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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 30, 2018

Personal Space and Other Myths

Matt Bihrle, C-Watch, Whitman College

A peak inside “16th Street”, my cozy corner of the Seamans.

Ship's Log

Current Position
33° 26.542’ S, 178° 01.372’ W

Course & Speed
200 deg, 2.6 knots

Sail Plan
Stormtrys’l, mainstays’l, forestays’l, jib

Clear, NE wind, force 3

Souls on board

Our voyage thus far has been incredible. If you’ve been following along with the blog, you’ve seen a glimpse of the wonder and excitement that comes with each new day. Today, I’d like to showcase a less glamorous but very real part of life aboard the ship: our lack of personal space, or as I like to call it, “community living.”

It goes without saying that when 31 people are living on board a 134ft boat, space will be in short supply. However, I did not understand just how little personal space we would have until we arrived. Back on shore, our class had the fantastic opportunity to tour the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining whaleship. While our guide was showing us the comically small quarters, I turned to our captain and ironically asked, “so this is how our bunks will be, right?” To my surprise, he answered earnestly. “Yeah, ours will be a bit bigger but that’s about it.”

He was right.

On the Seamans, our personal space consists of a single bunk that is just wide enough for your shoulders and just a little too short for your legs, and a small cubby. Those two spaces are meant to hold clothes, hats, shoes, soap, toothbrushes, deodorant, towels, laptops, journals, books, and all the rest of your worldly possessions. Oh, and you sleep there, too.  Changing clothes typically happens on your back in the dark so you don’t wake your bunkmates, and involves blindly swatting though your bunk or cubby trying to find where you put that last clean shirt.

Once you climb out of your bunk you enter community space. This brings its own challenges. Maneuvering around your shipmates to put on shoes turns into an awkward dance of “excuse me,” and, “ohp, sorry!” as you attempt to navigate stairs and hallways only meant for one person. Finding a space to study can mean squishing into the last open seat at one of four tables on the ship and holding your laptop in your lap because table space for that was gone long before you arrived. After studying, you sit down to eat and then join your fifteen dinner mates in the daily ritual of trying to clean up from a meal while attempting, in vain, not to run into each other. If you are looking for space alone after that, you have one of two options. You can either be out of earshot, or out of view--rarely both.

For all of the awkwardness that comes with our “community living,” it opens the door for some unique opportunities. Today I got to roll naan in the galley with our maritime history professor and spent sunset playing music with a group of students along with my watch officer, our chief scientist, and a couple of the crew. Experiences like these help me realize how truly special this voyage is. Along with all of the learning that occurs on watch and during class, we have the chance to learn what it is like to live in a close community where no matter if you are a student or the captain, we are all depending on one another. Even though I may grumble as I bump my head on my bunk, or pine for the luxury of sleeping without unfinished essays at my feet, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to grow closer with all of my shipmates as we navigate life on our floating home.

- Matt Bihrle, C-Watch, Whitman College

P.S. Mom, Dad, Mike, and the furs--I send my love! I miss you all very much and am thinking of you always. Becca, I hope you’ve been killing it in Walla.

P.P.S.  Happy Birthday Mike!  I can’t wait to see all the adventures this next year has in store for you. I tried to order up some powder for your birthday but it might not be there on time—it should arrive sometime this winter though!

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,The Global Ocean: New Zealand, • Topics: s283  study abroad  life at sea • (3) Comments


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 Matt Bihrle on December 01, 2018

I just read your blog describing your accommodations and private space.  Wow, you have been flexible and have learned to go with the flow!

#2. Posted by Kathy Schlabach on December 02, 2018

Very interesting!  Thank you, Matt, for this glimpse into life aboard the Robert. C. Seamans.  My family and I enjoy tracking your adventure via the blog. Thinking of all of you each day and sending prayers and positive thoughts.

Kathy Schlabach







#3. Posted by Sonja on December 20, 2018

Well, I am a little late getting to see this blog…..but VERY FASCINATING.
I am living vicariously through you as I read it.
What an adventure of a lifetime…..and now I hear you are exploring New Zealand. Definitely the trip Dave and I have always said was our favorite.
Safe travels!!



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