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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
December 12, 2020
Reflections of a Seasick Sailor
27°38.8’ N, 083°39.9’ W
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Sailing on a port tack under the four lowers and the jib tops’l, Southeasterly wind and seas (F2, two feet)
Description of location
44 Nautical Miles W of St. Petersburg, FL
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs
“It’s like you’re afraid you’re going to die, and then you’re afraid that you won’t.”
It has been over a month since I first heard Professor Mark Long describe the feeling of being seasick. At first, I thought he was joking or being dramatic. Now, more than seventeen days away from land has shown me that he was spot on. The last seventeen days have been some of the most challenging days of this experience, maybe even my life.
Some days are harder than others. Those days where you wake up exhausted, dizzy, and disoriented. Where you can’t seem to find your knees and the whole world is spinning. Days that blend into nights and weeks that you’ve spent hanging off the leeward side trying to catch your breath between fits of nausea. Those days that beat you down and make you want to give up, to give in to the never-ending motion of the ocean. These are the tough days.
The sea has a funny way of making cowards of us all. Take me for example. I have grown up around the ocean, spending much of my free time on beaches, reefs, or dive boats. Going into this expedition, I figured that I was the least likely to get seasick. Oh, if only I knew how wrong I was. On the first night underway, it was almost all of us. But one by one, I have watched nearly all of my shipmates find their sea legs until I was the only one left losing my lunch on the leeward side. Left wondering what in the hell had gone wrong.
It’s been seventeen days since I last had a meal that didn’t end with me clutching my stomach on the quarterdeck or quietly retreating to my bunk to try to quell the perpetual dizziness. Seventeen days where the phrase I hear the most is “You’re not looking too great, what can I do to help?” or “Clip in before you puke!” Some days, it’s enough to drive me mad. “Why me?” I remember asking one of my shipmates in between being offered saltines and water and at one point even begging for land during a squall. These are the tough days.
Seasickness isn’t like other ailments. For some, there isn’t an easy fix, or even a fix at all. In the last seventeen days, seasickness has gotten in the way of a lot of personal and academic goals. But in those moments, I try to remember that with voyages like these, you can’t get too attached to the result. At the end of the day, this voyage isn’t just about a letter grade or knowing the name of every line on the ship. The result is who we get to be because of it.
All I can think about now is a conversation I had with a friend in a moment where I almost chose not to apply for this expedition. He said, “Our personalities are so strong that you have to do something extreme to transcend that. We’re so stuck in our personalities and we believe that’s who we are. When you do something like this, something of an extreme nature, like a month at sea during a global pandemic, you get to see what sits below that surface. You get to see that you actually have a choice. That there’s something more than who you pretend to be.” The sea truly has a way of humbling you into finding that person.
I think that is what I have found most fascinating during my time at sea and my trips to the leeward side. On shore, we are all different. We are sons and daughters, students and workers. Many of us running away from something in our past or avoiding something in the future. But out here, out at sea, we get to be something different. Something more. Something bigger than ourselves. Here we are bread makers and boat checkers, lookouts and leaders. We take the helm, haul on halyards, and deploy hundreds of thousands of dollars in scientific equipment. We are artists, poets, singers, writers, cooks, and woodworkers all working towards a common goal, a common purpose. The ship.
So as the days continue to fly by, with certainly more seasickness and tougher days to come, I leave myself this reminder. You may feel tired, battered, weak, and hungry. But remember that these days, the tough days, gave you some of the most beautiful moments of your life. When you remember the tough days, you won’t remember the pain or the discomfort. You’ll remember that peaceful hour aloft, the chill of a well needed swim call, knotted salty hair in the wind, finding Deneb in the night sky, and steering by the stars. You’ll remember bioluminescent dolphins spiraling just an arm’s reach away, sunsets on the headrig, the sound of a fiddle ringing out into the night as moonlight finds the silent tears of joy you shed on the quarterdeck, and your friends pretending that they didn’t notice. As you remember these beautiful moments, you’ll think to yourself:
Ah, those were the days.
- Daniel Ethan Bernas Basa, A Watch, Eckerd College
A few messages to some special people back on shore:
To Mom & Dad: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience life at sea. This year has been a tough one and I wouldn’t have made it through some tough days without you. But I think I’m finally coming out the other side. Salamat sa lahat na ginagawa ninyo. Mahal kita.
To Samuel: I still have to get used to being known as “Samuel’s Big Brother” around here. I finally understand why you have been talking about this boat for the last year and a half. Can’t wait to swap SEA stories with you. Love you bro. Hug the dogs extra tight for me. Also please bring my flashlight and my snake hook when you pick me up.
To Ninang: Happy Birthday! Thank you for the endless love and support! Hope it was a great one! Love you!
To Anna: Thank you for pushing me to do this. Don’t know where I would be without you! Love and miss you! Be well my friend.
To Pete, Bill, Pollo, Maddie, Kath, Zach, and David: Thank you guys for being my rock. By now, all of my shipmates have heard countless stories about our adventures together. Love and miss you guys.
Also Noah Rixom wanted me to tell his family and friends that he is doing well and looking forward to seeing everyone when he gets back. He has so much cool stuff to tell everyone. He wanted me to tell everyone to be safe and that he misses everyone.