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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

October 27, 2020

Star light, star bright, the Corwith Cramer sails at night

Claire Gabel, C Watch, Mount Holyoke College


Above: Jordan, Claire, and Sam pulling in the Neuston net; Below: This morning’s sunrise

Ship's Log

Present Location
34° 19.4’ N x 068° 38.8’ W

Ship’s Heading, Speed and Sail plan
175°psc, 7.7 kn, Four Lowers, single reefed Main

Sunny and warm, light wind

Souls on board

As anyone on this ship could tell you, time passes in a peculiar way aboard the Corwith Cramer. Perhaps it is because of our rotating watch schedule of 6 hours on and 12 hours off, but by nightfall, that morning’s sunrise always feels like days away. While it certainly takes some getting used to, over the past two weeks I have grown to appreciate our unique schedule. There is something oddly satisfying about being awake and experiencing every time of day throughout the 72 hours it takes to rotate through a full watch cycle. As much as I love the electric blue color of the ocean during the day and the reflection of a light sky on a dark sea, I’ve learned that there is nothing quite like nighttime on the ocean. After finding a friend or two on another watch who are remarkably awake at the same time I am, I’ve had some of the best late-night conversations on the quarterdeck. Sleep deprived and yet unwilling to go to bed, I’ve found myself discussing ontological parasites one minute and talking about whether time really exists the next, all while staring up at more stars than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Even in the dark, the Corwith Cramer continues on its cruise track south to Key West, as sails are raised and passed by moonlight.

As for the oft dreaded dawn watch, I have learned to prioritize my sleep ahead of time, ideally heading straight for my bunk after class at 1400. Slowly I have grown more accustomed to being awoken by a soft voice outside my bunk curtain whispering my name, alerting me that it is 0030 (half past midnight), it is once again raining so I should wear my foulies, and I have to be up on deck for watch turnover in 20 minutes. As jarring as that may seem, once on watch, my eyes adjust to the red light on my headlamp, and I become more focused on doing an hourly boat check, or deploying the surface station (a black bucket tied to a rope that gets gracefully tossed over the side to collect seawater) and then processing the samples for pH, chlorophyll-a, and bacteria. Sometimes, I become so focused that I forget that it is nearly 2 o’clock in the morning. As I said before, time passes in a peculiar way.

There is something quite special about being awake on the ocean at night. After all, few people can say they’ve seen the flashes and twinkles of bioluminescence as dolphins leap through the wake of the bow, leaving a glowing trail behind them. Perhaps even fewer have processed the contents of a nighttime Neuston tow, counting and identifying copepods and other zooplankton while trying not to fall over as the vessel takes on 8-foot swells. Even fewer have picked out each tiny, pink shrimp (no bigger than an eraser shaving) in a tray of thousands of small, translucent, gelatinous salps that clog our sieves, all while overcoming waves of seasickness. And although I understand I may hold an unpopular opinion, in my mind, all are equally magical experiences in their own way.

- Claire Gabel, Mount Holyoke College 2022

P.S. (from Claire):  Hello to family and friends on shore! I miss you all and can’t wait to tell you about my adventures at sea. Love to Mom, Mott, Grandma, and Grandpa! Since I know you are wondering, the food is good, I like my bunk (tucked in the port aft corner of the ship), and I am having a fantastic time!

P.S. (From Ethan): Happy 21st birthday, Milady. I miss you very much and think about you every day. Have a day as absolutely amazing as you are, and I cannot wait to see your beautiful face again in November. I love you with all my heart. Forever yours, faithfully, Your Knight.

Editor's Note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all SEA Semester students, faculty, and crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer boarded the ship after strictly isolating on our Woods Hole campus for a minimum of two weeks, and after repeated negative tests for COVID-19. To ensure the health and safety of those onboard, the ship will not conduct any port stops and will remain in coastal waters so that any unlikely medical situations may be resolved quickly.

Previous entry: The Gales Blew Through    Next entry: Clouds and stuff


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 Lori Novick-Carson on October 28, 2020

Thank you for your beautiful writing, Claire! I think you will write more about your experience of time onboard the Corwith Cramer. Thank you for the photo of the sunrise and the magical experiences you shared!

#2. Posted by Zia Anna on October 28, 2020

Beautiful post, love the stars you get to see at night on the ship! Magical! Keep learning and enjoying! I miss my Lucia, hugs to everyone. Zia Anna

#3. Posted by Audrey Shannon on October 28, 2020

Hello Claire!
Your blog post made me smile so big- I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you are loving your magnificent adventure. I can’t believe you’re staying up in the middle of the night, but the seeing those dolphins sounds so magical. I’m glad the food is yummy and you like your bunk. I can’t wait to hear all your seafaring stories. Love to you from Georgia!

Your friend, Audrey

PS: wish on one of those beautiful stars for positive results on Election Day!

#4. Posted by Joan Glasheen on October 28, 2020

Sounds like the best “school” ever! How spectacular you get to have such a beautiful experience in 2020!

Joan Glasheen

P.S. A special hello to Olivia C! smile

#5. Posted by Joan Ticherich on October 28, 2020

Hi Claire!
It was great to read your blog and to hear of some of your many experiences so far.  From your wonderful description, I can almost picture your night watch with the millions of stars!  I can’t wait to hear about all of the rest of your sea adventures! Praying for each one of you for good health and safety throughout your trip!  Enjoy all of the memory making moments in the weeks to come! Love and hugs! Joanie

#6. Posted by Miki Fato on October 29, 2020

Thank you for the blog post!
So wonderful to stay updated!

Lucia’s mom.

#7. Posted by Ben Quahog on October 29, 2020

Dear Claire and the other Cramer students,

Cherish your time aboard this special vessel. Nothing, perhaps, could be more inspiring.


#8. Posted by Lisa Gabel on October 30, 2020

Claire, you write so beautifully about your experience on the Corwith Cramer at night. The ordinary and extraordinary moments of this voyage are indeed special. May the rest of the journey be filled with equally amazing and unforgettable experiences for you and your fellow students and crewmates! Love you!!

#9. Posted by john f wyman on October 31, 2020

Hi Claire,

Keep me informed of your trip.

#10. Posted by Beth Wellnitz on November 01, 2020

Claire - I have read and reread your post daily and each time do so with a smile.  I am so glad you are enjoying the entirety of this journey and experience.  Love you!

#11. Posted by Beth Wellnitz on November 01, 2020

Claire - I read and reread your post daily since it went up and every time it makes me smile!  I am so glad you are having fun and enjoying the entirety of the experience.  Love you.

#12. Posted by Jaya Nagarajan-Swenson on November 02, 2020

Hi Claire!!
This is so beautifully written that it made me want to be on a boat at night, despite my lifelong fear of the deep ocean. You make it sound so magical and I am SO excited to hear all your stories and learn about your adventures when you’re back on land with us! Have fun and stay safe out there <3



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