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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.

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C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Tuesday 02 January, 2013, –0930
Position: 24° 33.3’N x 081°48.7’W
Key West, FL

Its 2 January 2013, 0930 in the aft cabin of the Corwith Cramer. All students have now departed the ship and are currently headed on their various paths back home and back to school-standing a little taller, a little wiser. And a lot calloused. Their presence and final conversations linger in the spirit amidst the now quiet ship. It’s an essence we always feel upon student departure—Cramer quietly and contently embracing her lifesource, her heartbeat and her soul, which is constantly renewed through the character of each student.

This is a bittersweet moment for C244-for weeks, they’ve longed for the comforts of home, the smiles of family and friends. And for things to stop lurching to and fro if only for a moment. Yet, the community, individual and academic experiences lived by these students over the past three months hold a pervasive power. In many ways, the seeds of their journey that have been planted will only now begin to sprout. Today as they are thrown back into the contemporary world of cell phones, airport security, emails and the rest, it is likely they will feel pulled between who they were three months ago, who they are now, and perhaps who they’d like to be. This is a time for deep reflection, processing and acknowledgment of that delicate emotion-nostalgia. This readjustment period can be uncomfortable - but is perhaps the most powerful and lasting process of the study-away experience.

Over the past few days, the student wrapped up their final humanities projects, followed by a marathon of presentations. Twelve weeks ago, back in Woods Hole, students lined outside our doors during office hours brainstorming topic ideas, research methods and field work plans. Each week since then, through late nights in the shore library, miles in the Caribbean sea under sail and days in West Indian ports, we’ve watched their projects unfold and mature, resulting in sophisticated research conclusions that should make them proud.  Their presentations reflected processes of self-analysis and resulted in inspiring discussions of “what’s next?”

It is both telling and admirable, that these students have consciously decided to apply their SEA experience beyond the ship-be that through the continuation of research, the pursuit of higher degrees in coherence with our course themes of Environmental and Cultural Studies and Conservation, and through further self-analysis. They expressed an increased awareness for issues of globalization and historical legacies which shaped their encounters in the Caribbean. Many now have plans to continue traveling and seeing the world through layers deeper than meets the average tourist eye. Others indicated a greater inspiration to act within their home community-though cultural and environmental education, NGO involvement and the like. During our final debrief, several students claimed “this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done-and I did it, I made it to the end in the best way I could.” The faculty and staff wholeheartedly agree-and it is our greatest wish that each student fully recognize and embrace the extent of their accomplishments, that they may use this experience to guide them through life’s future obstacles, that they recognize the power and strength which live within them. We hope they embrace-and in fact, treasure-the upcoming feelings of nostalgia, so that SEA remains a part of their internal compass, come what may.

For those who’ve followed our adventure, you are certainly eager to see your sailor and hear all the stories-we know the excitement for reunion is mutual. You may, however, find your sailor becoming a bit quiet after the initial welcome home. They will likely undergo a bout of homesickness for Mother Cramer and their SEA community. They will find it difficult to articulate the enormity of this experience to those who “just weren’t there.” We assure you, this is normal and healthy! Be patient, ask them questions and listen. For those who’ve followed this bunch of sailors, this is a wonderful moment-to sit back, listen, and watch the joy, growth and pages still unwritten in your sailor’s eyes as they recount C244: Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean.  They may, I suspect, also be willing to share their wealth of knowledge-so if all else fails, you might try to start with the following four lessons:

1) learn a sea shanty
2) cook a meal for 30+ people
3) identify the stars in the sky
4) play the game of dictionary and define “colonization, conservation and Caribbean.”

This should get the stories flowing.

To the class of C244, safe travels on your journeys until we meet again. We will truly carry your infectious spirit as we continue to research, teach and sail with future students in the Caribbean-we are so proud of your accomplishments and full of the utmost hope and excitement for your future paths. You cannot imagine our honor in calling you our students, our shipmates, and now, our alumni. Remember, “half your story has YET to be told.” (I don’t think Bob will mind us changing the lyrics in this instance.) And we hope to see you “Rolling Home to Ole New England.” to see your ship and your crew come reunion time in June. Until then, Mama Cramer, and we, carry you within.

Faculty of C-244,
Jeff Schell
Liz Fisher Sullivan
Tom Sullivan



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Monday 31st December, 2012 – Happy New Year’‘s Eve
Position: 24° 33.3’N x 081°48.7’W
Alongside the Town Dock in Key West!

Photo:  Our final Illustration Gallery. Students and crew share drawings and paintings from their natural history journals.  Appropriate ambiance provided by the ‘schooner-formal’ attire, jazz guitar (thanks Scott), and a delicious dessert from the galley! 

Sometime in the morning:

Hello again from the SSV Corwith Cramer.  An exciting day awaits the crew and you can feel the excitement in the air.  First on our agenda, clear customs so we can officially be welcomed back into the United States! Second, we ourselves will welcome back the other member of our teaching team, Liz Fisher - Maritime Studies faculty.  She has been sorely missed and the students await her guidance in regards to their port stop-Change paper presentations which begin this afternoon. 

While we wait for customs the students and crew busy themselves with work about the ship, pre-packing luggage so they can clean their bunks, and sharing the megabytes of pictures and video amassed during our voyage. 

Early afternoon:

The band is back together!  Customs has been cleared; Liz is busy meeting with students in preparation for this afternoon’s presentations and Captain Sullivan has decided it is time to go back to sea.  So a call is made for General Quarters and the crew makes ready to cast off those dock lines.  Our destination is a secure anchorage just offshore from Key West.  The purpose being to have a few remaining nights at sea away from the hustle and bustle of life onshore.  We have a few academic milestones to surpass before we can wrap up the semester and celebrate the New Year, so best to find a quiet anchorage away from the crowds. 

Tomorrow evening, once we have completed all port stop presentations we will in good conscience be able to celebrate the successful completion of our program: C244 Conservation to Colonization in the Caribbean. So be sure to check in tomorrow and learn about student presentations and our party preparations. 

Jeff, Chief Scientist



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Saturday-Sunday 29-30th,  December, 2012
Position: 24° 33.3’N x 081°48.7’W
Docked in Key West!
Weather: SWxW wind, force three, two ft seas, approaching cold front and high pressure.

Photo: Third mate Jessie and Senior Junior Watch Officer Mitch take a break from chasing students and deckhands to enjoy time at the helm.

The mates might bemoan our situational awareness, but in the end, we’‘re surprised to be in Key West. After days of endless ocean horizon and clean, sweeping skies, land is baffling. A loud, bright, crumbly, beautiful mystery. As we approached the dock the nearing end of our program seemed hard to ignore. We’’ve learned so much these past six weeks that it is impossible to sum everything up, but some of the lessons we’ve learned are too valuable to keep to ourselves. 

1. Palm your turns. When setting a sail, it’s easy to forget Day One line handling lessons in all the excitement. All of us have been guilty of not keeping the line’s tension under control, and with a few (or many) reminders, it might have finally stuck. The small details are key to doing a job safely, efficiently, and well. When we leave the ship and take on all the new jobs our lives will give us, we’’ll remember to give those small details our best effort.

2. Being wrong isn’’t wrong. – Some lessons are harder to learn than others. As our captain likes to remind us, we are a sailing school vessel, not a sailing perfect vessel - his tactful way of easing the sting of our many mistakes. Hearing over and over that we’’ve gotten something wrong is hard to come to terms with, but mistakes are not a reflection of who you are or what you are capable of. Rather, mistakes are signs that we’’re all pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones and earning the right to call ourselves sailors.

3. Ship, shipmate, self. We’’ve heard this a hundred times from our captain, our mates, and the rest of the crew. Care for the Cramer first and your shipmates second, and you shouldn’’t need to spend too much time worrying about yourself. This might be one of the hardest-earned lessons. Ever since the first days on shore component, our class has been learning how to look out for each other, and of course we haven’’t succeeded a hundred percent of the time. But one morning during dawn clean up, this lesson really hit home. C watch finished with dawn watch and was preparing to begin our rotational clean up duties when B watch violently ousted us from the main saloon and banished us to our beds. It was a Christmas present to us, they explained. Because we have one less person on our watch, they wanted to help even the workload by doing one of our dawn clean-up rotations for us. Drifting into an early-morning sleep, we realized the importance of little gestures like this in caring for one another. A ship, shipmate, self - mindset doesn’‘t have to end when we step off the Cramer. Putting a little effort into your communities goes a long way.

4. The ocean is filled with weird squiggly bits.– At its surface, the ocean looks simple. Blue and wet. But then we deploy the Neuston net and find all the zooplankton that live in the top two meters of the ocean and man are there zooplankton. Every combination of eyes, legs, gelatinous goop, carapaces, fins, tails and segments you could ever dream of (and some from nightmares, eek!) live in the ocean. The ocean and its squiggly bits have taught us to never take something at face value. We will take our love of discovery with us as we move forward into undiscovered territories.

5. You too can furl the fish.– As people from the Midwest, we’‘re used to flat land with both our feet on it. Living at sea, you often have to clamber and climb to do the job the ship needs you to do. Furling the fisherman stays’l is one of those tasks. Our landlubber selves looked at the old salty deckhands jumping up on the science housetop to furl the struck sail and thought “No way.” But then the mates said “Hands to furl the fish” and before we knew it, we were up on that housetop with the saltiest of them all. Every time we met a challenge we rose to the opportunity, and in the future we won’’t listen to the limitations of our past. 

6. Don’’t eat anything you don’t want to throw up.– Some things you learn the hard way.

7. The Cramer will right herself. –Sometimes when one is holding the helm of a tall ship in the midst of twelve foot swells, it’s hard to believe that the ship is going to stay mast-side up for the duration of the watch. More than once we clung to the wheel, hoping that it wasn’’t our fault that the deck edge was immersed. Every time, though, the Cramer settled back into balance. The swells rushed away on the leeward side in a breathtaking wall of water, and the seas were calmer for a few minutes. It’s hard to remember, especially when you’re steering, but things do find a balance. When our metaphorical deck edge is immersed, we’’ll remember to hold tight to the helm and wait, because eventually things will level out.

8. Steer a course for others to follow. –These words are engraved on our helm and remind us daily that we’‘re not just here for a few weeks to enjoy ourselves. The lessons of leadership and environmental stewardship will last much longer than our tans. We owe it to the people who gave us this experience to bring that inspiration and devotion with us as we leave. In the years to come we will strive to live as examples of the stewardship values learned aboard. The ocean has taught us how valuable our homes on land are and how much power we have to steer a course for others to follow, even without a helm.

9. Keep sipping from the fire hose. Who knew 134 feet could hold as much to learn as the Cramer does? For every line we have learned there’s three more we didn’’t even know existed. These past few weeks we drank as much as we could from the fire hose of information coming at us and as we’‘ve seen in our successful watches as Junior Watch Officers, a lot more of that has stuck than we thought. The unknown can seem overwhelming and daunting, but we know now that as long as you keep pushing, you’’ll learn – and accomplish– great things.

10. Ride the swells.– There are moments from this trip that we’‘ll never forget. Moments when dolphins were splashing through bioluminescent waves at our bow. Moments when we saw shooting stars so bright they took our breaths away. Moments when we were at the helm and everything was peaceful, and rhythmic, and just right. It’s important to pay attention, both on the Cramer and in day to day life. We’’ve learned to commit to enjoying the sunrise and moonset and watching the waves for hours because —completely apart from the grades and strength we’ve gained during these weeks —there’’s value in each experience. Every day holds infinite gifts that we can enjoy, moments we can treasure if we pay attention to them.

Looking forward to sharing these lessons, stories, pictures, and hugs with all our missed ones,
Erin Schulz and Chelsea Johnson

PS: Chelsea says: Four days until the second coming! Prepare for landing! Hannah, bring all of the wool you can find to the airport. 
PPS: Erin says: Brynne, please bring a blanket to the airport for me.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Thursday, 28 December, 2012, 2000

Position: 24°05.5’Nx082°04.2’W
Heading: 240°PSC
Speed: 3.5 kts
Weather: Winds SExE Force 4, Clouds 3/8 AC, Seas ESE 3 ft.

Photo Caption: Going aloft before sunset with minutes to spare and a blurry camera.

Today we have taken stir crazy to a whole new level onboard Cramer as we anxiously await our arrival in Key West tomorrow afternoon. The weather has warmed up again, and many of us made our way on deck squinty-eyed and
disoriented after hibernating below for days. Winter jackets and layers of blankets made an appearance after a cold front pushed through, and temperatures dropped into the 70’s. As we made our way back into grey-water free air our spirits were lifted and class reminded us of our initial departure in St. John. A tacking war quickly ensued, and watches were pitted against each other in a battle to the death. In reality we triple tacked Cramer, the hardest maneuver imaginable, confused anyone within AIS range, changed our CPA multiple times, and reminded ourselves of the chafe in the movie we watched on shore called “Around Cape Horn.” Sadly the judging was indecisive and no one officially won, but we did grant ourselves the task of removing the taffrail log from the prop with the small boat Danforth anchor due to tacking complications.

A few of us got a little too amped from all the activities and quickly became restless, occupying our minds with anything that could hold our attention. Spinach chip dip made a short appearance, then a classic pastime of gimbaled jenga began and quickly ended. It is not too easy to play jenga to begin with, and on a moving table it is no easier. Next were castle building competitions, which also quickly ended, as jenga blocks are not any easier to build with on a gimbaled table. Finally, Tori and I decided to go aloft as the sun was setting, and we scurried up the salty and greasy shrouds to sit for only five minutes before the sun set. It was short lived but well worth it, and I got my best Zoolander face on camera. Surprisingly, not too far off from a typical day here.

On a serious note, it is sad to know today was our last full day out at sea. Tomorrow at some undetermined time we may or may not make our arrival into Key West to clear customs. I’ve missed many things from land, like flannel shirts, but I know I will miss even more from sea, like being called hutch meat. If only I could combine the two, my journeys in life would all make sense. Soon the days of hauling on the main sheet, sweat spooning the stays’ls, striking the baby catcher, fishing your falls, squaring your braces, venting the heads, foxtailing and squeegeeing the soles, ducking in the engine room, making paper snowflakes, reading Night Secrets, deck showers, constant Ukulele playing, the Conservation Song, zombie hands, sweaty bunks, deck washes, midwatch, using Brasso, non-oscillating fans, and calling all hands to do some ludicrous task will come to an end with the C-244 party bus, but I still have four more days! I’m not ready for the transition back into real life, mostly because I know I’ll run into trouble calling things by their proper names just as I’m getting used to calling the kitchen the galley, the floors the soles, the walls the bulkheads, ceilings the overheads, the bathrooms the heads, the stairs the ladders, the J-arm the J-frame, and many more.

See you soon family and friends, I miss you and cold weather. Much love.
-Clark Bockelman



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Wednesday 26th,  December, 2012, 2000
Position: 24° 24.7’N x 083°07.6’W
Heading: 110
Speed: 5 knots
Weather: NWxW winds, force 5, cumulous clouds covering 3/8ths of the sky.
Cold front moving past. Seas at 4 feet

Photo:  Santa (Kevin) and his little helper (Jordan, who quite literally made Christmas).

After recovering from the holiday madness, we began our normal JWO routine again. Now that we are in U.S. waters once again, a flurry of neuston tows throughout the night helped us get back into the swing of science.

The science took a new turn today as we studied light depletion through the water column with the handy scientific tool of M&M deployments. It was educational and delicious. Along with the edible deployments, we also deployed our Secchi disk, and found that our 1% light level was at 83 meters! Science RULES!

Today was relatively calm, although an impending cold front made itself known through some pretty spectacular cloud formations on the horizon.

We are coming to the end of this adventure, and though most of us are in a haze of finalizing papers and presentations, we can’t help but take a moment to appreciate not only how attractive we are, but also how far we have come since our first day on the ship, and extend our thanks to all the people who travelled with us and helped us become the sailors and students we are today.

A shoutout to the family of Amy McDonagh: Merry Christmas! I love you all so much and missed you on the day itself. I hope it was so beautiful up there! Can’t wait to see you in just a few days!

Best Christmas since the year Santa brought me that Miss Piggy toothbrush. Sarah and Liz: I thought of you and your little ones opening presents as I sat down for breakfast yesterday, please tell them that Auntie Boo loves and misses them. I hope everyone back on land feels as content with the world as I do. Much love to you all.
-Boo/ Becky /Bex

To all the Ecksteins, Brazills, Laings, Harlows, Saracenos, and others keeping track of my whereabouts, I hope your Christmases were as happy as mine was. Thinking of you often, and can’t wait to talk in 2013. Love, Jordan



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Tuesday, 25 December, 2012, 1700
Position: 24° 07.6’N x 084°27.3’
Heading: 070
Speed: 8 knots!
Weather: Sunny!  A few cirrus and cumulus clouds, 25°, winds SExE at a Beaufort Force 5, 4 foot SE seas

Photo:  The Multi-Denominational Holiday Choir begins the celebration, and would continue to grace us with song until the late hours of the evening! 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the entire crew of the Corwith Cramer!  We have just passed back into the American EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) from the Cuban EEZ, and I can hear the national anthem floating along the aft companionway from the main salon.  The After Party Party Band (which, they will gladly tell you, is everyone) is keeping our carolers singing strong. 

It’s been an exciting Christmas Day at sea!  After a beautiful sunrise we sailed across the Tropic of Cancer, cruising along at ALL of our knots (8-9) – super speedy!  Santa Flynn made an appearance during class, and Secret Santa gifts were exchanged and enjoyed by all.  The Multi-Denominational Holiday Choir (MDHC) caroled, snow magically fell (in thumbnail sized pieces, of course) from above the doghouse, and Christmas stories like The Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Burt Dow, Deep Water Man were read aloud on the quarterdeck. 

To my Christmas family: I hope the designated champagne popper is doing their job well, and that the Christmas weather there is as good as it is here.  I wished you all Wigilia wishes – eat an oyster for me today!  To the rest of my family and friends, I love you!  Merry Christmas!  I thought of you all last night on bow watch, and sent good holiday vibes your way. Mama, Daddy, Pooh-Bah, see you in a week!  Just in case you didn’t get my letters, please bring a hat. Love, love, love, Rebecca. 

Becca H: All my best once again, Becca.

Maggie B.: As I stood watch this morning as the JWO (Junior Watch Officer) I was definitely thinking about everyone back home! Although we did have cinnamon rolls today, I must say they were not the same as yours, Uncle Don! It’s hard not being with the family today, but sailing on Christmas day has been incredible and SO much fun! I miss everyone and I can’t wait to see you guys! One more week! Love you lots!!

Jen H.: Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!!! Thinking of you all lots today and sending Christmas hugs and C-cookie vibes  I hope it was a beautiful day full of laughter and smiles. I can’t wait to see everyone and hug you in less than a week! XOXOXOXOXOXO

Clark B.: As we crossed back into American waters on Christmas Day I couldn’t help but tear up a little. I love the ocean and all our unique travels and experiences, but I’ve missed my country and my family. Something just felt different today when we crossed over that EEZ even though there is no line drawn across the ocean surface.  It’s good to be back “home,” and the hundred or so miles we have left to Key West will be enjoyed no doubt. Sending love and many thanks home! See you in about a week.

Mitch: Merry Christmas to friends and family back in Seattle, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and anywhere else you happen to be! Lots of love to Mom, Dad, Lizzy, Katie, and Emily. Voyaging across the oceans is great, but it always makes me remember the people that matter most in life – I’ll see you all again soon, with plenty of Caribbean stories to share.

Sully:  Merry Christmas to all my family, Caribbean, New England, wherever you may be!  To my wife and soon to be baby girl, all my love, Santa dropped a few things off on the boat for you!  To my Coastie and sailor shipmates standing the watch, Thank you and fair winds!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Monday, 24 Dec 2012 1930
Position: 22o 30.2’ N x 85o 44.3’ W
Heading: 350 PSC
Speed: 2.5 knots
Weather: Winds ExN at Beaufort Force 3, Seas NExN at 3 Ft, Cumulus cloud
coverage 1/8 with air temperature at 24.0oC

Photo Caption: The crew celebrating a Very Merry Cramer Christmas Eve Day!

Narrative: Maggie and Becca (A Watch)

Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the deck
Not a copepod was stirring,
not even in a net;

The stockings were hung
by the halyard with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas
soon would be there;

The crew were passed out
all snug in their bunks,
While visions of missed wake-ups
put them in funks;

Cap’n Sully in his tank,
and Jeff in his cap,
Had settled in the aft
For a very brief nap;

When up on the deck
there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our bunks
to see what was the matter;

The moon on the crests
of the white-capped waves,
Made the disco ball shine
in a white light haze;

All of sudden
on the radar appeared
A miniature sleigh,
And eight tiny reindeer

The JWO aware
of the situation at hand,
Brought news to Sully
that the sled would land;

Fearing the worst
of a Santa crash landing,
The watch members on deck
went straight to planning;

And then in a winkling (It’s a science thing),
on the elephant table,
We heard prancing and pawing
of hooves that were able;

Wake-ups were done
and the crew came up quick,
To a holiday greeting from
The one and only St. Nick!

We heard him exclaim,
as he left Cramer’s sight,
“Merry Christmas to all.
And to all a good night.”

Hey everyone! It’s been smooth sailin’ on Cramer all day! The ship’s company has stayed busy with decorating and finishing Secret Santa gifts for tomorrow, and school work continues. Today in class, there was an oceanography symposium. All six project groups presented a poster to the remainder of the staff and crew, and we all learned A TON! Following class, a cookie/ginger bread Cramer decorating frenzy happened in the main salon. Christmas Eve dinner was ham, cheesy broccoli, pineapple stuffing and rice, with eggnog to drink!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!!


Maggie B.: Christmas Eve Gift!!!!! I miss you guys and can’t wait to see you! Oh, I got my sea legs by the way, and it’s WONDERFUL! Sending hugs your way!! Love you lots!

Becca H.: Hope the familia at home enjoys Maggie and I’s poem! Wish I could be there peoples! Special shout out to the parentals, Emily, Bri, Taylor, friends at home, friends at the berg and to all the other cubanas out there; Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Jen H.: To my ninja family - Merry Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Wish I could be there for the shenanigans. Take a wassale for me. See you in a week! Miss you all, love you lots!

Keara F.: Merry Christmas to all my loved ones!  I miss you so much today and every day.  See you in just over a week!! Jolly hugs and kisses!

Tori P.: Merry Christmas family!!!! And Mia, I’m drinking my tea and I requested a wake up for 11:50 so I can be on deck at midnight for the moon! Give Raquel and Monica a kiss for me, you three are the best and I miss you so much, you are the best sister ever! Can’t wait to open the rest of it tomorrow!! Sending much love across the ocean to Mom, Dad, All the Va’s and Vo, All the tias, tios, primas, primos and friends. Miss you!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Sunday 23 December
Position: Somewhere between St. Croix and Key West
Heading: North?
Speed: Unknown, we appear to be moving even though the main engine is not running
Weather: 97° and sweaty in the upper engine room

Photo Caption: Fine-tune adjustment of ship’s delicate navigation equipment

Thank you for your interest in Cramer Light and Power. CL&P is your first choice for all your oceanographic research, sailing school vessel engineering needs. We would like to share with you the many services offered by CL&P:
- Hours of distracting mindless banter on the quarterdeck
- Christmas tree fire safety seminars.
- Ceaseless hours of sidetracking chitchat.
- Consumption of many caffeinated beverages.
- Endless befuddling conversations of a tedious and tiresome nature.
- In-depth Star Trek episode analysis and scrutiny.
- Incorrect and misleading ship identification.
- Supplying misleading and confusing information relating to any engineering information.
- Unremitting incessant discourse about obscure 1980’s punk rock bands.
- Humiliating and unflattering dockside hair alterations.
- Occasional appearance of productivity.
- On demand identification of random shipboard noises.
- Repeated and ineffective attempts to repair ship’s systems.
- Creative and joyous hours of poo smithing.

As the leader of incessant nagging of shipboard safety, we would like to remind our customers of the inherent dangers of the holiday season.

Happy Holidays from all of us at CL&P



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

December 22nd, 2012; 2100hr
Weather: Winds out of the NNE with a beaufort force of 6 (22 knots), 9ft
seas, and a temperature of 23°C
Position: 20°35.6’N x 082°28.5’W
Log: 1450.2 nm
Posted by: Amy McDonagh and Jen Hyde (That’s right!)

Photo caption: Mama Cramer in all her glory. Photo courtesy of Clark Bockelman and his GoPro®.

Today was filled with excitement. First and foremost, it was our fearless Captain’s birthday! Happy birthday Captain Sully!

Aboard the Corwith Cramer, we were happy to welcome the 22nd of December; the GPS is still working, planes are still flying, so I guess we can go into this holiday season with a bit of relief that “it’s the end of the world as we know it” is still just an awesome song.

Speaking of awesome songs, we have just finished the third rehearsal of The Corwith Cramer Multi-Denominational Holiday Choir, which will be performing on the 25th. It’s going to be fabulous. We’re rocking the boat with such classics as Melekalikimaka (The Hawaiian Christmas Song), Winter Wonderland, Feliz Navidad, Dona Nobis Pacem, Silent Night, and of course, White Christmas. There are also rumors (started by us) that a small ensemble will be performing “Blue Christmas” by the king of rock n’ roll.

More excitement arose today in the form of charismatic megafauna (dolphins)! Twice! Not only were there dolphins playing in the wake of the bow, but there was also a gaggle of baby dolphins trailing alongside their mothers. The balance of the ship may have been slightly offset by the slew of students and crew alike all leaning over the starboard bow to catch a glimpse of the stunning sight.

A flurry of busily working crew can be seen in every nook and cranny as we finish making our secret Santa gifts and enter into the long haul of project work for the last stretch of the trip. Excitement to complete all of our hard work is coupled with sadness that our journey on the Cramer is approaching its end. The community will be sorely missed, as well as the amazing sensation felt every time you walk onto the deck and see the deep blue ocean surrounding your world.

To the families of Jen Hyde and Amy McDonagh: Save us some eggnog. We’ll be home for Christmas in our dreams. Listen to some Bing for us, we’ll be singing it whole-heartedly on the foredeck.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
GPS Position: 19° 44.4’ N x 79° 27.2’ W
Heading: 330°
Speed: 5.7 kts
Weather: 4 wind Beaufort Force, 1/8 cloud cover of cumulous, air temperature
31.4° C

Photo caption: Courtesy of Jen Hyde. From the left: Jordan, Maggie and I on watch at the helm.

Author: Becca Hernandez

Hello everyone!
The end nears! In more ways than one! Nearing the end of the world and the end of this voyage, this is the final log entry. (haha just kidding). To all the folks at home I will recap my day of savoring being alive. Today I had morning watch as A watch, and as usual there was a lot going on. Hourlies and helm steering a given, I also gained more experience sail handling. Setting and striking the Jib multiple times, the lines and I became friends. I also had the time to start a sun line with a sextant. Who knew staring at the sun could tell you where you were? Also, I could never forget about the science. After bring the Cramer to Hove-to, I helped control the J-frame to deploy the CTD. The CTD reveals the mystery of the deep in the form of conductivity, temperature and depth. Soon in terms of science deployments, we will be sending down something very special as souvenirs from the trip. We will be sending down our personally decorated Styrofoam cups, which will shrink under 2000m of water!

Speaking of pressure, it sure has hit me. In the last leg of the trip, we will become junior watch officers. During class today we practiced furling on the Jib and Mains’l, which we have to know with our eyes closed. We also have to be preparing our final oceanography and change paper projects, which are due very soon. Academia and sail handling unite on the Corwith Cramer! So folks at home, be thinking of us because we are under a lot of strain. ( haha line pun). But hey when I’m stressed up to my eyeballs on this overall great adventure, I remind myself of one of my favorite quotes: What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?

Shout out to everyone at home once again, I miss you all. Love you, happy end of the world! I can’t wait to have a late Christmas, be prepared for a holiday retake. Enjoy the first one without me though haha I’ll be home soon.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Wednesday, December 19th, 2012, 1800hr
Position: 18°35.7’N x 77°42.2’W
Speed: 5.4 knots
Heading: 294° True
Weather: Clear with some tufts of cumulous on the horizon; winds force 3 out of the Northeast, seas easterly and a calm 3 feet. Barometric pressure at 1013.5, and a temperature of 27.8°C

Photo caption: In the headrig, furling the jib with Sophia and Clark. This is my favorite sail to furl; having the ocean under your feet is intensely cool.

Today, we said goodbye to our friends Patrice, Shieka, and Hugh from the University of the West Indies. It was great having a few extra hands on board and getting to do some exciting new deployment combinations (double meter net/neuston tow feature: showing for one night only)! Before we said farewell, however, we did enjoy a wonderful and generous lunch of Jamaican patties (which I am determined to find a good recipe for) and a tour of the laboratory and marine facilities at Discovery Bay. This was followed by snorkeling through the beautiful reefs that lie within the Bay, where Maggie and I saw a barracuda! Not to mention myriad other lovely fish.

So this afternoon we set off once again, and even after such a long and exciting port stop in Jamaica, the things that make being at sea and on the Corwith Cramer such an unforgettable experience quickly set back in. As we approach the last leg of our time aboard, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the highlights and day to day novelties of being students, crew, and shipmates on the Cramer:

•Deck showers: Under the stars or the sun, either way it’s the best.
The irresistible need to either coil or tie a fancy knot whenever you see a line or any spare piece of rope lying around, on deck or below.
Gorgeous sunsets accompanied by the sound of jamming from the main saloon or the foredeck: All voices and instruments welcome.
The common knowledge and open acceptance of the irremovable odor from both your bunk and you.
Realizing that you know where the lines are, even in the dark, and even if you stub your toes twelve times or run into the playhouse whilst getting to them.
Boat feet. Parents, you will see when your child returns. One of my own feet is currently becoming one continuous callous. It’s pretty great.
Seeing a hundred shooting stars and still having it be awesome every time.
Being amazed and confused when you see an airplane fly across the sky.
Walking onto deck for Midwatch, blurry eyed and tired, spotting a magnificent, elegant creature swimming through the moonlit waters, rushing to the railing to see what sort of beast from the deep it could possibly be…. And realizing it’s the neuston tow (This is a personal one, but I feel as though it should be shared).

•The sky is just bigger out here.
Being able to relate at least twenty events or interactions per day with quotes from “Finding Nemo”.

Learning proper table manners in action: No elbows on the gimbaled tables, unless you want eggs in your lap.
Being fed all the time, always.
Repeating everything said, all the time, always.
Finally knowing the names of stars and constellations you always wondered about.
No web browsers: It’s pretty cool to just have to ask another person if you want to find something out.
Ocean puns. Whale, I don’t know about everyone else, but these just krill me, I can’t kelp myself.

So that is just a little bit of our world out here, which I’m sure if you are reading this blog you must be pretty curious about. I know for a fact that there are a hundred more stories and highlights that your friend, child, sibling and/or loved one will be eager to share in their own blog post or when they return to you.

To my family: I hope you are all doing well! Love you and miss you more as the holidays approach, but I’m sure it must be beautiful and snowy up there. Have extra adventures and eat a little bit more on Christmas for me (I know I will).



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Tuesday, 18 Dec 2012 18:02
Position: 18̊26.1’N x 076°49.2’W
Speed: 3 knots
Weather: Very clear and star-filled skies, with mild temperatures at 26.1°C. Winds ESE at Force 2, Seas ENE at around 2 feet.

Photo Caption: Patricia and me, lookin’ fly while snorkeling for our Dictyota samples

Narrative: Keara (C Watch)

Wah’ gwan! (Translation from Port Antonio:  Hello dear friend, what is happening in your life?)

This morning I was sad to say goodbye to Port Antonio, Jamaica.  What an amazing port stop!  After a fantastic four days of Jerk Chicken and Ting, waterfalls and sunny beaches (as well as fresh water showers!) we have taken on the big blue once more and set (a short) sail to Discovery Bay.  We have three new crew members on this leg of our trip, Patrice, Shieka, and Hugh, who are graduate students from the University of the West Indies.  We’re so glad to have them aboard, and with their help, the next 24 hours will be a science marathon.  This morning, we did two Neuston Tows on the way out of Port Antonio harbor, and throughout the course of the day will be doing several more neuston tows and meter net deployments.  Science never sleeps, so hopefully by our arrival in Discovery Bay tomorrow we will have gathered tons of exciting organisms and data.

Science wasn’t our only excitement today.  After getting the ship underway this morning, and a busy watch in the lab, I crawled into my bunk to read some Game of Thrones (surprise, I know . . . only 100 pages to go, guys!!) and fell asleep.  So there I was, slumbering like a little babe, dreaming of dragons and wolves, when suddenly the general alarm sounded!  I jolted awake, and immediately swung out of my bunk, but was not yet sure what was going on (if any of you have ever seen me first thing in the morning, you know I was pretty confused).  I stopped to listen, and finally understood that everyone was shouting “man overboard drill!”

My pulse quickened.  Man overboard?! Who could it be?? I scrambled on deck to my station, my brain less awake than my body, and immediately checked in with one of my ship mates who was standing facing the water with their arm extended over the rail.  “Where is he??” I asked, not quite understanding that it was a drill and not an actual emergency “That orange buoy right there!” My shipmate replied.  I searched around the orange buoy looking for a shipmates head or arm or something . . .  and only then realized that this was a drill, and the buoy was the man overboard. I quickly assumed my station bill job of calling out the compass bearing to the “person” in the water.  The buoy was recovered by the rescue boat, and we gave him a blanket and some tea to warm him back up. (Just kidding.)  After a successful drill, our three friends from UWI gave a presentation about the graduate work that they’ve been doing, involving studying lion fish, and working with compression chambers for fishermen who get decompression illness while commercial fishing.  All in all, it was a fascinating and exciting day, which seems to be the norm here on the Cramer.

Missing everyone, especially with Christmas coming up!  Sending lots of love home, and really hoping that the world doesn’t end on Friday because I got you guys some great Christmas presents.  (I am counting on you, Emily, to blast Keep on Dancing Til the World Ends on repeat in my honor).  Also wishing Laura the happiest 21st birthday! Can’t wait to celebrate with you when I get home!  And likewise to Amanda who is turning 23 tomorrow—Sofia sends her love and we all hope you have an awesome birthday.

Happy holidays and see you all in the new year!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Monday, 17 Dec 2012 12:48
Position: Alongside Port Antonio, Jamaica
Speed: 0 knots
Weather: Sunny with a chance of Jerk Chicken

Photo Caption: Amy lovin’’ the raft ride across the Rio Grande!

Narrative: Maggie (Port Watch)

sail•ing (sâ‘linˆg), 1. n.  the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.
-from A Dictionary for Landlubbers, Old Salts, & Armchair Drifters

by Henry Beard & Roy McKie

Hello and welcome to another day in the life of Cramer! This morning we all woke up to a wonderfully delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and homemade biscuits and gravy! It was a fantastic way to start the day off! Today Port Watch has the deck and Starboard Watch is out and about hiking, Christmas shopping, exploring, researching, swimming, etc. Those of us who are students on Port Watch are required to spend one hour manning the gangway (keeping a running list of who’s on board and who’s in town) and at least one hour helping with ship projects (reassembling blocks, stowing the forepeak for departure, cleaning, etc.). For the remainder of the time we were given permission to work on our oceanography projects, because our rough draft results are due tomorrow! Jeff, Mitch, Anne and Pat (the AWESOME scientists) have been frantically running around to help with data analysis and graphing. They are lifesavers! You’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget how to use Excel when you’re busy sailing all the time.

Yesterday, a group of us (Amy, Erin, Mitch and I) went on a hiking excursion. It ended up being much more than a hiking excursion, though, as it included rafting across the Rio Grande, swimming in a cave, and climbing up a waterfall! It took about half an hour in a super crowded cab to get to the trailhead, and when we got there, we realized it was a river crossing. There were four or so bamboo rafts (as shown in the photo) and a person to paddle you across. It was a little frightening getting onto the raft, but once we were on it and sitting it felt much safer. As soon as we made it across the river, we began our hike. Every now and again, our guide would stop and show us a plant or a flower that played an important role in Jamaican culture. The first two he showed us were cinnamon and cocoa! Did you know that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree? I sure didn’‘t! Later on we saw the national tree and bird of Jamaica as well. When we got to the waterfall (it was breathtaking) we went straight past it and actually hiked up a very long, steep, and muddy hill to the top where the cave entrance was. It was a beautiful cave with many interesting formations and lots of water. Our guide showed us the Lion formation, which is symbolic of the Rastafarian culture and the Bob Marley and the Wailers formation. There were also many bats in the cave, and they would fly around our heads as we walked through. It was a little frightening, I must say. When we were done in the cave we headed back to the waterfall. It was a “save the best for last” kind of thing. My shoes did not have the best traction on the way back down the hill, so I slipped and fell most of the way (in a funny way, no one got hurt). I figured we would be swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall, but that was not the case. We actually ended up climbing up to the top of the waterfall (on it, not around it) where there were several indentations in the rocks that you could sit in. It was like sitting in the best massage chair you’‘ve ever been in. The excursion was an amazing experience that none of us will ever forget!

Happy Holidays!! Oh, I almost forgot. We had a request for ice cubes and ice cream from many of the crew members. So yeah, you should send that to us.


Morgan: Have a safe trip back from Ireland! I can’t wait to see you when I get home!
Everyone at JC: Congrats on finishing finals!! Have a great break!
Everyone in the family: Merry Christmas! Eat some Swedish meatballs and Spritz cookies for me! I love you all!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 16:58
GPS Position:  Alongside Errol Flynn Marina, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Weather: Cumulus clouds behind the hills of Port Antonio and a light Easterly breeze

Narrative: Rebecca O.

Photo Caption: B Watch took a trip into the rigging as Cramer sailed towards Jamaica on Friday morning.  The incredible views of the Blue Mountains were heightened by our trip to Mooretown, as described by Patricia. 

Dear Friends and Family of C-244,

Welcome back!  It’s nice to be writing again, updating y’all about life on Mama Cramer.  She’s so good to us, and we want to share that goodness with you. 

After our trip to the Maroon community of Mooretown yesterday (check out Patricia’s entry!), the crew and students of C-244 spent today taking care of ship’s work and exploring Portland Parish, where Port Antonio is located.  When we’re in port, the ship is split into two Watches - Port Watch and Starboard Watch.  They alternate days on and off, and today Starboard Watch (that’s me) stayed on board Cramer while Port went out adventuring.

On board, we gave our Mama a little TLC - getting rid of rust spots, sanding and painting blocks, and working on a baggy wrinkles.  Baggy wrinkles are pieces of line taken apart and put back together along a piece of twine to prevent chafing in the rigging - it looks a lot like a mop dog until it’s done.  The Captain and Jeff were galley wizards with Lauren, one of our Stewards (who is always a galley wizard), and they cooked up spiny lobsters from our local lobster connection, Roy.  It was so yummy! Students spent some time working on deck, and the rest on our academic projects.  Our time is dwindling and deadlines are nearing, but, of course, there’s always time for a trip to the beach, which is conveniently just down the dock.  Very refreshing, especially after scrubbing the main salon soles and cleaning the forward heads. 

I heard from some Port Watch friends about a hike to and through a waterfall, a trip to the Blue Lagoon and Boston Bay - home to lots of yummy jerk seasoning, and an Errol Flynn movie this evening (one of Errol’s wives runs the marina and shows one of his movies every night).  There is so much to do here that it’s impossible to pack everything into one day, but we like a challenge. 

I ended up off the ship this morning, as well.  While it was my Watch’s day to stay aboard, I asked to go to Mass at a local Catholic church with some Port Watch friends.  Worried we were late, Mitch, our first scientist, Keara, Patricia and I hightailed it over to St. Anthony’s for their eight o’clock service.  Never fear - it turned out to be next door to the marina, so we were ten minutes early, not late.  There was a baptism today, and the church was packed with friends and family from all over the island.  We were warmly welcomed (Father Joseph, who celebrated the Mass, had stopped by the ship the day before and taken a tour) and received a blessing for our travels.  The service was lively and upbeat, a little Latin chanting with a lot of tambourine - absolutely perfect.  I love visiting churches, and it meant a lot to go so close to Christmas when I’m far away from home.

We’re celebrating the holiday season in our own way on Cramer. Secret Santa with homemade gifts (ship people = crafty people), a non-denominational holiday choir that Mitch is putting together, games of dredle (Keara and Kevin made one out of the top of a Cholula bottle top), and a few sparkly decorations here and there.  As we get closer, I’ve heard promises of paper snowflakes.

I’m thinking of home more and more as Christmas inches closer - I’ll miss you, Oyster Roast Family!  Patricia, who also celebrates Wigilia (I don’t know that I’ll ever spell it correctly), and I brought up the Wishing Wafer, as I like to call it, so you’ll be here at sea with me, even if I can’t be there eating pirogues with you.  Harcourt Parish family, I thought of you lots today at Mass - have a very Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you in the New Year.  Friends everywhere, I forgot all of your addresses, but I write you mental postcards often.  Mama, Daddy, Pooh-Bah, I love you, and I’ve finally found a post office - mail’s heading your way tomorrow!

Until next time,


P.S. B WATCH CLIMBED THE RIGGING!!!!  Actually, C Watch did it first, but it was SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!!!!!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


December 15, 2012 - 2100
Alongside Errol Flynn Marina, Port Antonio, Jamaica
Wind and seas calm, clouds 6/8 cumulous

Narrative: Patricia Pyda

Photo Caption: On our way to Moore Town in the van!

Hey Everyone!

Our first full day in Portland Parish began in a Port Antonio market one block away from the marina. Students were set free at nine to roam around as quickly as our wobbly sea legs could carry us. We weaved through various vendors selling fresh produce, home goods, and souvenirs. Taking a glance around the area, I could see several students doin’ their thang. Amy interviewed produce vendors for her research paper on Jamaican agriculture. Keara haggled prices at a nearby souvenir stand. Chelsea sniffed unfamiliar fruit. Jen and Becca were asking a local (for the fifth time) to direct them towards a coffee shop. When we finally reconvened as a group at eleven, bags and bellies were filled to our upmost content.

After lunch, we were led to the marina parking lot were we met our driver named Preacher and piled into his van. We got to know each other real well as the nineteen of us sat closely together for the next forty five minutes. Preacher drove us swiftly yet carefully up the curvy dirt road towards Moore Town in the Blue Mountains. Our first pit stop was not only to stretch our legs but also to take in the gorgeous scenery. Down in the valley below us, we could see a banana raft making its way down the river bend. Our second pit stop was at a convenience store at the town’s entrance for ‘bag juice’ (literally a fruit juice in a bag) where we watched local townsmen play and bet on a game of dominos. As soon as we entered the town, I heard the loud and distinct sound of the abeng (which can be heard within a ten mile radius). This horn is used by a designated community member to alert fellow townspeople that there is new situation.

We walked up the road to the cultural center were we met with the warm-welcoming Colonel Sterling who dedicated his time to talk to us about the past and present history of the Maroons. A major highlight from the talk included the fact that the music of the Maroons is recognized by UNESCO to be an oral and intangible cultural heritage. Annual funding from the global organization allows the community to preserve their culture for future generations. The Colonel also elaborated on various topics such as Maroon independence as well as election, religious, and environmental practices. After a short lunch break, we witnessed a staged drum and dance performance put on by locals. The four dancers shuffled, swayed, and shimmied their bodies to the beat of the drums. They blew the abeng at the beginning of each song as well as drank and poured white rum on the ground as they sang with strong emotion.

After an energetic performance, we were accompanied by a large group of young adults to a fifty-foot waterfall thirty minutes away from town. The hike straight up hill was a cardio workout to say the least. The moment we saw the beautiful waterfall, our red beet faces faded and hard panting breaths quickly slowed down and everyone stripped down to their bathing suits to glide into the cool and refreshing water pool for a swim. Before dusk, we started our descent back into town where we said our long good byes to the friendly people of Moore Town. Exhausted but happy, we all piled back into Preacher’s van and headed back to Mama Cramer for the night. 

P.S.  Hi Mama, Tata, Jordan, Dusia, Ricardo/ean, Ania, Catalina, and Kasztan.Wesolych Swiat Bozego Nardodzenia! Kocham was bardzo. Hope you all get a white Christmas! Mama, please save me some barszcz!! Merry Christmas to the Brain Gang and mis amigas! See you soon smile



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


December 14, 2012 - 2200
Alongside Errol Flynn Marina, Port Antonio, Jamaica
Wind and seas calm, clouds 2/8 cumulous

Narrative: Henry Bell

Photo Caption: A school of Trigger Fish take great interest in the chum bag (a bait sack full of frozen fish bits), as described by Jen in the previous day’s blog.

We’re not even halfway done with our trip throughout the Caribbean, and I’m already planning a return trip in my head to sail back to this astounding part of the world. Each port stop we’ve been to, each island we’ve left in our wake, and each passage we’ve sailed through is incredibly unique, and I constantly am seized by the desire to fully explore them and unlock their secrets. How do sailors pass the time on the island of Jost Van Dyke near St. John? What goes on in the little villages that we passed while on the bus in the Dominican Republic? Why does one woman at the market in Samana sell sandals that look like ancient Greek gladiator shoes? (very comfy by the way, and as boat shoes they’re not too shabby)

I took the watch at 0700 this morning along with the rest of A Watch as we motored full steam ahead for the harbor of Port Antonio, Jamaica. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of using the engine, what with the loud thrumming, aimlessly flapping sails, and unnatural pitch and roll that go along with it (not to mention extra loud, hot, and sweaty hourly boat checks). One of my favorite sailing moments (prior to stepping aboard the Cramer) involved having to navigate into Bar Harbor, Maine under sail and in a thick fog without the use of our motor, which had broken down. Looking back, it was a pretty dangerous situation, but in the moment I was just filled with adrenaline and excitement, eager to address the next obstacle that came our way, whether it be a shift in the wind or an approaching boat hidden in the gloom of the fog.  I guess you could say I’m doing a bit of wistful romanticizing about not having an engine, as getting from place to place on schedule and coming into harbor without one would be very difficult. But as we chugged into Port Antonio, I couldn’t help but think about 16th century explorers (and subsequent sailors over the centuries) that had to maneuver their way into this same harbor through the same narrow passage we came in, without the use of electronics and often without prior knowledge of the area or potential hazards. Anyone who says we’re adventurous and brave for signing up for a 6 week trip aboard a tall ship should take a step back and compare what we do today to what all mariners did for hundreds and hundreds of years. Not that we don’t frequently face potential dangers and problems - the crew is fond of reminding us that we should never let our guard down or feel completely secure - but the sailing experience has definitely changed drastically over the past couple hundred years to become much safer.

Anyway, as we came into Port Antonio today I immediately realized why we were motoring so fast to get here on time. The hills, covered in luscious foliage and dotted with small houses, jut upwards around the two harbors of Port Antonio. Navy Island protects the western harbor, within which we are currently docked. The dock we are alongside is actually a small cruise ship pier owned by the Errol Flynn Marina and resort. The little resort, which is located on a narrow peninsula that separates the two harbors of Port Antonio, is so named because Errol Flynn, an avid sailor and Hollywood movie actor in the 1930s, actually lived here for several years and made Port Antonio a popular place to come to. But since Errol Flynn’s death, the place has dropped off quite sharply in its popularity for the rich and flashy tourists who used to come here. These days, Port Antonio is now known for its many ecotourism locations. However, now that Errol Flynn has returned (in the form of our deckhand and Errol Flynn-lookalike Kevin, who is currently rocking an absolutely killer crusty black moustache), I wouldn’t be surprised if the area began to experience a resurgence in popularity amongst the Hollywood crowd. 

Looking forward to getting out into Port Antonio tomorrow to experience what our guidebook says “is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.” Happy St. Lucia’s Day to the family and happy 18th birthday, Grace! Hope everyone back home is getting lots of snow.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


December 13, 2012
1900, Trip Log: 951 nm
18°52.37 N x 075°16.10 W
Wind: NExE, Sea: ENE 2ft, Pressure 1013.5, Temp: 28°C
Starboard Tack, Single-Reefed Main and Stays’ls, Lookout Posted Forward

Photo Caption: Sunset on the Bow

Posted By: Jen Rose Hyde

Greetings from the Greater Antilles! Currently in the Windward Passage, located between Cuba and Haiti, in route to Jamaica with fingers crossed that we will be arriving by noon tomorrow! Wahoo! In some ways it seems like we just left Samana, DR and in others it has been many sunrises and sunsets since. Time is a strange concept aboard the Cramer. Today was highlighted by a unique science experience, the setting out of chum, in hopes of catching a glimpse of a possibly extinct Jamaican Petrel seabird. We didn’‘t catch a glimpse of that wild Petrel but we did however get the chance to spot a few Black-capped Petrels which brought about some hype in the birding world. The day has been filled with Caribbean sunshine and jokes of ‘buckets of fun’ and ‘get your winklin’ on’ in the science lab, learning stars, old lines, new lines, setting all the sails and sweatin’ it and then striking them all again in the game of science. A highlight to my day was sitting on the bow and singing songs with some of my crew pals, including some absolutely great renditions of Disney songs that included Little Mermaid, Lion King, and Aladdin that had me absolutely hysterically laughing. Of course we did cover some Bing and sent out a quite lovely chorus of White Christmas to all our loved ones back home that we are thinking of.

The stars have been absolutely cosmic and Lookout/Bow watches for evening/twilight/midnight/wee morning hours of watch has fast become a sacred and special place for each of us; a time to be quiet, to just listen to the wind, the sea and gaze at the stars (and of course keeping a sharp eye out for any navigational hazards). To be amazed at each blazing meteorite that appears in the night sky. Time for reflection. Time for personal thought. Time, as one of my crew mates put it, to just focus on the present. There is quite a bit of meditation that’s happening in that spot. On a ship that can seem huge at times and yet quiet small at others it is a glorious moment to breathe in the wind on the bow with a fresh horizon ahead.

Tonight we are full steam ahead, running with our main engine on as well as our sails. This is a first, before today out of the 951 logged nautical miles traveled we have only run the engine for 9.5 hours. That’s some serious sailing. We are making a pit stop for science around 0000 for a neuston tow on Formigas Bank in route to Jamaica. Luckily, I will be on watch and catch the action on the science deck. Around 3am I will be relieved from watch and catch a wee hour morning deck shower that makes you feel alive again after a long day at sea. The “sleep of kings’ awaits me tomorrow as well as the excitement of a vibrant country, a new port stop, adventure, mountains, people, new roads and footsteps, new paths to walk and explore….

A shout out to my eggnog drinking, C-cookie taste testing, twilight wasseling the docks, sleepytime sippin’ family, I miss you all and love you like all the stars and grains of sands combined.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Post By: Erin Schulz
Date: December 12, 2012
DR Position: 19° 31.7’N x 73° 53.0’W
Heading: 230 PSC
Weather: Light winds from ENE and

Photo Caption: Science never sleeps-Tori is trying to eavesdrop on a whale.

Greetings from Cramer! We’re making our way through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba on our way to Jamaica. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a couple of weeks now since we boarded, which means deadlines for our papers are fast approaching! If I’ve learned one thing about the Cramer, it’s that science never sleeps. That was especially clear to me last night as I tossed a bucket over the side to get data for Henry’s research project. The high wind and waves made it a challenge to get a full bucket over the edge, and I took a minute to marvel at the dedication to learning about the ocean structured into our program. Today we spent our class time talking about bioluminescence and meeting with our science mentor to prepare for the results phase of our scientific research. Sea turtle sightings have been sparse, but I’ve found an abundance of turtle food to use as data.

Oceanography aside, nautical science has also proven to keep a 24-hour schedule. Whether we’re shooting the angle to the sun at local noon to learn our latitude or participating in a “star frenzy” at twilight to figure out a line of position, there’s always some way the sky can guide us. In our morning class, we discussed how navigation occurred prior to the use of compasses and sextants, when the wind, waves, and celestial bodies were truly the only reference. Captain Tom Sullivan foreshadowed that he may switch off the light on the compass some night and expect us to steer by the stars. Just when I’d started to feel comfortable at the helm, a new challenge is issued! That’s usually how things go, though. I’m never comfortable for very long before there’s another comfort-zone stretching activity ahead.

New steering methods aside, the helm is inching up on my list of favorite things to do on the Cramer. I still like celestially navigating best, and bow watch is high on my list, but taking the helm of the ship allows you to listen closer to her rhythms and the dance of the wind and waves around her. Tomorrow I should get my first chance to go aloft, so we’ll see where that falls on my list of favorite things.

Love and early Merry Christmas to my family in Washington and Happy Finals to all my friends in St. Paul.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Post by: Chelsea
Date: December 11, 2012
DR Position: 20o30.4’Nx72o40.1’W
Heading: 295oPSC
Weather: ExN winds force four, 3/8 cumulus clouds
Photo Caption: Erin, navigational wizard in training

Though the staff spends most of their time explaining otherwise, I’m still convinced the Cramer runs on wizardry. Our steel-hulled ship weighs hundreds of tons but speeds through the water with canvas sails. The saltwater hose sprays bioluminescence at night. We walk uphill in the middle of the ocean.  Celestial navigation has been one of the most recent types of nautical wizardry we’ve been practicing. Using a sextant, a navigational tool invented in the 18th century, we shoot our angle to various celestial bodies, add math, and shake vigorously, resulting in our position in the ocean. The GPS sits covered and quiet in the corner. It’s a skill that takes practice, and practice we’ve had in the past few days. Our first celestial assignment was shooting a sun line and plotting it on a chart to see our latitude and longitude. We’ve also been practicing shooting stars at twilight and the sun at its highest point in the day. The sextant may look quaint, but don’t underestimate it. It’s still a very relevant tool that is worth the mental sweat.

Once I put my sextant away, I tagged along with the engineers to learn about the more technologically advanced wizardry of the engine room. Cramer has a main engine, two generators, water makers, refrigerant systems, wastewater systems, battery storage, bilge pumps, and probably even a hot tub somewhere back there. We checked lots of levers and dials, did weekly maintenance, and worked on the reverse osmosis water systems. The Cramer has six freshwater tanks but needs to desalinate seawater to keep up with our demand. Still, we can’t make all the water we need for the trip as we go, so we’ve been practicing water conservation by taking a lot of saltwater deck showers. Thanks to B watch’s engineering report yesterday, we all know more about how the water system works, but that doesn’t stop us from giving thanks to the tiny wizards who keep our sinks supplied.

The best kind of wizardry on the Cramer is time wizardry - in 24 hours we do more learning and work than seems possible. We’ve sent water collection equipment to 1000 meters, dragged surface nets, learned navigational stars, worked on oceanographic research, cooked, reviewed rules of the road, cleaned, conquered fears, had discussions about our last port stop, caught fish, and maybe even slept. My bunk seems a very magical place right now, even.

Hocus pocus from the ocean,

PS: Happy holidays to friends and family! Midwest, midbest.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Date: December 11, 2012
DR Position: 20° 10.4’Nx71° 35.4’W
Heading: 250° PSC
Weather: Wind ExS Force 4, 4/8 Cumulus Air Temp. 27.5oC
Photo Caption: The Reef Team on the small boat anchored outside of Samana

Narrative: Clark Bockelman (Hungry like the wolves B Watch)

In the words of our chief scientist, Jeff Schell, “Yeaaaaa science!” Little did I know when I said we would have four hours for rest and science every day on our cruise track proposals, that it would be more like 24 hours of science and no rest! There’s nothing quite like our daily announcements and reports on the quarter deck of Mama Cramer, and I enjoy that I’ve become used to class on the rolling seas. We may have the occasional interruption by a squall, where we have to move class below, or by the shout of, “Fish on!” and soon enough a Mahi is flopping on deck. When I’m distracted by the beauty around me, I forget that we are constantly collecting data for research. We are always busy here on Cramer, and not a single day goes by where I don’t learn something new. 

As we made our way back out to sea I believe we all had to search for that little bit of knowledge we may have forgotten while anchored, but not to worry, the learning doesn’t stop when we’re anchored! As part of the Reef Team, I can say that a little bit of anchorage doesn’t stop the learning and the work load only increases. The goal of the Reef Team’s oceanographic research project is to compare the reef ecosystem health of specific sites in St. John, Samana, and Port Antonio. So far we have collected data from St. John and Samana which includes: water quality samples, fish and invertebrate biodiversity, and a coral/substrate analysis. I should mention we have changed our methods since the first survey zone, as we ran into a few troubles after swimming for nearly two straight hours in St. John. I won’t give too many details, but it involved getting tangled in transect tape, carrying equipment, which is heavy, all while swimming and avoiding the fragile reef below, and breathing through a tube 100 yards from shore. It’s tough work, but we picked it, and it’s all very rewarding when you can put the hard parts aside and enjoy where you’re at and what you’re seeing. I’ve come to know this as a common theme onboard Cramer. Survey zone number two in Samana went much smoother, and we knocked out all the data collection without any snags! We saw some amazing biodiversity, experienced a thermocline, and snagged a great picture of it all with Cramer set way in the background. As always, I can’t wait for the rest of today, tomorrow, and all the great things we’ll do in Port Antonio when we arrive in three days.

Sending some love home, and I hope all is well!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Post by: Roxie
Date: December 9th, 2012
GPS Position: 19° 34.88’N x 69° 19.22’W
Heading and speed: 345°
Weather: Wind NNE, Beaufort 3, Cumulus clouds

Photo caption: A galley “tear and swear” - ripping up all paper, cardboard, and foil to appropriate size to throw overboard. (Pictured: Lauren, Charlie, Jen)

Oh hello there, you might not know me, my name is Roxie. I’’m the resident diesel stove and I reside in the galley. I may cook all the food on board, but don’’t get the wrong idea, it’s merely a gesture to please my minions so they will continue to serve me.

On a regular day, I get woken up around 0330-0400. Some minion will come into the galley to get me up and running and then fan me, since I don’’t like to get too hot. About an hour later, my stewards come in to tend to me.

Today was a bit different since it was a field day. I got to sleep in since field days are my bath days. Naturally, I must be completely cool before my minions come scrub me, so they must sacrifice the eggs and bacon and make do with cereal on these days. Right after breakfast, the minions set to work scrubbing me, as well as all my pots and pans, and bins, and shelves. I refuse to live in a bed of filth. I wish I could just stay clean and cool forever, but alas, as soon as the bath was over, I had to get fired up again.

Now, I’’ve heard of stoves who cater to their stewards every temperature whim, but I can tell you that I am no such stove! I will be at whatever temperature I feel like. I know who I am and no one can change me!!! So if you want hot water, better put a pot on the stove earlier! You don’’t want burnt bread? Put a piece of tinfoil on it!

Today, my stewards wisely chose not to stress me out and try to make me heat fast enough to cook lunch. The minions gratefully dined on sandwiches. They know I just shut off and turn on my red light when I get stressed out, and then no one is happy.

I got a short nap in the afternoon, but then the stewards came back into my galley and threw beans and fish on my head for tacos and put some strange, graham cracker/coffee/pretzel/chocolate concoction inside the ovens. Oh how I wish I could always be clean, but, since the minions enjoyed the tacos, I suppose that is the sacrifice a good stove makes. I eagerly look forward to my next cleaning on field day! Now please do excuse me, it is bedtime….



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Post by: Becca Hernandez
Date: December 8th, 2012
Time: 2000
Photo Caption: A painting I purchased from local artist in the DR.

Hello all!
Becca here, reporting from the Corwith Cramer. Pretty cool, I know. Even cooler is that I am in the Dominican Republic! First stamp on my passport! Bienvenidos a Samana! This fact of epic proportions is just the beginning of my travels. The day began with duties of being on anchor, which includes the maintenance of the ship. The crew including myself, helped out with maintenance such as repairs and organization galore. Personally, this was a great build up to the freedom that would ensue in the Dominican Republic. It was well worth the wait.  Before long, I and five others were headed via small boat to the dock. That is where my port stop adventures began.

Deciding to be a two woman adventure team, Jen and I set off from the group. Our tactic was full immersion and exploration. The day before, Jen and I were fully inspired to start this process. Yesterday we found ourselves lost and with the help of my Spanish, aka spanglish, we were able to find the first Evangelical church of the Dominican Republic! As an added stroke of fate, we found the teacher who we sang with at the secondary school, which I’m sure, was mentioned in previous posts. She told usnsomething I would never forget, “life is short, but I feel the love”.

Inspiration in hand Jen and I ‘lost ourselves’ in Samana once again. Trying to find the bridge that crossed the bay was a failure that led to approximately 15 mosquito bites. However, it took a turn for the better as we ventured away from the tourist area. We found a local artist who went by the name of Marshall. He was an independent artist who was super laid back and showed us his gallery. There I fell in love with a painting. The painting had to be mine as it was a true view of what I had been seeing in the DR, not just generic palm trees. I will keep this painting forever, as the memory of Jen’s and my adventures into the back roads of the Dominican Republic. These port stop experiences have enriched my time here, and opened my mind to new perspectives.

In closing, although I have not been sea sick at all, I have been home sick. Shout out to all my friends at home and at the Berg, I miss you all, you know who you are. To my family, yes I am alive…
As captain Jack Sparrow would say,



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Post by: Amy McDonagh
Date: December 7th, 2012
GPS Position: 19°11.6’N x 60°20.0’W
Heading and speed: Anchored in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic
Weather: Beaufort force 3, Wind out of ENE, with cumulus clouds fully covering the sky.

Photo caption: At La Sangria, we were fed delicious watermelon fresh from the ground.

¡Qué día magnifica!  I doubt whether many of us can decide whether the crashing seas in the open ocean or the breathtaking intrigue of our port stops strike a richer chord with each of us. This was our second full day in the beautiful port town of Samaná in the Dominican Republic, and we have not missed a beat since arriving. To the shore by 8:00 (or should I say 0800), we (the students), Captain Sullivan, and Jeff all piled into an open air “safari” truck which swept us up the main road away from town. Though the ride was bumpy, much fun was had in traversing the deep puddles that speckled the dirt roads leading to our destinations.

Our first stop was at El Iguanario, a conservation establishment based out of a small, colorful building that stood on the hillside. We sat on wooden benches under an open awning, and learned that this place was in fact created to promote the conservation and protection of the indigenous iguanas of the Dominican Republic. These creatures play a crucial part in the island’s ecosystem, but are endangered due to humans hunting them for the oils that they produce. The founder’s passionate defense of these creatures was further solidified by the opportunity to hold baby iguanas, and then feed adult iguanas. It was, to say the least, adorable and awesome.

Next, after hopping back on the bus for another bumpy ride through the hills, we came to La Sangria, un ecocampo (an eco-tourist camp). This was one of the most beautiful places I have been to in my lifetime, and one of the most interesting. A working farm as well as a vacation spot, La Sangria stood just beyond the shadows of a stunning mountain range. We were guided through rolling fields where okra, watermelon, pumpkins, pineapples, and a plethora of other delicious vegetation grew. The owner of La Sangria and her endlessly beaming uncle guided us through the crops, stopping often to let us sample the fresh watermelon, okra and… oh my goodness, the pineapple. I have never tasted something so delicious in my life. I usually don’t even like pineapples, but this was the juiciest, most delectable food you could imagine. We all gathered around as they sliced more and more open, sticky smiles stretching over our faces as we bit into the sweet yellow fruit. After we were done with our tour, they brought us back to the main building, which was open, beautiful and serene, and treated us to a delicious lunch made entirely out of crops grown at the ecocampo or the surrounding region.

After lunch, we rode off to visit a ginger farm, or rather an agricultural co-op, which grew ginger locally and organically (a much harder accomplishment than I had previously thought), and exported it to Germany. Though struggling due to economic reasons and the hardships of growing crops on a relatively small scale to be sold on the international market, their desire to establish a conscientious organization that strove to grow organic and fairly traded produce was extremely inspiring. They also made a variety of products that they sold locally out of the ginger that they grew. We were able to sample ginger bread and ginger tea, the latter of which was too strong for most of our group’s taste buds, but I personally enjoyed greatly.

Our last stop of the day was at La Playa Rincon, a gorgeous beach which was, sadly, littered with trash that swept in with each wave.  Playa Rincon faces directly into the NE Trade winds and receives all the trash swept to sea from the many islands to windward. We spent our time there doing a beach-cleanup and admiring the crashing waves before the beautiful backdrop of the mountains. We returned to the ship content, tired, happy, and feeling accomplished for a day of travel and work.

To all parents and friends reading this, including my own, be prepared to have your loved one return with lots of ideas on how to help these establishments continue to grow and spread their roots.

A small message to my parents and family: I would never be here nor would I be having these experiences if it weren’‘t for your support and love; there isn’’t a day that passes during which I don’t remember that. There is so much that I can’t wait to share with you. And don’t worry, I am taking pictures. I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas season, enjoy the snow for me, y Feliz Navidad! (I also may have gotten you some Christmas presents, o regalos de Navidad… can’t be sure)



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Thursday, 6 Dec 2012 22:36
Position: 19° 11.6’ N x 69° 19.9’ W
Heading: Anchored in Samana (mana eh eh waka waka eh eh) Bay
Speed: 0 knots
Weather: Winds out of NExN at Force 2, Stratus clouds covering 6/8 of the sky with steady rain, and air temperature at 25.3°C
Photo Caption: Maggie, Jen, Patricia, Becca and Lydia feeling good on our mangrove tour
Narrative: Keara (C Watch)

¡Hola mis amigos y amores!

It has been an awesome first day in port at Samana Bay, Dominican Republic.  After a delicious (as usual) breakfast prepared by our lovely galley crew, we packed up for a jam-packed day on the island.  Although our plans to go kayaking through the mangroves fell through due to some logistical issues, the replacement was more awesome than I ever could have anticipated.  At 0800, a large catamaran pulled up to the Cramer and loaded us on board.  I took a seat on the upper level so that I would have a prime view during our tour.  We sped off through the bay to Los Haitistes National Park, which was one of the more beautiful sights I’‘ve seen in my lifetime. I kept having to double check that what I was looking at was real, because it looked like something straight out of National Geographic magazine.  The entire area is made of enormous chunks of limestone, slowly cut away by erosion and currents.  The result are tons of deep caves, covered on top by thick, bright green tropical foliage.  Our tour guide, Wilfredo, called the area the “lung of the Caribbean” because the rain that falls in this area feeds tons of rivers throughout the island—and we definitely got a taste of some of that rain, but it was a welcome respite from the hot sun. (Sorry northern readers, #caribbeanproblems)

After circling some smaller formations that were home to some masked boobies, jamaican petrels, brown pelicans and blue herons, we got to explore two huge caverns that were down mangrove channels.  One of the caves was used by the Taino people who predated Columbus on the island, and their cave drawings are all over the walls.  It was incredible to see.  The other one had a giant ficus growing almost sideways through a small hole near the top of the cave, and some of the biggest natural limestone columns I’‘ve seen in my entire life.  I felt like such an adventurer scrambling over the rocks through the caves.

After we were sufficiently covered in guano, we loaded back onto the catamaran and headed to shore.  On the way back to Samana, we saw a shark (!!) swimming through the water.  Then we visited the Samana Whale Museum, and then to the middle school, that Maggie and Rebecca both mentioned earlier, to sing our Canción de Conservación.  Nothing is more humbling than seeing an eleven year old speak English better than you can speak Spanish after eight years of studying the language.  (Sorry Señora Olivares!)  But the kids were a lot of fun, and they rocked at baseball (we watched them play in the school yard after we wrapped up in class).  After our visit, we had our first free time in a port stop all trip!  A group of us went to a market in Samana (don’t worry Mom, it was a big group and I didn’‘t go anywhere by myself) and I got a kick start on my Christmas shopping.  The exchange rate and the fact that most things aren’’t price marked made it challenging at first, but by the end of the evening I had a little more of a feel for how deals go down here.  Once it started to rain again, we were ready for dinner and ate at a delicious place right on the main road where I had Barbecue pork and fried plantains.  After some ice cream and a round of pool at a spot right by the docks, it was time to head back to the Cramer more than twelve hours after we had left it.  Now, I’m just drying off and getting ready to sleep so that I can have energy to do it all again tomorrow!

I hope everyone who is reading this is having a wonderful holiday season and really starting to get into the spirit.  It’s been a little hard being so out of touch with all of you, but I just want to let everyone know that I have been thinking of you and missing you all very much and I hope you’re all doing well.  I’m having such a great time, though, and having so many adventures—so you had better have the entire month of January free so that I can tell you all of my stories!

To my family and pup, happy early Christmas and I’m sorry I will not be there to celebrate with you, but I promise Second Christmas will knock your socks off. And to all of the other special people in my life keep sending me emails and I will read them as soon as I can! Buenas Noches.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Wednesday, 5 Dec 2012 16:00
Position: 19o 11.5’ N x 69o 20.0’ W
Heading: Anchored in Samana Bay!
Speed: 0 knots
Weather: Winds out of the ENE at Beaufort Force 3, Cumulus cloud coverage of 5/8 with air temperature at 27.0oC (and there’s a rainbow !!)
Photo Caption: Iguana at the Whim Plantation
Narrative: Maggie (A Watch)

Greetings from Samana! At 1215 today we anchored in Samana Bay, which means Cramer is currently sitting in 20.8 meters of water approximately 0.3 nautical miles offshore. Because we entered a different country (HOORAY!) the ship and crew has to be cleared by customs before we’re allowed ashore. As our Captain takes care of that, we will remain on regular (A,B,C) watches and continue typical daily activities (classes, hourlies, boat checks, etc.) The plan is to stay on board Cramer tonight, and following a 0630 “All Hands” breakfast in the morning shuttle ashore on a small boat. The activities for tomorrow include a tour through Los Haistises National Park and visiting a local middle school. As Rebecca mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we will be singing “La Cancion del Conservacion” to the students when we visit. Also, following these activities Port Watch (watches at anchor are split into Port Watch and Starboard Watch) will have free time in Samana for dinner!! Tomorrow Starboard watch will get this opportunity as well.


In the world of science, many deployments have occurred since yesterday and I happened to be on lab from 0700 to 1300 today so I can tell you all about them! At 0830 this morning we deployed the hydrophone and we were able to hear a dolphin! Following the hydrophone, the shipek grab, the RBR-CTD, and a niskin bottle were all deployed using the hydrowinch. Water samples were filtered for Chlorophyll-A readings and the sediment from the shipek grab was stowed in the reefer for further analysis. Becca is using the shipek grab samples for her oceanography project, so she is the one who will analyze these samples. The RBR-CTD data was entered onto the lab computer and all equipment was rinsed and stowed away. It is true to say that on Cramer, science never sleeps!

A Random Section:

In other news, breakfast this morning (well every meal, really) was delicious! We had homemade cinnamon rolls, sausage, and pineapple and kiwi! I still can’t believe how incredible the food is. Charlie and Lauren are the best stewards ever! Also, I have been extremely lucky in getting to do some birding with the 1st Scientist, Mitch. In St. John we saw several Antillean-Crested Hummingbirds as well as a dove species that I cannot remember the name of right now. He and I spent some time today going over which birds to look for in Samana including a bird called the Broad-Billed Tody. I highly recommend googling this bird if you have never seen one. It is by far the cutest bird most of us have ever seen a picture of, so we really hope to see it while we’re here!

Life at Sea:

As you all (blog followers) know, the last few days have been kind of rough in regards to squall frequency and wave height. 10 foot seas are definitely a stretch from anything that I have ever experienced, and for sure a stretch from anything my stomach has experienced. We were able to make some fun out of it, though, as we played Jenga on the gimbaled tables and had competitions to see who could balance the longest. I’ve learned that because we are in such a confined space with such limited access to the things ashore that typically keep us happy it is extremely important to make the best of what we have here at sea. I have had some “lows” over the last few days but it was the jam session on the bow and zooplankton Pictionary on the quarterdeck that kept me going. “Highs” at sea are so much more influential than any “high” I’ve reflected upon in a normal day at school or at home. These brief and scattered moments of joy and community are how we make it through a rough day at sea. Last night the sky opened up and the squalls dissipated. As I stood lookout on the bow under a sky of a million stars and over brilliant waves of bioluminescence there was nothing that could stop the beauty and power of life at that moment. That moment was everything I dreamed of when I signed up for this program and it happened. It’s still happening right now.


To Mom, Dad, Anna, Sarah, Shelly and Mini: I miss you guys!! I’ve had quite a few very very seasick days but I’m taking a stronger prescription that is working wonders! The iguana in the picture is most likely related to Don Rico de los Arboles. Don’t forget to have the Christmas Open House, and be sure to save me some cookies! Love you!

To the rest of the family and friends: I miss you and I can’t wait to hear about everything you’ve been up to since I left when I come back in January!

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, Joy to you and me.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


1800ish, December 4, 2012
Noon Position: 19 ° 2.5’ N x 68° 15’ W
Heading: Hove To, with an approximate heading of 150° PSC
Speed: However fast we’re drifting
Weather: Beaufort Force 4 winds with 8 foot seas, 4/8 cumulous cloud cover,
28° C
Narrative: Rebecca Ogus

Photo: An end of Line Chase conga line (get it?) around the deck of Mama

Dear Friends and Family,

Welcome to another day on the Cramer!  Today we sailed along north of the Mona Passage, the body of water separating Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic (DR).  Seas have been between seven and nine feet, high for a novice like me, but normal Trade Winds sailing for our more experienced crew.  The wind was the strongest ‘I’ve seen it as well, blowing for most of the day at a force five or six, and only calming down to a force four in the past hour.  We truly are “Student Drivers, Celestially Navigating, Under Sail” now, since we are relying solely on celestial navigation and dead. reckoning for our positions.  Students shooting sun lines with sextants have grown more and more frequent over the past few days!

We finished up our “Creature Feature” presentations during class today. Chelsea and I preformed a skit about a Stomatopod larvae and a crab megalopae finding love with “OK Zooplankton,” a dating website in the Sargasso Sea.  High quality puppeteering abounded, as well as informative points on plankton identification.  The ship’s company also rehearsed “The Conservation Song” on the quarterdeck.  “The Conservation Song” came out of the ‘70s’ Environmental Movement, and has been revived by Mitch, our First Scientist.  We practiced in English and Spanish, as we plan to sing it at the middle school we’ll visit in the DR. SEA has a longstanding relationship with the school, and in the past, their students have practiced their English by singing us various songs.  This year we will reciprocate with “The Conservation Song”  since it is catchy and comes with a positive message about environmental sustainability. 

There were a number of deployments off the science deck today, three of them falling under B Watch (WOO!) labbies this morning.  We deployed the hydrophone to listen in on the underwater world (you should ask Amy for all the latest wave gossip), the CTD to measure conductivity, temperature, and depth, the Neuston Net to check out our neighbors in the Neuston Layer (or the layer of water along the ocean’s surface), and a Surface Station, to measure Chlorophyll-a and Phosphate levels.  Along with hourly buckets and another Surface Station, the hydrophone was deployed again this evening and we chummed for sea birds (and a school of triggerfish) along our port side.

Tonight is a big night – we need to cover enough water to arrive in Samana, Dominican Republic, tomorrow around noon.  We had 63 nautical miles to go at noon today, and with the favorable Trade Winds we’’ve been feeling, I think we can make it.  Sitting in the library, I can feel the ship rolling between the waves; even though we are hove to (or as stopped as we can be at sea), the motion never ceases. I actually kind of like the library.  Tiny, hot, and stuffy, yes.  But it’s quiet and out of the way, and there is a porthole that sometimes gets an underwater view if the roll is big enough.  I try and look through each time to see if I can glimpse a zooplankton disco full of bioluminescence, or maybe some mahi like the ones we saw off the stern today. 

Love to Mama and Daddy and all of you you-know-who-you-ares, friends across the country and the globe.  I’ll tell you all about it when I see you next. Big hugs and sweet dreams!  Mid-watch starts in four hours…




C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Monday, December 3rd, at 1900
GPS Position: unknown and reads: “Navigate by the stars, not the
Heading: 285°T
Speed: 6 knots
Weather: Force 5 winds, cloud coverage of 6/8 – primarly altocumulus and cumulus, air temperature 27.7°C

Photo Caption: Keara, Mitch, and Patricia deploy the neuston net.

Narrative: Patricia

Believe it or not- we have only two more days of sailing left before we arrive in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic. If the next two days are anything like today, the Cramer crew will be super busy. In the past twenty-four hours, there’s been over seven science deployments, one genuine class discussion, and two-thousand squalls. Well, maybe just seven squalls but the wind speed, wave heights, and rainfall have noticeably increased since Henry’‘s entry. Nevertheless, the Puerto Rico Trench has been a solid location for science deployments. The labbies attempted to use the hydrophone to listen to mega fauna under the sea’s surface. The only thing I heard were sniffling and hissing sounds that turned out to be the buoy moving across the waves. Good thing there’s always tomorrow. Perhaps the mega fauna will step up their game for us! Next, the labbies successfully deployed the hydrocast – which is equipped with a CTD measuring conductivity, temperature, and depth (the depth recorded one thousand meters) along with 12 niskin bottles.  The latter are designed to bring back water samples from desired depths to be processed for student research. At noon, the neuston net caught Sargassum weed and associated fauna which contributed to the 100 count for zooplankton identification. Lab activities ceased for class at 1430.

Today’s class revolved around creature feature presentations and port reflections. The crew witnessed Keara’s energetic rap about salps to the tune of Snoop Dog’s “Drop it like it’s hot.” Jen revealed her artistic side with a colorful and informative poster about medusas. Maggie created the game “Hyperiid Amphipod Says” in order for the class to learn about the creature’s instinctive movements. Clark not only brought a headless shrimp to pass around for a “hands-on” learning experience but he also played an original and catchy song about shrimp on his ukulele. I staged a fake surgical operation and asked my fellow classmates to help me tape the krill’s body parts up together in order to sharpen identification skills. After presentations, the class reflected upon our port visit to St. John. We vocally compared and contrasted St. John’s preserved area and history to the more-developed islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas.

The frequent squalls throughout the twenty-four hour period have not stopped us from doing what we do! All of the crew has attained sea legs that keep us from walking like intoxicated ducks that constantly bump into walls and doors. Just to include a prime example, Keara fell out of her bed today (without bumping her head on the stairs), caught herself on the poll, and swung herself around to land on the sole with a small thump, all of this with her shirt over her head. Her incident highlights our motives. We continue to rotate through watches, work in the science lab, and finish our assignments as Cramer rocks us back and forth towards the Dominican Republic.

A shout out to Mama, Tata, Jordan, Dusia and the Fam, The Brain Gang, and my friends reading the blog. Love and miss you all!!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


1900, Sunday, December 2nd, 2012
Ded. Reckoning Position: 19° 28’ N x 065° 57’ W
Heading: 203° True
Speed: 0.2 Knots
Weather: Wind from the ESE at beaufort force 1, 4 foot waves from the E,
cloud cover of 6/8 – primarily cumulous

Photo Caption: The crew (from right to left: Jordan, Henry, Clark, Chelsea,
Becky, Pat, Lydia, and Ben) digs in hard and hauls in the main halyard.

Narrative: Henry Bell

What a day. You think there wouldn’t be much to do while sailing in the wide open Atlantic Ocean? Hop aboard the Cramer and you’ll soon find that you’re sorely mistaken. As always, there is science to conduct (we’re crossing over the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean), squalls to contend with, nautical and marine science to learn, and a ship to sail with no GPS to guide us (available but purposely covered as a challenge).

As seen in the heading of this blog entry, we are currently navigating using the deduced reckoning technique.This means we are estimating our current position each hour based upon a previous known position, or fix, by using our course steered for each hour as well as our log run (our distance through the water as registered by the taffrail log). However, we were able to get a fix at noon today using a couple of celestial lines of position. Lydia and I first found the meridian passage of the sun for today’s date at our estimated latitude and longitude using a nautical almanac and Arc-Time calculations, and then Erin, Jessie, and the Bengineer were able to go out with their sextants and shoot the noon angle of the sun at 1208 to give us one celestial line of position. Combined with the celestial line of position that Captain Sully recorded on our chart after shooting the sun’s angle at 0800 this morning, we were able to determine our position, a celestial running fix, to be 19° 23’ N x 065° 54’ W just after noon today. Pretty awesome stuff. Unfortunately, the wind has died down the past couple of hours and our movement has slowed down drastically. Sounds of the Mainstays’l, Course, and Tops’l flapping under their weight in the becalmed air are loud on the ship’s deck.

In other news, we conducted a couple of science deployments today, including a hydrophone, neuston net tow, and CTD that the science team of Chelsea, Maggie, Pat, and I lowered 962 meters down into the ocean to measure conductivity and temperature. Of course, we are unable to deploy our scientific instruments without first heaving to, so first I bravely directed the gybe and heave-to by sheeting in the forestays’’l and mainstays’l while directing the helmswoman, Becca, to turn the helm hard over to the left so as to fall away from the wind, set our stays’ls aback, and then keep us heading up into the wind. To further reduce unwanted movement, Becca then directed the crew to set the single-reefed mains’l to counteract the force of the backed stays’ls.

During class today at 1430, Amy, Becca, Erin, and I gave the first of our zooplankton presentations on the quarterdeck in the midst of a robust squall. Amy talked about copepods, the most abundant multi-celled organisms in the ocean (and on Earth). Becca described ostracods, crustacaens that come in many colors and migrate based upon lunar cycles. Erin presented chaetognaths (what?), carnivorous bandits of the sea. I taught the crew about polychaetes by having them pin pictures of its various appendages, from palps to tentacular cirri, on a drawing of its body. We concluded class with a pin rail relay race, which unfolded with bountiful merriment and a little bit of confusion as students and deckhands moved about the deck pointing out the pins where the halyards, downhauls, sheets, inhauls, and outhauls (among other things) of all the sails are made fast. Hearty congrats to B Watch (Clark, Kevin, Jen, Rebecca, Amy, and Jordan) for being the fastest team to complete the race.

Don, Betsy, Grace, and Maria – miss ya guys, hope you’re not too bitter about the sun setting at 3 PM up there in Minnesota while I cruise about the Caribbean. Shout out to the extended family as well, hope all is well. To friends at college and elsewhere, I’m sure you’re all still killin life as per usual.

We’re makin’ all kinds of gains! All kinds!!



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Saturday December 1st, 2012
2000, Ship Heading 320 True
Speed 4.4 knots, Cloud Cover 4/8’s Cumulus, Wind from the ESE at 10 knots,
Air Temperature 28 C and Barometer 1012.5
GPS Position: Unknown and reads: “Navigate by the stars, not thesatellites.”

Photo Caption: “A vibrant discovery on St. John, USVI.”

  With our navigation lights burning brightly (red over green= sailing machine), we sail along under the canopy of the universe. The stars enfold us, both grounding us and let our dreams soar with each blazing shooting star. The Captain is diligently writing the night orders in the ‘Dog-House’, our navigation station, and A-watch has the deck manning the helm, sail handling, science lab and lookout. I took a wander as I gathered my thoughts for writing the blog this evening and took a stroll to the bow. I leaned over, one point off the bow and had a mesmerizing moment. The breaking bow waters are casting waves that are alive and vibrant with glowing bioluminescence that are creating a magical moment at sea.

It has been a busy-bee day aboard the Cramer. A wake up call at 0600 arose me from my slumber and a 0620 breakfast of champs with B-Watch and “Others” of a delicious array of cereal, fresh fruit and as always the mystery fruit juice (that no one quite knows what it is but its cold and hits the spot) fueled me for starting watch with my crew “B Watch” at 0700. Starting the day anchored at Francis Bay, St. John, USVI we said our goodbyes to our lovely professor, Liz, who departed the Ship’s Company and will be sorely missed until Key West. We welcomed the start of the first full day with the newest member of our Ship’s Company who arrived the evening of the 30th, Tim McGee, President of SEA who will be crewing with us until reaching the Dominican Republic.

As we made ready to retrieve the anchor and set sail, evaluating and executing all the many tasks that needed to be completed in order to do so, the Science Lab, like a well-oiled machine without a squeak, deployed and retrieved a Shipek Grab. Wahoo Science Team! Retrieving the anchor and setting the Fore Stays’l, Tops’l, and the Main Sail with a single reef, with a course ordered of 315 psc sailing on a starboard tack we said our goodbyes to St. John, USVI and let the Trade winds fill our sails. After a full day of watch till 1300, I sat down for lunch and caught a quick 20 minute cat nap before all hands to the Quarter Deck at 1430. The afternoon was filled with a field day unlike one I have ever known, the hunt and extermination of “Mung.” You might wonder and ask what is this “Mung” and where is it found? It turns out that it is the hidden dirt and grime that accumulates from a life well lived aboard ship. It can only be found by exploring every nook and cranny and conquered with tools such as scrubbing “mung” tooth brushes, 1, 2, and 3 cornered sponges and stomachs of steel. Amazingly after a few hours the ship is sparkling and smells quite pleasant, due to the hard work and morale of a great team. A salt water shower,  dinner, and research for our “creature features” and our anticipated relay race of the ship’s lines tomorrow and it is about time to catch that shut eye until the wakeup call for 2300-0300 “B-Watch” where I will visit the stars on the deck.

A shout out to my loved and missed ninjas, pirates and gypsies, Rast Family and a GO FOR GOLD for a certain Sarahpoo. Lots of Love and Shooting

Star Wishes to you all.
Jen Rose Hyde, Student



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Day, Date, and Time: Friday, November 30, 2012
GPS Position:  18° 21.7’ N 064° 45.1’W
Heading:  Anchored in Francis Bay
Speed: Anchored
Weather: Gentle winds from NE, sheet of stratus clouds, some showers. 

Photo Caption: Students and staff pause for a photo op at Maho Bay Camps.
The panoramic view behind us made the trek up the stairs worthwhile!

Erin Shulz

Today we took the small boat to St. John once again for a day full of history, science, and recreation. We started our morning by hiking to the Annenberg plantation, where we took a self-guided tour through the grounds of the slave quarters, windmill, and the sugar processing house. Scattered signs remind us that this was a slave plantation, but there’s no denying the natural beauty of the place. Liz, our humanities teacher, mentioned in a lecture long ago that the spot was a popular wedding site. The thought of getting married at a plantation seemed strange and disrespectful to me. Yet after talking through some historical facts and reflecting for a few moments on how the site was represented, our class turned to cracking coconuts and testing aloe on our sunburned spots. We were standing in the middle of history and heartbreaking violence, but what held our attention most was the nature creeping back in around the seams. I took a moment to think about how much of the site had been rebuilt (we could see the patch jobs in each of the structures) and realized that we were holding on to our history against the course of nature. As we ate a picnic lunch and students scurried around identifying local birds and sketching land recognition drawings, I thought about the balance between remembering the lessons we’‘ve learned from history and finding beauty and joy in the new things that grow every day.

After our tour of the plantation, we trekked down to the beach for some hardcore science and snorkeling. While Clark, Chelsea and Jen collected data on reef health, Keara and Patricia collected samples to test for ciguatera, and Henry took temperature data. The rest of us took some time to relax. I swam away from the coral and into the grassy seabed, hoping to catch just one glimpse of a sea turtle for the megafauna project, but no such luck. When all the data was collected and all the swimmers ran out of steam we marched through mosquito armies back to the shore. At the shore, we met some of the deckhands. They mentioned casually that they’d seen a bunch of sea turtles. While I was excited about the data, I felt a surge of jealousy. Our Chief Scientist turned to me and informed me that I had half an hour to slip back into my snorkel gear and find a sea turtle. The assistant steward, Lauren, led me on a turtle hunt. Just when I thought we’d have to give up and swim back for shore, we spotted a sea turtle, chilling just above the sea floor.

The greatest part about today, though, was not seeing the sea turtle. Once I got back aboard Cramer, I was asked by no less than seven people if my search had been successful. Their enthusiasm, their genuine excitement for me, was my favorite part of the day. I was reminded that the Cramer is a family and that we’re all rooting for each other.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Thursday, 29 November
Anchored off St. John
Force 4 wind from the ENE, small cumulus clouds

Anyone wishing to live forever should spend time on the Corwith Cramer, where days feel like weeks and free time is a sign you’re missing something. This morning was especially busy as we sailed to our first port stop in the US Virgin Islands. The main engine was turned on and A watch and volunteer hands worked to strike sails, learning how to furl the mains’l on top of the boom to make a beautiful sail burrito. In classic SEA fashion, the science continued through the maneuvering as labbies worked hard to process shipek samples measuring sediment data and dip-netting to collect Sargassum samples for a student research project about the animals that live in the floating mats of algae. We successfully laid anchor around 1200, and after lunch and a new layer of sunscreen we piled into the small boat, motoring to our first port stop in St. John.

To learn more about ecotourism, development, and land use in the Caribbean we visited the 12 acre Maho Bay Camps. This carbon-neutral resort is a low impact “camp ground” with screened in stilt tents, hermit crabs, and serious environmental measures. Glass is recycled at an on-site glass blowing studio, gray water is treated to irrigate banana plants, and a boardwalk system that promotes plant growth and reduces erosion. Tourism is a huge part of the Caribbean economy and after all of our research and discussion in Woods Hole it was great to see that aspect of the Caribbean in person.

Just when our legs stopped wobbling we headed back to good ol’ Mama Cramer for a much needed swim call and dinner. Tonight we will all take turns standing short anchor watches to keep the ship and her crew safe. Till then, we’ll play the ukulele, work on creature features (stay tuned!) and catch up on our sleep.

Sending love and vitamin D to the northern latitudes,
Chelsea Johnson, student

Photo caption: The budget ferry to St. John.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Wednesday, 28 November 16:30
Position: 17° 57.4’ N x 64° 38.0’ W
Heading: 030o PSC sailing “Full and By” at 5.8 kt.
Winds out of the NExE at Beaufort force 4, small cumulus clouds coverage at
1/8 with air temperature at 29.0°C

Photo Caption: View of the lovely Cramer on her journey between St. Croix and St. John.

Narrative: Clark Bockelman

Welcome to the Cramer where turtles are all the way down, it’s taco night, sweaty all the time, almost as gnarly as a wicked powder day out west, matrix moves dominate the galley, and St. Croix becomes St. John, then St. John becomes St. Croix, then St. John, or wait, is it St. Croix? Simply put, welcome to C-244 where we like to REALLY navigate our way from St. Croix to St. John. Today was full of science deployments testing many aspects of the marine environment around us. We scored big time on the Cramer with our Neuston tow, achieving precision net handling for the high score of more than ten clumps of Sargassum. The Neuston tow on morning watch decided to get a little unwieldy, and made us nervous when the net decided to untie itself from the frame! But not to worry, we retrieved the net in time and our four hours for rest and science will continue daily.

We plan to arrive at St. John tomorrow and I know we are all anticipating what is ahead. These first few days have been filled with harder than normal times, especially the gimbaled tables, sea sickness, and adjusting to a new way of life, but smiles and amazing moments are appearing for all. Last night after a full day in the galley, I experienced my possible ah ha moment while cleaning the galley floor mats on deck around 21:00 with the wind blowing strong, nearly a full moon, and waves crashing and spraying over the bow. Although for many it may not provoke the moment, I just figured something out when I was doing something as simple as scrubbing those mats with detergent and a scrub brush amidst the commotion around me by nothing more than moonlight.

As we begin to enjoy the opportunity before us, considering our bunks, which I know many can relate to how the beautiful arctic breeze pushes in late at night, every day becomes better. I know there will be good and bad times ahead, but if I can personally get through using a computer mouse with a thumb ball for movement, then there is nothing stopping me or our students, deck hands, and crew from creating an amazing team together.

Shout out to my parents, KLO, and my pup Daisy, I miss and love you. Also, to Jordan’s older sister, she wishes you the best on your birthday. Happy birthday!

Until next time.



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Tuesday, 27 November

2300 Watch Change
C Watch relieves B Watch, sailing close hauled on a starboard tack under the
four lowers.  Course ordered 030° psc steering full and bye.  Wind is
Beaufort Force 5 from the E x N.  Navigation lights burning bright, lookout
posted, with a glorious full moon to light our way. 

Image caption:  Maggie, Patrick and Henry haul on the mainsheet as part of class – learning how to gybe the Cramer. 

And so it begins, our first full day (and night) underway, with the ship’s work being done, one Watch after another safely sailing the Corwith Cramer toward her next destination, with plenty of science happening along the way. Just moments ago we passed an important milestone for the trip – our first scientific station at night.  The crew of C Watch successfully maneuvered the Cramer onto a port tack going exactly 2 knots – no easy task in the strong winds.  Then the neuston net was rigged, deployed, and recovered in a timely fashion and in our net was a veritable treasure of biological diversity.  Clumps of golden brown algae called Sargassum, small crabs, fish, copepods, and a mysterious critter called a salp were among the most notable things swimming in the bucket.  Completing a detailed account of all the organisms collected, along with corresponding physical and chemical characteristics of the ocean will keep the lab busy for the next few hours. Meanwhile the crew on deck already has us sailing toward our next scientific station. 

The scientific mission of our cruise C244 has been defined by student projects, so what we learn in the next six weeks depends upon their work. Rebecca will be teaching us about all the organisms that can be found living among the floating clumps of Sargassum – the earlier neuston tow just described was for her project!  Becca is interested in the biodiversity of organisms living on the seafloor – the shipek grab described in an earlier post was for her project.  Henry is interested in how global warming has impacted sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Caribbean.  Every hour of the cruise we measure SST using a variety of methods to compare with historic data collected by former Sea Semester students dating back several decades.  Clark, Jen, and Chelsea will study the water quality and health of reef ecosystems during our many port stops.  Stay tuned, their first station begins in St John.  Keara and Patricia also begin their project in St John where they will look for the presence of a toxic dinoflagellate responsible for ciguatera fish poisoning.  Amy, Erin, and Maggie have teamed up for our last research project - documenting the change in abundance and distribution of charismatic megafauna (marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds). Diligently throughout the day we record any sightings of these beautiful and elusive seafarers and compare them to data collected from previous SEA Semester cruises.  These are the student projects that define the scientific mission of our cruise C244; important, timely, relevant scientific questions that examine the general state or ‘health’ of our oceans.  There is so much to learn; so please join us and follow along as we embark on a voyage of exploration and scientific discovery. 

Have a good night
Jeff Schell, Chief Scientist



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Monday, 26 November
8nm NNW of Buck Island, St. Croix
010 per steering compass Sailing “Full & By”
Force 5 wind from the ENE, small cumulus clouds

Photo caption: Looking at St Croix grow distant in our wake.

Narrative: What a day! This is what all of the hours of academic work ashore in Woods Hole is about, Sailing day!  After waking up this morning to an amazing breakfast, our newest shipmates went through more training to help ease the transition from shore to sea.  Topics included; Line handling scientific deployment safety, and Galley safety, some of the things that will soon become second nature to us once at sea.  Following soon after the crew went through slow paced safety drills.  The pace of the drills was slow enough that by the end every crew member knew how to respond to emergencies aboard the ship.  That took us right up to a delicious lunch, after which was our first official class on the Corwith Cramer.  The class today was a hands-on Nautical Science project, specifically “How to maneuver a 135’ Brigantine out of Gallows Bay and safely out to sea.”  Well, let me tell you the students aced it!, The ship was navigated safely out of the winding reef cut and quickly had sails set.  That wasn’t the end of the academics, oh no! The Chief Scientist picked out a shallow spot just to the North West of Buck Island and asked “B” watch to perform a Shipek sediment grab.  With some gentle coaxing from the staff the ship was navigated to the exact location, and deployed the equipment to collect the first sediment data for a student project.  As I type this message, the trade winds are gently rocking us Northward, away from St Croix and on to more learning.  It’s always amazing to see what a new day at sea brings; I hope you keep checking in to hear what happens. 

Wishing everyone reading this warm wishes and trade wind breezes.

On behalf of Cramer’s crew,
Tom ‘Sully’ Sullivan, Captain



C244 - Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean


Sunday, 25 November
Alongside Gallows Bay, Christiansted, St. Croix
Partly cloudy, a few scattered showers, light winds from the north east. 

Photo caption:  B-Watch learning how to don their safety immersion suits in
preparation for the start of our voyage. 

Narrative: Liz Fisher Maritime Studies Faculty

Greetings from St. Croix and SSV Corwith Cramer! All students arrived safe and sound on the dock at 1000 this morning and the sea component of C-  244 is alas underway. Upon arrival, students quickly met the ship they will call their home for the next six weeks-and then departed on their first field trip. We visited the Whim Plantation-an 18th century Danish sugar plantation rooted in slavery and post-emancipation apprenticeship/labor-where we merged the shore component lessons, research and discussions with a real time setting. For weeks, we’ve viewed historical documents and PowerPoint images of Caribbean land use, colonization, the plantation complex, slavery and discussed contemporary legacies of these processes. Today, we walked the lands that experienced this history. We saw first-hand the images and places that filled our shore textbooks and presentations. And so all the hard work and preparation is coming full circle as students make keen observations of the Caribbean place, peoples and environment.

After exploring the plantation, we attended a local “Starving Artists” festival, where some students tasted their first sorrel tea and tamarind juice. A few even dined on roti and salt fish-all recipes and ingredients rooted deep in Caribbean social, cultural and natural history. On our trip, even the food will tell a story relevant to our course themes. We then made the return drive to Christiansted, pointing out schools, government institutions, plantation and agricultural use, churches, waste management centers, and other locations relevant to the course. We then gathered on the Customs House lawn for a discussion on the USVIs, sharing interpretations of course readings coupled with their experience thus far in St. Croix. The discussions and questions-just 8 hours into the program-are sophisticated and engaging. We are so excited to watch their enthusiasm continue to unfold as the journey continues. If day one is a sign of things to come, a fortunate bunch are we!

Upon return to the ship, the students and professional crew shared formal introductions and thus became one cohesive community-a dynamic which will continue throughout the program. Deck and Lab Orientations began right away and will continue through this evening. As I write aside my faculty team members in the aft cabin, we can hear the sounds of student orientation-the open and close of the engine room and water tight doors, lessons on proper use of the head and galley, the clanking of harness fitting on deck, just to name a few. We did, however, break for a delicious all-hands dinner of gyros-so all are well fed indeed. Over dinner, we were fortunate to enjoy the company of Paul Chakroff, Executive Director of St Croix Environmental Association (which we affectionately coined “the other SEA.”) Several students had the opportunity to ask questions pertinent to their port stop research and “Change” papers-in fact, the topics and Paul’s experiences proved so interesting that most of the professional crew also joined in to listen and contribute.

And so it has been one busy day jam-packed with activities and preparation. Tonight will be the last evening of continuous rest on a relatively stable platform (alongside the dock) for our new crewmembers for quite some time. Tomorrow, we set to sea.

But for tonight, we send good wishes and warm winds from a spectacular evening in the tropics.