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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

February 14, 2018

From Colonial Fortifications to Modern Resiliency in Puerto Rico

Craig Marin, Maritime Studies


Above: Bill and Migdalia in conversation with the crew in the main salon; below: Captain Sean Bercaw and Claire Mepkins looking out to sea at the foot of El Morro.

Ship's Log

Current Location
Alongside in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Sunny and a warm 84°

Souls on board

Our second day in program was an exciting mix of exploration of the port environs of Old San Juan, continued orientation/safety training and first-hand accounts of life in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of this year’s devastating hurricane season.

To start the day, we took a walk into the historic district and examined the fortified aspects of this 16th century port city that was so integral to Spain’s early colonial economy, acting as a gateway to the colonial possessions in Central and South America. Indeed, the deep and protected bay, now lined with modern port infrastructure, highlights the continued importance of San Juan to the economy of Puerto Rico and, indirectly, to the Caribbean as a whole. The morning walk ended at the very impressive fortifications of El Morro, overlooking the entrance to San Juan Bay. After exploring the many levels of the fort, students slowly worked their way in smaller groups back to the ship, taking in more of the city sights before lunch.

During the lunch break, one of our shipmates, Soraya Simi, made a great connection for us, and we brought Otto Flores from Waves 4 Water on board to meet the crew. This visit included a demonstration of a portable and extremely effective water filtration system and a discussion about the commitment of Waves 4 Water to providing access to this water filtering technology. The work of Otto and others offers a relatively simple solution to the needs of Puerto Ricans who are struggling to reestablish or maintain access to a potable water source after Hurricane Maria.

The afternoon’s orientation sessions wrapped up with a visit from long-time friend to SEA and current Overseer, Captain Bill Pinckney and his wife, Migdalia. Bill, the first African American solo circumnavigator and, later, captain of the replica of the Amistad, spoke about his experiences at sea and how they shaped his life and drew him to become involved in SEA Semester. He and Migdalia both spoke about the degree of devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in both Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands, but they also emphasized the resilience of those affected. The lively, informative and wide-ranging conversation continued over dinner and into the early evening as students and staff alike plied them with questions and gained valuable insights.

And now, as everyone settles into the overnight routine of taking turns with the responsibilities of watching over the ship and our shipmates here at the pier, our thoughts turn to the upcoming departure. It has only been 36 hours since the at-sea portion of the program started, and we are already building a more nuanced conception of the dynamic interplay of environment, climate and human action in this island chain. As for tomorrow, we are all looking forward to fair winds, cooperative conditions for scientific deployments and the opportunity to learn even more about how the people of this region continue to adapt and remain forward-looking for themselves and their communities.

Stay tuned for more details on the experiences of the crew of the Corwith Cramer over this six-week passage!

- Craig Marin, Maritime Studies

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