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SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.



S248 SEA Summer Session


Saturday 27 July 2013
Current Position:  37° 51.0’N x 122° 28.5’W
Course & Speed: Happily Anchored off Sausalito, California
Sail Plan: Christmas lights on the quarterdeck
Weather: Sweet, gentle breeze

It has been our last day underway.  We awoke early to haul back the anchor in the quiet world of Drake’s Bay.  C watch had the deck to get underway, with Jillian as JWO, scooting us across the traffic lanes to find the Farallones poking out the fog.  These outcroppings of jagged rock formations, 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, are just covered in sea lions and birds.  Their ruckus barking greeted us as we approached. 

Mama Seamans earned herself a good scrubbing, and this morning the crew gratefully gave back for our safe passage.  First we started with the time honored tradition of “Bunk Love,” where all student sleeping areas were emptied and scrubbed of hidden dirt and rogue socks.  Many lost possessions were found, including JJ Bean’s missing Kazoo.  We rolled right into our last Field Day, where a 90’s throw back form the Spice Girls really fueled the elbow grease in the Galley.

But onto the good stuff…the wind filled in right before we reached the Golden Gate Bridge and the fog lifted.  It seemed almost scripted as we set our full complement of squares’ls and charged towards the bridge.  As we reached 8 knots passing under the bridge, a helicopter circled overhead several times. We half expected James Bond to repel down and join the line-handlers on the fore.  We did the only thing we could think of and greeted them with stadium-caliber waves.  We weren’t the only boats out there this morning, as the America’s Cup Regatta was in full swing with 130 sail boats scooting around the Southern side of the traffic lanes.  Schuyler did a phenomenal job navigating, while Victoria commanded all sail maneuvers and Josh took on the gauntlet of the last JWO, orchestrating everything as we sailed towards our destination.  It almost seemed like we were moving too fast, and before you knew it we had passed Alcatraz and were nearing Angel Island. Now Sausalito was in our sights and we rounded up, took sail and headed in to our anchorage.

But the day didn’t end here. Galley had more surprises in store for us as grilled ribs and wee brussel sprouts emerged while Christmas lights were strung about the Quarterdeck in anticipation for our final “Swizzle.”  This last night party show-cased many hidden talents that our already gifted shipmates had yet to demonstrate.  Such delights included some impromptu ukulele orchestrations, songs about the Water cycle, Chinese rap, beautiful rhapsodies from our many songstresses onboard and some SNL-worthy commercial breaks brought to us by the Swizzle Hosts, Brendan, Rui, Harrison and Irene. It wasn’t all about the music though, for we had several performers steal the show with their dance moves, both Myya and Josh delivered stunning performances.  It really led us to wonder why they hadn’t been dancing their way through boat checks this whole time!

The day was full of laughs and hard work; it seems impossible that our world collides with the real world tomorrow and the ship’s company will scatter. It has been an unforgettable passage, living at sea with all these shipmates, their stories and hairdos. We count ourselves lucky to have this time to reflect on all that we have learned and seen in the past month and spend a moment at the rail, letting Mama Seamans know how she has become a part of each of our stories. Goodnight from a happy Quarterdeck. Tomorrow, the world!

Erin Bostrom and Mackenzie Haberman
Team Deck, Chief and Third Mates



S248 SEA Summer Session



Friday 26 July 2013
Current Position: 37° 59.9’N x 122° 58.1’W
Course & Speed: Anchored in Drakes Bay, north of San Francisco, CA
Sail Plan: Furled up tight!
Weather: Winds SSE Force 1, cloudy skies, temperature 12.8 deg C.

Photo Caption: Furling the main for the first time since the beginning of the trip!  Approach to Drakes Bay (panorama).

Land Ho!  After a slew of early bets made by crew on the timing of our first sighting of land (most clumping around 0000-0400), we finally drifted within sight of a foggy green shoreline at around 1430.  The ride in was serenely calm, the water a green-tinted glass.  Not even a ripple of wind.  Evidence of land was everywhere: schools of dolphins, several lazy humpback whales, bunches of kelp, diving alcids, albatrosses bobbing on the surface of the water.  We THINK we saw a shark.  Meanwhile in contrast below, students typed frantically on final edits of Oceanography papers.  A study break of whales or ice cream kept morale high. 

Our approach to Drakes Bay was striking.  Weathered cliffs loomed out of the fog, some streaked with red iron deposits, others sinking on the diagonal in perfect sandstone stratification.  I think we were all believing this trip could never end, but as the anchor thundered towards bottom, the realization occurred that things were coming to a close.

At 2300, students handed in their final papers and professional crew geared up for a post-project surprise. Captain Rick got onto the ship’s PA system and announced that students were to report to deck in harnesses and closed toed-shoes to complete their Nautical Science practical exam.  Students grumbled as they appeared on deck, taken by surprise at this unwelcome turn of events.  They began their exam, a set-strike of the forestays’l in groups of three.  Despite having worked hard all day, we saw a great show of effort as students tried hard to impress their captain in a final show of seamanship.  Little did they know that this was all a ruse!  Below decks, the ship had been speedily transformed into a haunted house-strobe lights, obstacle courses, wet fingers grabbing out of dark places, a surgical scene in galley, a crazed scientist on the loose.

And now as we head to our racks, a little laughter lingers in the corridors. We will stand a vigilant anchor watch with light hearts, savoring these final moments aboard the ship that carried us across an ocean.

Julia Twichell
Assistant Scientist

p.s. Hi Mom, Hi Dad, Hi Sis!



S248 SEA Summer Session


Thursday 25 July 2013
Current Position: 38° 35.5’N x 124° 20.8’W
Course & Speed: course ordered 100° at 3 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing under the main, main stays’l, jib, tops’l, and course
Weather: Winds from NW at force 3, 100% stratocumulus clouds.

Photo Caption: Group pictures of (top) C watch and (bottom) my winning Nautical Science Jeopardy team.

Hi everyone,

We are almost there! We have less than 9 hours before we see land!!!

After two days of strong winds, we are having a force 4 today, but it feels like there is no wind. The wind has moved aft as well (coming from behind us), so we set the course and the raffee, two square sails, for the first
time! I am so glad I got to document it with our GoPro camera. We got to see all the sails now.

We presented our science projects in class today. It is very interested to see how everyone is doing on their projects.

The JLO/JWO Phase has been going great. I’m loving it! I feel like I learned so much in just one JWO watch, including never setting limits for yourself.

I am just so happy I got to take a lot of pictures.

The best moment of this trip so far was on the end of a recent Dawn Watch when we saw hundreds of dolphins.

The ship definitely brings out very different sides of people, and it magnifies emotions. In the end, this is a very cool and unique trip. Surprises and new things every day. It is very impressive to think back and see how much and fast we have learned a lot of things in just one month. Also, a lot of sailing and American culture.


写中文主要是让爸爸妈妈看,想让你们知道我马上就要到旧金山了。这一路都很好。 非常不一样


Rui Li - C Watch
University of Denver

And now a word from the department of science…Over the past three and some change weeks, we have all become accustomed to the ships “routine,” which, in short, consists of eating, standing watch and sleeping. If you follow the blog, you get a “snapshot” of details as to what daily life consists of on the ship. Time takes on a different light at sea. The sun seems to rise and set in the blink of an eye, you’re not concerned with what day of the week it is, only with what upcoming watches you are standing. A few days ago, on Dawn Watch we watched the moon set below the horizon around the same time that the sun was rising, causing the moon to glow a bright red in the sky as it was setting. It was something myself and many others had never seen before.

The lab routines have slowed now that sampling for student projects is complete. Students have been hard at work compiling and analyzing data. Today they present their findings to their shipmates in a poster presentation session. On deck, we are nearing the end of Phase III or “JWO” (Junior Watch Officer) phase. This phase challenges students to take responsibility of the watch with minimal help/instruction from the watch
officers. The watch must use their collective knowledge of the ship to take charge and run the watch successfully. It is always very rewarding to see how much the watches have grown and how in tune they are with the ship and her routines. These last few days aboard the Seamans I’m sure will be a whirlwind of sailing, science, marine wildlife and galley fun among many other things. Most importantly I think it will be a time of reflection and a chance to look back on how far we have come literally (over 2500 miles), physically and mentally. A passage from the end of a book called “Tuning the Rig,” I think sums up the experience very well:

“Whoever loves that sea, wrote Conrad, loves the ship’s routine. “Routine: derived from ‘route,’ a line of pilgrimage or travel.” How widely must one travel, and how far afield, to discover the value of that world? No matter. To believe in the journey is to have already arrived. And to surrender to the long haul, willingly, is to take it and make it your own.”

Hi Mom, Dad, Kristy, Paul, Matt and friends and family!! I miss you all very much and can’t wait to talk to you in a few days!!

Laura Hansen
Assistant Scientist
SEA/Boston University Marine Program Alumna, Class C232



S248 SEA Summer Session


Wednesday 24 July 2013
Current Position: Second star to the right, straight on ‘til morning
Course & Speed: 7.6 knots
Sail Plan: The four lowers
Weather: Weather or knot

Photo Caption: Chief Steward Greg-Bob, Assistant Steward Becky, and Phil, our trusty trash compactor.

At this point in the trip each student has had their day in the Galley at least once. It has been great fun to make delicious food with all 19 students and one dizzying staff-filled day. Seeing as this is my first trip sailing as Assistant Steward, I was learning my way around the Galley right alongside them. Busting out three meals (two seatings each) and three snacks a day for 31 hungry sailors is no small feat - especially when we are feeling ambitious (I am talking rolling out homemade pasta). Luckily for me, and everyone else on board, I have the Chief Steward Greg-Bob to teach me the tricks of the trade, provide explanations about gluten molecules, convert from teaspoons to ounces and keep filling the Galley (really, the whole ship) with his laughter. I have picked up a few tricks of my own along the way. For example:  if you wear a snorkel mask while chopping onions you won’t cry.

One of my favorite parts of the day is standing in the Galley after the food has been served and watching everyone eat. Yes, that is creepy but it is such a lovely sight. Typically, meal time in the Main Saloon is filled with clanking plates, platters being passed and calls for the “other table” to pass the hot sauce. Sometimes something magical happens and there is silence, all that can be heard is the scrapping of plates. Then, just as if it were the calm before the storm, plates are clanking, people are piling into the galley to help with dishes, and it is time to move onto the next meal.

Gaia: I am having a glorious time. I have been collecting recipes to share with you. Kiss Nev for me.

Becky Slattery
Assistant Steward
SEA Alumna, Class S242



S248 SEA Summer Session


Tuesday 23 July 2013
Current Position: 39° 58.5’ N x 131° 00.2’ W
Course & Speed: East (097°) at 6.2 knots
Sail Plan:  All fore and aft sail with a single reefed main
Weather: Wind ExN F5, overcast but clear of squalls.

Photo Caption: We conducted a 2-Meter Net tow last night and caught some strange (but friendly!) creatures from the deep sea.

Today was a beautiful day of sailing.  We spent much of the last week waiting for the northerly winds that we knew were headed our way, and today we have found them!  Dawn watch was a quiet one, as we sailed on toward San Francisco under all fore and aft sail.  Our speed was up and down with the wind, varying from 4.5 to 7.5 knots as we cut through relatively calm seas. As the morning progressed, the wind picked up a bit as did the swell, but we are still flying along, ticking off the miles toward our destination.  Now that it is JWO phase, my job is largely to stand back and watch A Watch do their thing, demonstrating the knowledge they have gained over the last three weeks by taking over the running of the deck.  Victoria, Schuyler, and Patricia have ably run the deck for A Watch so far.

With the ship heeled over more than we have seen in a while, the whole crew is learning to walk all over again.  Walking on the windward side takes on new importance as we bump and slide our way around the ship.  Dawn clean-up this morning was affectionately dubbed “full contact DC” as we tried to stay stationary instead of sliding downhill in the main salon and fo’c's’le, and Victoria managed to get herself stuck under a table and was giggling too hard to get out.  Moments like this make me realize that our crew has settled in beautifully to their responsibilities on board, and even cleaning the ship brings moments of fun and happy laughter.

Laughter rang out around the ship this afternoon during our final nautical science class.  As a deck crew, my fellow Mates, Captain, and I put together a game of Nautical Science Jeopardy.  Highlights included the one-handed ballantine of a halyard, the coil-and-hang off, and a final jeopardy question about 500 mb weather charts that stumped even the professional crew.  The “3 musketeers plus 3” team prevailed and took home the bragging rights and pride of a job well done.  Luckily, Second Scientist Mitch caught many of these moments on the GoPro camera, so I for one am looking forward to re-living the day through pictures and videos when I get home.

As for me, my favorite moment of the day came during my routine rig check of the foremast this morning.  The top of the mast is an exhilarating place on a breezy day, but the steady heel angle actually made the climbing easier today.  Standing atop the fore, looking down on the Seamans cutting through the waves, will never cease to amaze me.  I spent quite a few extra minutes aloft, sightseeing and enjoying the power of this view.  To see a 200 ton vessel, heeled over, cutting through the seas with ease. well, I was nothing short of awestruck.  I have sailed for a while, and have seen it many times before, but the sheer power of the wind in our sails is freshly inspiring every time.

Hi to Mom and Dad and everyone at home and everywhere.  Thanks for encouraging me to get back out here.  I’m so glad.

Rachel Greenough
Second Mate
SEA Alumna, Class S201



S248 SEA Summer Session


Monday 22 July 2013
Current Position: 40° 14.4’ N x 133° 08.5’ W
Course & Speed: 080° (East) @ 5kts
Sail Plan: Port tack under the four lowers with single reefed main and the JT
Weather: Winds were coming from the North mostly. There was nice weather overall today but tricky winds.

Photo Caption: B watch gathers around the helm with the beautiful full rainbow in the background!

Hello all!

I finally get to grace the daily blog with my presence to tell about our journey sailing on the Robert C. Seamans. Six more days left!

Today was a great day overall! I am part of B Watch, which had dawn watch this morning. It was a little raining at sunrise. The sun was hiding behind the clouds but soon the rain was over and a beautiful full rainbow came out to play as I was at the helm! It was a magical sight. What a way to start the day!

As the day went on, everyone was on their daily routine and making sure we worked as a team to keep this ship sailing safely. After two days off, class resumed this afternoon and it was time to meet with our oceanography mentors to polish up our results and work on final research manuscripts. It is almost that time to present our findings. How exciting!!

For about a week or maybe longer I have had “A Whole New World” from Aladdin stuck in my head but it is so fitting for the situation I am in right now. I feel like I am in a completely new world out here sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I never imaged getting an opportunity like this. It has definitely taught me a lot about this lifestyle as a sailor, and just things about myself I did not realize. It has made me stronger.

I am sharing this incredible experience with such wonderful people and I love it. Even though I am missing my family and friends like crazy, I do not regret being able to be out here at such an amazing time in my life. Things are great out here and we will be approaching the California Current soon; I hear about ten feet seas, which is exciting but scary all at the same time! I cannot help to think that this is the last phase of the trip and it went by so fast.

I have a couple of shout outs before I end:
Shout out to my Mom, Debbie pooh! I miss you so much. Tears are falling as I write this because it has been hard not talking to you daily. I did not think I would miss it as much as I do! Thank you for all of the support and making this opportunity happen for me! You are the best! I love you sooooo much!

Shout out to my brother, Robert! I pick this day specifically to make this shout out on your birthday! Sorry I missed it baby boy but I know you are having the time of your life! I cannot believe you are 20 years old! WOW! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I love you so much!

Shout out to my heart, Caleb! You do not understand how much I miss you! This has been a hard time being away for so long but I will be home soon. I cannot wait to see you. I know we will be okay. I am holding on to my faith! I love you!

Shout out to my Fab Five and the Mean Girls! I miss you guys! I love yall! See ya soon!

Finally yet importantly, shout out to Mousie! OMG.I miss you and cannot wait to come home and hang out! I am having a great time here and taking care of me. Thank you for being that support and believing in me when I did not even believe in me. You are truly an awesome person! I love you for you!

Signing out,
Myya M. Jackson - B Watch
Dillard University

Oh! Irene has a little to say..
Congrats Dre, I heard the good news and I can’t wait to watch you dangle in Spain!
Love, I!



S248 SEA Summer Session


Sunday 21 July 2013
Current Position: 40° Fahrenheit 37.9’ millimeters, 135° 40.7’ to the left.
Course & Speed: That way, wicked fast
Sail Plan: A fairly simple one that is sure to go off without a hitch.
Weather: Chance of passing clouds, seas are dark and relatively wet.

Photo Caption: Kellie and Assistant Engineer Dave working on that device in the background there.

Everything is going well out here, or so I’ve been lead to believe. My assistant Dave, a former Broadway singer and world renowned uni-cycling circus clown, taught Kellie all about our Krakow Trumpeter 3000 model A3Z%*!-001 flux-gate reverse osmosis whirly-gig processor today.  This remarkable machine runs off of liquefied emotional ore to turn base metals into gold.  Our company’s brokers then trade this precious metal on the world commodities market and use the profits to purchase all of the potable water we drink onboard the Robert Seamans. Amazing.  However I can’t tell you much more about it as it is prone to frequent breakdowns and I usually just let Kellie and Dave attempt to fix it as illustrated in the photo. 

The wind has picked back up, thankfully, and now we don’t have to run that large device in the engine room that goes round and roundy, up and downy, and puts off a tremendous amount of noise and heat.  Although, without all that heat, drying all of my laundry has become more difficult.  In other news I bashed my right knee off of a water tight door latch earlier this evening resulting in a significant amount of pain, emotional distress, and embarrassment as I rolled around on the control room floor in a fit of agony and hysterics.  I’ll probably ice it after dinner.

Star Frenzies continue and it’s good to see everyone on the quarterdeck hustling around trying to get as many sights as possible.  It’s hard to explain, but there is something unique about being able to fix your position on this earth with nothing but your own eyes, a simple instrument, and some spherical trigonometry. Engineering systems chases and presentations have finished and they were great!  The students put in a lot of time researching, as well as operating, their specific systems so that they could then teach their shipmates all about what goes on beneath their feet 24 hours a day to make day to day life on the Robert C Seamans pass by in relative comfort.

Hope all is well back home. A big hug and hello to Jane, Tory, Lloyd, Marc, and Mac.  Love you mom!

Ted Fleming
Chief Engineer
Keene State College, The Landing School, and Maine Maritime Academy



S248 SEA Summer Session


Saturday 20 July 2013
Current Position:  41° 2.2’ N x 137° 45’ W
Course & Speed:  085° PSC (East) at 4.5 knots
Sail Plan:  Motorsailing under the mains’l, the stays’l and the forestays’l with a single reef in the mains’l at 890 RPMs. 
Weather:  Mostly clear, sunny skies with calm seas.  Wind N x E at Beaufort Force 1.  It’s gonna be an awesome night for Star Frenzy!

Photo Caption:  Julia, Erin and myself after swimming. 

Hey all!

Today was an amazing day aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans.  First off, it was a sunny day and the ocean was like glass.  As a person who has made many, many offerings to Neptune, I appreciate the calm.  That being said, I am thoroughly enjoying the calm before reaching the California Current, which will bring much rougher seas and many more offerings to Neptune I’m sure.  The temperature was also in the sixties, which is a very welcome break from the cold days we had before.

During Morning Watch I was the Student Engineer.  We did all sorts of fun things including checking the main engine, discharging gray water and flushing the bilge pumps.  This was my second time in the engine room, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The space is rather cramped and loud, and the machinery room often smells, but overall it’s really cool.  Our engineers, Ted and Dave, are also a blast.  Morning Watch transitioned into Field Day, where my watch (B Watch) motivated everyone by playing the game Pterodactyl. For those of you who have never played it, I highly recommend it.  We then scrubbed the ship from bow to stern, from bulkhead to sole.  Everything was cleaned, and candy was eaten by all.

The best part of the day happened after Field Day.  Captain Rick gathered us on the quarterdeck and announced that we could go swimming alongside the ship for a little while.  It was freezing, but exhilarating!  The water is a deep turquoise, and when you look down you think you will see the bottom, but all you see is this deep blue that extends for miles.  I can now say that I’ve gone swimming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I might finish the day by participating in Star Frenzy - celestial navigation using the stars.  It has to be done during twilight either in the evening or in the early morning.  I participated during Dawn Watch yesterday and was able to shoot four stars and Venus.  In order to use the information from Star Frenzy to plot your position, some math is required.  I haven’t calculated yesterday’s stars yet, so I should do that before shooting more stars.  I did plot a morning sun line (also celestial navigation) using a sextant this morning, which was just as cool.

This has probably been the best day so far at sea, and it’ll be one I’ll remember for a long time.

Shout Out:  To Mom, Dad, William, Samma and Jon:  I love you and miss you!
I can’t wait to see y’all when I’m back in New York!  <3

Kristen Butler - B Watch
Stony Brook University



S248 SEA Summer Session


Friday 19 July 2013
Current Position: 41°19.19’N × 139° 47.98’W
Course & Speed: 085° PSC & 4.5kts
Sail Plan: Single-reefed main and stays’ls
Weather: Warm summer day, with little winds, clear skies, and flat seas…, it feels like sailing on a lake.

Photo Caption: Me unclogging a drain. (Mom, let this serve as proof of what I’‘ve done because I know deep in my heart you wouldn’’t have believed me otherwise.)

Dear reader,

They say the thirst of a sailor is never truly quenched. No matter how much sleep, strain, and heartache he surrenders to the ocean, he must always come back for more. Today, as I went up the ladder leading to the deck, in my groggy and sleep-deprived state, I got a small taste of what it feels like to be a sailor. The morning welcomed me with the sun’s warm rays and a serene summer breeze. When my eyes adjusted to the light I saw the ocean, it was a calm crystal blue glass… nothing short of spectacular.

It made it all worth it. It was worth bearing the cold during watch the past few days, which had been pretty cloudy and rainy, and somewhat cold for most people, but freezing cold for yours truly, who isn’’t used to even 50° weather. Aside from the not-so-cheery climate, research drafts and navigation assignments had been due in the last couple of days, which meant that everyone was giving up sleep to reach those deadlines. Despite everything that was happening, standing on deck this morning while contemplating the sea on this gorgeous summer day, made life on board feel like a complete blessing.

After a great and fairly relaxing start to our day, class took place right after lunch. One of the scientists on board, Laura, gave a presentation about the presence of plastic in the ocean. We learned about the major boom in plastic production over the last forty years and about how much of it is ending up in the ocean. It’s a rather interesting concept to think about, considering that the SSV Robert C. Seamans is 830 miles from the nearest stretch of land, yet human presence is all around us. Anyone on board who stared out into the sea, on a calm day like today, would not have gone more than two minutes without seeing a piece of plastic float by. It really opens your eyes to witness first hand just how big is the impact humans are having in the ocean. Yet knowing we are here to do something about it makes this trip even more worthwhile. 

When class ended, I returned to watch, where I was assigned to be Student Engineer. I know next to nothing about all the nooks and crannies in the engineering room (for all I know Ted and Dave, the Engineers on board, use pixie dust to keep the boat running). Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed learning about the mechanics that go into making sure the Robert C. Seamans makes it all the way to San Francisco. When we, the students, get to work alongside the Engineers, we learn about many different aspects of naval engineering, including but not limited to the difference between gasoline and diesel and the process behind starting an engine. During my afternoon, Dave and I started the watermaker because we wouldn’’t want to run out of potable water now would we… and by that I mean, there’s no way I’’m giving up another shower day for the sake of conserving water. The most memorable part, however, was when Dave asked me to help him unclog a drain. For some, this is no big deal. For me, this was the epitome of grossness. But fear not, I put on a snorkel mask, grabbed the unclogging stick thingy and successfully unclogged the drain by the coffee station (for those of you back home doubting my unclogging abilities, I have attached a picture as evidence).

Shortly after my afternoon watch was over, Captain Rick encouraged everyone to go up on deck and watch the sunset, for it was destined to be beautiful. And it was. It really was. We watched the sun descend into the horizon, turning many different shades of orange, red, and pink along the way. The rays reflected in the ocean in a way that made sunset seem like a spectacle worth remembering forever. Pictures were taken, and people clapped until the sun completely disappeared from our view. It was a great ending to a great day.

I will always look back at moments like these when thinking about my adventures at sea. Sleepless nights, breath-taking sunsets, and seas that seem to come alive with the gleaming light. A sailor’s thirst may never be quenched, but I would like it to be known that I wouldn’‘t have it any other way.

Shout out - Papi, Mami, Julito y Claudia, los quiero mucho y los extraño un montón! Los veo pronto!
Patricia Fontanet Rodríguez - A watch
Northeastern University



S248 SEA Summer Session


Thursday 18 July 2013
Current Position: 41° 27.7’ N x 141° 14.1’ W
Course & Speed: 085°, 4.9kts
Sail Plan: Motorsailing at 850 RPM
Weather: Clear, beautiful starry night. Currently at 0300 the winds are NxW at around 4-6kts, Sea height is 3 feet and there is no cloud cover.

Photo Caption: The bowsprit from aloft.

Hello lovely people!

Well, here we are, day 18. Today during morning watch from 0700-1300 we spotted a large (3 foot by 4 foot) fishing float covered in marine life. We deployed the rescue boat to bring it alongside and eventually moved it onboard. Many photos were taken and various life forms spotted (barnacles, crabs, nudibranchs, isopods, mussels, and more!) attached to the float. We’ve kept some creatures in our aquarium to watch further.

Life aboard the Robert C. Seamans is flying by, possibly due to the odd time warp of the watch schedule. Our oceanography project draft results are due today, and next week our final manuscripts! Although I miss my life on land, I think we’ve all become a bit stronger because of this trip. In the next few days there is much to be done, but time seems to disappear. I’m really enjoying the hard work and the insane amount of laughter here. Sometimes the most rewarding experiences are the hardest, but the people around you and at home make everything worth it. Mid watch tonight from 2300-0300 was absolutely beautiful. Perfectly clear skies, shimmering stars, and around 65 degrees warm! We also changed time zones again - we’re currently four hours behind NY time - and our watch was one hour shorter than normal, yay! I’m really looking forward to my day in the galley as Student Steward on Saturday. It’ll be a great change of pace and I can’t wait to see what we whip up to feed everyone!

Hi mom, dad, Alex, Sol, and Rhoda! I hope you’re all doing really well! I have so much to tell you and so many things I can’t wait to do with you. Can’t wait to see you! So excited to see you in San Fran. I really miss you all. Love you so much! P.S. Give the pommies, Emma, and Junie an extra treat for me!

10 more days!

Arden Pickoff-Rafferty - A watch
Bard College at Simon’s Rock



S248 SEA Summer Session


Wednesday 17 July 2013
Current Position: 41° 45.768’N x 143° 59.502’W
Course & Speed: 074° PSC, 4 knots
Sail Plan: Four Lowers plus the JT & Fisherman
Weather: Wind - 3/NNE; Sea - 4/NxE; Clouds - 100%/Stratocumulus

Photo Caption: Mitch lecturing about seabirds.


Starting one of these blogs is most puzzling. So many possible paths to explore, however, for every start save for what lies before you my conscious happily knocked on my proverbial cranial door to simply remind me that no, going on about a fictitious whale attack or even worse Hitchcock’s avian calamity coming to life (Hint: The Birds) would not ignite the humorous response that I seek. Exploring the possibility of safety measures in light of an all out marine seabird offensive on our vessel would be a true measure of our readiness as a crew, and it’s only when what’s been written down and memorized becomes irrelevant that our latent capacity to survive and thus the state of our crew spiraling a cruel, pseudo-Darwinian nightmare of survival of the fittest. But the birds would probably win. One might ask what kind of tactics would an organized militia of veritable Red Barons come with?

On a more serious note, the boat is working! Hail Hephaestus for the fortitude of the carpentry of the Seamans. The sails sometimes are less useful; however we have a modern marvel aboard to aid us perpetually forward to San Francisco known as the engine! Remember audience it is these sorts of innovations that keep the birds at bay as we trek throughout their territory. The rest of the wildlife has been tame; insurgencies of Velella have been spotted surrounding the boat but usually gelatinous creatures are far too busy fighting themselves to bother with us hominids.

Today we played Gear Drift auction for which we performed various tasks to re-acquire what was originally ours. For my shirt and water bottle I had to play a traditional ballad by prominent musician Ben Harper known as “Diamonds on the Inside.” Watch was surrounded by science, and in the lab we processed the Net of Neuston and performed the count of One-Hundred. The breath of Neptune has lowered in temperature and yet we continue to hold class - on this day we learned extensively of avian observation and conservation from our chief ornithologist (Second Scientist) Sir Mitch Schrimpf.

Everybody’s safe and healthy, and I’m not insane just a little eccentric.

Shout Out to my bed and shower, love you and miss you loads.

Harrison Ainsworth - C Watch
Villanova University



S248 SEA Summer Session


Tuesday 16 July 2013
Current Position: 41° 52.1’ N x 146° 05.0’ W
Course & Speed: Course ordered and steered 074°, scooting along at ~5 knots.
Sail Plan: Sailing on a port tack under the four lowers (single-reefed main, main stays’l, fore stays’l, and jib) plus the jib tops’l (JT). The fisherman was set and struck several times.
Weather: Sunny and warm with cool, northerly, Beaufort Force 4 winds and northerly, three foot swells. Clear visibility.

Photo Caption: Yummy omelets cooked by today’s Student Steward, Kellie, and special Guest Steward Captain Rick.

Today was a fantastic day on the Robert C. Seamans. We had a pretty productive mid-watch (2300-0300) with plenty of time to work on our oceanography research projects plus a Neuston Net deployment that was retrieved full of Vellela vellela jellyfish (my favorite zooplankton) and cherub-like heteropods that were so cute we actually opted to guesstimate their biomass and set them free alive. After watch we hit our bunks hard for a well-earned “sleep of kings,” the longest period of time off-watch possible (10 hours).

Instead of sleeping in the whole 10 hours until afternoon watch at 1300, I woke up at 1000 (ok, my wake-up came at 1000 as requested but maybe I slept in until 1040.) to check out the steerage assembly for my Engineering Systems Chase Presentation about the steering mechanism of the ship. We had scheduled this for when the ship would be hove-to (nearly-stopped via sail-handling) on a port-tack as the helm (steering wheel) of the ship would be held stationary by lines. However, we delightfully found out that during morning watch the winds had finally shifted to be northerlies, meaning that we could turn our course steered (where the vessel is actually headed, as close to the course ordered as possible) to the course ordered (where Cap wants the vessel to be headed). In other words, we started actually heading towards San Francisco rather than Alaska! To take advantage of this change of wind, the morning station that required us to be hove-to for an hour or so had been cancelled. This morning station happened to be the much-anticipated styrocast, but I’ll let whoever has the blog for the day that actually happens explain that.

Then this afternoon we had class, during which we listened to Systems Chase Presentations, worked on sun line running fixes for Nautical Science, and struck the fisherman. Then my watch (A watch) was back on watch to set the fish again and pre-calculate the stars for star frenzy this evening - when everyone who wants to comes up on deck to shoot the stars using sextants and reduce them with a handy-dandy nautical almanac and H.O. 249 to find where in the world the Robert C. Seamans is down to the tenth of a minute! It’s really satisfying to do that in about one hour without using any electronics (or so I hear; I haven’t actually gotten that good at it.)

Today was also Staff-in-the-Galley Day, when all the non-student crew take turns planning and preparing elaborate meals and snacks to give the Stewards a “break.” We culminated the day with a scrumptious dinner in a Main Saloon decorated with lovely Hawaiian sarongs and Christmas lights and accompanied by a fantastic, live, four-person ukulele band. Overall this was a great day full of successful sail handling and great food.

Much love to the family and farm back home plus all my friends, hope everyone is doing great!

Alfie Goodrich - A Watch
Oberlin College



S248 SEA Summer Session


Monday 15 July 2013
Current Position: 41° 40.5’N x 147° 58.4’W

Course & Speed: Course ordered 074° but course steered 030°.  We are currently traveling at a speed of 4 knots.

Sail Plan: We are currently motor sailing (because the wind is coming from the direction in which we need to travel) under the single reefed mains’l, the mainstays’l, the forestays’l, and the jib.

Weather: Sunny and cool, wind is coming from the east at about 7-10 knots, and the sea is coming from the east with wave heights of about 2 feet.

Photo Caption: Mustache day!

Hi everyone!

From the boat that holds our fate in its hands to the ocean and atmosphere that determine our travel and studies, we are directly dependent on the environment around us on this cruise. Throughout the trip, we have been constantly observing, listening, and learning about our surroundings. Although my brain has been crammed with different ocean processes, scientific data collection and processing procedures, the different lines and sails and mechanisms that make up our ship, and the proper way to clean the “mung” from every single corner and crevice of the ship, my biggest take-away from the cruise thus far has been the way my perspective has changed while on board.

It is hard to truly appreciate the luxuries of land and civilization until you are deprived of them.  The most apparent luxury lost was our electronic devices, which were turned in just before we came aboard.  No music or movies, no internet, and no connection to people beyond the thirty-one aboard this tiny 135 foot ship.  It is strangely liberating to be freed from the distractions of the real world, and it really allows you to focus on the environment and people immediately surrounding you.  Another luxury lost that I did not anticipate was personal space and alone time.  On land, it is easy enough to get away from a person or situation, but on a little tiny ship one does not have such freedom and therefore must confront these problems head on.  As a person who really values time to myself in my own personal space, this was rather tough at first.  But socially, it has been very rewarding for me.  By being forced to spend time with people constantly, I have gotten to know my fellow shipmates much better than I could have every possibly anticipated.  Together we have undergone sleep deprivation, days without showers, seasickness, having to be sharp and alert in dismal conditions, and the rollercoaster of emotions that has come with the adjustment to life at sea.  At times we have been completely angry with each other or felt depressed and overwhelmed, but other times we have had so much fun that we are all laughing so hard our sides hurt and we are crying. Without “real world” luxuries to distract and separate us, we have developed a bond that is deep in a way people will not be able to understand, and will bind us together long after we arrive in San Francisco.

It is crazy how fast my mindset switched from life on land to life at sea. We are so immersed in our ship’s busy routine that sometimes I forget my life at home and even the fact that we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  But then there are moments that bring my perspective clearly into focus and help me to really see the big picture of our environment in a way that I do not get to see often on land.  Standing at the bow in the middle of the night and seeing the stars stretch from horizon to horizon is one of those moments.  In those hours alone with just the sound of the hull slapping over the waves, I have done much reflecting on the enormity of the universe and the beauty of the world we live in.  It is amazing how standing there staring at the horizon you can begin to see a cloud darken and rise off in the distance until it has formed a giant storm cloud, and then watch the sheet of rain slowly advance toward the ship.  Or watch the sun slowly rise over the edge of the horizon, slowly illuminating the sky as it creeps upward.  Climbing aloft has a similar effect. 

Atop the foremast, the boat looks so small and everyone going about their busy routines seem so insignificant compared to the vast ocean spreading off in all directions. These moments allow you to realize that although little details in your personal life seem monumentally important to you and to your world at the time, in the grand scheme of things they are negligible.  The environment around us is intensely powerful and dictates the world in which we live in to a much greater degree than our seemingly pressing personal problems. 

I cannot believe that we’ve only been underway for two weeks-this ship is such a time warp.  It is exciting that we are only halfway through though, because if my perspective can change so intensely in two weeks, I can only imagine the ways in which it will change in the final two weeks.  I did not believe in the “culture shock” after departing the ship that past SEA alums talked about, but now I completely understand.  Ship life is completely different from life on land, and it will definitely take some time to get back into the swing of things when we arrive in San Francisco.  I am sure we will all quickly return to our past lives and routines, but I hope that we can carry with us a little of the perspective gained on board the Robert C. Seamans.

Hope all is well on land, I can’t wait to see everyone in a few short weeks!

Shout out to the fam, love and miss you all!

Schuyler Nardelli - A Watch
Bowdoin College



S248 SEA Summer Session


Sunday 14 July 2013
Current Position: 40° 49.5’N x 149° 10.0’W
Course & Speed:  Course ordered 074°, Course steered 020° speed of 5.2 kts (although we just had to strike, or take down, a few sails as we passed through a squall, previously we were keeled over and booking it at around 8 knots).
Sail Plan:  Sailing under the 4 lowers (Single reefed main, Main stays’l, Forestays’l, Jib), however, before the squall we had the fisherman and the jib tops’l up too - beautiful.
Weather: cloudy and squally

Photo Caption:  These pictures were taken from the top of the foremast yesterday evening.

Cheers from SSV Robert C. Seamans! 

We’ve been in our own world out here, and part of what I appreciate most about this experience is the relative isolation from the rest of the world. However, I am enjoying this chance to make contact.  To my Mom and Dad, I’m have a blast out here and I can’t thank you enough for making this possible. My blog entry will not come close to summarizing my experiences or thoughts so far, so I won’t attempt anything close to all-encompassing.

I have spent hours upon hours in the water as a competitive swimmer since the age of 7 and I’ve spent many nights listening to a North Georgia creek trickle by on backpacking trips with my father, but I’ve never ate, slept, worked, learned, laughed, and lived on the water.  Aside from the initial queasiness as I attempted to help Greg and Becky in the galley on our first day of sailing, being out on the water has been very therapeutic.  Being rocked to sleep at night, looking out of the port light beside my bunk in the fo’c's’le, and standing watch at the bow riding the pitch of the ship, can be calming and energizing.  I haven’t had too much time to sleep, but I haven’t felt sleep deprived or tired like I would with this amount of sleep on land. I think the cause is the energizing and therapeutic effect of the water. 

There are many things to love about the daily life on board. I can’t list all of them, nor can I decide on one favorite thing, but I’ll write about one of the more regular occurrences that always brings a smile to my face no matter how tired I might be.  Our Steward (cook), Greg, laughs often to say the least.  His laughter is unique, and I’ll make a valiant effort to describe it for y’all, because I feel like it is such an important part of life on board.  He has a bellowing laugh that not only fills the galley, but also bounces around the walls and soles below and spills out onto the deck.

Often instigated by a clever remark from Becky, our Assistant Steward, Greg’s laughter ricochets off the ship’s hull and resonates throughout her crew.  Everyone who hears it has got to smile.  Laughter is very important on board and is frequent.  If you’re in close enough proximity to Greg and the source of the outburst (Becky) and get caught up laughing also, you might find yourself laughing to the point of tears.  You really live in the moment when the wave of laughter breaks in a whitecap, soaking all those in its path.  In that moment, it is the funniest thing in the world.

The laughter from the galley is evidence of the “living in the moment” that is nearly obligatory.  On board we don’t get the choice to “opt out” of any part of life on board.  Free of the normal distractions that can dilute the experience of our normal life on shore, our only option is a more direct experience of our ship, our shipmates, and our work.  On board the Seamans, everything occurs within 134 feet of you at all times (except for our science deployments of up to 500 meters).  Everyone and every action is integrated into the safe running of the ship.  We are constantly reminded to live in the moment by our hourly responsibilities while on watch and by the small everyday tasks (such as trying to walk a straight line) that remind us that we are hundreds of miles from land and far away from the rest of humanity.  I was in lab for watch today as the ship sailed at 8 knots, keeled over so that the science deck was nearly level with the water.  This made it interesting trying to pick out pieces of plastic from our net tow sample with tweezers.  Sailing with so many of our sails up really brings the ship to life. 

We’ve traveled far enough east now that we’ve changed time zones.  I had to brace myself against the seas and the wave of my own laughter as I heard the theme song from “Back to the Future” and Third Assistant Scientist Mitch’s impersonation of Doc over the intercom announcing our time travel into the future as we adjusted our watches.

To my parents, all I can say is thank you.  I’ve had a lot of time to think about all the reasons y’all have given me to be thankful.  Say hi to Sally for me, and bring her to the creek at Camp Jordan for me.  I think she loves the water as much as I do.

To my brother, I hope your Peace Core training is going well!  I’m so glad we had a few days to hang out together on the Cape.  It’s good work you’re doing.

To my Grandmother, friends, and family, I can’t wait to share stories and pictures!

To Michael Lowry, Jon Evans, Paul Dixon, and the SEA staff, thank y’all so much for your letters of recommendation, and the help you have given me so that I could have this amazing experience.

Cheers from the Seamans, y’all have a good one,
Thomas Walters - C watch
The University of the South: Sewanee

A Message from Rachel:  Happy Birthday, Mom!  I hope it was a sunny day wherever you are now.



S248 SEA Summer Session


Saturday 13 July 2013
Current Position: 39° 20’ N x 150° 40’W
Course & Speed: course ordered 030° but we are able to steer 035° at 7kts
Sail Plan: sailing under the four lowers with a single reefed main plus the JT and the fisherman
Weather: winds at a force 5 most of the day, now at a low force 4 from the E x S direction, seas from the E with waves about 2-3 feet, cloud cover 3/8 mostly Cirrus and Cumulus

Photo Caption: Kellie Corwin and her first eye splice during yesterday’s marlinspike seamanship class.

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly half way done with our cruise.  It feels like yesterday that Erin, our Phase One watch leader, held a meeting with our team to talk about how we felt about living at sea. We were asked to come up with a metaphor to represent how we felt about our new lives on the boat; my classmates talked about cooking in a new kitchen, starting a new season of lacrosse, and beginning a sunrise hike. I chose the Disney movie “Mulan,” about a girl who has to disguise herself as a boy so she can do what she loves, fight for the freedom of her identity and her country. The moment I was referencing in the movie was when she chops off her long, beautiful hair so that she can officially embark on the fight; in my case, I had officially decided to get on the boat and there was no turning back.  A few days in I teetered on a see-saw: half of the time wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into and the other half marveling in the surreal awareness that I was now on a boat in the middle of the ocean with amazing people and nothing but nature surrounding us.

I had been told before boarding the ship how unreal it is to see a 360 degree view of the horizon and feel a night sky bundle your whole essence up like a warm blanket. But no matter how much I was told of these wonders, they truly came alive and continue to bloom as this trip progresses. There really are no words to describe this world out here. You have to experience it yourself… it’s magic.

This week we switched Watch Officers and entered Phase Two of the voyage, on our way to becoming Junior Watch Officers (JWOs). Before we officially become JWOs we first must complete the shadowing process, following our Watch Officer (Mate or Assistant Scientist) for a day. In Phase Two we start to take charge of our watch and slowly we are handed the responsibility of running the ship ourselves.

Today was my shadow day and also the day we turned 15 degrees (a lot) towards the east in hopes of soon catching the northerly winds to carry us towards San Francisco.  Our watch set the fisherman for the first time, struck the tops’l, ran our own boat checks, shot the sun, steered the ship, scrubbed every corner of the galley soles, processed a gazillion things from the nets deployed last night, etc. But the best part was that it seemed A Watch accidentally fell into a magical rhythm of teamwork this afternoon. By the end of the six hours, we all wondered where the time had gone and why we didn’t have more for there were stars to shoot, fixes to be plotted, and much more. Today has been truly one of those days I need to pinch myself to make sure my life is real.

I can’t leave out the people that are making this cruise amazing.  Becky and Greg-Bob in the galley make the BEST food, but besides being amazing Stewards, they bring an energy to the Main Saloon that makes even a ten second pass through a ray of sunshine in the day. Chief Mate Erin and Third Assistant Scientist Laura, our Phase One Watch Officers on deck and in the lab, are my new best friends. They are the reason my belly hurts from laughing so much at the end of the day and they make waking up at 3am a privilege rather than a chore. Third Mate Mackenzie and First Assistant Scientist Julia are our Phase Two “bosses,” and thus far, I can already tell there will be no lack of laughter.  The opportunity to work alongside such incredible leaders and such patient teachers is a blessing. Captain Rick is like a dad out here - he flavors the group with compassion, knowledge and respect, and sets a tone that we all are so happy to follow. I could go on about all of our crew and classmates, but unfortunately time management is a skill Deb, our Chief Scientist, is so patiently instilling in us and I have an oceanography research project assignment to complete within the next hour…So sayonara until someone writes tomorrow’s blog entry.

Mom and Dad - thanks for such an unreal opportunity, this is amazing. I miss you both so much.

Dre, Jojo, Bonanza - best sibs ever in the world, miss you guys tons.

Jules, Txuxa, Maxie, Nono, Andylicious - miss you monkey-faces.

Yiayia - no words. you’re unreal. love you.

Cheers for now from the Seamans!!
Peace and Love,
Irene Pasquale - A Watch
University of Vermont



S248 SEA Summer Session


Friday 12 July 2013
Current Position: 37° 33.6’ N x 151° 43.7’ W
Course & Speed: Steering a course of 020° averaging 6.8 kts.
Sail Plan: Currently motorsailing under a singled reefed main, stays’ls and jib.
Weather: Wind ESE, Force 2. Seas ENE, 1-2 ft. Cloud cover about 7/8ths of the sky.

Photo Caption: Mahi Mahi that we caught and used to make fish tacos during my day in the galley.

Hi everyone!

My watch and I stood the afternoon watch today from 1300 to 1900, which was one of the more thrilling watches we’ve had so far. During class today, we spotted a cargo ship about 10 nautical miles from us. After doing some calculations and plotting, if we and the cargo ship had stayed on our original courses, we would have passed within 1/2 of a nautical mile of each other, a little too close for our comfort. We communicated with the cargo ship and ended up passing them 1.7 nautical miles away, the closest we’ve been to other humans since we set sail from O’ahu!

And to keep things more exciting, we had our first official fire drill after class. My watch is in charge of emergency sail handling; in case Captain Rick wants to maneuver the ship in an emergency, we are standing by to set, strike and handle sails. For the simulated fire today, our ship was already in the best position and we were not told to do any sail handling. Overall, the drill went well and I finished off watch by pre-calculating the position of stars at civil twilight (2000 local time) so that we could get a star fix.

In talking to Greg, our Steward, it also occurred to me that no one has written about their day in the galley yet, which is honestly a very exciting day. Having never really learned how to cook, it seemed a little overwhelming at first, but working in the galley with Greg and Becky, our Assistant Steward, couldn’t have been more fun. After waking up at 0445 (this may seem early, but compared to the timing of the watch schedule it is fairly normal), I began my galley day by making bread, which we used to make cinnamon rolls for the morning snack, and prepared hot cereal for breakfast. For lunch we cooked up some delicious hamburgers with corn on the cob, salad and potato wedges, and fileted some Mahi Mahi with Chief Mate Erin for our afternoon snack of fish tacos. To finish off the day, we made fajitas for dinner and made a revolutionary dessert consisting of a layer of chocolate chip cookie topped with a layer of brownie. It’s pretty incredible the amount of food we have on this boat, and it’s doing a great job of keeping us well fed and energized to keep the ship sailing (or motorsailing for now) towards San Francisco!

Shout outs: Mom, Dad, Sam and Jessi! Love and miss you guys!

Josh Friedman - B Watch
Bowdoin College

P.S. From Erica White to her mom: Happy Birthday, Mom!



S248 SEA Summer Session


Thursday 11 July 2013
Current Position: 35° 27.22’ N x 152° 48.80’ W
Course & Speed: 010° PSC, around 5-6 kt
Sail Plan: Currently sailing under the single-reefed main, stays’ls, jib, JT, and fisherman.
Weather: Scattered squalls, with highly variable winds (currently NExN, Beaufort Force 3)

Photo Caption: Mr. Josh Friedman concentrating hard on bio-voluming a very important scientific specimen during the lab practical this afternoon. Or is that a screwdriver? We may never know.

Hello everyone with internet access and a vested interest in the goings-on of the Robert C. Seamans! As I’m sure you are all aware, it is currently free slurpee day at your local 7-11. If you haven’t gone and gotten one yet, do that now. For all of us who must go without.

The weather today has yet to decide if we deserve to be progressively dampened or gently warmed. As a result, the sails have been set, struck, and set again in what might look to NASA satellites as some of the strangest Morse code signals since the invention of the commercial laser pointer. But we’ve balanced out nicely now, with the Fisherman and JT up and nicely filled. Today is, as I’m sure you’re all aware, a very special day for all of us (no, not because of the slurpees. But good guess!). At 1400 this afternoon, we had our lab practical!

Ahhh, the lab practical. Now, I know neither of those words sound like a whole lot of fun. But names are often misleading-for instance, those pretty sun rays you can see sometimes with the clouds? Those are called crepuscular rays. Can you think of a less appropriate name? Me neither. But I digress. Where were we? Right-the intimidating name of the lab practical. There are many times when things are not as intimidating as they seem. This was not one of those times. But the lot of us managed to get through the equipment evaluations, knot demonstrations, and procedural explanations in time for PB&J’s for afternoon snack (courtesy of Brendan and the galley crew). As far as I’m aware, not one copepod was harmed in the course of this lab practical. 

Today also (besides having free slurpees and a lab practical) marks the beginning of Phase II. Now that we students have managed to fool the crew into believing we know what we’re doing, we get to take more of the responsibility for science, sail handling, and general proceedings on the RCS. Before everyone panics and calls the Coast Guard (note the GPS location above)-we do actually know quite a bit at this point. And the Mates and Scientists will still be there to ensure we don’t point ourselves back to Hawaii.

Shout outs: Happy birthday (slightly belated, but nonetheless) to my brother Brad! 19 is relatively unimportant, but we’re all still very impressed you’ve gotten this far. I miss all of you guys, and I’ll steal some other people’s pictures to better document this for you!

Erin Hodge - B Watch
Boston College



S248 SEA Summer Session


Wednesday 10 July 2013
Current Position: 34° 02.7’ N x 152° 37.7’ W
Course & Speed: 010° per ship’s compass at 6.5 kts
Sail Plan: Four Lowers (Mains’l, Main Stays’l, Forestays’l, Jib) and the Jib Tops’l
Weather: Winds NE and Beaufort Force 4, partly cloudy, sea height 5 ft., air temp 21.9° C

Photo Caption: Our albatross friend.

After ten days of staring out at the open ocean with nothing but endless, rolling waves, some flying fish, and occasionally larger animals in view, I am still not tired nor less amazed by where I am right now.  I have never before been so far away from general society (and land!) in my life.  I often wonder what those first explorers were thinking when they decided that it would be a good idea to come out here on the Pacific, with no map or concept of ocean currents, and try to sail around. I find it fascinating enough that we are able to navigate, even with a GPS and a chart (although a lot of celestial navigation is involved).  We are constantly “shooting” the sun, or using sextants to acquire our angle from the sun (which eventually leads to our location after a series of calculations).  In fact, I was the first student to put a “line of position” and a “celestial fix” on the chart, confirming our location with the GPS by using celestial navigation. For this, I was rewarded a bowl of ice cream.  It was magical.

I came on this trip for the science and for the sailing experience, but found out that I was also to learn about the ship’s engineering systems (what is this? I don’t even know how my own car engine really works) and cooking for the entire crew (cooking is mostly scary).  Today I delved into the confusing and short-ceilinged world of the engine room, studying our fresh water transport systems.  At first I just felt claustrophobic and confused as to what pipe went where, but with some help from my limited knowledge of plumbing from working as an aquarist and from Dave, our Assistant Engineer, I figured it out.  I’m presenting on Friday and I hope remember all the details.

I also went out on the bowsprit today for some peace and quiet (us introverts need that sometimes).  I think the bowsprit and headrig might be my favorite spot on the ship because it’s like an awesome hammock that sits out over the water and rocks you up and down. I was not so sure about going aloft (climbing is scary), but the bowsprit is great.  Today while lying on the headrig, thinking about how if my mom saw me she would tell me to get down (don’t worry Mom, I was clipped in), I had the special surprise of seeing a Mahi Mahi (or Dolphin Fish) swim directly underneath me, with its yellow fins shining in the sunlight.  Now we’ve caught a lot of Mahi Mahi and a skipjack tuna, but I hadn’t seen many live fish besides flying fish and my own lanternfish (around which my research project revolves).  Seeing a fish that large swim underneath me was awesome. It was neat to think just how much life this part of the ocean can support, even though it seems relatively lifeless from our surface view.  The diversity of creatures we are collecting in our net tows is just amazing.

At the same time, we are collecting many plastics, a lot more than I expected this early in the trip.  At this point, we are not in the center of the gyre yet, and we are seeing marine debris hourly, including a giant net which might have held some form of dead marine mammal tangled in its folds. My own research project involves dissecting the stomachs of myctophids (lanternfish; a type of deep-sea fish that migrate to the surface at night to feed) to determine whether they have been ingesting plastics.  So far we have found small microplastic filaments in two of the 13 fish we have dissected so far, which holds pretty true to the studies we looked at in preparation for our project.

But it is not all a bummer.  We have captured some pretty cool organisms in our nets, including squid babies, flying fish larvae, and purple snails that can make bubble rafts.  We were also recently visited by an albatross! He decided to hang out with our ship for a long time!  Deploying the Neuston nets has also been great-I am excited to be learning research techniques for marine biology!  The neuston tows and meter nets are best at night when they churn up the water; they glow in the dark with blue bioluminescence! The myctophids themselves are cool too.they have photophores, which are light producing organs, in different patterns for every genus (this is how we can identify them).  I am about to go dissect some more of our little fishy friends to see what they have in their stomachs!

Can’t wait to tell you all more about what has happened (and what will happen),
Jillian Swinford - C Watch
Christopher Newport University

P.S. Mom, I promise I’m being super safe! Love you, Mom and Dad! Say hi to Ethan for me! And make sure he’s taking care of my Narwhals!

P.P.S From Irene Canella: Happy Birthday Madeline Demoulas! I love and miss you!



S248 SEA Summer Session


Tuesday 09 July 2013
Current Position: 32° 16.5’N x 152° 29.8’W
Course & Speed: Course Ordered 010° at about 6 knots
Sail Plan: Four Lowers, JT and Fisherman!
Weather: Winds E, Force 4 with occasional showers

Photo Caption: “Don’t cry, little fishy, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

Ahoy from the Robert C Seamans!

This is Dave, Assistant Engineer and today’s blogger writing from mid Pacific Ocean. (There is something strangely ironic about that.)  To be exact our coordinates are Lat 32° 16’.5 N, Long 152°29’.8 W as of 17:45 HST.  We are sailing along strongly, making around 6 knots on a course ordered of 010.  There were occasional showers and squalls today, including one during class which sent us all scurrying below decks for our foul weather gear.  Overall the weather has been more than pleasant and it looks like all signs of sea sickness have finally subsided.

The fresh fish has been flowing, we have been blessed with an abundance of fresh Mahi Mahi and Tuna, not to mention a steward who really knows how to prepare it!  Today’s lunch was a vegetable stir fry with Mahi steaks from yesterday’s catch, all with an authentic Chinese flavor courtesy of Student Steward Rui.  Life is good.

This afternoon Ted (Chief Engineer) announced our much anticipated “Systems Chase” during class.  The assignment in brief is as follows: “In order to further our collective understanding of all aspects of the Robert C. Seamans, please choose a ship’s system to investigate.  Find out where all its parts go, how it really works, what the gauge readings mean, and how to troubleshoot/remedy common problems.  Craft a 5-7 minute presentation with visual aids that helps educate the ship’s company about your findings. Creativity is a plus!”

I for one am pretty excited about this assignment, although I am a bit partial due to my position aboard.  There are already rumors of a song being written explaining the workings of the diesel engine.  Now that is music to my ears!

With 31 crew aboard and a ship that never sleeps I could write continuously of our adventures, but we have to save some stories for when we get home. 

Fair Winds and Following Seas,
Assistant Engineer & Alum of SEA Class S201



S248 SEA Summer Session


Monday 08 July 2013
Current Position: 30° 51.2’ N x 152° 48.0’ W
Course & Speed: 010° at 6.6 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing under the mains’l, both stays’ls, jib and jib tops’l
Weather: Wind from E x N at Beaufort force 3, the sky is 80% full of Cumulus clouds, and the barometer is at 1022.5 mb

Photo Caption: Captain Rick Miller posing with the air temperature and humidity logger.

Today we had the infamous line chase. We all lined up during class time, divided by watches, and relay raced to see who could find all the ship’s lines first. Of course, this also included finding things like tan lines, inventing pick-up lines, and finally performing a conga line around the ship. We all had a great time racing around the ship, being cheered on by our watch mates yelling out “hot” and “cold,” and with the other watches trying to confuse us. C Watch naturally dominated, with the only reward the knowledge that we are the best at knowing all the lines on the ship.

C Watch also finally got the chance to go aloft. We took turns going up the foremast and out on the yards with 3rd Mate Mackenzie, with me and Jillian going up first and Tom and Aerin next. Each of us wore a full-body harness, and clipped in as we went up. Still, the motion of the ship is very much exaggerated as your height above deck increases, and I was slightly grateful that we were not sailing at full speed at the time since the seas have been slowly getting rougher. It was exhilarating going out to the end of the yards and seeing only water below with the ship far and not quite directly below. I now can’t wait to go up to the top of the mast and really get a bird’s eye view of everything going on down below.

We had the threat of a couple of squalls today, which was really exciting. This meant that we had to rush to strike the jib tops’l quickly, which we all did very efficiently. It’s good to finally see at least the threat of rain to break up all these days of constant sun beating down on us. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to stand outside in a storm. But both the dawns and sunsets have been absolutely incredible, and the thought of seeing dawn tomorrow will be what gets me up for dawn watch. The sun breaking through the clouds over the horizon is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

Shout-out: Mom, Dad, Andrew, and everyone else back home! Miss you guys!

Julia McDowell - C Watch
Cornell University



S248 SEA Summer Session


Sunday 07 July 2013
Current Position: 29° 13.7’ N x 153° 12.5’ W
Course & Speed: 010 deg at 4.3 knots
Sail Plan: motorsailing at 1300 rpm under the mains’l, both stays’ls, jib and jib tops’l
Weather: both wind and seas from ExN, wind at a Beaufort 4 and 3 foot seas

Photo Caption: Taken during dawn watch-the reward for getting up at 2:30 in the morning

We have, of late, been seeing (and documenting) rather impressive concentrations of all sizes of plastics. The marine debris log has several pages of entries describing all the bags and buoys seen floating by, including two lost fishing nets full of floats. We have also been counting the tweezer-sized pieces of plastic found in our net tows. The most recent net had 1,200 (as compared to our first day with just about 300). Although I am studying plastics and having all this data is exciting, it’s also rather sobering to see just how much of an impact we have as a species, even on areas of the planet most of us will never see and scarcely even think about.

As doom-and-gloomy as that sounds, there is also still plenty of life out here for us to see, and a number of larger animals stopped by for a visit today. This morning, we spotted a pod of whales off the port bow, and while most of us just saw their spouts, a few people saw dorsal fins, suggesting that they were smaller whales. Later, an albatross swooped up and idly paddled around the ship for a little while, and I am told it returned later in the afternoon when I was asleep.

It’s been a beautiful couple of days in our corner of the Pacific. Last night, there were unusual levels of bioluminescence, which we admired both in the lab and swirling around the ship. There was a net full of bio-goop to process (that’s a technical term), so after hosing the contents of the net into a sieve, we began picking out all of the plastic, insects called halobates, and any other biggish organisms to be preserved in jars. That much is routine, but last night the contents of the sieve glowed a bright blue whenever they were poked or prodded, which was beautiful and somewhat distracting. At the same time, all around the ship our wake was defined by the same blue shimmers, like a giant glow stick had been broken into the water and the ship was mixing the two components together to produce a rather astonishing light. We’ve been seeing and doing a lot of new things since setting out from Hawaii, but one image that I believe will stick vividly in my mind is the beauty of the ship as viewed from the headrig, bow cutting through the glowing waves, and more stars overhead than I have ever seen in one sky.

Best regards from the great blue yonder,
Aerin Thomson - C Watch
UMass Amherst

All my love to the family and friends reading along, including Mom and Dad, Alice, all of the grandparents, Jared, and Kate. Miss you guys!



S248 SEA Summer Session


Saturday 06 July 2013
Current Position: 26°44.2’N x 154° 22.1W
Course & Speed: Course ordered 010° NNE
Sail Plan: Motorsailing at 7 knots with single reefed mainsl’, two staysl’s and jib on a starboard tack at 1300rpms.
Weather: Captain, mates, and crew are praying to Neptune for slightly stronger winds to take us to our destination.  So far the divine sea gods have only responded with Beaufort Force 3 winds coming from the Northeast with squalls on our leeward side.  As far as the ocean goes, the wavelets are large, but have minimal whitecaps and wave heights of 2-3 feet.  Our Barometer reads 1016.4 millibars with clouds covering about 38% of the skies. 

Photo Caption: Rare species of Pelagic snail (holoplanktonic gastropod mollusk).Or our rambunctious First Mate

Captains log, star date 2342.If only William Chanters’ Captain Kirk were available to offer monologue to this blog, adventures would certainly take a wild turn as the original “rocket man” bravely navigated our voyage into violent seas and unchartered ocean depths.  Monsters would be tamed, battles won, research conducted at a level of principled self-sacrifice, all for the effort of advancing our knowledge of marine debris in our very own final frontier!!!  The noblest intentions of our Captain Rick and crew would reside among the likes of Admiral Nelson and Captain Cook in momentous seafaring history that build upon legends for future seafarers to come. Sadly no.  Still, I remain hopeful that Captain Kirk tracks us aboard his Starship Enterprise, cleverly cloaked as a shooting star and only noticed by crew members navigating our vessel at the late hours. 

To be frank, I am glad to say we are still afloat, morale is high, and we all smell like fish. 

It comes as no surprise that each day aboard a floating house/school/kitchen/lab/library, there is something new and wonderful to discover about your shipmates, yourself and your surroundings.  Much of that initial discovery comes at a price, as some but not all, were subject to Neptune’s finest “donation day.” Having experienced the full benefits of this momentous occasion, I can admit my deepest appreciation for this slight adjustment to life aboard an oceangoing vessel, because it allowed me to experience, hands on, the basics of seamanship 101.  I’m no longer afforded the space I am comfortably used to at school and at home. Living in close quarters with limited leg room is a substantial adjustment as the taller variety of SEA students (Thomas and I are both over 6 ft) must make use of every corner of this ship. However our variety of academics expand as we are introduced to a new means of studying, collecting, and interpreting data for hands-on research that is applied to real life scenarios.  I can only speak for myself when admitting that I have never been a part of a program that has a) enveloped students in hands on practical research that is logged and used in oceanographic studies for biodiversity and marine debris, and b) allowed students to compose their own study of developing oceanographic patterns. The students aboard SSV Robert C. Seamans have been learning and applying skills from both the shore component as well as the sea portion of our two-month extravaganza.  Today marked the end of our first week of classes as we celebrated Field Day, a time dedicated to disassembling, cleaning, reorganizing, and reassembling the contents of the ship. As Captain Rick so often reminds us, “Take care of the ship, and she’ll take care of you.”
Something that has fascinated me while living and working on a research vessel for the past week is that we never seem to run out of things to eat. As rather large, young and athletic , food is very important to me. Polls among the crew suggest similar trends.  If food is not on the top of our minds, it certainly is right around the corner of it.  Navigating the Pacific requires a lot of energy, and due to the limited amount of time we have to conduct our research, our sleep schedule is split into chunks of time.  It is a bit of an adjustment to get used to, but it is worth it as food is provided to us 6 times a day (or night depending on your watch schedule).  To say the least, the meals are outstanding, and our stewards Greg and Becky show unmatched enthusiasm and positive demeanor for two people working almost all day to feed 30 some smelly salty scallywags.  The crew showed our appreciation for these outstanding individuals by scrubbing the contents of the kitchen twice over. 

We were ecstatic to get our hands and feet wet this morning.  We deployed our phytoplankton net and shortly thereafter, our Carousel (which took samples of the water column from the surface to as far as 500m in depth). To perform these tasks we had to Heave To (stop the vessel) which was relatively easy, as the winds remained low throughout the day.  We were able to capture samples of phytoplankton and microplastic.  Soon we will be able to process and sort through our samples, so we can apply them to our research projects. 

Life at sea is filled with late nights and odd scheduling.  Your rotation of work time and relaxation time can often be mixed together and it is easy to overlook the simple joys of seafaring life through a delirious state of mind.  However, there is a special time in the middle of Mid Watch (2300-0300) where your duties might let you take position at the bow just overlooking the headrig.  For one solid hour, your job is to simply stare out into the open water and watch for any oncoming danger such as changing weather patterns or large objects such as other ships.  However, this duty serves a hidden purpose that is not clearly identified if one were to only analyze it through the job description.  For one complete hour, your duty is to decompress and enjoy the spectacular lightshow of fish, plankton, and other pelagic organisms that give off magnificent bioluminescence which words cannot describe.  It is therapeutic to watch thousands of organisms display themselves across the ocean as the Robert C. Seamans crashes over the surface of the Pacific Ocean.  It is also salutary to see the hundreds of thousands of stars stretched across the night sky from horizon to horizon, illuminating the ocean waters at late hours of the night. 

Life aboard the Robert C. Seamans is already giving us new perspectives on oceanographic ecosystems and Nautical Science.  We have a spectacular, animated crew of engineers, stewards, scientists, and mates who keep our vessel cruise track operational.  Our Chief Scientist Deb is whole-heartedly invested in our research and exploration. Her passion in oceanography and eagerness to assist in our understanding of scientific concepts seems unmatched.  Our Captain and professor in Nautical Science shows much the same passion and skill in navigating and overseeing all vessel operations. Personally I cannot say there has been a time where I haven’t seen Captain Rick on deck, standing tall and admiring the shape and course of the vessel and its crew.  All 30 some members of our crew couldn’t be happier to be studying the Pacific on the deck of a state-of-the-art Sailing School Vessel.Even if we do smell funky.

All is well out in the big ol’ blue.  We look forward to returning home to share our experiences with our loved ones. 

Mom and Dad-XO

By special request of Irene, shoutout to Aunt Frannie, Happy Belated Birthday

Brendan Casey - A Watch
Kenyon College



S248 SEA Summer Session


Friday 05 July 2013
Current Position:  25° 15.7’N x 155° 21.8’W
Course & Speed:  NE course at about 6.6 knots
Sail Plan:  We are currently motor sailing due to the lack of wind, but the fore stays’l, main stays’l, and main sail are up.
Weather:  The weather is currently a little squally, but the temperature is nice.  There isn’t any rain at the moment, so overall it is an excellent night.

Photo Caption:  SSV Robert C. Seamans underway.  Captain Rick presiding. Photo courtesy of Erica White.

Hello y’all!

Today has been a pretty interesting day for the Seamans on the Pacific!  The day began early as we spent all of our time during dawn watch avoiding squalls.  We did get some light rain, but it didn’t last long.  Soon after morning watch began, the day turned hot.  The sea was completely calm and looked like glass. 

Not long into the morning we managed to catch a skipjack tuna on our fishing line.  It was quickly filleted and put away for future consumption.  During the afternoon, the entire ship’s company enjoyed a snack of the Mahi we caught yesterday.

While this snack was occurring, a large piece of debris was noticed in the distance.  Everyone went for the rails in order to try to see what it was. Captain Rick even slowed the motor in order to get a better view.  Soon, we came upon a mass of buoys tangled in a net.  There were numerous fish surrounding the mass, and it was an interesting sight to behold.

Later, a “party” was held in the doghouse.  About ten students congregated in a space about 7 feet by 4 feet in order to complete our sun sight reductions that are due next week.  It was mass chaos as students and mates helped others complete the assignment.  Captain Rick enjoyed this moment immensely.  Seeing so many students hard at work to complete an assignment so enthusiastically sure pays off.  Also, it helped that there was an ice cream reward for the first to complete theirs.

The day came to a close as the evening watch learned some celestial navigation.  First Mate Erin taught her watch numerous stars and constellations.  Once this was over, a couple of students went back to the lab.  With the help of Chief Scientist Deb and Assistant Scientist Laura, these students managed to count 1057 pieces of plastic that were almost too small to pick up with tweezers!!  Amazingly, they were able to accomplish this in only three hours!     

I hope everyone is doing well back home!! We’ll see you all soon!

Victoria Wilson - A Watch
Tulane University



S248 SEA Summer Session


Thursday 04 July 2013
Current Position: 23° 47.8’N x 157° 35.5’W
Course & Speed: Our course is set for 040° and we are sailing at about 8 knots.
Sail Plan: The wind has died down so we are motoring with three sails up, the main, main stays’l, and the forestays’l, to keep the ride smooth and steady.
Weather: It was hot with clear skies all day with some cloud cover going into the evening.

Photo Caption: A beautiful sunrise to start the day; this photo was taken on dawn watch under the command of watch B.

Our holiday started with fireworks. Okay, no not really, but we were welcomed by a beautiful dawn sky over the open ocean, which was just as exciting. This dawn sky was witnessed by B watch who was on duty for the dawn shift, which involved hourly boat checks, steering at the helm, and weather tracking, as usual. After completing watch, dawn cleanup followed. Erica, Josh, 2nd Mate Rachel, 2nd Scientist Mitch and I took to the floors. We scrubbed the galley, the soles, and the heads, also known as the kitchen, the floors, and the bathrooms. Dawn cleanup takes place every day to ensure a healthy, sanitary environment for everyone.

We celebrated July Fourth by dressing up. Josh sported a white t-shirt with a red white and blue peace sign to go along with his cool dude attitude, while Irene rocked the flag leggings and fanny pack. Many of our crew got involved as well, wearing their own red white and blue outfits or sporting red, white and blue light-up necklaces over their harnesses. Before class we sang the national anthem and for lunch everyone received a temporary patriotic tattoo.

The day almost came to a close rather quietly when something unexpected happened: there was movement to our fishing line. The fishing line had been set up by Assistant Engineer Dave and Harrison in the morning to try to catch some mahi mahi for dinner. All day, however, the fishing line hung without a bite. As the sun set, just about the time when all loose gear is removed from deck for the night, the line pulled tight. As everyone gathered to see the action, 2nd Mate Rachel reeled in our first fish by hand. The fish was at least two feet long with bright blue and green coloring along its smooth sides. As it flopped on deck, Chief Mate Erin removed the hook and took our fish to the galley. We hope to eat some Mahi soon!

Shout out: Mom and dad I miss you but don’t worry I’m having a good time living the life of a pirate!

Kellie Corwin - B watch
Boston College



S248 SEA Summer Session


Wednesday 03 July 2013
Current Position: 21° 16.4’N x 158° 26.6’W
Course & Speed: Our course is 350° and we are sailing at roughly 5.3 knots.
Sail Plan: Right now we have 5 of our sails up: the Mains’l, Main Stays’l, Fore Stays’l, Jib, and JT.
Weather: Wind is NE x E, Force 4; The sun just set (1952), Venus is shining brightly in the sky, and there are some cumulous clouds still in the sky.

Photo Caption: Myya Jackson and Erica White with the island of O’ahu in the background as we’re underway!

After breakfast this morning we learned about going aloft, deploying a neuston net, and setting/striking the Jib sail quickly but efficiently. Once we finished learning, everyone pitched in to get the ship underway towards our destination.  All watches, except for A Watch, were then relieved until lunchtime.  The waves were large compared to the ones from the previous day though, causing the boat to sway a lot and make everyone seem a little drunk as they could not walk very far without stumbling.  At 1300 it was time for my watch to take over!

Around 1330, 8 or so dolphins were spotted riding around our bowsprit!  I was asked to go onto the head rigging to untie the Jib sail in order to get ready to set it.  It was extremely nerve-wracking at first but a huge adrenaline rush at the same time; plus, it was amazing to watch the dolphins swim right below your feet!  After the Jib was set, I headed to the lab to perform our first Visual Survey, in which we identified 8 different groups of seabirds flying around the starboard side of the ship, all within 20 minutes.  Every hour, Josh and I also jotted down our science hourly information, while the rest of our watch (the deck crew) did hourly weather observations and boat checks.  Unfortunately, after about an hour or two underway many of our classmates were feeling seasick and scattered on the quarterdeck to make their donations to Neptune.

Around 1800 another Visual Survey was done, but this time only 3 different groups of sea birds were spotted due to our being further from the shore. At 1900 my watch was relieved and C Watch stepped up to take control of the ship.  Currently we’re about 4 nm North of Oahu, and steadily moving on our course.  A Watch will deploy our first neuston net tow at 2400 tonight, collecting data for all of our research projects!!

Erica White - B Watch
Roger Williams University



S248 SEA Summer Session

Tuesday 02 July 2013
Current Position: 21° 31.9’N x 158° 13.9’W
Course & Speed: Anchored off Makua Beach, south of Kaena Point near the northwest end of O’ahu, Hawaii
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Winds ENE, Force 4; Few clouds on this fair and starry night.

Aloha from Class S248 aboard the Robert C. Seamans!

Student hands joined the ship’s company on Monday afternoon and have been busily learning about the vessel ever since. Monday evening a series of orientations introduced ship’s routines - how to eat, clean and stay safe while living and working onboard - and Tuesday morning we practiced emergency drills and deploying key scientific equipment.

After lunch today we departed the dock in Honolulu for our month-long open ocean voyage; once outside the harbor, multiple sails were set and students capably maneuvered and steered the vessel to our anchorage at the northwest end of the island of O’ahu. A small pod of pilot whales was sighted, a tangible reminder that we are here, in part, to explore the nuances and surprises of the marine environment.

Training and orientation continue overnight and in the morning, then we plan to set sail again for the offshore waters of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Everyone is well and enthusiastic and wisely catching some much-needed sleep. Student-written blog entries will commence tomorrow.



S248 SEA Summer Session

All students have arrived safely on the Robert C. Seamans. Check back soon for blog updates and to follow along on their voyage!



S248 SEA Summer Session

Monday 01 July 2013

The students of S-248 are scheduled to board the Robert C Seamans in Honolulu, HI by Monday July 1st and will finish their voyage in Sausalito, CA around July 28th.