Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers.
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
It is the students’ last night on the Seamans; it’s been a long day. We have cleaned every nook and cranny of the ship, and packed our bags in preparation for departure tomorrow morning. And tonight we had our final Swizzle, with performances by many of our shipmates. We enjoyed comedy, music, and dancing, as well as some inspirational readings. In fact, the dancing goes on now as the salsa music is playing in the salon as I write this in the library. We all have a lot to think about as we sort out what we have learned on this journey.
These last couple days in Hilo have been crazy. At 10:15 yesterday morning many shipmates awoke to the Big Island of Hawaii as we let the anchor down. After many small boat runs and a little dock rock, passports were stamped and we were officially welcomed back into the United States! It was strange at first to see traffic lights and the McDonalds on the corner. Even driving down the road was bizarre, but we adjusted quickly with thoughts of volcanoes in our minds.
Today at the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park we were all amazed to walk through the craters (especially all of our geology majors)! The unique patterns made by the lava and the steam still emerging from the rock were enough to make us all geek out.
These last few days, watching the students plot our position nearer and nearer to the Big Island, I would note the return of little things that meant ‘shore’: radio static, an airplane flickering five miles up at night, and just barely on our side of the horizon - another ship. Small pieces that mean nothing until you’ve left the lights and calls thousands of miles behind and weeks in your wake. I assumed I would keep collecting these small reminders of shore until I saw the first speck of land creep up out of the ocean and I would watch it grow as we approached. I was wrong. I woke up this morning and there was a huge island like a mural taking up my horizon from the port beam to the starboard beam!
Tonight is a very special and long anticipated night aboard Mama Seamans. For one thing, we are finally within 100 miles of our final destination, Hilo! 100 miles is still farther offshore than many people ever get in their lives, Chief Mate Jay reminded us during safety drills today, however, it seems tantalizingly close compared to the thousands of miles of open ocean we once had between us and our port. All day and all evening the crew and students (now done with final project work!) have been on deck, looking for the Big Island on the horizon. After many days of barreling at 8 knots under various exciting sail plans, we finally lost our wind a bit and have turned to motorsailing to get us to Hawaii on time to do some exploring.
We’ve had quite the week aboard the Seamans! Six days ago we shut down the main engine and have been flying towards Hawaii (stopping here and there to do a little science, of course) on a starboard tack ever since. The trade winds picked up to a Force 7 (28-33 kts) for a few days and brought with them swells twice as tall as I am that surged higher than the quarterdeck at times. Apart from making any attempt at walking below decks quite comical, the winds and seas have made for an exciting (and nerve-wracking) JWO phase!
“You’re not the same person that walked aboard on March 22” were the words written by Captain in our night orders. This simple phrase lingered with me as I stepped onto the deck ready to take over as the JWO for the night. It made me think that sometimes it’s hard to recognize change when it’s gradual, that is, until you take a step back and reflect at how far you’ve come. If one month ago someone told me I would confidently lead my shipmates through gybing a brigantine, I would have thought they were absolutely crazy (Oh wait, they did say that).
All was quiet on deck. The on watch was taking care of ship’s business, but they comprised all of the souls present to enjoy the fresh air breezing briskly through the sails. You might think I could be describing Mid-Watch, detailing a scene in the dead of night, but as it was, the sun was shining brightly on this fine day. So where were the students?
Deep in the belly of the ship, we were hard at work, completing the final touches to our research project presentations, awaiting the start of the 2014 S252 Research Symposium.
Twenty four hour periods slip by inconspicuously on the boat, where our schedules revolve around the changing of the watch and the hourly ding from the ship’s chronometer. It seems like time has been even sneakier in passing lately, as we have become more in tune with the schedule of ship life, transitioning smoothly from sleep to watch to class to meals to sleep.repeat. Nevertheless, we have somehow crossed off over thirty calendar days since first arriving on the ship, and the end of our journey is creeping closer.
We’re currently experiencing one of the epic days of sailing on this trip. The NE trade wind is blowing fresh and the Seamans is on a starboard tack close reach, heeling and making for some dynamic sailing. There is an occasional splash of spray over the windward side and even more occasionally a flying fish has been turning up on deck, having been carried aboard with the wind. Yesterday we made our best day’s run of the trip having logged 155.3 miles in 24 hours. This is the homeward stretch toward Hilo and the trade winds are expected for the duration.
Greetings from the deep blue! Or rather, from the looks of the world outside the library port hole, the dark black. Night has fallen and Jerelle and I just put a big bowl of pasta primavera on each table, ringing the first dinner bell promptly at 1820. As swells roll by, the gimbaled tables alternately rise to each diner’s hungry chin, and then fall into their laps, leaving forkfuls of food comically far away from their departure points.