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
July 30, 2015
Shanties and Knots
Doca de Alcantara, Lisboa, Portugal
Double sunscreen day
The date is July 30th, exactly one month from when I turned 20 on June 30th. It is a true testament to the range of things that can be accomplished in only a month’s time, because I find it staggeringly difficult to look that far back into the past and fathom the places that I have seen and the skills that I have learned. While I cannot speak for the rest of my crew and the good company on board the Cramer, I must admit that S.E.A. has whirred me into a hopeless love and appreciation with the arts of sailing and of the sea. It would also be a great lie were I not to divulge the fact that the crew has identified me as somebody who can be found either tying knots, singing shanties, or both at same time. While my appreciation for line and rope handling may be exaggerated by some, the fact that I have spent the better half of the voyage tying bowlines, sheet bends, and crowns made from Man O’ War Sheep Shanks (a beautiful, but ultimately useless knot which the captain himself taught me) is one that I could not possibly refute. As for the shanties, I reckon my favorite is Bully in the Alley.
I’ve noticed also that the ocean is an environment of many extremes-be that extremely horrid or extremely beautiful conditions. Watch wake-ups would be a good example of this, as there’s a noteworthy difference in how easy it is to get out of your bunk at 0300 when there’s a starry night sky as opposed to a downpour in 8-foot swells. When conditions are hard, the crew often looks to each other to make light out of a dark situation and usually finds considerable success. When conditions are good, however, it’s nigh impossible to fathom through words alone. Our roll into Portugal a few days ago, for example. If you can imagine a cloudless, sunny day with a navy sea and a family of common dolphins consistently riding our bow with the Portuguese shore in sight and the faint sound of a ukulele from amidships and subtract from that the minor nuisance of my using a run-on sentence to describe it, then you may begin to have an idea of the life that we have chosen to live for these four weeks.
Amazingly enough, I find that even with the allure of thick maritime history and its deep connection to Portugal’s development as a world power in the Age of Exploration, the actual experiences that I am having on Lisbon’s shore pale in comparison to the triumph of getting here. Perhaps this feeling originates from a continuous association that I began to develop with the port as a place on the horizon that one is continuously striving towards, rather than an actual manifestation on which one can walk and drink with the safety of a hard ground beneath their feet. That is not to say that Lisbon is a drag, of course. Lisbon is a large and sunny tourist town which reminds me of my home in Tampa (albeit Lisbon is a lot nicer to look at). Despite the obscene amount of tourists, I’ve been able to find gems and good people in areas more occupied by the locals.
I suppose it’s that annoyingly romantic notion of the journey being better than the destination rearing its own cliché head. Considering, however, that the journey we took to get here included climbing to the top of the ship’s rigging, witnessing the green flash as the sun set behind the waves, and watching whales breach a ship’s length off our stern, I admit that I feel myself entitled to having this notion. We’ll soon lay way back onto the swells for a roll down to historic Cadiz, and I will take no shame in feeling growing excitement as the time grows closer to feel the now-familiar rocking of the waves beneath my soles. The ground is too hard here.
P.S. There is a message written in faded, white paint at the truck (top) of the foremast. Few ever see it due to the lengthy climb and the “adventurous” nature of its location. Those who have seen it know what it says. This footnote is to proudly exclaim that, of the current C-261 class that I know about: Jack Kasparian, Avery, and myself have read this message at the truck of the mast and know its secret.