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
September 27, 2016
C-269, Day 1
The ship’s agent is a local professional who assists visiting ships in negotiating the complex business of being in port. Transactions relating to dockage, cargo, customs, and the delivery of fresh vegetables all pass through the agency, which in turn takes a fee for the service of organizing them. All large commercial ports require the use of such services, but even without this, going it alone would be functionally impossible in most cases. With the unique logistics and politics of each harbor, some vessels would never otherwise put to sea. Agents can be mariners who’ve come to work ashore, or insiders from what are frequently old family firms. Few are slaves to fashion-- normally I expect to meet a friendly and nondescript individual, commonly male, dressed in some version of button-down shirt, polyester pants and a windbreaker.
In Barcelona, our agent turned out to be a stylish woman wearing a mini-skirt and riding a motor scooter—In hindsight, hardly surprising in a city where everything finds some way to be fashionable. Corwith Cramer is moored alongside Muelle Espana-- An ancient wharf in Barcelona’s old inner harbor, now surrounded by an expanding maze of poured concrete as one of Spain’s largest ports grows ever larger. Across from us is the old fishing terminal, shrinking slowly under encroachment from gleaming mega-yachts rafted along the waterfront. There are cruise ships in the middle distance, and huge ferries which speed back and forth to Italy and Corsica. Tourists and fashionistas from 50 different countries wander the sidewalks past vendors selling soccer jerseys, and tapas bars that stay open until 3 AM.
It’s a funny place to begin a voyage on a sailing ship, but also appropriate, as Barcelona is one of many Mediterranean cities where the interaction of human culture and the sea is traceable as far back as you care to look. The local Maritime Museum is built on the stone remnants of sheds where the Romans once beached their boats in winter. And under the shops of the labyrinthine Raval neighborhood are ruins that were old when the Romans arrived.
The students all reached the ship today in timely fashion, and will have three days here to explore this history, while also learning what’s needed to take ourselves safely to sea— Tonight that means meeting the crew and learning a new word for nearly everything, as stairs become “ladders”, bathrooms become “heads”, kitchens become “galleys”, and it’s suddenly important to know the location of the fire extinguishers and spare coffee filters.
Tomorrow after breakfast the trainees will file into town with Professor Craig Marin for the first in a series of guided visits before branching off for independent work on research projects. Back on the ship, there will be safety training and general orientation to the primary departments of navigation, oceanography, engineering, and-- meal preparation. Few students know in advance how much they will learn at SEA about baking for 30.
Saturday we will sail for Mallorca—Tonight’s orientations will continue amidst a slow tug-of-war between jet lag and adrenaline until about 9:30, at which point the staff will take the night watch to allow a full stretch of undisturbed sleep for the students—an extravagance to be remembered fondly once we put to sea, and the 24-hour schedule demands more from everyone.