi, with fish in sight we took this opportunity and immediately rushed to cast the fishing line from the quarter deck. In no time, we had a winner, and what we thought was going to be a tasty dinner. However, bringing a moderately sized Mahi-Mahi vertically up onto the quarter deck using just a hand line was rather difficult. Unfortunately, we were unable to hook it as we were bringing the fish up onto the deck and our dinner got away. We did not go hungry though, Ashley our awesome steward, had dinner already in the works.

Although, sail handling and navigation are a big part in our experience here aboard the Cramer the science aspect of our trip plays an equally large role as well. Every day, each watch takes surface water samples at set times, every four days a Hydrocast is deployed, every day at 1200 and 0000 a Neuston tow is deployed, and every day the data that we collect from these deployments needs to be analyzed. Many of you may be wondering what kind of data we collect from these deployments so I plan to just give a brief overview on one of the many types of scientific analysis we do here abroad the Cramer every day.

A Neuston tow in simplest terms is just deploying a net off the science deck for 30 minutes twice a day in order to collect the nekton and other organisms that are living with the waters that we are sailing through. At the end of the net is a sample bottle, or specifically known as a cod end jar, which is similar to many of the Nalgene bottles that some of you may use in your everyday lives. The water that flows through the net then funnels to the cod end jar which we use in order to obtain data. The cod end jar sample is sieved in order to separate the organisms from the water that we collected. Once completed we take a 1mL sample of the overall biovolume that we just accumulated in order to do a 100 count, in which we simply just count and identify the first 100 organisms that we see. In order to do this we use a microscope on board and with the help of an identification key we can identify the microscopic organisms that are in our sample.  The blog picture above shows just a few of the organisms that we typically find within the samples we analyze every day. We hope to just find living organisms within these samples however, plastic usually always finds its way into our data, even at the microscopic level (pictured in the bottom left). By the end of this trip we will have counted more organisms than we ever thought we would, but it will be worth it for all of the useful data that we will collect for many of the projects that we are all working on and in future projects as well.

Today, started the first day of phase 2 of our lives as the crew aboard the Cramer. In this new phase we will be taking on more responsibility and leadership roles, as we shadow our mates and scientists on watch. Ultimately, this next step will bring us students closer to receiving Junior Watch Officer status. We are making way south towards Samana and should arrive by 0600 on Thursday. We are all getting excited to be on land again for a few days and to spend some time taking in the sights.

To all family and friends at home I miss you a lot and hope all is well!
Sean McNally



C239 Ocean Exploration

Saturday February 25, 2012

26 deg 10.4’N
68 deg 22.3’W

Motoring to the south under stays’ls.  Winds SSE beaufort force 1. 

Hey guys! Life aboard the Cramer has proved to be filled with many great challenges and experience. It isn’t all just fun and games. We all have been working hard in lab and on deck during our watches. In lab our time is spent sorting several pounds of Sargassum, doing 100 counts and running alkalinity tests. On deck we have learned all of (or at least most of) our lines and we are becoming more familiar with sail handling and celestial navigation. We have all been working hard to learn the most that we can and become more successful in running the ship. We have all proven to ourselves and to the rest of the ship that hard work, determination and communication are key to our success aboard the ship.

It has been a great day today, the seas are calm, the sun is shining and there is a nice breeze. Today was a pretty busy day, starting at 1000 this morning the science deployments began, first with a secchi disk followed by a CTD carousel and then another neuston net tow. As everyone was sleeping, doing homework or relaxing, B watch was hard at work all morning cleaning the deck and doing some science. Promptly after lunch, the last group (A watch) had their turn to go aloft. Since the week has now come to an end, it was time for mamma Cramer to a good cleaning. We had field day today starting at 1400; we all worked together to get every nook and cranny free of what we like to call mung. After, she was nice and clean we were all rewarded with a nice salt water shower. Who knew that we would be so excited to shower in salt water blasting from a fire hose, but working hard and only having the opportunity to shower every three days, it’s nice to feel just a little clean and refreshed. The last major event of the day will be coming up this evening; we have been making our way east through the Sargasso Sea for quite some time now, later on tonight we will be making a course change and we will start to head south to our first port stop in the Dominican Republic. I am very excited and know many of my shipmates are as well. We are expected to arrive in the early morning of March 1st.

As the week comes to an end and a new one begins, there is a lot that needs to be accomplished. The homework begins and we as students get more responsibility. We have our first assignment due tomorrow, which we have all spent a fair amount of time doing. Using a sextant, we had to get a sunline set, reduce and then plot three LOPs (line of position) using the information that we gathered. Tomorrow, we are also faced with a great change as we move on to phase 2. For the past two weeks we have been learning the ins and outs of life aboard a ship, and I think I can speak on behalf of everyone, there is a lot more to know and do than we could have ever imagined. There is so much to worry about while on the ship, filling out log books, watching the weather, getting your work done, deployments, traffic, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, not getting a sunburn and so much more. We have been learning all of this information and the proper protocols for everything under the watchful eye of our wonderful watch officers. They have taught us pretty much everything we have learned so far. Tomorrow though each watch will be paired with new watch officers and they will be taking a step back and letting us do most of the work. exciting- yes, terrifying- YES. It will be a little scary the first couple of days but we are all prepared and will do a great job.

To all my friends and family back home, I love and miss you all a ton!

Cassie Audette



C239 Ocean Exploration

Friday 24 February, 2012

24 deg 54’N
68 deg 49’W

Sailing a beam reach under four lowers.  SE winds beaufort force 3.

Hello everyone!
Keeping track of what day it is has presented to be a challenge here out in the Sargasso Sea! Yet, I can proudly say the transition to being successful shipmates and mariners has taken action. The sun burns have faded to tans, sea sickness is no longer an issue, and we have all become accustomed to that constant salty grime! Not to mention, the information we have acquired thus far is staggering and very useful.

This Friday’s activities have been most eventful. Following class today, we were all enthused to test our memorization skills of Cramer’s plethora of lines in the Second Semi-Annual Line Chase. A highly energetic relay race involving finding lines presented on a notecard. The only help from your teammates consisted of yelling HOT or COLD, and for whomever broke this rule had to do a crab walk around the deck. After lots of screams, many crab walks, and a few cheesy pick-up lines, A watch came out victorious. Their reward: bragging rights, as shown by their first place prize of SEA education stickers which have been slapped on to the majority of their water bottles. Immediately afterward, the silliness was put on hold once we transitioned into a MOB (Man Over Board) drill by throwing a flotation ring overboard.  Everyone effectively completed their assigned duty, and overall gave an exceptionally smooth performance!

In addition to becoming more comfortable on deck, we are gaining more confidence in lab as well as finding some pretty awesome stuff. Though we are sailing through an oligotrophic area, the ongoing abundance of Sargassum weed is mind-boggling. Just yesterday we collected a total of 63 pounds of Sargassum in a 3 minute Neuston Tow. impressive, but a bit dreary when much of the time in lab included processing this hardy load!

Another highlight of this Friday was finally achieving the privilege to go aloft. Not all of us have had this incredible opportunity yet (soon for B watch!), but the experience is enthralling and truly surreal. I am so proud my entire watch group (including those afraid of heights) who climbed aloft this afternoon. As my group gazed out over the boundless horizon, we all agreed there was nowhere in the world we’d rather be at that moment.  Our limits are being pushed and we constantly face challenges as we adapt to this “learn by fire” lifestyle, but the rewards are worth it and more. Developing excellent relationships and having way too many laughs, feels good to be sailing in the middle of nowhere on our own little island. Turning south tomorrow and headed for Samana, Dominican Republic!  To my loved ones on land, I miss you so and think of you around the clock.

Jessie Jarvis



C239 Ocean Exploration

Thursday 23 Feb, 2012

What a day.  It is a beautiful day here and we had a full day of sailing and science aboard the Cramer.  The winds have started to pick up and the swells are not as intense, allowing us to get some much needed sleep last night.  I think that everyone aboard is a little overtired but starting to get into the flow of the watch cycles. 

As we sail further into the Sargasso Sea, we are seeing more and more Sargassum and wind rows.  Today during A watch (my watch) we decided to change course and sail down a Sargassum wind row in order to get more samples for our Sargassum project.  With a neuston net we collected enough Sargassum to fill four 5 gallon buckets, and then some!  An average neuston net will collect less than one bucket.  This much Sargassum will take hours of processing, but we should find some interesting specimens like Sargassum fish and crabs, along with shrimp and many other larvae.  However, today was my day on dishes, so I missed most of the action.

Dishes may seem bad, but not when you’re in the galley all day with Cuba Steve, the assistant steward for the day and Ashley the steward. Working a full day nonstop from 0430 to 2015 in the heat of the galley, the stewards make 3 delicious snacks, and 3 delightful meals.  So far on the Cramer, every meal has been spectacular and waking up to freshly baked banana bread at 0230 for the 0300 watch brightens your morning up. 

Class is starting to pick up with creature features, engineering projects, weather reports and much more.  It is hard to get excited for class after the morning watch from 0700 to 1300, but so far class had been very interesting.  Yesterday we went over Celestial Navigation and how to shoot star sights, and so the star frenzy begins.  Star sights must be shot at twilight because we need the horizon, but stars fade very quickly once the sun starts to come up so there is a very short period to shoot their sights, this time is known as star frenzy.  I am very excited for our next dawn watch to be able to take some star sights.

Everyone on board sends their love to our family and friends.

Mike Orefice



C239 Ocean Exploration

Wednesday Feb. 22 2012

26 deg 01.2’N
71 deg 21.6’W

Motor sailing to the east at five knots under the stays’ls.  Winds from theSE Beaufort Force 1.

Ahoy readers!

Where should we start? We have all been extremely busy with our watches. It’s a never ending cycle of things to do but it is also extremely rewarding. We are all learning our sail lines, safety information, and basic things to know about the care of the Cramer. We are still sailing in the Sargasso Sea and will be for a little more than a week. I must say, this sea is the most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen. I’ve found it rewarding to be lucky enough to see the sun rise or set over this blue sea at the helm or on the bow as a look out. On a side note, being the bow lookout in the early hours when all you want to do is sleep becomes easily entertaining when you sing or hum to yourself as you keep a sharp eye out for anything. Bohemian Rhapsody is my personal favorite as well as Blackbird. Blackbird seems appropriate when its midnight/dark.

As well as our standard look out duties the weather has been overall very nice. We hit some very rollie-polie seas the last two days. The waves weren’t too large but were big enough that the last couple of nights havebeen a little difficult for sleep. It almost feels like right when you doze off, a rather large wave causes the ship to roll in such a way that you wake up. All the rolling aside, it’s calmed down. We ran into a couple of squalls earlier today and the deck got a nice sprinkling of rain after our afternoon class. We also saw a sea bird today. I have no idea what it was but I would like to look it up, it had a long tail and was white. It was actually very pretty and the first thing we have seen in a very long time

Speaking of class, do you know how hard it is to attend class and be attentive after a watch? It’s difficult! Everyone is managing to do it just fine though, and the challenge adds to the experience. Classes have been going well. It’s funny to think we have had three days of classes already.The days all feel like they are merging into one giant blob of a day which in reality is one full week aboard the Cramer. It’s also hard to differentiate between class and everything else since we are constantly learning new and exciting things. The learning never really ends and to have hands on experience in practicing what your teachers are explaining is are ally unique opportunity.

One of the most exciting events for me so far has been to set and strike the jib. This sail requires that people walk off the ship onto safety netting (and clipped in to a harness) and walk towards the bowsprit and the Jib is tucked nice and safe there. Setting and striking the sail is exciting, but not because of the actual sail rising and lowering. When I climbed off the Cramer’s bow all I could do was look down beneath my feet and back to the rest of the ship. Below me, that sapphire blue, only being disturbed by the light and the ship, behind me the tall masts of the Cramer and Maia (one of our scientists) instructing us what to do from the bow. Last night that sail which gave me such a sight needed to be taken down. So in the black of night, I stepped over the bow safely clipped in. It was a little more difficult to stand on the netting because I couldn’t see where my feet were being placed. At one point, a wave came and I actually slipped.I wasn’t afraid because I knew that I was harnessed in AND had the net thereto catch me. I stood up and went back to work a little sad that I had to get back on the boat. It is a serene situation and I imagine it’s a lot like flying.

We all hope our friends and family are well. Trust me, all of us are! We are being fed VERY well and we are safe. I send my love to all my friends and family and I’m sure the rest of the Cramer sends their love to their friends and family too.

Fair Winds!
-Lila “Whale Bones” Jones

P.S. After I wrote this last night, our watch had the mid watch in the evening from 2300-0300 and we had dolphins playing on our bow. Normally onewould think it isn’t as fascinating as it is during the day because the night is so dark. On the contrary! Their movements disturbed little creatures which respond by lighting up the water and the dolphins playful bodies could be seen streaking the water with momentary bits of light. Definitely a beautiful sight to see at eleven in the evening.



C239 Ocean Exploration

Tuesday 21 Feb, 2012

Position @ 1800 by a star fix:
25 degrees 43’ N X
73 degrees 07’ W

Motoring @ 5 knots under stays’ls
Wx- clear and nice, wind east Force 2

The day dawned colder than usual (a chilly 22 degrees C), with A watch on deck at 0000. A stiff ENE’ly wind, around 20 knots, with gusts up to 25 kept us bundled up, and made the short mid watch drag on for what seemed like days. Once we got relieved by B watch at 0300, pumpkin muffins prepared by our steward Ashley greeted us on the hutch and the discomfort of the last few hours melted away. Nothing helps you forget a long cold mid-watch faster than a delicious midnight snack.

When I came on deck after my morning nap, the sun had made a significant improvement in the temperature. The warm sunshine seemed to invigorate everyone, and there were plenty of people on deck to enjoy it. The weather had moderated, with the wind dying down to an easy force 3, and the Cramer crept along at about 4 knots. A watch took the deck again at 1300, just after another fantastic meal prepared by our stewards, and we passed the time until class by working on our aloft checklists. The students have been working incredibly hard, not only in keeping the ship safe, but also on improving their own knowledge of the way things work aboard. Knowing their duties on the station bill, or the locations of all of the fire extinguishers aboard are just a couple of the tests the crew put them through before we deem them ready to go aloft. All of these check offs are small steps toward assuming more and more responsibility, with the eventual goal of taking over from the mates.

Class was rung up at 1400, and everyone assembled on the quarterdeck for our daily time as a whole group. There are announcements to be made,navigation, weather and science reports to give, as well as any special presentations that have been assigned. Today Ryan and Thane did a creature feature presentation on an elusive organism aboard the Cramer, our very own engineer, Dusty. Mary, our chief scientist finished class with a lecture on gyers, and how/why they form in our oceans.

As class wound down, so did the wind. Sadly, at 1730 we stuck the Jib Topsail, and fired up our engine. The wind being too light and from the wrong direction for us to make any ground the way we want to head, we throttled up and turned Cramer east. It would be a rather pleasant night for it, except for the 8-10’ swells coming from a large storm far off to our north east. Everyone is feeling it as we roll back and forth with the ocean,it’s usual gentle rocking turned more aggressive for the time being.

The nightly games of whist or cribbage between the crew of the Cramer haven’t started yet; hopefully as everyone gets used to our moving home they will have enough energy to do more than sleep while off watch. I hope everyone back home in New England is staying warm and dry!

Dylan Clark, Chief Mate



C239 Ocean Exploration

Monday February 20th

25 deg 18.4’N
74 deg 2.9’W

Sailing under the four lowers (main, main stays’l, fore stays’l, and jib)
and the jib tops’l.  Heading SSE, winds F5 NNE

Today was another busy day aboard the Corwith Cramer.  We have officially entered the Sargasso Sea and are making way toward even deeper waters before turning south toward the Dominican Republic. Life aboard the ship is continuing to move at an unfettering pace and days are beginning to blend into each other.  Earlier this morning our watch was staring into the face of a cold front and immediately we were asked to strike sails to prepare ourselves for the possibility of rougher seas.  We ended up passing the front with minimal rain and sea heights.  Afterwards, it was exciting to see some sea spouts that were starting to form.  In addition, schools of flying fish were spotted gliding across the water and must have been in the air for at least 50’.

Today was also our first class aboard the ship.  We were introduced to the academic schedule that we will be following throughout the cruise.  This entails furthering our skills as celestial navigators and scientists throughout the next 5 weeks through a number of small homework assignments.In addition, we will be exploring some of the mechanical systems that are allowing us to sail the oceans such as the electrical, water filtration,steering, and navigation systems.  We all have a lot of work ahead from the numerous homework assignments and presentations that are required of us but are grateful for the experience that will come of it.

Today we were also able to set and strike a number of sails.  In particular,we worked as a ship to set the fisherman which was a new sail to set for us.It took a lot of teamwork and coordination, as well as patience from the mates and scientists, to set this.  It was also great practice for many of us to better understand the rigging of the ship as we prepare for a pin chase that will be coming on Friday where we compete against other watches to identify the lines of the rigging.  In addition, many of us are working hard toward completing our requirements to go aloft in the rigging.  There are a number of safety requirements and ship knowledge in order for us to explore this new dimension of the ship.

Otherwise, life has been demanding yet also rewarding at the same time and we are all looking forward to another 5 weeks about the Corwith Cramer.

Jimmy Duerr

Image caption: Hove to on a starboard tack for some drills.



C239 Ocean Exploration

Saturday, February 18th

26 deg 12.2’N
78 deg 52.5’W

Motorsailing to the east under stays’ls and main in the Northwest Providence
Channel, Bahamas.

Weather clear and beautiful with light SE winds.

Standing at the helm, guiding the Cramer through the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida has been the most surreal experience so far. Over the endless miles of blue gigantic container ships and tankers appeared over the horizon, eerily lurking near (but at safe distance away from us, of course) and passed us on either side. As soon as one disappeared, another was usually sighted. Needless to say, we had a busy morning watch with a number of ship sightings and a Neuston net deployment amongst other regular watch tasks. Then again, watches are usually always busy. When I wasn’t at the helm or conducting boat checks one of our deck hands, Ryan, was quizzing me and other students on the names of what seem like millions of lines, as well as the sails to which they are attached. I spent a good amount to time running back and forth between the forestays’l downhaul and the mainstays’l jigger preparing myself for the eventual “line chase” that will test both my knowledge of the ship lines, and probably my endurance. 

The exciting event of today for all aboard was our very first “field day.” The Cramer was scoured and cleaned from ceiling to floor in a group effort by all three watches to ensure that no mold or mung had accumulated in the nooks and crannies of the ship. Never did I think that cleaning the head could be fun until I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the sole and singing along to CAKE’s version of “I Will Survive” that was blasting on someone’s iPod. Once the ship was clean, it was time to clean the students! We were hosed off like a bunch of filthy dogs on the port deck with one of the saltwater fire hoses. Washing off in the cool water was incredibly refreshing after a long, hot day spent sweating and cleaning below decks. Overall, our first field day was a success, and we had a great time hanging out as a big group in the sunshine before some of the students returned to their watch duties.

Fortunately we have had calm seas and southeasterly winds taking us towards our turning point through the Bahamas, and we are even luckier that no one has gotten sea sick yet! (Knock on wood.) Morale is very high amongst everyone on board, and we’re having such an awesome time so far. To put it all into perspective, though, we’ve only really been out for one whole day and we still have more than five weeks ahead of us to look forward to.
- Maddy McKenna



C239 Ocean Exploration

24 deg 24.5’ N x 081 deg 26.0’W
Clear and starry night, very little wind.  Motor sailing to the east under the stays’ls.  Looking to catch a ride in the Gulf Stream northward sometime tomorrow.  Everyone arrived healthy, happy and super excited to be underway. Training, orientation and drills are done for now and we are putting to use the months of navigational and scientific practice from shore.  Data has been collected for half the projects already and after tonight’s station we will have data for every project.  Amazing hard work from everyone is paying off already.  Rhian, we all miss you but you are here with us in more than just spirit (look closely at the photo).  We wish you could be here with us in person.  Until tomorrow…..may the stars shine upon you all.

Mary Engels - Chief Scientist, C239
Jason Quilter - Captain, C239