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
July 19, 2015
A Glimpse of Stars
During the mid night watch, 2300 to 0300, A watch experienced our first glimpse of the stars. After about ten days of sailing and exploring, we had yet to see a single star on our night watches because the weather was consistently misty and overcast. While at the helm, focusing on keeping the Cramer on track by intently staring at the compass attempting to read the numbers through the collection of magnifying rain drops obscuring my view, I noticed a single bright light in the sky. I immediately dashed any hopes of starlight because there was no precedent for it. I convinced myself it had to be some wayward airplane whisking eager travellers around Europe. A few seconds later, I looked up to find the sky speckled with hundreds of glowing white lights, pristine and glimmering against the deep blue. The stars were brighter and larger than I had ever seen. They helped to light the deck and the rolling waves, allowing for a brief respite from the thick darkness that covered everything as far as the eye couldn't see.
The first thought that came to mind was, "Wow, it looks like a planetarium!" Then I realized it was a sad but understandable thought coming from a resident of suburban America; in reality, planetariums are poor representations of the clear night sky. As I watched the bow of the ship sway left and right, up and down, the tip of the boat seemed to sweep between the innumerable stars, as if separating the phytoplankton from our twice daily science marine life collections.
After being relieved from the helm, the first mate, Sarah, decided that we needed to furl a sail at the bow. This required that we climb off the ship onto a very porous netting, called the head rig, to fold the sail properly. I eagerly volunteered for the opportunity, thankful that it was still so dark that I wouldn't be able to see the ocean below me. We clipped ourselves onto a metal line in front of the bow and yelled, "lay on," as we gingerly stepped onto the net and reached for the sail. With only the stars as our guide and a small red light, we folded and knotted our first sail, ungracefully balancing on the knots of the net and unceremoniously groping hanging lines in the dark.
It felt as though the stars vanished as suddenly as they appeared. Within fifteen minutes, the sky returned to dull black and gray. Out here on the sea as students it is easy to forget what an awe-inspiring experience we're having. I struggle to find ways to keep myself constantly present, soaking up the Atlantic and the bits of Europe we're encountering with all the senses, ingraining images and sounds in my memory. While we have only completed a third of our journey, the rest of our trip is certain to quickly pass us by if we are not careful to absorb every second of the ride. I can see the bow swishing between the stars right now in my mind's eye, but other parts of the passage have slipped away already. To me, even more importantly than our essays and nautical lessons is the practice of remaining present. It is a habit with which all of us students are struggling, but we encourage ourselves and each other to keep making strides by being proactive about our academic and maritime curricula, engaging in conversation with each other and the crew, and walking for hours in the unfamiliar streets at the port stops. If we can learn how to remain present, we will have mastered this adventure and be able to hold such fleeting starry nights with us.