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Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

May 03, 2021

A Language All Her Own

Kira Fontana, A Watch, American University


Above: C Watch furls the mains’l in preparation to anchor. Below: Carolyn (2nd mate) teaches A Watch how to use the sextant, a tool for celestial navigation. Kass from A Watch leaps from the bowsprit into the water during a brief swim session.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
34°39.4’N 76°39.5’W

Ship Heading

Ship Speed

Taffrail Log
1692 nm

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
At anchor, wind SSW F3, seas SW less than 1 ft

Description of location
Rachel Carson NERR – Beaufort, North Carolina

Souls on board

Early this morning, A Watch had the deck sailing on a broad reach starboard tack under the four lowers, c/o 070° PSC. After B Watch relieved A Watch at 0100, they gybed to a port tack c/o 300° PSC, gybed three more times over the following hours, and changed course to 000° PSC at 0445. Nearing 0700 they gybed once again, this time to a starboard broach reach c/o 065° PSC. After turnover at 0700, C Watch took in the sails and anchored two shots in Beaufort, North Carolina.

Did that mean anything to you? Because it sure as hell didn’t mean anything to me just three weeks ago. I remember our first mate Rocky, a lifelong sailor, telling me on our first day aboard to inform him if he was using boat jargon I didn’t understand. I understood none of it. Like a different language entirely. The fact that I now not only understand it but can make some of these calls myself astounds me. Yet there is always more to learn, always more terms to know. It’s thrilling and exhausting and invigorating all at the same time.

Perhaps you at least recognized the word anchor, referring to the Cramer anchoring in Beaufort, North Carolina in the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). We learned about it from B Watch’s report during afternoon class: over ten thousand acres of land and sea for conservation and research. It includes many vital habitats from subtidal flats to salt marshes to oyster reefs.

I was on afternoon watch today (1300-1900), meaning that class was in the middle of our watch. Nearing the end of class—a fascinating, rapid-fire lecture on celestial navigation—I was mentally preparing myself for the setting of sails, the raising of the anchor, the checklist of requirements to get underway sailing again. As Captain Allison wrapped up, she shouted “We’re going swimming!” To be entirely honest, I thought it was a joke. A mixture of excitement and confusion spread across the students’ faces.

Allison elaborated that we had a short window before raising the anchor, so we better change fast! The chaos that ensued was hilarious, the rushing up and down ladders and quick grabbing of towels as the ship buzzed with palpable energy. By the time the words “Pool’s open!” had finished echoing across deck, our second mate Carolyn was already flying through the air towards the waves below. Students lined up to leap from the bowsprit at the front of the ship, craving the thrill of free falling before colliding with the cool water. We were giddy and laughing, an energy which has carried us through the rest of the day.

We did get underway shortly thereafter, motoring to fight the growing winds as land faded into the haze behind us. As close to land as we were, it still felt like a distant world. Still present and alive in our minds, but so far outside of our day-to-day experience that I often wonder how I ended up here. How I ended up on the Corwith Cramer with a language all her own. To my family and friends, I think of you every day and hope you are well. I wish the happiest of birthdays to Thomas and Lindsay, a happy belated birthday to Rachel, and happy almost birthday to Dad! Can’t wait to celebrate with you all soon, sending my love.

- Kira Fontana, A Watch, American University

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, • Topics: c297  study abroad  life at sea  science  mbc • (1) Comments
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Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Robin Fontana on May 04, 2021

I have to agree with you that I had no clue what you were talking about in the beginning but I’m so glad that you are learning so much about sailing, marine life, and the ocean while also having such a wonderful time! I loved your blog and can’t wait to hear more about your adventure after you land back in Woods Hole.  We miss you and love you lots!!
Love, Mom, Dean, and your PNW family



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