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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

March 23, 2017

Moments, Memories, Meaning

Jeffrey M. Schell, PhD, Chief Scientist

Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

One moment to share with you – Elizabeth swimming with Sargassum in the Gulf Stream! Thanks captain for making that happen.

Ship's Log

23° 23.5’ N x 81° 12.5’ W

Southeast of Key West, FL

Sail Plan
Sailing a course of 305° PSC under the single reefed main, staysails, jib and topsail making 5 knots.

Winds ExS, Force 5, cumulous clouds 6/8ths of the sky as a cold front approaches.

Souls on Board

Always, always, always I find myself struggling to find the right words to wrap up a voyage.  Inherently it is an unsolvable problem, a hopeless effort to address a seemingly simple question - ‘So, how was the trip?’, which in truth is a prelude to an overwhelming sense of confusion.

As well intentioned and harmless this question may appear it will be met with an equally well intentioned, but awkward long moment of silence as the recipient of said question tries to summarize a six-week voyage into a digestible nugget of information that takes no longer than an ‘elevator ride from the beach’ to convey (there is an inside joke here, be ready for many of them). 

There is no easy answer, and certainly no single answer, to such a simple question – ‘how was the trip?’  Every student, every professional crew-member, will have their own perspective.  I certainly have mine and will dare to share it with you as but one example of the challenge soon to be faced by all of us onboard the Corwith Cramer. 

Upon thinking of this question I am immediately flooded with images, moments of the voyage, fleeting memories of sailing under salt soaked canvas and taut lines as the wind howls through the rigging.  The neuston net towing through brilliant blue Caribbean water occasionally interrupted by golden windrows of drifting Sargassum – DATA! To my eyes.  Images of all the port stops, the people we met, the city streets we walked, the music we heard, the mouth-watering smells of local food we simply had to taste, the beaches we combed for mementos of the experience. 

Resolving from the myriad of experiences I start to see individual faces hauling on lines, at the helm in roller-coaster size waves, on the bow sprit furling sails in a gale, in the lab sorting biomass from a bucket, dancing with the CTD, tossing the surface bucket, searching for the secchi. 

There are swim calls and showers on deck, there is laughter drifting up from the Main Salon as another card game is won or silly ship joke is made. There are piles of food coming out of the galley and,,,,is that the sound of the engine room, water-tight door opening? – just another boat check making sure all systems are keeping Mama Cramer running. 

What’s that you say – Whales!  Of course how could I forget the whales that danced and sang upon Silver Bank.  #whaleparty, #whalapalooza, #babywhaleslap, #rainblow, etc, etc. 

With time the flashing imagery slows and I can appreciate the quiet moments of the cruise; I can recall the glorious sunsets shared by the ship’s company each evening and the subtle and surprising sunrises that knock you off your feet as you step outside the lab, the vast expanse of stars spread out across an ocean glittering with bioluminescence, or here on the quarterdeck someone armed with journal and watercolor is capturing the light upon the waves and a touch of shadow in the cloud, or my favorite, the silhouette of students backlit by a computer screen where data has formed into pattern and a new discovery is about to be made!

With more time I recall the moments of challenge we all faced onboard the Cramer and have since overcome and are now stronger for the experience.  For some the challenge was physical, for others emotional or intellectual.  The only guarantee is that no one escaped unscathed.  Life aboard a ship at sea is an exacting mentor; and then we add the many academic, scientific, and navigational goals of the voyage.  At SEA Semester we ask much of our students and crew – more than most think is appropriate - yet once again this ship full of amazing, talented, and unique individuals rose to the occasion and discovered that they are individually and collectively capable of much more than they ever thought possible. 

Someone with talents different than mine could turn all of these moments into a great book, in fact, an entire shelf of stories I am certain.  But for now I will concede defeat and simply state – it was an amazing voyage and I am happy to share the experience with so many wonderful shipmates. Thank you all. 

So, when your salty sailor returns, I encourage you to sit down, pour a glass of…..(your choice) and ask them to tell you a story about their voyage.  Ask to see their photos- there are many, ask to see their drawings and paintings- they are filled with meaning.  Ask them to take their time and share their stories over many sittings…and many drinks!


PS  To family and friends back home sweet dreams.


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