School Email Exchange

What is a typical day like on the ship?

Posted on October 29 2012

Question submitted by King Philip Regional High School

I am woken up at 6am by someone who is on watch from 3am to 7am and told breakfast will be in 20 minutes and often given a brief weather report.  Half the ship’s company eats breakfast at 6:20am, prepared by the steward and assistant steward and someone who is a rotating steward for the day, and the other half eats at 7am. 

Members of C Watch, Mackenzie Haberman, Thom Young, and Laura Hansen, on deck from 1pm to 7pm, put their backs into hauling on the main staysail sheet.

The group, called a “watch”, who had been running the ship since 3am, clean the galley, main saloon and living areas before ending their "watch".  Meanwhile, another group has taken over the sailing, science, hourly safety boat checks, weather and cruise reports from 7am to 1pm.  The first job on deck is to turn on the salt water fire hose for a deck wash with several people scrubbing the wet deck with brushes.

As an “Other” I am not on watch, though I love to help with the deck washes or take a turn at the helm (steering the boat).  After having a dawn cup of coffee on the aft deck taking in the Pacific Ocean all around us, I spend the morning answering student questions, finding the person who can best help me with an answer if I don’t know it.  At 10am we take a break for morning snack.  Lunch is also served in two sittings. (Someone from the watch on duty is assigned to help with dishes.)

Now a third watch takes over the ship from 1pm to 7pm.  The watches are labeled A, B and C.  Science is happening 24/7 aboard the Seamans with the different nets being deployed and towed, the hydrocast carousel being deployed, the occasional large plastic object being grabbed out of the ocean off the science deck and brought aboard, the counting and recording of all the plastic, identification of marine organisms, and science hourly reports.  Besides the deck work, science, and galley, one member of each of the two day watches works with the engineer.

I spend the beginning of each afternoon continuing to gather the answers to questions, typing them up and choosing photos for some of them and creating captions to go along with them.  Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we all gather on the aft deck at 2:30 for announcements and talks given by different people on topics that have to do with the purpose of this trip.  There are quite a few creative people aboard so some of these classes are quite entertaining.  Afternoon snack arrives as class ends about 4:30pm.  Snacks are usually very healthy or wonderfully sweet. (Today we had surprise ice cream!)  Then everyone goes back to what they were doing.

Meals, class and special events are communicated by someone walking through the Seamans ringing a triangle and announcing what is going on.  This is mainly because so many people who are not on watch are sleeping and this lets them know it’s time to get up.  Laundry on board is done in a bucket on deck and hung out of the way to dry.  The triangle is rung for “laundry twilight” to remind people to get their clothes off the deck before dark.  By the way, onboard we use military time so 6:20pm dinner is at 1820 and 7pm dinner is at 1900.

Watches continue during the night from 7pm to 11pm, 11pm to 3am, and the watch I started this with, 3am to 7am.  Watch groups A, B, and C rotate through the watches. (Watch standers do not get a lot of sleep.) In the evening those of us who aren’t on watch continue with our work, read, sleep, do crafts, chat.  Those on watch continue to sail the Seamans through the Pacific and science continues to be done throughout the night.  The third snack of the day comes out after dinner and is enjoyed by the watches as they come and go from 7pm until breakfast.

Off watch, people sleep, journal, knit, read, etc.  Patty Goffinet, Christa Choi and Kim Mccabe do their activity of choice in the main saloon, which is also where we eat. The table is gimbaled and is actually even with the horizon.  It’s the Seamans and the people aboard her who are at an angle as we go through a big ocean swell.

Wednesday afternoons there are no classes so people catch up on sleep, take their “once every three days” shower, do laundry, organize their bunk (their only private space aboard) or do whatever their favorite down-time activity is.  We have safety drills a couple times a week.  Saturdays there is also no class, but everyone works for an hour and a half cleaning the boat and everything in it from top to bottom in the afternoon.  This is called “field day”.  A clean ship is a healthy ship.

The rest of Saturday and Sunday there are watches as usual, but nothing extra for everyone to do.  I am enjoying my third book and the music that is everywhere aboard.  As an “Other” along with the rest of the outreach people (journalist and videographer) I have the luxury of sleeping during the night.  How good that sleep is depends on how roughly the seas are bouncing us around in our bunks.  Remember, all of this is going on while the ship is moving.  

This will give you some idea of what life aboard the Seamans is like.