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.
SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
Places by the Sea
48° 05.734 x 04° 19.353
Description of location
Docked at Port de Rosmeur, Douarnenez, France
Ship Speed (knots)
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change)
Mostly sunny skies
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
4-5 SEA Semester students, swimming in the boat basin at mid-tide, last evening.
“Ports … places by the sea … they’re places of mixing, mixing and mingling.” –Prof. Dan Brayton
Last night we slept alongside the massive concrete dock on the Port de Rosmeur at the north end of this enchanting town. After rigging a gangway from lashed wooden 4x4s, the crew tested the somewhat rusty ladder that allows mariners to access land in tides that range more than ??? feet, and we began our investigations.
Douarnenez is a commercial fishing and recreational boating center that draws visitors from the French interior, as well as other parts of Europe and the world. The tall stucco buildings and narrow cobbled roads climb a steep hillside on a large bay near the western extent of Brittany and are the modern representation of what has been an important fishing port for longer than records may tell us. When the Romans conquered Gaul they found herring in abundance and used the populace as slaves to turn the fish into staple and luxury foods for the legions abroad and the masters at home. King of all the fish in Douarnenez is the humble sardine.
On our first evening in port we hiked to the center of the commercial district, visited churches and cemeteries, and split into watches to share dinner at two of the local creperies. While some of the other students took a dip off the stone steps that lead into the harbor, I returned to the ship to read and digest my supper and drift off to a satisfied sleep.
Today dawned warm and sunny, a big change from the chilly mists of previous mornings. After the mal-de-mer of my first two-and-a-half-days aboard the Corwith Cramer, it was a pleasure to rise to a luxuriously late 7:30 “all hands” wake up call. Our steward, Jamie, had set out another in a series of delicious breakfasts. All watches and professional crew pitched in to clean the ship, and, after a muster of students and faculty on the quarterdeck, we headed to the fish market to see what the oceans bring to Douarnenez.
There are two major fish markets at the pier, each offering a wide variety of wild-caught and farm-raised seafood. There are lobsters that look to be more than 5 or 6 pounds in weight and crabs, langoustines, line-caught tuna, farm-raised mussels and more. After admiring the selection, we made a brief visit to the Chapelle Saint Michel, a small late-17th or early 18th Century church whose exterior simplicity belies the beauty of the ceiling murals and sculptures inside.
We headed to the Ile Tristan, across a narrow tidal causeway, where limpets the size of shot glasses decorate the rocks and a bronze statue celebrates the ascendance of Sardina pilchardus. We sat in the shaded gardens on the island and learned about the various legends of Tristran and Isolde, and about more modern misbehaviors related to the site. As the tide began its return to cover the causeway, we made our way back to the center city to find lunch in a town that shutters itself against the afternoon heat between the hours of 13:00 and 14:30 each day.
I came across a charcuterie, where I found a lovely little leek quiche and a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, basil, onions and mint. A trio of plums from a small grocery store rounded out my meal and I joined others in our group at a shady table outside the tourism office, to eat and talk about what we had seen.
At 14:00, we set off again, this time for the east end of town. Here, historical ruins and restorations tell the story of the area’s agriculture and provide a clear understanding of Douarnenez’s connection to the garum trade. Garum is a sauce, a sort of precursor to ketchup, made from salted and fermented fish guts. It was prized in Rome and its history is a story of fishing, overfishing, marine trade, religion, geopolitics, and the importance of food in human cultures.
After our long day of walking and learning, we were set loose to explore on our own, once again. I headed to the ship to get my bag of laundry and brought it into town. While it ran through the cycles I hunted up a supper of baguette, pate and nectarines, fresh from the French countryside. I made a few phone calls home and then sat by the harbor, looking across to where the Corwith Cramer waited by the pier. I fed myself, and a gull as well, and then came home to my ship.
I am a bit of an anomaly aboard the Cramer. At 62, I am what is called a non-traditional student. For me to be able to return to college at this age and complete my undergraduate degree, a lot of people have had to provide emotional and material support. Before I sign off on this entry I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of them here – my husband and two adult daughters, my parents now deceased and my stepmother still living, my many good friends. I’m blessed to have found my way to College of the Atlantic and to Sea Education Association, two institutions that respect experiential learning and support students in many wonderful ways.
Aboard this ship, I am finding new friends and extending my family even farther. As another very full day comes to a close, I wish you all fair winds and safe harbors.