Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
October 12, 2014
Adventures at sea
36°18.89’ N x 1°37.85’ W
At 0200 this morning I was standing at the helm of a 27.18 meter steel brigantine sailing vessel in the Mediterranean. My watch mates Maggie and Amie were quizzing each other on the proper order of events that need to occur in order to set and strike different sails while our watch officer Scott was making sure all our sailing-related questions were answered and occasionally drawing our attention up to the stars. We learned that Deneb, our beloved house on the SEA campus in Woods Hole, was named after one of the navigational stars in a formation called the summer triangle. All of the houses on the SEA campus are in fact named after stars. We lived in those houses for six weeks assuming they all just happened to be donated by people with very archaic and unusual names. As we stood gazing up and wondering how we didn’t learn the house’s namesake sooner, Scott brought our attention back down to deck by quizzing us on the points of sail. Irons, close haul, close reach, beam reach, broad reach, run. I think?
After a nap, breakfast, and some more line review, C watch reconvened once again for morning class with Dr. Mary Malloy. We discussed Amie’s project on carbon sequestration in the ocean and Devin’s project on jellyfish (excuse me, gelatinous cnidarian macro plankton) in the Mediterranean. Both of these projects are being conducted for the Conservation and Management elective, and when we meet for class again in three days Maggie and I will present our projects for our Data Communication and Visualization elective.
And in what felt like no time at all we were up on deck again for the six hour afternoon watch. This time I was assigned to work in the lab. Mih, Maggie, and I cleaned up some nets on deck and began to identify the many zooplankton that were collected in the earlier neuston net tow. It was our first “hundred count” (the name of the procedure in which we identify one hundred zooplankton from the sample) and we were having a difficult time trying to distinguish between the various miniscule crustaceans, when the sea upped the ante by suddenly thrusting our ship into a tremendous headwind and six foot swells. The conditions in the lab felt like a bizarre half-way point between surfing and bull riding and it felt as though the sea was doing everything in its power to keep us from peering in on the wonderful microscopic world we sought to investigate. We succeeded in finishing the count but not without a constant struggle to stay upright.
And I think that’s the thing I’m learning most about the sea; it is as relentless and powerful as it is magnificent. It will slam your sails with wind so strong that you’re forced to rush in and take them down so the boat doesn’t tip too far to one side. It doesn’t care if its midnight and cloudy to the point where you can’t see the bow through the darkness. It doesn’t care if you’re working off two hours of sleep or if your memory for names (like the names of lines you have been sent to handle) has a tendency to disintegrate under pressure. It will force you to fail if you are unprepared and afterward, once you’ve listened to a debriefing with your watch officer, analyzing the room for improvement the watch still stands to make on whatever maneuver you performed, just as you’re starting to feel defeated and embarrassed for failing your teammates in a time of need, the sea will send you a group of jellyfish that shine like blue lightening against the black night as they bounce off the hull.
The sea will hit you with incessant 4-7 foot waves on your shower day that send your precious 90 seconds of shower water all over the walls, the bathroom floor, and pretty much everywhere except your hair, and when you give up and climb up on deck with a rats nest for a pony tail, it will give you a spiral-shaped colony of salps, just close enough to be captured by your dip net and poured into a jar for a closer look at the parasitic amphipods that live within the gelatinous salp bodies. And sometimes, when you’re rested up and feeling ready for adventure, the sea will give you one strong gust of wind that steals your favorite baseball cap right off your head followed by six hours of dead calm. But that night after dinner, you and your watch mates just might stay up a little later than you should (8pm, going big or going home) after jamming with whatever instruments and voices you can scrounge up and debating the “epic” rating of the sunset.
The sea is unyielding. It cannot be controlled and it will never be tamed, but if you can match its relentless spirit, it will be a never ending source of wonder and amazement. I think that is why it has captured the imaginations of so many adventurers throughout the ages. I think that is why we are among them.
Sidenote: Happy Birthday Nonie! I love you so much and I can’t wait to see you at Thanksgiving! And Happy 23rd Anniversary Mom and Dad! Here’s to “a thousand more.” right Dad?