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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

November 29, 2019

From Lab to Pin Rail Frenzy to Aloft!

Carla Szeplaki, Eckerd College


Above: Start of the Pin Rail Race on the quarterdeck (peep Captain Greg at the helm participating in the cheering); Below: B Watch’s conga line with Chief Scientist Heather enjoying the festivities from above; Me laying aloft on the fore!

Ship's Log

6.5 knots

Sail Plan
Four lowers with a single reef in the main and the jib

29 ˚ C, sunny with mostly clear skies, force 3 winds from the ENE

1-2 ft. seas


Souls on board

Hello from the SSV Corwith Cramer! My name is Carla Szeplaki and I’m a senior at Eckerd College studying marine science. It is day 4 at sea on our way to the first port stop in Grenada. B Watch began the day after breakfast at 0700. I was assigned to the lab, where we had planned to deploy the Neuston net to collect surface samples, record hourly data on salinity and seawater temperature, and more. However, as it sometimes

happens with life aboard ships, the lab schedule did not go according to plan. We were still in the Venezuelan exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is a designated area at sea where Venezuela owns control of its resources. One such resource is the scientific information we would provide from our lab.

Unfortunately, we did not get the approval from Venezuela to conduct research there before the start of our voyage, so we were not allowed to collect any data from this area. Instead, the B Watch lab crew worked on our personal research projects, reviewed some laboratory safety, and helped our deck crew with sail handling. My shipmates and I doused the jib and went out onto the head rig to furl it, which is honestly one of my favorite parts of being on watch. After the jib was properly tied down on the bowsprit, us lab rats had some free time to review the pin rails. After lunch and the end of our shift around 1300, the world renowned SEA Semester Pin Rail Race would commence!

At 1430, the whole crew gathered on the quarterdeck to start the race. Students were divided into their watch groups and eagerly lined up behind the assistant scientists for the relay. Each scientist had a stack of notecards with the names of a line found on the deck of the Cramer. When the race began, each student took a card and speed walked (no running!) to its position on the pin rails. The mates were spread out on deck as well, and amongst the cheering and screams of “Hot!” or “Cold!” by their teammates, each student had three attempts to correctly identify the line. Once they got it right, students rushed back to their watch’s line and handed the card back for the next person to go. The competition was close and cutthroat, but A Watch came out on top, finishing their stack of cards with a victory conga line around the deck. Second place went to B Watch and third to C, who also ended with celebratory conga lines. 

Once the excitement died down after the race, I had the chance to fulfill a childhood dream of mine. Shipmates Muriel and Izzy joined me as we went aloft to the second platform next to the tops’l yards.  Climbing up the ratlines was quite an adrenaline rush. I could feel the ship rocking in the waves as we ascended nearly 100 feet. The view was absolutely breathtaking: nothing but ocean on every horizon. Down below, we could see shipmates lounging in the netting of the head rig, and a few painting and playing musical instruments on deck. Later, after coming down, I got to share a beautiful golden sunset with Muriel and Julian on the port side of the ship just before dinner.

Our journey so far has been thrilling in every way. I have been on lookout at the bow under the most brilliant stars while witnessing bioluminescence. I have spent time at the helm reading the compass and absorbing celestial navigation basics. I have learned so much about different kinds of line and sail-handling from what I’m used to sailing dinghies and smaller sailboats back at home. I’ve gained experience logging the weather and oceanographic data, conducting boat checks, and charting our positions at sea. I’ve honed my lab skills with deployments and completed their analyses in the lab. All this while forming tight bonds and fond memories with my amazing shipmates, and all within the first few days at sea. Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ship life and I can’t wait to see what the next leg of our adventure in Grenada has in store.

- Carla Szeplaki, Eckerd College

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Caribbean Reef Expedition, • Topics: c289  study abroad  sailing • (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 Ann Szeplaki (Mom) on December 03, 2019

WHAT AN ADVENTURE!! I’m so glad you are taking advantage of all you can. What a great opportunity. I’m so proud of you. Have fun and learn tons!
Love Ann



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