Ready for an adventure with a purpose? Request info »
  • Search SEA Semester, Summer and High School Programs

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

May 12, 2021

Ship, Shipmate, Self

Kira Fontana, A Watch, American University


Above: Ava as Junior Lab Officer deploys the Secchi disk with scientist Jordan. Below: B Watch hauls on the outhaul while setting the tops’l. Elisabeth collects a surface station during a Neuston tow.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
39°30.2’N 71°32.7’ W

Ship Heading

Ship Speed
Hove to

Taffrail Log
2400 nm

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Hove to on a port tack under the forestays’l, mainstays’l, and storm trys’l, wind WxN F5, seas WxN 4 ft

Description of location
Offshore NE LME – Off of New Jersey Coast

Souls on board

We have a popular saying on the Corwith Cramer that was emphasized from day one: Ship, Shipmate, Self. The order of priority. First, we must think of the ship, because if she’s going down, well…let’s not think about that scenario (except every Friday during our Abandon Ship drill). Then we consider our shipmates, for no one person can run the ship alone. Rocky, our first mate, put it simply that having 36 people looking out for you is better than one. Finally, we must care for ourselves, because we cannot do our jobs well if we neglect our own needs. Laundry in a bucket once in a while, for instance, never hurts.

We are now a few days into the third and final phase of the trip in which our mates and scientists step back and allow us to become the leaders. The ultimate learning by doing. As Junior Watch Officers (JWO) and Junior Lab Officers (JLO), we make decisions about what needs to be done and how it can best be accomplished. A major challenge I face with this undertaking of responsibility is my fear of failure. It’s so easy to become frozen by indecision as the wealth of information pours in and overwhelms you, but trying and failing and trying again is honestly how we best learn and adapt. Through the stressful moments and chaos of the JWO phase, it can be easy to think you are suddenly alone. On the spot, feeling the weight of the ship on

your shoulders. But we are quickly learning that the role of the non-JWOs is perhaps even more critical than that of the one “in charge.”  It’s the moments of taking responsibility for the routine or offering guidance on the sails or simply making yourself available that make all the difference. There are some things you can plan for, but many others you have to react to and learn in the moment, which means support from your team is incredibly valuable. For instance, two new sails were set today that C-297 had not yet seen in action! C Watch set the storm trys’l this morning, a smaller sail that lives on the mainmast in lieu of the mains’l during high winds. For me as first JWO this afternoon, this meant learning to trim this new sail and figuring out how it affected our speed. Then Fiona, as second JWO of afternoon watch, set the course upon request by the captain, a squares’l below the tops’l to help us move downwind (and look like a badass pirate ship). Super proud of her for coordinating the setting of a complex sail that we had never seen before.

Of course, it is important to recognize the little moments beyond our work in which this community takes form. Taking a few extra moments to stargaze together, eating cereal in the dark at two in the morning, dancing to our own beat (literally) as we clean the galley… I cherish these little moments and am so grateful to have my shipmates beside me, who make this wild experience what it is. We celebrated my dear friend and watch mate Natalie’s 21st birthday today, which involved ridiculous amounts of pumpkin pie (a good portion of which we later scrubbed off the deck) and water shots with the captain and chief scientist. Cheers to twenty-fun and to my shipmates! To my family back home, I love and miss you so much and cannot wait to visit soon (and see Carmen graduate!). To my housemates in DC, sending hugs and give Sabrina some extra love for me.

- Kira Fontana, A Watch, American University

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, • Topics: c279  mbc  life at sea  study abroad • (1) Comments
Previous entry: Canned Mandarins and Other Updates    Next entry: PARTY TIME!


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 Robin Fontana on May 13, 2021

I enjoyed your blog and happy that you are learning so much and allowing yourself to try new things.  We are excited to celebrate your belated 21st birthday next month when get home.  We miss and love you lots!
Love Mom and Dean



Add a comment:

Notify me of follow-­up comments?

I would like SEA to keep me informed about news and opportunities.