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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

June 17, 2015

Clean Teeth and Dolphins

Aidan Greer, A Watch, Swarthmore College

Transatlantic Crossing

This evening’s sunset from aloft.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
43°27.7’ N x 036°35.3’ W

Description of location
Western North Atlantic Basin

Ship Heading
075° PSC

Ship Speed
5-6 knots

Taffrail Log
1562.5 nautical miles

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Sunny, blue skies with some cumulus clouds / Wind WNW Beaufort Force 5 / Port tack with staysl’s, jib, tops’l, and storm trys’l

Marine Mammals (and other animals) observed last 24hrs
Pod of pilot whales yesterday, dolphins, many jellyfish, shearwaters

Sargassum observed last 24hrs

Souls on Board

Just a few hours ago, I began my daily routine of brushing my teeth on deck. I sat on the aft port deck boxes, facing the sun and the wind.  As I began to brush my teeth, not more than 5 feet away from me, in a cresting wave, a dolphin slid to the top of the water, its fin and dorsal side clearly visible.  As I stood up and shipmates pointed and ooh-ed and ah-ed, the dolphin cleared the water twice more with graceful leaps, all the while maintaining a parallel path to the ship.  How else could I describe this moment than as magical (and orally hygienic)?  I dare say that I may never again brush my teeth with a dolphin.  This anecdote encapsulates the
opportunity and beauty this voyage affords us students, an experience that is next to indescribable.

The weather appears to have finally cleared, at least for a few days.  Puffy clouds, bright sunshine, and blue skies marked the weather today.  However, the seas maintain their vigor, with swells still around 8 feet high.  We have entered the “Shadow Phase” of our education as sailors and lab techies. The first part of this included a rotation of personnel: each watch, comprised of students, remained the same, but with a different mate and scientist.  During the next 10 days or so, during each watch, one student will “shadow” the mate and scientist each, familiarizing themselves with the responsibilities of each position.  This is the time to ask questions and clarify any misgivings in preparation for the final phase of the voyage, the “Junior Watch Officer Phase.”  Slowly but surely, we are gaining the confidence, skill, and knowledge to become more and more independent as we go about our daily duties during watch. 

A Watch woke today for our morning watch, 0700-1300.  I was serving as “Disheneer,” a dual-purposed position: dish washer and assistant engineer. While I assisted our lovely and culinary innovative steward, Ms. Jen Webber, and her assistant steward, Maria, with dishes, the rest of A Watch was on deck, serving as helmsman, lookout, and lab techies.   I was able to pop above every now and then and wonder at the glorious weather.  Due to the sizable waves, our labbies were only able to deploy a Neuston Tow, rather than the full complement of a Neuston Tow, Phytonet, and Hydrocast.  At 0830, A Watch gathered in the main salon for Celestial Navigation class with Captain Rick.  While I by no means completely  (or even mostly) understand the process of Celestial Navigation, I, and my shipmates, am beginning to grasp the concepts.  Today we focused on the Intercept Method, a way of using basic trigonometry to calculate our location using the Sun’s geographic position, our assumed position, and the North Pole in respect to the Prime Meridian.  After class, it was back to dishes for me.

Around 1100, I became assistant engineer, tasked with learning and helping our busy chief engineer, Willie.  The project of the day was to replace the oil filters on the main engine (forgive me Willie, if any of this is incorrect).  First we had to empty the residual oil before we could replace any of the filters.  Once it finished its slow drip, we replaced the main oil filter with a new one, which has a working life of 200 hours.  Then we replaced a second, smaller filter.  The last filter was the fuel oil/diesel filter (I believe), which again had to be backwashed and cleaned out before being replaced.  All smooth sailing, so to speak, until a leak that Willie had noticed before became more noticeable.  We temporarily fixed it by attaching a tube over the leak, which was coming from a faulty valve,  which ended in bucket.  This resolved the issue as we began the process to replenish the coolant supply, which is half water, half antifreeze.  As I dropped off the water, I had to return to my dish duties, as lunch was fast approaching.  I headed back to the main salon, grabbed the meal triangle, and announced to the ship that it was time for B Watch and Others (Cap, Audrey, Willie, Jen, etc) to eat.  Thankfully, Willie had permanently solved the issue of the leak by replacing the valve with a new one. 

With time to kill after lunch and before class, I decided to test the swells from a higher vantage point: the tops’l yard platform on the foremast.  With permission from my former mate, Mackenzie, I ascended the ratlines and
shrouds, timing my climb to coordinate with the larger waves.  Once I reached the platform, I barely had time to look around before I noticed a gray shape gliding beneath the water off the port side of the quarterdeck.
Only visible for seconds, I had not the time to alert any of those below me and can only ponder as to the identity of that creature: dolphin?  Very small whale?  Shark?  The rest of my stay upon the mast was not uneventful,
although I saw no other charismatic mega fauna.  The rolling swells that cause many to lose balance on deck waved me back and forth in the air, 20, perhaps 30 feet side to side.  It was exhilarating.  Beautiful skies, lively
seas, I could stay aloft forever.  Alas, with changes of the weather and class time approaching, I was beckoned down by Mackenzie. 

As we learned from Captain Rick in class today at 1430, we have begun the leg of our journey where we will navigate using a Great Circle Route.  A Great Circle Route is the shortest distance between two places on a sphere, such as the routes airplanes take, named so because if you continue the line all the way around, it would create a circle.  Our science presentation of the day, given by Rebecca and BC, contrasted the diversity and size of organisms caught in our Neuston Tows over the Grand Banks.  In our medical presentation, given by Doc, we learned the ins and outs of hypothermia.  We split into watches for a final personality exercise based on our own judgments of our behavior.  After class, Maria and Jen presented the crew with a delicious afternoon snack of homemade baguette and bruschetta.  As class wound down, students either went below for some rest or reading, went off to fulfill their watch duties, or worked on their Turk’s Head bracelets.

Later this evening, I found myself yearning again for that thrilling and humbling experience of going aloft and so found myself this time on the course yard platform, with, of course, permission from Ashley, the mate with
the Con.  No marine life this time, but the beginnings of a beautiful, if not cloudy, sunset.  It does not get much better than this.


A very relevant haiku from Dr. Michael Hofman:
   Halyards and downhauls
   All hands aft to the main sheet
   Prepare for the Gybe

A message from Danielle:
I tried to send a message through the blog yesterday, but I think the writing of that blog got delayed. We’ve had some exciting weather over the past few days, pods of pilot whales, and a Vellela vellela.  Nothing,
however, is quite as fascinating as biovoluming large orange jellyfish. Tell Uncle Gordon I went aloft.  Don’t tell Grandma. Love, Danielle

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Transatlantic Crossing, • Topics: c260  megafauna • (6) Comments
Previous entry: Day by Day    Next entry: Place in the World


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 Neil Jordan on June 18, 2015

Rebecca:  Mom and I know you are enjoying your month-long floating Camp Scherman with all the adventures including megafauna (sea) horses.  At least you don’t need to shovel out the whale stable.  Welcome to oceanography and navigation.  Don’t forget what you learned in celestial navigation.  You have a sextant waiting for you when you return.  I’ll loan you my copy of US Naval Observatory MICA (Multiyear Interactive Computer Almanac 1800-2050) to download for your computer so you can print out your own ephemerides.

#2. Posted by Nolan Snyder on June 19, 2015

Hi Nolan!  Loving watching your journey!  I can’t wait to hear about all of it!  Say Hi to the Whales for me!!!
Love you.. Aunt Connie

#3. Posted by Chris Snyder on June 20, 2015

Nolan, remember, you have an envelope with a bus ticket voucher to get to Kilarney.  Safe travels!  Call us when you get to port.

#4. Posted by Bet on June 20, 2015

Michael, the blogs are fun to read.  Are you also bones?  Nice poems.  Love you 60. Bet

#5. Posted by Harshad patel on June 21, 2015

Deesha. ..missing you on father’s day

#6. Posted by Blanca Gastelum on June 21, 2015

Dear Raquel,
I hope you have seen plenty of whales and lots of bioluminiscent creatures… I can’t wait to hear from you about this unbelievable journey: the ocean by itself and the sky full of stars and constellations, the animals in the sea, the amazing education you are getting, and the beautiful experience of working with all the team to make this whole journey work.
We are all thinking of you and looking forward to see you.



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